Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/18/2017

Les Grady was out of town this week.  Thanks to CAAV member Dave Pruett, who compiled this week’s Roundup.

Climate

“Too much love?” Glacier National Park has seen a tremendous uptick in annual number of visitors. Last year more than one million tourists visited the remote park, an increase of 23 percent over the previous year.  Some surmise that the increase is due to a desire to see firsthand the effects of climate change. Campground hosts report: “People tell us that they want to see the glaciers before they are gone.” I confess, our family will visit Glacier NP in September for that reason among others.

South Florida is among the most vulnerable US localities to rising sea levels, with 2.5 million people at risk to hurricane storm surges of four feet or less. With sea levels expected to rise at least another 10 inches by 2050, Miami estimates that it will need to raise $900 million to upgrade flood protection and drainage systems with the next few decades. In November, the city will ask voters to approve a bond for $400 million to begin the massive effort.

Some good news.  US carbon emissions are down 14 percent since their peak in 2005.  The reasons are manifold and the subject of new analysis by Carbon Brief. The economic crisis of 2008, the rise of wind energy, and the switch from coal to gas for power generation were all major factors. But gas is no panacea: see Energy below.

Economics

India’s government estimates that climate change is costing the country $10 billion annually, primarily through the destructive effects of extreme weather events.

By 2050, aviation emissions are projected to consume one-quarter of the world’s remaining carbon budget. (Indeed I read recently, but can’t put a finger on the source, that one cross-country flight undoes the good of 20 years of recycling.) The good news is that 60 nations have committed to an agreement by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that puts a price on aviation carbon.

Speaking of sustainable aviation, Dutch Airports are to be powered by renewable energy beginning in 2018.

On August 11, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) released its latest report: Reversing Inequality, which can be downloaded for free in its 74-page entirety. If you don’t know, IPS, founded in 1963, is Washington’s first progressive, multi-issue think tank. The subtitle of this enlightened report is Unleashing the Transformative Potential of an Equitable Economy. Chapter VI, Game-Changing Campaigns, advocates forcefully for “Taxing Excessive Carbon Pollution and Investing in Green Infrastructure and a Just Transition to Renewables.”

Health

Renewables aren’t just good for planetary health, they’re good for human health as well. According to a recent study published in Nature Energy, US wind and solar energy may have helped prevent 12,700 premature deaths in the past nine years, primarily through improved air quality.

Policy

“As the United States reverses its climate policies, the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter is in the midst of setting up a national carbon-trading system. Chinese officials are preparing to launch an emissions market later this year that will cover roughly a quarter of the country’s industrial CO2. Officials and nonprofit groups from the European Union, Australia and California have been advising the Chinese on their program design.”

If California were a country, it would have the sixth largest economy in the world. With the Trump Administration rolling back on climate science and policy, California has decided to take matters into its own hands.  On August 16, the leading scientific journal Nature reported on a collaborative initiative by California’s flagship universities to establish a massive institute to research the impacts of climate change and to recommend practical climate solutions for the state—and the world.

Energy

Americans eagerly await the lower-48’s first total solar eclipse since 1979. However, with solar power installations going like gangbusters, the eclipse has the potential to disrupt 9 gigawatts of electrical power generation. While no major power outages or problems are anticipated, the eclipse does provide opportunity to glean experience in managing the grid during disruptions, anticipated and otherwise.

This week’s (Aug. 21) Time features an article titled “A small-scale power solution could pay big dividends across the US.” So-called “microgrids” offer communities the technology to generate (typically via solar arrays), store, and use their own energy, independent of the main grid. The concept is particularly attractive in rural areas because it doesn’t require new main-grid infrastructure.  And in an age of blackouts and cyberattacks, independent microgrids offer energy resiliency. The U.S. military is particularly interested in microgrids as an alternative to diesel backup technology.

On Monday, August 14, a federal judge blocked a proposed 176-million-ton expansion of a coal mine in central Montana.  The ruling “criticized U.S. officials for downplaying the climate change impacts of the project and inflating its economic benefits.” Sound familiar?

Natural gas is often touted as a “clean fuel” and/or as a “bridge fuel.” Not so fast says a Dutch watchdog agency, which is censuring Shell and Exxon for their misleading claims that natural gas is the “cleanest fossil fuel.” Methane (natural gas), far more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, is superior to coal for power generation only if leak rates are less than three percent. A recent study in the US found that gas plants leaked at levels up to 120 times higher than reported to US regulators.

Last April, a Trump Administration executive order reversed the previous administration’s moratorium on off-shore drilling along the Atlantic Coast. Now North Carolina coastal residents are gearing up for a fight similar to that Virginia residents are mounting to oppose natural gas pipelines. Although just over 20 percent of North Carolina’s residents live near the coast, seven in ten are concerned about potential negative effects of proposed off-shore drilling. “Tourism, commercial fishing, and recreational fishing are just so important to our economy,” said Tom Kies, president of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce in Morehead City. The first of three hastily-called public hearings in one week was hosted in Wilmington on August 7 by NC governor Roy Cooper.

Population Matters! Presentation

pop.flyer

Solving the climate change crisis is all about getting off fossil fuels, right? Install solar, switch to LED lighting, eat less meat, recycle, carpool and use alternative transportation. You’ve heard this over and over.

Yet, there’s an “elephant in the room” not getting the attention it deserves. Humans have achieved unprecedented population levels. From about 1.5 billion in 1900 to currently 7.5 billion and projected to reach 10 billion by 2050. Fossil fuels have propelled unparalelled growth and success of the human species. It is the Anthropocene after all. Sustainability will take more than changing our energy source.

History Professor Michael Galgano teachs global population issues at James Madison University. We’ve invited him to address how our sheer human numbers factor into the race to preserve enough natural resources for our continuing success.

Please join the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley at the Harrisonburg Downtown Massanutten Regional Library on Tuesday, September 19 at 6:30 PM for this critical discussion.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/11/2017

Les Grady was out of town this week.  Thanks to CAAV member Bishop Dansby, who compiled this week’s Roundup.

Politics

Government Report Finds Drastic Impact of Climate Change on U.S.

It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/climate/climate-change-drastic-warming-trump.html

Under Trump, Coal Mining Gets New Life on U.S. Lands.

A business-friendly secretary of the interior has moved to invigorate a struggling industry, reversing Obama-era restrictions to help create “wealth and jobs.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/06/us/politics/under-trump-coal-mining-gets-new-life-on-us-lands.html

Trump’s 2018 budget proposal calls for zeroing out funding for Energy Star.

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.usatoday.com/story/102192146/

The Ongoing Battle Between Science Teachers And Fake News

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/07/28/537907951/the-ongoing-battle-between-science-teachers-and-fake-newsv

Utilities fighting against rooftop solar are only hastening their own doom

https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/7/7/15927250/utilities-rooftop-solar-batteries

Climate Science

Carbon farming creates healthy soils to help reverse climate change.

