Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/25/2018

This week’s Roundup was prepared by H. Bishop Dansby.

POLITICS and POLICY

This opinion piece, “Walk with us, Ryan Zinke, and see the folly in what you’ve done,” by a former park ranger, encourages Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to read the great American preservationist writers, such as Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Robert Marshall, Rachel Carson, E.O. Wilson, Carl Safina and Terry Tempest Williams.

An analysis shows that hitting the toughest climate target of keeping global warming below 1.5C will save world $30 trillion in damages, far more than the cost of cutting emissions. Only a handful of countries would be better off if the earth were allowed to warm more than 1.5C.

President Trump’s pick to head NASA, Jim Bridenstine, once doubtful, confirms he believes humans are the leading cause of climate change.

Bridenstine’s position on climate change presents a sharp departure from his previous stance as a former congressman from petro-state Oklahoma, and those of President Trump and high-ranking administration officials, such as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Rick “Oops” Perry may have stumbled upon the solution to going 100 percent renewable. Buried in his grid study is how electric cars and smart control systems will enable deep penetration of solar and wind energy.

Given the slow progress of Virginia in climate change and renewable energy policy, it is a pleasure to see that Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC), has commissioned its first two solar farms, which together form the largest solar project for a distribution cooperative in Virginia to date.

Policy can incentivize the transition off of fossil fuels. Six Chinese cities dominate global electric-vehicle sales because getting a license plate for a gasoline car in those cities can take years through a lottery, or cost more than $14,000 in a monthly auction, while an EV license is free and often can be obtained a lot faster.

CLIMATE SCIENCE

Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. They break open the tough CO2 molecule and use the carbon to build their leaves and roots. In the process, they deposit carbon into the ground. For years people have excitedly discussed the possibility of stashing carbon in the soil while growing food. Now, for the first time, California is using cap-and-trade money to pay farmers to do it on a large scale. It’s called the California Healthy Soils Initiative.

For 400 months in a row, our planet has been unusually hot

In a report out Thursday, NOAA confirmed that April was the 400th consecutive month of warmer-than-average global temperatures. The probability that this happened by chance is near zero.

Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere after the impact of the Chicxulub asteroid, which ended the era of dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, warmed the Earth’s climate for 100,000 years, a new study has revealed. The study, based on an analysis of fossil records, suggested that the Earth’s overall temperature increased by 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) over that time. And climate change skeptics call climate change activists alarmists?

Models that generate energy and emission pathways to limit warming to 1.5C have generally relied on large amounts of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to provide the required negative emissions. Many of the models deploy BECCS on a massive scale, allocating a land area up to five times the size of India to growing the biomass needed by 2100. This analysis suggests “natural climate solutions” can reduce the need for BECCS.

ENERGY

Casandras have harped that the Achilles Heel of renewable energy is the difficulty of integration of such variable sources into the electrical grid. (Is that a total of three Greek mythological references in one sentence?) More and more studies show not only is this feasible but can make the grid more resilient. According to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are seven countries already at, or very near, 100 percent renewable power.

British Petroleum (BP) is investing in technology to charge electric vehicles (EVs) “in 5 Minutes,” saying, “We are committed to be the fuel provider of choice—no matter what car our customers drive.” A caveat, though, is that such rapid charging of batteries—as opposed to super-capacitors—is a ways into the future, if at all. Query whether this is more publicity than real interest in “fueling” EVs on the part of BP.

As Rick Perry has recently discovered, the energy stored in EVs’ batteries has the potential to help stabilize the grid. The UK is one of those taking a look at such vehicle-to-grid integration. If electric vehicles are left plugged into smart, two-way charging points when not in use, their batteries can feed power into the network at times of peak demand. Just 10 new Nissan LEAFs can store as much energy as a thousand homes typically consume in an hour.

 

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Pete Bsumek

Coalition Partner of the Month:  Pete Bsumek
May 15, 2018

Pete.5.15.18.picWe invited a long-time friend to tell the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley’s steering committee about progress in a very important and interesting volunteer effort with Renew Rocktown: Climate Action Advocacy for Harrisonburg, VA.

Pete Bsumek is Professor of Communication Studies at James Madison University; he has been involved with Renew Rocktown since it first organized in 2015.

Renew Rocktown (RR) embarked on the difficult journey of Climate Action Advocacy for Harrisonburg because:

  • It’s the right thing to do at the right time: to help bring local government into consensus with the international community in commitment toward control of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Since the national movement toward that goal has been closed off, state and local effort is the logical transition. California is leading the way, but New York City and others are also stepping up.
  • Change is inevitable as the status quo on fossil fuel use is challenged.

Possibilities at the local level

  • Harrisonburg has a new city manager, Eric Campbell, who has worked in cities where climate policies are not unheard of and some are involved.
  • Some local support already, as from Council Member Richard Baugh.
  • The success of the Paris events at Pale Fire Brewery in 2015 and 2017.
  • The creation of the Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee (EPSAC) by the Harrisonburg City Council last year.

The February Meeting
Hosted by RR to develop a campaign strategy to get the city of Harrisonburg to adopt a Climate Action Plan. Meeting notes.

  • Started with a specific proposal.
  • Designed an inside/outside strategy. Inside: EPSAC’s sustainability action plan; outside: RR grassroots action to encourage City Council to adopt the proposal.
  • Constraints:
    • Harrisonburg Electric Commission’s (HEC) contract with Dominion Power lasts until 2031. HEC is a part of a conglomerate of other municipal electric providers.
    • There is a shortage of City staff to implement a plan.

Options

  • Promote more rooftop solar.  (This may be challenged by a large rental market for businesses and homes.)
  • Work on conservation measures.
  • Renegotiate the HEC contract with Dominion (HEC is not excited about that possibility)
  • Look for a new partner when the contract expires or a new type of contract.  Could the city commit to 100% renewables by 2035?
  • Help identify City staff capacity. Who has time for efficiency planning or working locally to conserve more?
  • Identify who can work across sectors to effect change.
  • Could we reduce energy footprint by adopting conservation and energy efficiency measures at the Council level?

Refining the Outside Ask

  • All of the above, but still must deal with HEC
  • The need for City staff capacity that can work with HEC as well as the business community, with plans from EPSAC.  Might the City environmental compliance officer be that connection?

From the Q&A Discussion 

EPSAC is expected to report to the City Council at the end of May or in June.

Harrisonburg is fast approaching the 1% cap on solar. “There is an overall cap of 1% of a utility’s peak demand that can be supplied by net metered systems (as measured at their rated capacity).” (from Ivy Main’s blogpost 7/2017)  It could be raised but HEC is not enthusiastic about that.  It will take a community effort to move the dial now, but solar on the two new schools could blow past the cap. This may be what is needed to force the issue.

A map of current solar/renewable energy installations in Harrisonburg could be helpful.  This could be used to calculate the current percentage of all power used in Harrisonburg that is derived from solar energy. Additionally the map could demonstrate all potential available solar power in Harrisonburg given existing rooftops and their orientation and sunlight exposure.

Could HEC supply the data?  Enlist journalists from the Daily News-Record (DNR) to raise interest? It has been reported in the DNR that 100 homes in Harrisonburg have rooftop solar now.  Who could help?  JMU’s ISAT faculty?  A team of students?  A senior project?  A broad coalition, perhaps public safety, transportation, sustainability?

A new comprehensive plan is underway; Renew Rocktown representatives have participated. It will have some statements on climate and greenhouse gases, but it is aspirational only, no teeth.

Pete urged everyone to engage in any public comment period on the comprehensive plan, particularly:
–what’s in it
–what should be strengthened
–what was left out.

– Anne Nielsen, with Adrie Voors, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, May 2018

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 5/18/2018

Policy and Politics

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appeared on Wednesday before the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, ostensibly about EPA’s 2019 budget, although much of the questioning focused on his conduct.  Also on Wednesday, at a meeting of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (R) asserted that erosion plays a significant role in sea level rise.  On the bright side, new NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said to employees on Thursday, “I don’t deny the consensus, I believe fully in climate change and that we human beings are contributing to it in a major way.”  More good news: After the Trump administration canceled NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System last week, Congress acted this week to restore the funding.  Three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit nullified a key permit for Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline, finding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had failed to set clear limits for the impact on threatened or endangered species.  On the same day, a consortium of environmental and advocacy groups filed a complaint with EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office asking the agency to overturn North Carolina state permits for the pipeline and requesting a new environmental justice analysis of it.

Last week I provided a link to an article about California’s new requirement that homes built in 2020 and thereafter have solar panels.  This week David Roberts at Vox looked at the pros and cons of such a policy.  The state of Alaska has deep internal contradictions because it is being impacted more by climate change than any other state, yet it’s economy is based on fossil fuel development.  Brad Plumer of The New York Times examined the developing climate action plan in light of these contradictions.  A new research study published in the British Journal of Management has found that most U.S. insurance companies have not adapted their strategies to address the dangers of climate change, making them likely to raise rates or deny coverage in high-risk areas.  Roughly six-in-ten Americans say climate change is currently affecting their local community either a great deal or some, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.  Pew also found that Republicans and Democrats broadly favor the use of more solar and wind energy, but disagree on the use of more fossil fuels and nuclear energy.  Deloitte also released the results of a new poll that looks at generational differences on climate change.

In an effort to explain the urgency of action on climate change, climate scientists developed the concept of the carbon budget.  Unfortunately, that has not speeded up countries’ responses to climate change, in part because the uncertainties associated with the budget have not been adequately expressed.  Now, in separate analyses published this week in Nature Geoscience, two researchers, one at the Center for International Climate Research and the other at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, argue that the solution is to completely rethink the way policies designed to push us towards climate goals are set.  In a blog post at the Niskanen Center, David Bookbinder, Chief Counsel for the Center, argued that climate nuisance litigation against fossil fuel producers is a good idea.

Climate

A new paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters investigated the number of people facing multiple climate change risks for various degrees of warming.  At 1.5°C of warming in 2050, 16% of the world’s population will have moderate-to-high levels of risk in two or more sectors (e.g., water, energy, food, or environment).  At 2.0°C of warming, 29% of the global population is at risk, while at 3°C, 50% is.  Also, a paper in the journal Science projected that with 3.2°C of warming, which is what is expected from current emission reduction pledges, ecosystem range losses of >50% will occur for ~49% of insects, 44% of plants, and 26% of vertebrates.  At 2°C warming, this falls to 18% of insects, 16% of plants, and 8% of vertebrates and at 1.5°C, to 6% of insects, 8% of plants, and 4% of vertebrates.

In a new study published in the journal PLOS One, scientists have predicted the response to future warming of nearly 700 species of fish and other sea creatures inhabiting the waters around North America.  They found that hundreds of species of fish and shellfish will be forced to migrate northwards to escape the effects of climate change, putting global fisheries at risk.

New research, published in the journal Nature, shows that there is now a “clear human fingerprint” on the global water supply, although natural variability also played a role in driving changes to water availability over the past 15 years.  Dr. Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, presented a tutorial at Carbon Brief about how climate change is already making droughts worse.  Meanwhile, the World Resources Institute argued that Middle Eastern and North African countries could tap into their solar-energy potential to cope with fresh water scarcity by switching to solar energy from fossil fuel electricity generation that uses up water.

Normal temperatures, generally defined to be the 30-year average at a location, are trending up across most of the U.S.  Since 1980, the average continental U.S. temperature has risen 1.4°F.  Also, NOAA confirmed that April was the 400th consecutive month that was warmer than the 20th century average for that month.  The last month cooler than the 20th century average was December 1984.