Farming practices that reduce emissions and sequester carbon are usually good farming practice in general. Farming is destined to play a major role in addressing climate change.

https://purestrategies.com/news/2017-07-05-carbon-farming-creates-healthy-soils-to-help-reverse-climate-change

Only 5% chance of staying below 2 degrees C

A new study published in Nature Climate Change concludes that there’s only a 5 percent chance that the world can hold limiting below 2 degrees Celsius and a mere 1 percent chance that it can be limited below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/07/31/we-only-have-a-5-percent-chance-of-avoiding-dangerous-global-warming-a-study-finds/?utm_term=.e5faf9c25a46

Golden rule for cutting emissions

In this 3 minute video Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre makes the case for a Global Carbon Law. He suggests a global carbon budget consistent with the Paris Agreement can be met if (1) global emissions peak no later than 2020, and (2) Greenhouse gas emissions half every decade. This halving of emissions is, he suggests, applicable at all scales from the global to the individual.

https://youtu.be/UZ5nKGHMWC0

Animation visualizes century of warming in 35 seconds.

http://e360.yale.edu/digest/new-video-visualizes-a-century-of-global-warming-in-just-35-seconds

Global ocean circulation appears to be collapsing due to a warming planet.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/08/03/global-ocean-circulation-appears-to-be-collapsing-due-to-a-warming-planet/#dedd7acf6f40

From the Daily News Record

Even the conservative local paper must publish news on climate change: “2016 Weather Report: Anything But Normal”

dailynewsrecord.va.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid=2a2c2df36

Technology

 Toyota in “production engineering” for a solid state battery, WSJ says.

Reports suggest the new battery will debut in Japan in a model 2022 car with an all-new platform. Since Toyota had been pursuing hydrogen fuel cells as its technology of choice for electric vehicles, this announcement suggests that Toyota is convinced this new battery technology meets customer requirements.

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2017/07/toyota-wants-to-commercialize-solid-state-ev-batteries-by-2022-reports-say/

The super-capacitor electric bus is adopted in China.

Both batteries and capacitors have potential to provide energy for vehicles. Capacitors charge very fast and do not degrade with use, but tend to have far less energy storage capacity than batteries. So-called super-capacitors have the potential to replace batteries in electric vehicles.

https://www.supercaptech.com/the-supercapacitor-electric-bus-is-adopted-in-china

The power grid of the future will require sunny skies above and energy storage below. Thanks to Tesla, Kauai has both.

If Tesla can help keep Kauai solar-powered around the clock with its batteries, then it can apply what it has learned elsewhere in the country, and around the world.

http://grist.org/climate-energy/welcome-to-paradise-batteries-now-included/

The respected Economist Magazine predicts the death of the internal combustion engine.

https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21726071-it-had-good-run-end-sight-machine-changed-world-death?zid=291

or

https://www.acast.com/theeconomisteditorspicks/thedeathoftheinternalcombustionengine

Climate and Energy News Roundup 8/4/2017

This week’s Roundup was prepared by Erik Bahnson. (email: ebahnson [at] outlook.com)

On Earth

Humidity-bringing monsoons have long brought taxing weather to residents of South Asia, but what effect could runaway climate change bring to the region? New research indicates that, should the global community fail to make good on their emissions-reduction targets, fully three-quarters of the Indian subcontinent’s population will be exposed to degrees of heat and humidity deemed extremely dangerous by the US National Weather service toward the end of this century; some areas will even witness balmy climbs radical enough to kill healthy persons within 6 hours. Concerningly, the 75% figure would only be reduced to 55% if the Paris Agreement is upheld. Anticipating deadly temperatures in its own backyard, the Houston Chronicle recently published an interactive map that allows users to find how many days of temperatures higher than 95°F each Texan county can expect over a given time period under moderate-emissions and high-emissions global warming scenarios.

Communities of pikas – small mammals related to rabbits – have proven adept at identifying terrain features, like cool moss, that improve their adaptability to changing climates. However, recent research has revealed that some pika groups altogether fail to display such skill, resulting in region-specific population drops that carry intriguing implications for efforts to model species loss. Elsewhere in the biosphere, it’s recently been confirmed that abnormally warm Pacific Ocean surface waters near America’s west coast have driven out critical forage fish species, resulting in fatal malnutrition for thousands of the area’s sea lions. The oceanic “Blob”, as it’s called, has even seen greater numbers of humpback whales ensnared in fishing equipment, as anchovies (attractive prey to the whales) are forced to move closer to the coastline.

A breed of methane-munching microbes hard at work within Antarctic reservoirs may be nipping several melt-exposed gas leaks in the bud. Nevertheless, an article in The Washington Post this week communicated the findings of what may be the most dire climate model studies yet: one suggests it may be necessary to shift the bar for “preindustrial” global temperatures even further back in time, which would place us further along the path of warming than we realized; the second reveals there is a sobering probability (scenarios providing 13% and 32% are mentioned) that ceasing global greenhouse gas emissions immediately may already commit the planet to warming beyond 1.5°C above preindustrial temperatures; and a third, weighing factors such as global population, national GDPs, and “the volume of emissions for a given level of economic activity”, gives humanity a brutal 5% chance of holding planetary warming to 2°C. Thankfully, experts do believe that last piece could be unduly pessimistic, as it’s based entirely on historical trends and could easily fail to anticipate future legislation. For a briefing on our emergent climate reality, this report is by far the most essential of the week.

Government

US EPA chief Scott Pruitt has rescinded his pledge to delay compliance enforcement for nationwide ground-level ozone standards one day after 11 states filed suit against his initial intentions. The 2015 standards are to be fulfilled on a state-by-state basis; barring further interference, states have until 1 Oct to meet them. Before an audience of over 130 lawmakers, Hollywood icon and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed a potentially game-changing joint effort of USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators at the latter group’s Boston conference on Friday: it’s a Web-hosted “digital legislative handbook” aimed at providing state and local governments with an arsenal of tools for crafting and passing pertinent environmental initiatives. The site includes the legal language, voting histories, and fiscal impact findings of successful bills that have passed across the nation.

Estonia’s peat bogs have a long history of heating homes and fertilizing garden industries as lucrative as Holland’s flower market, but their steady clearings have transformed vast tracts of land from a valuable carbon sink into a net greenhouse gas emitter more potent than the country’s entire domestic transportation sector. That’s why the Estonian government has begun pursuing the restoration of fallow bogs, and – with an $8 million grant from the European Union – it’s enlisted the nation’s best environmental scientists to figure out how best to do so. Dubbed the “LIFE Mires” project, its procedures will be mirrored in countries throughout the continent should they prove successful. Further west, German government negotiations with embattled car giants BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen resulted in the big three promising to pay for emissions-cutting software upgrades in over 5 million European diesel cars and to incentivise trade-ins of ageing ones. The deal couldn’t have gone better for the auto companies, since it lacks both concrete targets and the far deeper diesel pollution controls desired by Germany’s more environmentally-minded officials.

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, working alongside Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability, recently stress-tested the city’s food supply networks under hypothetical disaster scenarios (both natural and inflicted) to provide Baltimore with concrete ideas for improving its crisis response and cities everywhere with important lessons in food resiliency. The Center’s report recommended “redesigning public transport to facilitate access to food, developing community food storage plans and supporting local farmers to be ready for emergencies.” Elsewhere, a study by San Francisco think-tank Next 10 found that California’s climate change initiatives have directly contributed more than 41,000 jobs and $9 billion in economic activity to the state’s Inland Empire region alone between 2010 and 2016. Indirect effects reel in an additional 73,000 jobs and $14.2 billion for the Inland economy; the study’s critics point out, though, that such rosy figures hide the rising costs that low-income residents may soon face if revenues fail to trickle their way.

Business

After nearly a decade of bitter contention, TransCanada’s infamous Keystone XL pipeline project might ultimately be done in by market forces. Not only has the price of oil more than halved, thereby stunting the expansionary prospects of the Canadian tar sands which provided the pipeline’s purpose, but the appearance of competing pipelines has put Keystone XL’s potential customer base into question. While TransCanada searches for new supplier interest, Nebraska regulators will undergo new public hearings; both forums will be central to the pipeline’s fate. And amid government officials’ ostensible desire to expand coal mining jobs, 2017 has already seen more occupational deaths of American coal miners than the year before – the first rise in such fatalities since 2010. Experts attribute the uptick to the increase in America’s coal output, and point to the fact that nearly all of the killed workers could claim less than a year of experience at their final mine.

Energy storage is an increasingly hot topic among power providers as intermittent renewable generators take hold across the US, and if you choose to cover your storage needs with batteries, industrialist Elon Musk and his ilk are confident that lithium-ion cells are the way to go. But not so fast, says rival innovator Bill Joy; with the unveiling of his new solid-state prototype, you may not want to rule alkaline batteries out just yet. Joy believes that alkalines will prove more cost-effective and less hazardous under extreme conditions, and his product proves that they can indeed be made rechargeable. Google’s parent company Alphabet, on the other hand, is taking an altogether different approach to satisfy its storage needs. Produced by X, Alphabet’s R&D outfit, “Malta” absorbs energy by creating a temperature differential between a vat of molten salt and another of chilled antifreeze; Malta beats lithium-ion batteries in longevity, and since it’s made of common parts, it’ll be much cheaper at scale to boot.

Facing the regulatory agendas of countries around the world looking to cut their carbon footprints, more and more manufacturers are rethinking where they get their aluminum. In an industry dominated by coal-powered smelters that pump out 18 tonnes of carbon dioxide for every tonne of metal, legislative pressures and a new low-carbon certification program are making hydro-powered producers increasingly attractive to the likes of Apple and Toyota. “Green” aluminum now often finds itself selling at a premium. In the fight to bring the cost of renewable energies ever lower, Eric Loth is out to prove that the next big leap in the affordability of windmills will come with the advent of gargantuan turbines. The bigger the ‘mill, the more efficiently it can reap power; that’s why Loth is bent on developing 500-meter towers fit to pack 50-megawatt output. Such a beast will need to sway in forceful winds to avoid utter destruction, and sport downwind blades able to flex without chopping their stalk.

Agriculture

In Kenya, the fall armyworm (a type of caterpillar) is ravaging maize farms, putting livelihoods in jeopardy. It’s a good thing, then, that Kenyan farmers have begun intercropping their corn with pulses (like green gram and cassava); pulses take roughly half as much time to grow as maize, which substantially decreases their risk of acquiring pests. Spread in part by a government eager to educate growers in sustainable practices, pulse production is bridging income gaps and restoring soil nutrients – even to the point of negating the need for added fertilizer. The wives of Kenyan cattle ranchers, whose husbands are spending more time away from home to feed their animals under drought conditions, have been exposed to intensifying home raids as their assets constitute an increasingly competitive market. These women are learning new tricks, however; in a bid to escape a shaky reliance on their husbands’ income, some are organizing beekeeping cooperatives – again, with the help of government training – to produce a plethora of in-demand products.

Farmers in Central America’s Dry Corridor are staking territories closer to the Caribbean coast as global warming worsens their homeland’s droughts; should this trend continue at current rates, watershed disturbance and slash-and-burn clearcutting will eliminate the area’s forests by 2050. Clashing with indigenous populations, the farmers’ encroachment has at times proven violent. Fortunately, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization is slated to roll out a weather monitoring program in the Dry Corridor that will harness geographic data to alert regions to the onset of drought. The system will help both private and public sectors effectively execute mitigation measures.

In more disturbing news, a study from UC Berkeley reveals that during the growing season in India, every day that is 1°C warmer than average temperatures will see approximately 67 additional farmer suicides; raise that to 5°C, and you can expect 335 more farmers will kill themselves. The upshot of this is a truly gruesome figure: the Berkeley researchers believe that, over the past 30 years, 59,300 farmer suicides can be attributed to warming alone, exacerbating a national tragedy already stoked by high farmer debt. And in a shocking report, Environmental Research Letters revealed that global warming could markedly reduce the protein content of staple crops that fully 76% of humans rely upon for the nutrient. Given a business-as-usual global greenhouse emissions scenario, atmospheric carbon concentrations “will sap the protein contents of barley by 14.6 per cent, rice by 7.6 per cent, wheat by 7.8 percent, and potatoes by 6.4 per cent.” Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are slated for the worst nutritional losses, with India alone potentially facing “53 million people at new risk of protein deficiency.”

You & Me

In recent years, Ashden – a London charity committed to backing sustainable solutions – has bestowed two of its £20,000 Ashden Awards to female entrepreneur groups that proliferate solar power access across rural India and Nepal, contributing to a growing cache of startups that aren’t waiting for a state grid to provide out-of-the-way regions with reliable energy. The Ashden winners and their contemporaries bring leadership skills and expendable capital to women who have typically found themselves socially subservient and devoid of career prospects. In other news, a new wave of artists is seeking to overcome the communication difficulties scientists and other experts have encountered when conveying the physical and emotional urgency of climate change – with arresting, innovative creations.

Addressing the desire of individuals to contribute to emissions reduction while acknowledging the aversion many have toward purist vegetarianism, a team of scientists has discovered that if Americans were to replace all the protein we receive from beef with that of beans, our nation could make more than half of the cuts needed to uphold its 2020 targets under the Paris Agreement even if every other sector of our economy doesn’t bother lifting a finger. In the meantime, UCLA geographer Gregory Okin would like us to think about an area of environmental impact that doesn’t typically come to mind: our pets’ diets. This isn’t something he wants us to wring our hands too fervently over, but the fact is that dog and cat diets require a greater proportion of protein than humans’ do; the two species alone eat “about 25 percent of all the animal-derived calories consumed in the United States each year”. Among Okin’s recommendations: avoid pet foods that offer choice cuts of meat, a nutritionally meaningless move that eschews the environmental benefits of feeding Fido industry leftovers.