A new study published in the journal PLOS One found that between 1990 and 2015 forest growing stock increased annually by 1.3% in high income countries and by 0.5% in middle income nations, while falling by 0.7% in 22 low income countries.  The authors argue that as incomes rise, farmers abandon marginal lands, allowing them to reforest and that this is responsible for regreening, rather than fertilization due to high CO2 levels, as some have claimed.

An analysis of stream flow data from USGS stream gauges has shown that the amount of rainfall in the Midwest has been increasing over the last 100 years.  On a larger scale, a 14-year NASA mission has confirmed that a massive redistribution of freshwater is occurring across Earth, with part of the middle-latitudes drying and the tropics and higher latitudes gaining water supplies.  Climate change is thought to be at least partially responsible for each.

Energy

A while back I provided a link to an article about Vaclav Smil.  Now Paul Voosen has an article about him in Science, entitled “Meet Vaclav Smil, the man who has quietly shaped how the world thinks about energy.”

Between January and March, wind power produced 18.8% of the UK’s electricity needs, compared to nuclear energy’s 18.76%. Gas was still the dominant source of the country’s electricity, at 39.4%.  This is the first time that wind energy has exceeded nuclear over such a protracted period.  In the U.S., new research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) suggested that the value of offshore wind energy makes it a better bet than onshore wind energy for many locations along the East Coast.  The report provides the first rigorous assessment of offshore wind’s economic value on the eastern seaboard.  Another report from LBNL found that if wind and solar resources provided 40 to 50% of generation, wholesale energy prices would drop by as much as 1.6¢ per kilowatt-hour.

A new report from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions suggested state and federal policy options that could preserve existing nuclear power generation, with its zero CO2 electricity.

I’ve mentioned previously the advantages of lead-acid batteries for energy storage in the U.S. because of the highly advanced supply chain for recycled components.  Unfortunately, such a supply chain does not exist in much of Africa, leading to environmental problems with lead-acid batteries.  A San Diego-based startup is advocating for the use of electric school buses as backup batteries for the electric grid.

Apple, along with Alcoa and Rio Tinto, announced a collaboration in Canada to fund a technology that can reduce CO2 emissions from the high-temperature smelting process that goes into making aluminum.  If successful, the technology will eliminate around 17% of the CO2 emissions associated with aluminum production.  A new pilot facility under construction in northern Sweden will produce steel using hydrogen from renewable electricity. The only emissions will be water vapor, explains the CEO of Hybrit, the company behind the process, which seeks to revolutionize steelmaking.

The Interior Department said Thursday it plans to approve the Palen solar farm, which will be built on public lands just south of Joshua Tree National Park, in the open desert east of the Coachella Valley.  The 3,100-acre, 500 MW power plant would be one of the country’s largest solar projects.  However, some object because of the proximity to a National Park and the farm’s potential impact on wildlife habitat.

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 5/11/2018

Policy and Politics

At the Paris climate talks in 2015 the developed countries pledged $100 billion per year to help the poorest nations fight climate change.  The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from that commitment, thereby raising the question at this week’s Bonn talks of how that money will be replaced.  This led, in part, to the poorer nations saying that they are fed up with foot dragging by the richer countries, with the talks ending in a stalemate.  Consequently, another week has been added in September to try to resolve the issues prior to COP24 in Poland in December.  Carbon Brief has a summary of the key outcomes from the Bonn talks.  Dave Roberts laid out at Vox the types of policies required to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

In April of last year, EPA removed an informational website about climate change for review and updating.  It still isn’t back.  More than 10,000 documents, made public as part of a Freedom of Information lawsuit by the Sierra Club, showed that the EPA’s close control of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s events has been driven more by a desire to avoid tough questions from the public than by concerns about security, contradicting Pruitt’s longstanding defense of his secretiveness.  With last month’s confirmation of Pruitt’s deputy, the former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, it appears that the likelihood of Pruitt being fired has increased.  On Thursday Pruitt said that he wants to radically revise how basic, health-based national air quality standards are set, giving more weight to the economic costs of achieving them and taking into account their impacts on energy development.  However, a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, written by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, affirmed that the agency cannot consider the cost of implementation when setting the standards.  Major automakers are telling the Trump administration they want to reach an agreement with California to avoid a legal battle over fuel efficiency standards, and support continued increases in mileage standards through 2025, as long as they “also are consistent with marketplace realities.”  According to The Washington Post, “Internal changes to a draft Defense Department report de-emphasized the threats climate change poses to military bases and installations, muting or removing references to climate-driven changes in the Arctic and potential risks from rising seas…”  Meanwhile, the Trump administration has cancelled NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System, which is crucial to the verification of the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement.

The California Energy Commission voted on Wednesday to change the state building code to require all new homes built in 2020 or after to be equipped with solar panels.  However, some say this will provide a glut of solar energy during the day that will compound California’s energy problems.  The Utah Legislature recently adopted a resolution that moves the state from denial of global climate change to the recognition that finding a solution is crucial.  How did this happen?  Because of students from Logan High School, who refused to give up.  The social cost of carbon (SCC) is an important parameter in determining appropriate strategies for addressing climate change and the damage it will cause.  In an opinion piece in The Hill, economics professors Robert S. Pindyck and James H. Stock argue why the SCC should not be set to zero.  KQED interviewed climate scientist Michael Mann.  You can listen or read the transcript here.

Climate

In December of 2016, the North Pole was 50°F above its usual winter temperature.  A recent paper in the journal Weather and Climate Extremes has found that 60 to 70% of that warming was due to the loss of sea ice associated with climate change. The rest was caused by natural intrusions of warm air into the Arctic, including contributions from El Niño.  Furthermore, the number of times temperatures have risen above freezing in February has been increasing since 1997.  On a related topic, growing inflows of warmer ocean waters on both sides of the Arctic Ocean are driving heat, nutrients, and temperate species to new polar latitudes — with profound impacts on Arctic Ocean dynamics, marine food webs, and longstanding predator-prey relationships.