Two very different lawsuits filed in the interest of spurring action on climate change are making headway in court. In one, a group of minors affiliated with Our Children’s Trust are suing the Trump administration for failing to adequately secure their constitutional right to a livable climate; in another, California lawyers are taking 37 fossil fuel companies to task for knowingly contributing to sea level rise, a sweeping injury in clear violation of California common law. After President Trump reopened areas of the Atlantic Ocean to energy exploration, opposition to offshore oil prospecting is mounting on America’s East Coast as seaside communities rebuke the harmful side-effects seismic airgun surveys pose to the oceanic ecosystems on which their livelihoods rely. Used to detect the presence of fossil fuel reserves beneath the ocean floor, seismic tests can raise the background noise level of over 2,500 square nautical miles up to 260 decibels – more than enough to rupture a human eardrum, wrought upon “animals that rely on sound as much as we do on sight”.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 7/28/2017

A week ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report about the sidelining of science by the Trump administration.  This week, CAAV member Dave Pruett wrote about the report on Huffington Post.  Perhaps illustrating the point, two prominent skeptics published commentaries this week.  Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science Committee, in an article in the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal, argued that the benefits of climate change “are often ignored and under-researched.”  He then listed a variety of “benefits.”  Zahra Hirji at Buzz Feed News had some thoughts on Smith’s ideas.  Justin Haskins, executive editor and research fellow at The Heartland Institute published a commentary in The Blaze giving six reasons he is a climate change skeptic.  Writing in Forbes, Ethan Siegel argued that Haskins’ reasons are “demonstrable falsehoods”.  President Trump is expected to nominate a coal lobbyist and an energy industry attorney for a pair of key posts at the EPA.  Stanford University researcher Benjamin Franta traced the history of the movement to obstruct action on climate change.  Meanwhile, John Holdren, chief science adviser to former president Barack Obama, weighed in on the “red-team/blue-team” idea proposed by EPA head Scott Pruitt.  He called it a “kangaroo court.”

Richard Heinberg, of the Post Carbon Institute, often writes thought-provoking but scary essays, which is what he has done in this post.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily halted the children’s climate change lawsuit against the Trump administration, following the administration’s petition for a rare review of the district court’s decision to allow the case to move forward.  On Tuesday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the state’s new cap and trade legislation into law.  Brad Plumer provided an analysis in The New York Times of what exactly the new law entails.  The U.S. Senate will soon be considering legislation to modernize the nation’s energy policy.  The big question is, how will that square with what the House just passed.  Climate scientist Michael Mann reviewed Al Gore’s new film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.  Another climate scientist, Kevin Trenberth, recently received the Roger Revelle medal from the American Geophysical Union.

Climate

Some time back I mentioned a new book entitled Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by environmentalist, author, and entrepreneur Paul Hawken.  Yale Environment 360 has an interview with him that explores why he and his team undertook Project Drawdown.  He said they took on the project because with global warming, we have been “focusing too much on the problem instead of the solution.”  Drawdown presents solutions.  Continuing on a positive note, Yale Climate Connections has an interesting article about the many roles the arts play in getting the message out about climate change.

Greenland has been getting a lot of snow this summer.  Andrea Thompson has an interesting piece on Climate Central that explains what is happening there.  Despite that new snow, scientists are still concerned about the darkening of the glaciers by algal growth and thus are studying it.  Arctic sea ice has about 50 days to go before it reaches its minimum extent for the year, but it already has declined sufficiently to cover less area than the average minimum extent in the 1980s.  On the other side of Earth, scientists have discovered one of the events contributing to the melting of Antarctica’s ice shelves.  Apparently, changes in winds along the East Antarctic coast cause sea levels to drop near the coastline, which sets off large-scale waves that travel along the coastline. When these waves hit the steep topography off the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, they pull warm water toward the coast and under the ice shelves.  And speaking of Antarctica, NASA has just released a thermal infrared image of iceberg A68, which recently broke free of the Larsen C ice shelf.  As part of its “Long Read” program, The Guardian has published a piece by Avi Steinberg about NASA’s ten-year old aerial program to document changes in the ice caps on both poles.

The Paris climate agreement set a target of keeping global warming below 2°C compared to preindustrial temperatures.  It did not, however, define “preindustrial.”  Now, a new study published in Nature Climate Change has found that the definition is very important.  If it is defined as late 18th century, rather than late 19th century, that would significantly decrease the budget for future CO2 emissions.  In case you’ve been wondering about summer temperatures during the 21st century, they have indeed been getting warmer, as illustrated by some interesting graphics from the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

A new study, published in Nature Climate Change, suggests that “extreme” El Niño events, like the one experienced in 2015/16, could become more frequent as global temperatures rise.  Even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, extreme El Niño events could happen twice as often, occurring on average every 10 years.

Most of you are aware of the need to limit nutrient runoff into our streams as a way to minimize algal blooms and their associated dead zones in lakes and coastal regions.  According to a new study published in the journal Science, accomplishing that will become harder as global temperatures increase.  The culprit?  The more extreme rainfall events expected as the world warms.  They will cause greater discharge of nutrients into streams and rivers.

Peatlands store a lot of carbon, preventing it from being released to the atmosphere as CO2.  Surprisingly, relatively little is known about how many peatlands exist on Earth, where exactly they are, and how they function.  Luckily, the scientific community is learning more about them.

Energy

Author, columnist, and commentator Michael Lewis wrote about the Department of Energy and its transition to the Trump administration in a comprehensive piece in Vanity Fair.  You might follow Joe Romm’s frequent advice and put your “head vise” on before reading this article.

Nuclear fusion has the promise of providing the world with limitless electricity, but is so complex that so far it has proven to be impossible to achieve.  This has not kept several organizations from trying, though.  A significant step was recently achieved by Google and Tri Alpha Energy when they developed a new computer algorithm that has significantly speeded up experiments on plasmas.  Of course, today’s nuclear power plants use nuclear fission.  Rocky Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins provided 14 reasons while those power plants should not be subsidized.

A study, released on Tuesday by the Energy and Policy Institute, revealed that forty years ago electric utility officials told Congress that the looming problem of climate change might require the world to back away from coal-fired power plants.  Renewable electricity generation will have to increase by 50% by 2030 to meet state requirements for wind, solar and other sources of renewable power, according to a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  So how will electric utilities continue to make money in an age of renewable energy?  Well, if the plans of American Electric Power Co. are any indication, it will be by owning the wind and solar farms, as well as the transmission lines, thereby folding them into their rate bases.

Jason Mathers had an interesting blog post about electric vehicles on EDF’s Climate 411.  Getting an independent electric car company up and going is an incredibly difficult task, suggesting few are likely to succeed.  One that apparently is succeeding is Proterra, Inc., an electric bus company that opened its second factory on Wednesday in Los Angeles.  Its first is in Greenville, SC.  And on the subject of automobiles, all sales of new gasoline and diesel cars will cease in the UK by 2040.

In previous Roundups I have provided links to articles about floating wind turbines.  BBC had an update Sunday on the installation of the turbines off the coast of Scotland, which will serve as a test bed for the technology.  Carbon Brief examined the technology in detail.  Speaking of wind turbines, a new engineering analysis has shown that onshore windfarms could be built in the UK for the same cost as new gas-fired power plants and would be nearly half as expensive as nuclear power plants.  In addition, Europe added 6.1GW of new wind power capacity during the first half of the year.  Getting wind farms approved in the U.S. is a bit more difficult than in Europe, it appears.  Ocean City, MD city officials are concerned about the visual effects of a proposed wind farm, even though it will be 17 miles from land.

Aquion Energy, maker of energy storage batteries based on a novel electrolyte with a chemical composition similar to seawater, is back in business following its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing earlier this year.

A consortium of Japanese companies plans to launch the world’s first hydrogen supply chain demonstration project, part of the country’s goal of becoming a “hydrogen society”.  Toyota is one of the companies invested in hydrogen fuel cell technology for their vehicles.  At the same time, however, they are also investigating solid-state battery technology for EVs, which would allow them to charge in minutes.

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 7/21/2017

As might be expected, the article by David Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine that I linked to last week caused quite a stir; it was the most-read article in the history of the magazine.  One commentator was Farhad Manjoo, a The New York Times columnist, who argued that we can learn a lot about how to mobilize to fight climate change by studying our response to Y2K, in which the worst-case outcome was emphasized.  On Tuesday, New York Times reporter Coral Davenport had a TimesTalks conversation with Al Gore about what went through his mind when President Trump made his announcement about withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord.  Although not about climate change per se, Justin Gillis and Jonathan Corum have an interesting article in The New York Times about infrastructure problems at the National Science Foundation’s research facility in Antarctica.  You might also be interested in Corum’s fantastic photo essay about what he and Gillis saw while in Antarctica, or in John Sutter’s reflections on iceberg A68, which recently broke off of the Larsen C ice shelf.  In response to French President Macron’s offer of employment for climate scientists, France’s basic research agency has been flooded with applicants, many from the U.S.

On Wednesday, the former top climate policy official at the Department of Interior filed a complaint and a whistleblower disclosure form, alleging that the Trump administration is threatening public health and safety by trying to silence scientists like him.  Also, the Department canceled plans for a climate change expert from the USGS to join Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during his visit to Montana’s Glacier National Park last weekend.  On Wednesday, President Trump nominated former economics professor and climate change skeptic Sam Clovis to the top scientific post at USDA, while the House passed two bills streamlining the federal permitting process for oil and gas pipelines.  On the other hand, dozens of House Republicans joined Democrats to vote down an anti-climate amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act and sent a strong message that the military should prepare for and fight climate change.  Former New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte will join the center-right Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) as a senior adviser.  California lawmakers voted Monday night to extend the state’s cap-and-trade program for cutting greenhouse gas emissions until 2030.  The bill was complex so Citizens’ Climate Lobby summarized some of its merits and drawbacks.

Climate

This week the journal Earth Systems Dynamics published an article written by climate scientist James Hansen and 14 coauthors.  They argue that it will be necessary to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to reduce the concentration to no more than 350 ppm (we are currently above 400 ppm).  Consequently, as we continue to put more and more CO2 in the atmosphere, we burden today’s youth with greater expenses to remove it, in addition to greater risks of living with the impacts of that CO2Ensia presented a summary of techniques for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and Science published an editorial about governance of geoengineering, of which CO2 removal is a part.

A new paper in Nature Scientific Reports has found that 17% of methane emissions in the Mackenzie Delta of Canada comes from only 1% of the land surface, locations where thawing permafrost allows methane to seep out of buried oil and gas formations which had previously been sealed off by permafrost.

NOAA announced that the first half of 2017 was the planet’s second warmest on record, trailing only 2016.  Carbon Brief summarized temperature and sea ice extent so far this year.  Using Philadelphia as a case study, researchers at the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Battelle Memorial Institute developed techniques for identifying heat islands in cities so at-risk citizens can be helped.  In 2003 Europe was hit with an extreme heat wave.  Now, scientists from France and Australia have asked how high temperatures might get in France in 2100 under a similar heat wave, but with CO2 concentrations that would exist if we continue with business-as-usual emissions.  The answer: 50°C (122°F).

Two coastal counties and one coastal city in California are suing a group of major fossil fuel companies for damages that they will incur due to rising sea level.  Although many legal experts consider the suit to be a long-shot, if successful it is likely to spur other similar litigation.  On the other side of the U.S., the city of Miami is considering surrendering some developed land to nature, to accommodate the rising seas.  The city government would buy out property owners in notoriously flood-prone areas and convert the land into parks and retention basins.

Images from the European Space Agency showed that the iceberg released from the Larsen C ice shelf is already beginning to break up.  In addition, a new rift has been detected in the ice shelf.  Meanwhile, a new paper in Nature Climate Change has provided additional information about the factors causing weakening of the ice shelves in West Antarctica.

So far in 2017, the U.S. has endured 49 separate weather, climate, and flood disasters, according to data from Munich Re, a global reinsurance firm.  That’s tied with 2009 as the second-highest January-June number on record.  Only 2012, with 59 events, had more.  Many of the people impacted by floods are insured by the National Flood Insurance Program.  Unfortunately the program is heavily in debt and badly in need of an overhaul.

Newly published research has shown that extreme weather events could devastate food production if they occurred in several key areas at the same time.  The researchers found there is a 6% chance every decade that a simultaneous failure in corn production could occur in China and the U.S., which would result in widespread misery, particularly in Africa and south Asia, where corn is consumed directly as food.

Energy

Bloomberg had an interesting piece summarizing where the world stands on electric cars right now.  It seems there is more news about them than there are actual cars.  Also, Mark Harris at The Guardian argued that the broad acceptance of electric vehicles will be limited until there is big improvement in batteries.  Conversely, OPEC and others are revising their estimates of EV sales upward.

A new study in Nature Climate Change has pointed out that as production declines at large oil fields, more energy is required to extract the oil, making the net energy extraction lower.  The study provided tools for examining this reality and considering it when estimating the climate impacts of oil production.  The big oil companies have been planning on becoming big gas companies as oil demand drops.  Now, however, reports from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and BP question whether those plans are realistic.  Also, speaking of gas, NPR had a very comprehensive piece about FERC and the gas pipelines awaiting approval.

Despite praising the work of scientists at a “clean coal” lab in West Virginia during a recent visit, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has proposed significant cuts to the Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy, which funds the lab.  Nevertheless, U.S. coal exports for the first quarter of 2017 were 58% higher than in the same quarter last year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported.  Still, in the long run, will the U.S. go the way of the UK?  Only five years ago, coal was generating more than 40% of the UK’s electricity, but a new analysis by Imperial College London revealed that coal supplied just 2% of power in the first half of 2017.

Minnesota tripled its solar energy capacity through the first quarter of this year and has increased solar output 12-fold since 2015.  Much of this has happened because it has embraced community solar.  In addition, a new report by the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab concluded that solar-plus-storage may be a more cost effective way to meet peak electricity demand than building new gas-fired peaking plants.  In Virginia, Dominion Energy will build a 15 MW solar farm on land in Middlesex County owned by the University of Virginia and will dedicate all of its output to the university.

With President Trump considering opening the Atlantic coastline to oil exploration, he might consider a cautionary tale from 2010.  A new study by Louisiana State University scientists indicates that crude oil from the BP oil spill has become lodged in wetland soils, where it remains almost as toxic as the day it was deposited.

Wind and solar power don’t pose a significant threat to the reliability of the U.S. power grid, Department of Energy (DOE) staff members said in a draft report, contradicting statements by DOE Secretary Rick Perry.  A DOE spokeswoman cautioned that the draft is “constantly evolving.”  That evolution may well be the result of differences between political and professional staff at DOE.