A 350-page report released on Wednesday by the California Environmental Protection Agency tracks 36 indicators of climate change in the state and concludes that it is having a significant impact there.

A new paper in the journal Earth’s Future reports that the extraordinary rainfall associated with hurricane Harvey was fueled by record high water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.  Another study, this one in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that the rapid intensification of hurricanes increased from 1986 to 2015 in the central and eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean.  These findings are of concern because the peak season for Atlantic storms, which officially starts on 1 June, is predicted to have as many as 18 named storms, with up to five of them developing into major hurricanes, according to separate forecasts from North Carolina State University and Colorado State University.

Surface wind speeds across landmasses all over the planet have fallen by as much as 25% since the 1970s as a result of climate change.  One consequence will be calm air over cities at certain times of year, leading to more intense air pollution.

Scientists have discovered a new positive feedback loop to add to those that make global warming worse.  As freshwater lakes warm, aquatic plants such as cattails flourish.  Unlike forest debris that may wash into lakes, cattail debris causes an increase in the production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change examined the potential impact of climate change on marine protected areas (MPAs) during this century.  It found that without drastic action MPAs will be ‘devastated’ by rapid global warming.

Energy

Dominion Energy’s annual stockholders’ meeting was held on Wednesday in Richmond and opponents to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline were there in force.  Meanwhile, on Thursday opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline had a hearing before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond concerning their suit against the pipeline developers and federal regulators.

Transportation is a big user of energy, most provided by fossil fuels.  Two articles this week provided some ideas for lowering their use.  One is about five ways to change buses so that people would want to use them.  The other presents a radical idea for limiting air travel.  In addition, The New York Times reviewed the things that auto companies have done to increase the fuel economy of their vehicles.  A new AAA survey has found that 20% of Americans say their next vehicle will be an electric car.  That’s up from 15% in 2017, the first time that AAA asked the question.  And on Tuesday, Audi said it plans to sell about 800,000 battery-electric and hybrid powered cars in 2025.

Since 2010 investments in solar energy have outpaced investments in wind energy.  In an effort to catch up, turbine manufacturers and operators are turning to better software, artificial intelligence, and improved weather forecasting to generate more electricity per turn of the blades.  The U.S. Geological Survey has a new database of the more than 57,000 commercial wind turbines in the country.  A Washington Post analysis of the data revealed that Kern County, CA, has more wind turbines than any other county.

Costa Rico hopes to become the first country in the world to decarbonize its economy by eliminating all use of fossil fuel, its new president announced during his inaugural address.  Between April 2017 and March 2018, India added around 11.8 GW of renewable energy capacity. That’s more than double the 5.4 GW of capacity addition in the coal and hydro power sectors during the same period.

A new study, published in Nature Climate Change, has found that tourism accounted for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions from 2009 to 2013, four times larger than previously thought.  Carbon Brief has a more detailed report.

The UK and the EU generate a greater percentage of their electricity from renewable sources than the U.S.  In fact, this summer there will be periods when they are generating more renewable energy than they can use.  In a new report, UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers said the answer could be to use the excess power to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with the hydrogen functioning as a form of energy storage.

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 5/4/2018

Policy and Politics

According to Inside Climate News, “the Trump foreign policy team, now more than ever, is a tight cabal of hardline foes of climate action.”  Thus, while the career diplomats meeting in Bonn this week would like to have some influence on the outcome of negotiations on the rules of how to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, they have few bargaining chips to offer.  In addition, developing countries say they are “frustrated” with the lack of leadership from the developed world.  In fact, according to Climate Home News, they and their advocates feel that rich nations are not even engaging in discussions on the financial support they need to deal with the problems of climate change.  While I had hoped for a week without articles about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, it wasn’t to be, with articles about his relationship with lobbyists, his expenditures while in Oklahoma, and his travel at EPA (“After taking office last year, Pruitt drew up a list of at least a dozen countries he hoped to visit and urged aides to help him find official reasons to travel…”).

Fortune 500 corporations are facing renewed pressure from climate-focused activist investors.  Of the more than 420 shareholder resolutions proposed recently, about 20% focused on climate, tied for the largest of any proposal category, according to a report by the group Proxy Impact.  In addition, a group of 279 investors — pension plans, insurers, mutual funds, and exchange traded-funds — with a collective $30tn in assets, has banded together to tackle the issue via a five-year global initiative called Climate Action 100+.  A report by two industry groups — the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute and the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy — was sent Wednesday to the Trump administration.  It finds that the U.S. would reap broad economic gains if the federal government ratifies the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which calls for the phase out of hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants.  California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the EPA’s April 2 determination that the fuel economy requirements for cars and light trucks are too stringent and must be revised.  Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia are joining California on the lawsuit.  Together, they represent about 43% of new car sales nationally.

Dominion Energy Virginia just released its 2018 Integrated Resource Plan and Ivy Main had a blog post discussing its content.  She also had one earlier in the week outlining “How Virginia localities will get to 100% renewable.”  Utility Dive had a detailed description of RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that Virginia and New Jersey hope to join, including an explanation of how it works.  National Book Award winner Richard Powers has published a new novel, The Overstory, which is about trees.  Amy Brady interviewed him for the Chicago Review of Books, which shared it with Yale Climate Connections.  On the subject of books, a new study published this week in the journal Environmental Communication found that less than 4% of the pages in the most popular college-level introductory physics, biology, and chemistry textbooks published between 2013 and 2015 were devoted to discussing climate change.

Climate

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites more than tripled in the United States from 2004 to 2016.  Although many factors contributed to this increase, climate change played an important role.  Warming ocean waters likely are contributing to the expansion northward of the ranges of bottlenose dolphins, false killer whales, and bull sharks, according to two recent scientific articles.