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 7/14/2017

I would like to start this week with an article that has gotten a lot of attention in the media, both print and on-line.  I am referring to David Wallace-Wells article “The Uninhabitable Earth” that appeared in New York Magazine on July 9.  Its doomsday nature caused climate scientist Michael Mann to respond in The Washington Post.  In addition, the climate scientists at Climate Feedback, who fact-check the scientific accuracy of climate-related articles in the popular press, rated its scientific credibility as low, with a score of -0.7.  A number of non-scientist commentators also wrote about Wallace-Wells’ article, but I’ll refer you only to blogger Robert Scribbler as a thoughtful example.  In response to the criticisms, Wallace-Wells published an annotated version on Friday.  During the week, he also published interviews with scientists Wallace Smith Broecker, Peter Ward, Michael Mann, James Hansen, and Michael Oppenheimer.  You might also want to look at ideas about personal actions against climate change, such as this those in this article from The Guardian, which reported on a study published in Environmental Research Letters.  Finally, to end on a positive note, Drew Jones, co-founder of Climate Interactive, shared with members of Citizens’ Climate Lobby ten reasons to be hopeful about climate progress.

With respect to the Paris Climate Agreement, the communique released at the end of the G20 summit in Hamburg reads: “We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris agreement,” adding “The leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris agreement is irreversible” and “we reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris agreement”.  John Cushman of Inside Climate News analyzed the differences between the U.S. and other G20 nations on climate change.  However, during his joint news conference with French President Macron on Thursday in Paris, President Trump said, “Something could happen with respect to the Paris accords, let’s see what happens.  If it happens, that will be wonderful, and if it doesn’t, that’ll be OK too.”  A recent paper by scholars at Stanford University and the University of Michigan reported that American politicians perceive their constituents’ positions as more conservative than they actually are on a wide range of issues.  Although not covered in the paper, this applies to climate change, according to Dana NuccitelliClimate scientists are perplexed by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s plans to use a “red team, blue team” approach to debate climate science, in part because they see it as a trap with no escape.

Climate

An important event this week, which may or may not be related to climate change, was the calving of the huge iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica.  Both The New York Times and The Washington Post had good articles, each from a different perspective.  Both had interesting graphics.

If you love coral reefs, prepare to have your heart broken by a new film from the director of Chasing Ice.  Premiering Friday (July 14) on Netflix, Chasing Coral is a crash course on how climate change is devastating our underwater ecosystems.  The trailer can be seen here.  Unfortunately, coral isn’t the only creature being impacted by humans.  A new study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found growing evidence that a sixth mass extinction is unfolding, linked in part to climate change.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, found that warmer-than-usual springtime temperatures in the Arctic Ocean are followed by colder-than-usual temperatures across much of North America, as well as less precipitation in some parts of the southern U.S.  This observation challenges the idea that global warming will enhance agriculture around the globe.  NASA has reported that May 2017 was the second warmest May on record, after May 2016.

A new meta-analysis of 692 databases from 648 different locations in “all continental regions and major ocean basins” has reconstructed global temperatures over the past 2000 years.  The study was done by the PAGES2k Consortium, a group of almost 100 scientists from around the world, and was published Tuesday in the journal Scientific Data.  The results confirmed the “hockey stick” shape of the temperature graph and the fact that the current global temperature is the highest during the Common Era.

An article, published Wednesday in the journal Elementa, Science of the Anthropocene, examined how many U.S. coastal communities would face chronic, disruptive flooding (defined as 10% or more of a community’s usable land flooding 26 times a year) during this century, as well as when that might occur.  Currently, more than 90 communities suffer from such flooding and the number is expected to almost double in the next 20 years.  The authors also have provided an interactive map to allow communities to plan.  Bloomberg presented a preview of a few cities and The Washington Post focused on the shores of Maryland and Virginia.  Of course, flooding isn’t limited to the east coast, as shown in this article about California.  It is not just towns that are threatened, however.  A new paper in Nature Scientific Reports examined the danger of rising sea level to threatened species on Pacific islands.  The picture isn’t pretty; many face global extinction.

New research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California found that improving efficiency in refrigeration and phasing out fluorinated gases used for cooling could avoid 1°C of warming by 2100.  NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index for 2016, released this week, showed that greenhouse gas emissions increased more last year than they have in nearly 30 years.

A new study, conducted for the Asian Development Bank, has concluded that with unabated greenhouse gas emissions, Asia and the Pacific are at high risk of suffering deeper poverty and disaster.  This raises the question of when human society will be willing to consider geoengineering as a stop-gap measure to reduce the impacts of our continued emission of greenhouse gases until we can stop them.  To prepare for that time, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research are using computer modeling to try to understand the consequences of such actions.

Energy

In a report published on Thursday, the International Energy Agency forecast that within five years the U.S. would become the second biggest exporter of liquified natural gas, behind Australia, but ahead of Qatar.  According to the Carbon Majors Report, just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.

Energy storage received a boost this week when utility-scale zinc-iron flow battery maker VIZn Energy announced that it can deliver energy storage to pair with solar or wind at $0.04 per kilowatt-hour.

A report by Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering has concluded that large improvements are needed in biofuels if they are to meet the required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while meeting the needs of energy users requiring liquid fuels.

Carbon Brief has compiled seven charts that illustrate why the International Energy Agency has concluded that global investment in coal-fired power plants is set to decline dramatically.  In addition, Morgan Stanley has issued a report projecting that by 2020 “renewables will be the cheapest form of new-power generation across the globe.”  Royal Dutch Shell plans to spend as much as $1 billion a year by 2020 on its New Energies division as the transition toward renewable power and electric cars accelerates.

Concentrated solar power (CSP) uses an array of movable mirrors that focus the sun’s rays on a central tower to heat molten salt or another liquid to make steam to drive a generator for making electricity.  Its advantage is that it can store enough heat to operate at night.  Its disadvantage has been cost, but now a company has bid $0.0945/kWh to produce electricity in Dubai.  Some say this price is competitive with PV solar plus batteries, but others disagree.  Speaking of PV solar, growth in rooftop solar has dramatically slowed this year in the U.S., due in large part to lobbying by electric utilities.

Dominion Energy announced Monday it is partnering with a Danish energy company to build two wind turbines off the Virginia coast.

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 7/7/2017

Climate scientist Ben Santer had a very moving and informative essay on Wednesday in The Washington Post.  British political scientist David Runciman, in an essay appearing as a “Long Read” piece in The Guardian, posited: “The politics of climate change poses a stark dilemma for anyone wanting to push back against the purveyors of post-truth.  Should they bide their time and trust that the facts will win out in the end?  Or do they use the evidence as weapons in the political fight, in which case they risk confirming the suspicion that they have gone beyond the facts?”  Much to think about there.  Justin Gillis, writing in The New York Times, has updated his short answers to 16 hard questions about climate change.

Last week I included a link to an article about the setting of the trial date for the children’s lawsuit against the federal government over climate change.  This week Chelsea Harvey wrote in The Washington Post about how things are likely to proceed in the case.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the EPA has overstepped its authority in attempting to suspend for two years the implementation of the rule restricting methane leaks from oil and gas wells.  Rather, the agency must follow a new rulemaking process to fully undo the regulations.  In an opinion piece on Project Syndicate, economist Joseph Stiglitz took President Trump to task for pulling the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement and made the case for a carbon tax.