According to a new study by Florida International University, mangroves just south of Miami were migrating westwards over marshland at a rate of about 100 ft a year until they were halted by the L-31E levee, a flood barrier in Miami-Dade County.  As a consequence, they are likely to be submerged by water within 30 years, killing them and destroying the protection they provide during storms.  This is unfortunate because a recent study indicates that mangroves store about 50% more carbon than had previously been thought.

A study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances used modeling to predict increases in temperature variability in tropical countries over the coming decades.  The countries that have contributed least to climate change, and are most vulnerable to extreme events, are projected to experience the strongest increase in variability.  Thus, it is particularly sad that Oxfam has found that finance for poor countries to help them reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and deal with climate change is lagging behind the promises of rich countries.  In addition, while the poorest countries are making progress toward the UN’s sustainable energy goals, they are not progressing as quickly as development agencies had hoped, according to a new report from the UN, the World Health Organization, and three other international agencies.

A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters has found that between 2015 and 2017, around 23% of the annual surface melt across the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica occurred during the winter months.  All of the winter melt events were caused by a combination of strong wind, high temperatures, and low relative humidity.  The U.S. National Science Foundation and the British Natural Environment Research Council will deploy six field missions to Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica in the next several years in order to learn more about the large glacier’s stability.  And on the other end of the globe, the February sea-ice extent in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska set a record low this winter, being only half that of the previous lowest winter on record (2001).  In addition, the Bering Sea ice has never melted this early before.

Zeke Hausfather of Carbon Brief provided an analysis of the “state of the climate” after the end of the first quarter of 2018.  He projects that 2018 will be the fourth warmest year on record, following 2016, 2017, and 2015.  For the first time since humans have been monitoring, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have exceeded 410 ppm averaged across an entire month, pushing the planet closer to warming beyond levels that scientists and the international community have deemed “safe.”

It was 122.4°F (50.2°C) in Nawabshah, Pakistan, on Monday, and meteorologists say it is the highest temperature ever reliably recorded, anywhere in the world, in the month of April.  And on the subject of records, a rainstorm that hit Kauai, Hawaii in April dumped nearly 50 inches of rain in 24 hours, eclipsing the previous record of 28.5 inches set in 2012.  It was the first major storm in Hawaii linked to climate change.

Energy

With the exception of Tennessee and North Carolina, there are no wind turbines installed in the Southeastern U.S.  Several factors are responsible, as explained by Umair Irfan and Javier Zarracina at Vox.  General Motors has signed power-purchase contracts with wind farms, now under construction in Ohio and Illinois, that will put plants in Ohio and Indiana on the path to being able to say they get 100% of their electricity from renewable sources.

Mercedes-Benz Energy has determined that there is no economic benefit to basing home energy storage systems on automotive batteries and thus it is exiting the home energy storage business.  Rather, it will focus “exclusively on the development and construction of stationary energy storage systems for grid applications.”  A Stanford University team has developed a new battery that they say houses a large amount of energy, lasts a long time, and could be inexpensive enough to store energy for the grid.  On a smaller scale, Voltstorage has brought a vanadium-redox-flow energy storage system (i.e., a flow battery) to the residential market.

A report by UK accountancy firm Ernst & Young found that the U.S. has moved up to second place (after China) in a ranking of the most attractive countries for renewables investment.  For example, AT&T Inc. and Walmart Inc. are among 36 businesses, government agencies and universities that have agreed to buy 3.3 GW of wind and solar power so far this year. That’s on track to shatter the previous high of 4.8 GW of disclosed deals last year, according to a report Monday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Anheuser-Busch announced Thursday that it will buy 800 hydrogen-electric powered semitrucks from Nikola Motor Company.  Its goal is to have its vehicles produce zero carbon emissions by 2025.

Russians are building a floating nuclear power plant that will provide electricity to a remote city near the Kamchatka Peninsula in northeast Russia.  Needless to say, opinions are divided about it.  On the other hand, as a result of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Japan is turning away from nuclear energy and back to coal for generation of its electricity, having opened at least eight new coal-fired power plants in the past 2 years.  Furthermore, it has plans for an additional 36 over the next decade.

Utility companies clashed with oil industry interests over electric vehicle and fuel subsidies at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Oil-backed groups proposed a resolution that opposed state efforts to subsidize non-gas vehicles and allow utilities to charge customers for EV charging stations. It was tabled after a protracted floor battle and opposition from utility interests like Duke Energy and the Edison Electric Institute.

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 4/27/2018

“Still, global warming doesn’t haunt even the uncorrupted imagination in quite the same way as the bomb, perhaps because it unfolds more slowly.” — Bill McKibben, The New Yorker

“Meanwhile, business as usual in harvesting and burning fossil fuels around the planet continues apace throughout the vast majority of countries, particularly within the U.S.” — Dahr Jamail, Truthout

Policy and Politics

On Monday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt released a policy memo stating that the burning of biomass, such as trees, for energy in many cases will be considered “carbon neutral” by the agency.  It should be noted, however, that the carbon neutrality of biomass is still a contentious issue within the scientific community.  On Thursday, Pruitt appeared before two House panels, but conceded little about controversial spending and management decisions he has made.  Writing for Yale Climate Connections, Jan Ellen Spiegel examined the impacts of Pruitt’s decision to change the CAFE standards for cars and light trucks.  Meanwhile, an appellate court threw out a decision by DOT to postpone increases in the penalties that automakers are required to pay if they don’t meet efficiency standards under the CAFE standards.  Speaking to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said climate change is a long-term problem that won’t go away, and that gives him confidence the U.S. will either stay in the agreement or come back if it does leave.  Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he will write a $4.5m check to cover this year’s U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.