Climate

A new paper published online in Science Advances sought to understand why estimates of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) obtained from historical temperature data records are systematically lower than estimates obtained from the paleoclimate record.  The authors found that estimates of ECS from historical temperature data records do not account for the fact that different parts of Earth warm at different speeds.  This suggests that Earth is likely to warm up more than we had hoped.

As we think of rising seas and how to protect coastal cities and other infrastructure from them, there might well be lessons to be learned from the ancient Romans.  Whereas modern concrete has a lifetime of decades in the presence of sea water, Roman concrete has a lifetime of millennia.  Scientists and engineers are working to understand why.

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication have issued a new report in which they found that 58% of Americans believe that climate change is mostly human caused.  That is the highest level reported since the survey began in 2008.  Unfortunately, only 13% knew that more than 90% of climate scientists agreed that climate change was happening and was caused by humans.

In a subjective appraisal based on analysis of numerous scientific models and his personal experience observing climate change in a variety of places, John Vidal, former environment editor of The Guardian, took a global look at where the impacts of climate change will be the greatest.  In an interview with Yale Environment 360, University of Hawaii geologist Chip Fletcher described the threats confronting Hawaii and other tropical islands and discussed potential adaptation strategiesThe Guardian presented pictures of life along the vanishing shorelines of the Solomon Islands.

Climate Central has prepared an interactive graphic showing how much selected cities around the world will warm by the end of the century under two different emissions scenarios.  The graphic has some peculiar characteristics, but can provide interesting results and is worth looking at.  Another interactive graphic has been prepared by Carbon Brief.  It summarizes the findings from the more than 140 extreme weather events that have been studied to ascertain whether they were influenced by climate change.

Richard Rood, Professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan, published an essay in The Conversation entitled “If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now, would we stop climate change?”.

Energy

A couple of weeks ago, while I was out of town, Bishop Dansby provided a link to an article in IEEE Spectrum about the “battle royal between competing visions for the future of energy” that had broken out on the pages of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Now, in order to shed additional light on where clean energy might be headed, the staff of Grist “talked to six of the smartest energy experts around” and asked for their opinions.  It is interesting reading.

The Daily Climate had an article about “Walking the Line: Into the Heart of Virginia”, a two-week journey along the route through Virginia of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

The G20 nations provide four times more public financing to fossil fuels than to renewable energy, according to a new report by a coalition of NGOs, including Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth U.S., the Sierra Club, and WWF Europe.

On Wednesday, Volvo Car Group said it plans to offer only hybrid or full-electric motors on every new model launched in 2019 or later.  As a consequence, when an existing model is due for a major revamp, it will no longer be offered with only an internal combustion engine.  In addition, on Thursday, the government of France announced that no new gasoline or diesel powered cars could be offered for sale in the country after 2040.  According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) Long-Term Electric Vehicle Outlook released on Thursday, Tesla will emerge as “the stand-out” electric vehicle manufacturer in terms of total cumulative deliveries through 2021.  BNEF also projected that electric vehicles will account for 54% of all new light-duty vehicle sales globally by 2040Seventeen states now charge fees for electric vehicles registered in the state.  Speaking of cars and their powertrains, hydrogen-powered, fuel cell cars seem to be stuck in “prototype stage”.

The overall share of wind, hydroelectric, and solar power in Germany’s electricity mix climbed to a record 35% in the first half of 2017.

EPA officials on Wednesday released their proposed 2018 biofuel requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard.  The proposals for corn-based ethanol and biodiesel are essentially the same as for 2017, while the targets for cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels are lower.

Tesla has been awarded the contract to build a 100 MW grid-scale battery to serve as emergency back-up power for South Australia.

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 6/30/2017

Writing in the journal Nature, Christiana Figueres and colleagues argued that the world has limited time to respond to climate change and set out a six-point plan for reducing the world’s CO2 emissions by 2020.  They also listed three steps by which the plan could be achieved.  Carbon Brief reported on the plan and included reactions from several individuals.  A coalition of mayors of more than 7,400 cities across the world has pledged to work together to combat climate change.  Writing in Rolling Stone, Bill McKibben posed three questions you can ask politicians at any level to determine whether they are serious about acting to slow climate change.  Dana Nuccitelli published an interesting essay at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about the economics of fighting climate change.  Federal judge Ann Aiken has set a trial date of Feb. 5, 2018 for the lawsuit brought by 21 children and young adults over the U.S. government’s alleged failure to rein in fossil fuel development and address climate change.  She also granted a request by the American Petroleum Institute, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the National Association of Manufacturers to withdraw from the case.  Sophie Kivlehan, James Hansen’s granddaughter and one of the youth plaintiffs, wrote about why she is suing.  Her op-ed is here, along with a few other items from Hansen.

The House Appropriations energy subcommittee met on Wednesday to mark up their bill for funding the Department of Energy.  The good news is that the overall agency budget was set at $37.6 billion, giving it only $209 million less than in fiscal 2017, but $3.65 billion above President Trump’s request.  The bad news is that ARPA-E was zeroed out.  In a speech on Thursday to celebrate “Energy Week”, President Trump emphasized his plan to focus on fossil fuel development during his term, but his ideas have met with skepticism from a number of analysts.  Meanwhile, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed that the EU is fully committed to the Paris Climate Agreement and will not “overlook tensions” with the U.S. during next week’s G20 meeting in Germany, Climate Home said “Germany’s G20 presidency dramatically weakened a climate action plan, gutting it of ambitious language and defining gas, and potentially even some coal power, as ‘clean technologies’, in an attempt to appeal to U.S. president Donald Trump.”  E&E News has reported that according to a senior administration official, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is leading a formal initiative to perform a critical review of climate science.  Joseph Majkut of the Niskanen Center thinks there could be value in such an exercise, if it leads to further acceptance of mainstream climate science.  Others disagree.

Climate

Although this topic is a little wonkish, the information is important to any who might interact with Congressman Goodlatte or other politicians who deny the seriousness of climate change.  From the start of the 21st century until 2015, climate models projected warmer global average temperatures than were observed by satellite readings in the upper troposphere.  Some have used this as evidence that models are too sensitive to the effects of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  Now a new paper in the journal Nature Geoscience has provided a likely explanation for the discrepancy: rather than being too sensitive to CO2, the models didn’t adequately account for three cooling effects during the first part of this century.  The paper above was based on Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) data set 3.  However, a new paper in Journal of Climate by RSS updated their data set with new corrections for factors such as satellite drift known to be associated with satellite-based temperature measurements.  Those corrections increased the rate of warming detected since 1998 by 140%, bringing it into close agreement with surface temperature measurements and weakening arguments that satellite temperature records don’t show as much warming.  However, the change in the satellite temperature record should not detract from the findings of the Nature Geoscience paper, although the differences between measured and modeled temperature are smaller.