On Tuesday, Ceres released a detailed report examining the environmental performance, including their response to climate change, of more than 600 of the largest publicly traded companies in the U.S.  Hawaii is overhauling how utilities get paid, upending a century-old business model and ordering incentives for affordability, renewable power, and helping homeowners add rooftop solar.  Rising sea level is raising knotty questions about property ownership along our coasts.  Just who owns property that becomes literally “under water”?  Around the country, the government’s response to coastal flooding is pushing lower-income people away from the waterfront.  The homes they leave, in turn, are often replaced with more costly ones, such as those built higher off the ground, which are better able to withstand storms.  Housing experts, economists, and activists call this “climate gentrification.”  However, new data from Harvard University and the University of Colorado suggests that homes at lower elevations in the Miami area are selling for less and gaining value slower than similar ones at higher elevations.

When it comes to climate change and renewable energy, luckily not all countries have the attitudes evident in the U.S. public.  For example, a recent government survey of the public in the UK revealed that 85% support renewables.  On the policy front, Ploy Achakulwisut, a post-doc at George Washington University, reminded us that not all scenarios for holding global warming to 2°C are created equal and Jason Mark discussed the question of climate reparations in Sierra.  Four protesters can present a “necessity defense” against criminal charges stemming from their efforts to shut down two Enbridge Energy oil pipelines, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on Monday.  Ministers and environmental advocates are trying to improve the way they reach out to evangelical Christians, a group that is deeply divided in its views about humans’ role in climate change.  Yale Climate Connections has compiled an updated list of books on climate change communication and added books about climate change activism.  Speaking of books, Andrew Revkin and Lisa Mechaley have a new book, entitled Weather: An Illustrated History.  You can listen to a conversation with Revkin on Science Friday.

Climate

A study published in Science last year used modeling to calculate the impact at the end of this century on each state’s gross domestic product (GDP) from events associated with climate change under business-as-usual CO2 emissions.  It found that Florida and Texas would suffer the greatest economic damage, with reductions in GDP of around $100 billion.  California came in third.  A study published Monday in Nature Climate Change found that despite only a small projected change in California’s average yearly precipitation throughout the 21st century, there may be huge and highly consequential changes in precipitation extremes.

A new paper in Science Advances suggests that low-lying coral islands across the tropical oceans could become “uninhabitable” much sooner than previously expected because of the combined impacts of sea level rise and large waves.  However, other scientists think the study may be giving an overly-pessimistic outlook.

In the past decade, methane levels in the atmosphere have shot up, to the extent that it now contains two-and-a-half times as much of the gas as it did before the Industrial Revolution.  The reason for the rapid increase is poorly understood, although scientists have several hypotheses.  The Economist discussed the increase and its potential impact on global warming.

A new research study, published in the journal Earth’s Future, has found that the regions of the African continent between 15°S and 15°N, will likely see an increase in hot nights and longer and more frequent heat waves, even if the global average temperature rise is kept below 2°C.  These effects will intensify if the temperature increase exceeds the 2°C threshold.  Moreover, the daily rainfall intensity is expected to increase with higher global warming scenarios and will especially affect the Sub‐Saharan coastal regions.  New research in the journal Nature Climate Change examined the impacts of deforestation since 1860 on the temperature of the hottest day of the year in the northern mid-latitudes.  It found that the deforestation contributed at least one-third of the local present-day warming and was responsible for most of this warming before 1980.

Peridotite is one form of rock that has the potential to react with CO2 and form insoluble carbonates, a process referred to as weathering.  Weathering has long been known as one of the ways of naturally removing CO2 from the atmosphere, but was thought to be too slow to be useful for achieving the negative emissions that will probably be required to keep temperature increases below 1.5°C.  Peridotite, however, has the potential for much more rapid reaction, and is now under study as a way to remove some of the CO2 in the atmosphere.

The Daily Climate reprinted an article by Paul Ehrlich and John Harte entitled “Analysis: Pessimism on the Food Front,” that originally appeared in the journal Sustainability.  Could Ehrlich be right this time?  On the other hand, perhaps the resiliency of Bolivian women can provide a bit of optimism.

Energy

Nature examined the forces behind the recent CO2 emissions trends and what they signal for the future.  The good news is that clean-energy technology is at last making substantial strides.  The bad news is that the pace isn’t nearly quick enough.  Big economic and political hurdles stand in the way of shutting off the fossil-fuel spigot and the cheap energy it provides.  The paradox of the science underlying the Paris Climate Agreement is that quitting fossil fuels and slashing climate pollution to zero won’t prevent global warming from exceeding 2°C.  Humanity also will have to invent a way to clean the atmosphere of at least some of the carbon pollution put there since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  Bloomberg News looked at three companies that view that necessity as the basis for a business model.

In its annual report on the status of the wind industry, the Global Wind Energy Council said cumulative wind energy capacity stood at 539 GW at the end of last year and should increase by 56% to 840 GW by the end of 2022.  General Electric has decided to test its huge 12 MW offshore wind turbine at the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult center in Northumberland, England.  The New York Times has a fascinating photo-journalism article about building large turbines and blades.

A new engineering and economic analysis of the possibility of adding carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) to corn-based bioethanol production provides additional information to the debate about the controversial fuel.  The analysis, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, determined that adding carbon capture would be very straight-forward and, with proper incentives, could lead to the development of a CO2 pipeline network and sequestration sites.

In a setback for a potential carbon-free form of energy, evidence now indicates that the second-largest earthquake in modern South Korean history was caused by a geothermal energy pilot plant.

Adele Peters provided an update in Fast Company on the role of microgrids in the restoration of power in Puerto Rico.  Microgrids require storage, which is often done with lithium ion batteries.  However, the managing director of the International Lead Association argues that advanced lead battery technology has an important role to play in today’s energy storage world.