The Paris Climate Agreement called for limiting global warming to 2°C over preindustrial times, with an aspirational goal of 1.5°C of warming.  This raises the question of how large an impact an additional 0.5°C of warming would have.  A new paper in Nature Climate Change sought to answer that question by examining changes in the incidence of extreme weather indicators over two time periods, 1960-1979 and 1991-2010, both of which experienced a 0.5°C temperature increase.  They found that the intensity of hot extremes increased by 1°C, while the intensity of cold extremes decreased by 2.5°C, and extreme rainfall intensity increased by 9%.  Another paper in the same journal examined the potential for hail storms in a warming U.S.  They found that while fewer hail storms are expected over most areas of the country, an increase in mean hail size is projected, with fewer small hail events and a shift toward a more frequent occurrence of larger hail.

Lightning-caused forest fires have risen 2 to 5% a year for the last four decades, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.  The study found that lightning storms were the main driver of recent massive fire years in Alaska and northern Canada, and that these storms are likely to move further north as the climate warms.  Meanwhile, wildfires in Siberia have burned 133,000 acres as of last week.  In addition, a new study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, has found that wildfires in Canada can deposit soot on Greenland, darkening its surface.  Nevertheless, a new paper in Science found that the global burned area declined by 24.3% over the past 18 years, primarily due to agricultural expansion and intensification.

A new report from UNESCO found that 72% of the world’s major coral reefs suffered severe and repeated heat stress during the past three years.  Thus it is particularly important to note that a new paper in the journal Climate Dynamics has confirmed that three different data sets show that all of Earth’s ocean basins are warming.  One impact of that warming is a rise in sea level, in part due to thermal expansion.  However, a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change has reported that melting ice is now a greater contributor than thermal expansion to sea level rise.  The paper also confirmed that the rate of rise is increasing.

A new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, details how global warming could disproportionately affect poor areas of the U.S., contributing to widening economic inequality among Americans.  In Uganda, where poverty is widespread, climate change is causing increasingly extreme weather events like longer dry spells and erratic rainfall.  This is having negative effects on traditional agricultural practices so local climate champions are training both students and farmers on organic farming practices as a means of adapting to the increasingly erratic climate.

Western Europe experienced an exceptionally warm June and scientists associated with World Weather Attribution have concluded climate change has made such heat waves ten times more likely in Spain and Portugal, and four times more likely in England, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands.  Meanwhile, further east, on Wednesday at 4:30 pm local time, the temperature in Ahvaz, Iran reached 129.2°F, with a heat index of 142.1°F.  If verified, this would tie the all-time heat record for the Eastern Hemisphere.  Meanwhile, in the U.S. temperatures were pretty high in Arizona; high enough to cause some to conclude that they preview what life will be like in a warmer world.

Energy

I have previously provided links to articles about the carbon capture power plant being built be Southern Co. in Mississippi.  It was to have used a new technology for providing “clean coal” electrical generation, but Southern Co. is pulling the plug on the project and will, instead, operate with natural gas.  On a more positive note, perhaps this teen’s idea will someday pan out as a way to remove CO2 economically.

In a blog post in The Guardian, David Robert Grimes noted that climate change is an energy problem and urged people to have an honest conversation about nuclear energy.  However, a study conducted for the Natural Resources Defense Council cautions against focusing on nuclear power plants’ so-called “baseload” attributes.  Consequently, it is interesting to note that one company is studying how small nuclear reactors can be paired with renewable energy facilities.

The trend for utility-scale energy storage appears to be growing as more states have adopted policies to encourage it.  Lithium-ion batteries will supply much of that storage.  While we tend to focus on Telsa’s Gigafactory, we need to keep in mind that roughly 55% of global lithium-ion battery production is based in China, compared with 10% in the U.S.  By 2021, China’s share is forecast to grow to 65%, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  Another form of energy storage, which doesn’t involve batteries, is pumped hydroelectric storage.  Dominion Energy is considering sites in southwestern Virginia to build such a facility.

On several occasions, I have linked to articles about India’s plans to greatly increase its solar energy capacity and move swiftly to meet its commitments made under the Paris Climate Agreement.  However, writing in Climate Home, Aditi Roy Ghatak questions Prime Minister Modi’s sincerity, given his relationship with Gautam Adani and his ties to coal-fired electricity generation.

Norway’s Statoil is installing the world’s first floating windfarm off the coast of Scotland.  Although more expensive than fixed-base turbines, floating turbines can potentially be installed at many more locations around the world, greatly expanding the potential of wind power.  On the subject of wind turbines, engineers are working on designs for turbines taller than the Empire State Building.

GTM Research expects a 27% drop in average global solar project prices by 2022, or about 4.4% each year.  However, in the U.S., if Suniva’s and SolarWorld’s trade dispute with China is successful, analysts think the resulting increase in solar panel prices could reduce the number of installations by two-thirds over the next five years.  Ivy Main has released her 2017 guide to Virginia wind and solar policy.

A new report by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation has concluded that the North American power grid is reliable and resilient despite the growth of variable, renewable energy sources.

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 6/23/2017

Les Grady was out of town this week.  Thanks to CAAV member Bishop Dansby, who compiled this week’s Roundup.

Politics and Economics of Climate Change

On-air meteorologists owe it to their viewers to discuss climate change, says The Washington Post’s weather editor Jason Samenow. He quoted Raleigh, North Carolina meteorologist Greg Fishel, who said that even though broadcast meteorologists “have the least education [on climate change], we have [the] most responsibility to educate ourselves so we can educate the public in the right way.”

At a Citizens Climate Lobby reception to honor members of Congress for leadership on climate change, two Republicans and two Democrats issued a plea to their colleagues to depoliticize the climate issue and come together to forge solutions. “We need to get beyond this Hatfields versus McCoys brand of politics,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), after accepting the Climate Leadership Award from Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

More than 1,400 U.S. cities, states, and businesses have joined a growing coalition that vows to stay committed to the Paris Climate Accord. The groups, which include several Fortune 500 businesses, signed a statement called “We Are Still In” shortly after President Trump’s announcement that his administration plans to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Macron responds to Trump: ‘Make our planet great again’.

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has, inter alia, a very interesting set of maps.

Exxon Mobil lends its support to a carbon tax proposal.

Climate Change Science

On current trends, the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by 2040.

Beyond organic: How regenerative farming can save us from global catastrophe.  “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.”

Eventually, we will need to not only reduce carbon emissions but also remove carbon from the atmosphere. Swiss firm Climeworks has built the world’s first commercial plant to suck CO2 directly from the air.

The evidence for the onset of climate change is compelling. But who and where is it hitting the hardest?

Energy

An Arizona utility signs a game-changing deal cutting solar power prices in half.  Tucson Electric Power will buy new solar power at under 3 cents per kWh, a “historically low price.”

In Virginia, the Carilion New River Valley Medical Center just finalized plans to install solar panels on its property. About 4,300 solar panels are now on site in one of the largest projects of its kind in Virginia. Land on which the solar system will be located doubles as sheep grazing land.

Nevada reverses the earlier harsh elimination of net metering. Governor Brian Sandoval signed a handful of new solar and energy related bills today in Carson City to help the state pivot away from the anti-consumer, anti-solar net metering regulation that forced SolarCity out of the state in late 2015.

Can the U.S. grid work with 100% renewables? There’s a Scientific Fight Brewing.