For the first time, the production cost of renewables in G20 energy markets is lower than that of fossil fuels, an industry asset manager has claimed.  China has ordered local governments to “ease the burden” on renewable power generators by strengthening guaranteed purchase agreements and giving them priority access to new grid capacity, the National Energy Administration said on Thursday.

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.

Mayor Reed on Earth Day 2018

Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed was invited to say a few words at the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley-hosted Earth Day Celebration, Picnic and Tree Planting in Purcell Park on Sunday, April 22, 2018. Thank you Mayor Reed for participating in the event and sharing your heartfelt and inspiring thoughts!

EarthDay2018.3.an

Thank you so much for having me to share a few words today as we have our “picnic in the park” and honor our Mother Earth. So we all know the history of today close to 48 years ago on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, suddenly realized they shared common values. On this day people will march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, clean up their towns AND as we will do today … plant trees. It is a wonderful day of being earth conscious.

Now since I have been elected I have come to appreciate and advocate for the environmental movement. But I have to be honest and I must admit I have not always been aware. I was one who didn’t care if we recycled or about going green or about global warming. But I can say now I do care. And I especially care now that I am Mayor. I’ve learned so much since I have been elected. I’ve learned that Climate change is real! We have snow in April and summer weather in February most of the time we can’t tell what season we are in. And along with that comes climate change health risk. According to a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a 48-year-old environmental organization.

The study, “Climate Change and Health in Virginia,” warns that as heat waves increase, the risk of heat-related illnesses and deaths in Virginia will grow. Allergy season is starting earlier and lasting longer, and asthma attacks are increasing in the southeastern United States. “Climate change is already affecting the health of Virginians, and it’s getting worse. The idea that we could be facing more intense allergy seasons is likely and that affects me personally. So how do we as a city get people like me involved about our earth. Well it starts with you. If you are here today then that shows that you are passionate and concerned about our environment. You are concerned about these issues that should be looked at. You know we need more efforts to cut carbon pollution, which drives climate change, you know we need to use wind and solar energy rather than coal, oil or natural gas. We need You to continue to educate us and be the voice for our community. I believe as a community we have made progress in our Environmental Initiatives. If you go on the city website you will see all of our initiatives, programs and organizations. However we have a lot more work to do. As Mayor, I would love to see Harrisonburg lead the way and be the example of promoting an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

So let me remind all of you that we have a very important local election coming up 2 seats for city council 3 seats for school board. We need to see where these candidates stand on sustainability. And let us continue to have community discussions so that we can progress toward a more sustainable future for Harrisonburg. And last Thank you to the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) for 10 years of dedication to climate change. Thank you for being the environmental compass of our community. Thank you so much for having me here today.

– Mayor Deanna Reed, April 22, 2018

Tom Benevento

CAAV Coalition Partner of the Month:  Tom Benevento 
April 17, 2018

Tom.B.rw.4.17.18Tom came racing up to WVPT’s community meeting room to meet with the CAAV steering committee on his bike, just back from Dulles by air, via the Megabus. He had been in the Dominican Republic, helping with a project on food forests and tilapia farming. He was joining us to report on progress with the Sustainability Action Plan for the City of Harrisonburg, through the Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee (EPSAC).

It is envisioned as a holistic, integral plan, incorporating three E’s of sustainability: environmental integrity, economic vitality, and equity (social).  He would like to add reverent humility and reciprocal gratitude.

There are currently eight steps to the plan:

  1.  Getting Harrisonburg to approve some targets: visionary, but realistic in terms of the science.
  2.  Greenhouse gas inventory
  3.  Key sectors
  4.  Develop goals and strategies for accomplishing them
  5.  Prioritize targets and goals
  6.  Gain citizen feedback
  7.  Finalize the plan
  8.  Incorporate means of monitoring progress

Draft targets that are under initial review in Step 1 include hiring a sustainability coordinator and the use of “ICLEI” founded in 1990 as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, as an aspirational model for sustainability. ICLEI is a network of local governments with similar goals headquartered in Bonn, Germany. These initial target requests under review include a local greenhouse gas inventory (with James Madison University’s involvement), 25% renewable energy by 2025, 100% by 2045, 90% decrease in waste by 2050, and greenhouse gases at 80% of 2004 quantities by 2050.

There are seven sectors of the Action Plan under development:

  1.  Energy efficiency (buildings)
  2.  Transportation
  3.  Affordable renewable energy
  4.  Waste management and recycling
  5.  Land use planning
  6.  Stormwater management and conservation
  7.  Regional food systems and forest canopy for the city

The process of building subcommittees for each of these is under development with certain sectors given higher priority such as energy efficiency and waste and recycling. The use of the international building code, which would save 30% more energy than the current standard is not yet possible because of Virginia’s refusal to adopt it (the Dillon rule again). They have begun working on energy efficiency for schools, etc. and there is much interest in solar PV for schools. It is anticipated that there will be a May or early June meeting with City Council members and staff as the first step toward setting targets for the city.

It is clear that an awful lot of stretch and strain has been involved so far in envisioning the Action Plan, as it appears it would involve just about every facet of life in the city. We wish them every success, and sit in awe that these are all volunteers. 

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, April 2018

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 4/20/2018

Policy and Politics

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt continued to be in the news.  If you want a summary of all the investigations of him, The New York Times has provided one.  The Government Accountability Office ruled on Monday that the EPA had violated the law when it installed a soundproof phone booth in Pruitt’s office at a cost of roughly $43,000.  A group of 131 Democratic representatives and 39 Democratic senators signed a resolution introduced Wednesday that calls for him to resign.  A number of nonprofit organizations not usually known for environmental advocacy, including the NAACP, are joining the calls against Pruitt.

According to a U.N. report released Tuesday, not nearly enough money is flowing into low-carbon investments to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.  Trump administration officials are reportedly considering using the 68-year-old Defense Production Act to keep struggling coal and nuclear power plants online.  In Canada, the federal government is preparing to counter British Columbia’s bid to control the flow of oil through the province with legislation that will enhance federal power to push through the Trans Mountain pipeline.  On Thursday, the Senate voted along party lines to confirm Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine (Okla.), as head of NASA.  Democrats argued that he was unqualified for the position because he wasn’t a scientist and because of his position on climate change, among other things.  Michael Catanzaro, who has headed domestic energy and environmental issues at the White House’s National Economic Council, plans to leave next week and return to the law and lobbying firm where he previously worked.  He will be replaced by 28-year-old Francis Brooke, who will come over from Vice President Mike Pence’s office.

In Colorado, the city of Boulder, plus Boulder and San Miguel Counties, filed a lawsuit in state court on Tuesday against two oil companies, Exxon Mobil and Suncor Energy, arguing that fossil fuels sold by the companies contribute to climate change, with its associated damages.  A group of eight young Florida residents — represented by Oregon-based Our Children’s Trust — is suing Governor Rick Scott to demand that the state begin working on a court-ordered, science-based “Climate Recovery Plan.”  RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, has generated $1.4 billion in net economic benefits over the past three years, even accounting for the costs it has added to the price of electricity, a study released Tuesday found.  The RGGI states, as well as the West Coast states, have reduced emissions from the power sector, but transportation emissions have continued to rise.  Ivy Main has a new blog post.  This one is about efforts toward 100% clean energy in Virginia.  Yale Climate Connections has launched a new twice-monthly ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) “feature highlighting critical climate-related readings that might have escaped one’s radar … but which warrant attention.”  Author, journalist, and war correspondent William T. Vollmann has released the first volume of a two-volume polemic called Carbon Ideologies.  Volume I, entitled No Immediate Danger, explores how our society is bound to the ideology of energy consumption.  Eric Allen Been interviewed him for Vox.

Climate

More and more, I keep running into the term regenerative agriculture, which is to farm in such a way as to improve the land.  Advocates of it refer to it as “win-win” because not only does it improve the health of agricultural soil, it also removes carbon from the atmosphere.  In a very readable article in The New York Times Magazine, Moises Velasquez-Manoff explains the technique and explores the evidence for and against it.  Some who are not concerned about the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere justify their position by asserting the existence of improved plant growth at higher CO2 levels, which would increase food production.  However, a study published this week in Science calls that assertion into question.  A study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One found that Americans waste nearly a pound of food per person every day, roughly equal to 30% of the average American’s daily calories.

Research published in the journal Nature shows that the record-breaking marine heatwave in 2016 across the Great Barrier Reef has left much of the coral ecosystem at an “unprecedented” risk of collapse.

New research, published in the journal Science Advances, has identified a new positive feedback mechanism that appears to be accelerating the melting of Antarctic glaciers.  Fresh melt water, being of lower density, forms a layer on the sea surface next to the glaciers, decreasing mixing and retaining a pool of warm water beneath the glacial ice shelf, accelerating its melting.  Another type of positive feedback mechanism is accelerating the surface melting of Greenland in the Arctic.  According to new research, published in the journal Nature Communications, warming melts the western edge of the ice sheet, releasing mineral dust from rock crushed by the ice sheet; the dust blows to the surface of the ice, nurturing the microbes and algae living there; those organisms produce colored pigments, reducing reflectivity, and increasing melting.  Arctic scientist Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, was interviewed by Katherine Bagely for Yale Environment 360 about the environmental impacts of the changes occurring in the Arctic.

The conclusion of a study that appeared in the journal Ecology Letters is that many forests of the Rocky Mountains aren’t recovering after wildfires burn them and some aren’t returning at all.

An article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported on a global meta-analysis of the biological timing of 88 species that rely on another life form.  It found that on average, as a result of climate change, species are moving out of sync by about six days a decade, although some pairs are actually moving closer together.

A new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council focuses on the impacts of climate change on health in Virginia.  It warns that as heat waves increase, the risk of heat-related illnesses and deaths in Virginia will grow.  Prof Helen Berry is the inaugural professor of climate change and mental health at the University of Sydney.  She wrote a guest post on Carbon Brief entitled “The impact of climate change on mental health is impossible to ignore.”

Energy

The New York TimesClimate Fwd” newsletter had two energy-related articles this week.  One dealt with the uneasy relationship environmentalists have with nuclear power.  The other concerned the blueprint adopted by a committee of the International Maritime Organization that sets the shipping industry on a course to reduce carbon emissions by container ships, tankers and other vessels by at least 50% by the middle of the century compared with 2008 levels.

Offshore wind farms are far less harmful to seabirds than previously thought because seabirds actively change their flight path to avoid them.  Onshore wind continues to grow.  Now, four states—Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota—get more than 30% of their in-state electricity production from wind, according a new report by the American Wind Energy Association.

In the first quarter of 2018, 142,445 electric vehicles (EVs) were sold in China, a 154% increase over the first quarter in 2017.  Writing at Vox, David Roberts argues that China is now doing with battery electric buses what it did with solar panels, that is, to ramp up production and drive the price down.  Volkswagen AG unit Electrify America will install EV charging stations at more than 100 Walmart store locations in 34 U.S. states by mid-2019 as part of Electrify’s plans to bolster charging infrastructure across the country.

Walmart plans to more than double the amount of renewable energy it uses in the U.S.  It has also announced that suppliers have reported reducing more than 20 million metric tons of greenhouse-gas emissions in the global value chain as part of the company’s Project Gigaton initiative.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has embarked on a wide-ranging review of how interstate natural-gas pipelines are approved, including the use of eminent domain, how the need for a pipeline is assessed, and the extent to which greenhouse gas emissions should be taken into account in pipeline approvals.

New research, published Monday in Nature Climate Change, concludes that it may be possible to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures without using the controversial and largely untested negative emissions technology of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

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.