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.

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BXE Video Series

Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) is launching a series of educational videos about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the dangers it poses to our communities and climate. They are meant to engage the public on issues related to FERC, fracking and extreme energy.

Check out their first video: Are Oil and Gas Pipelines for the Public Good?

BXE.1

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.

Energia Solar Por Puerto Rico

concertsnip

Friday, April 20, 2018, 7-9pm
Community Mennonite Church, 70 S. High St, Harrisonburg

You are invited to a FUN EVENING!
Energia Solar Por Puerto Rico, a benefit concert featuring local artists:

  • Doug Hendren, environmental songwriter
  • blues duo Bobby Driver and Trudy Cole, and
  • salsa band Trio Enka.

Featuring:

  • Short slideshow of Puerto Rico before & after Hurricane Maria.
  • Party finger foods and sponsor displays at intermission.
  • Salsa music and dance instruction complete the evening.

All proceeds go to Resilient Power Puerto Rico to provide solar power systems to hurricane victims. Pay what you can.  Info: 540-820-1219.

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concertsnip3Sponsored by 8 local groups:

• Climate Action Alliance of the Valley
• Community Mennonite Church
• Harrisonburg Co-Housing
• Harrisonburg Unitarian Universalists
• Renew Rocktown
• Salsaburg
• Valley Friends Meeting
• Voluntary Gas Tax

See Daily News-Record reporter Justin McIlwee’s story about the event as published on April 13 here: Salsa and Support: Fundraiser to Benefit Puerto Rico

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/13/2018

Policy and Politics

Ethics charges against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt continued to be aired this week.  As a result, he has a 29% job approval rating, according to a poll released Thursday.  The Senate voted 53-45 on Thursday to confirm Andrew Wheeler, a former energy lobbyist, to be deputy administrator of the EPA.  If the Republicans continue to control the House after the fall elections, then a big question will be who succeeds Paul Ryan as Speaker.  The major contenders are Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).  According to an analysis by E&E News, the two have few differences on energy and environmental issues.

A recent study by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that Americans overwhelmingly support teaching our children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming.  And speaking of children, all around the globe, young people are joining together to demand action on climate change.  An October 29th trial date has been scheduled for the lawsuit filed by young activists who say the U.S. government is failing to protect them from climate change.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced on Monday that he had vetoed a bill that requires legislative approval before the state can participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade program among Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states that mandates CO2 emission reductions in the power sector.  On Friday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed ExxonMobil another defeat in the company’s legal battle to head off investigations into whether it misled the public about the risks of climate change, ruling that Attorney General Maura Healey has the authority to compel it to turn over records showing whether its marketing or sale of fossil fuel products violated the state’s consumer protection law.  Writing at Yale Environment 360, Richard Conniff examined the split within the environmental movement over the provision in the recently approved federal budget that increases tax credits for projects that capture and store CO2.

Climate

Two new papers in the journal Nature deal with the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), which carries warmth into the Northern Hemisphere’s high latitudes.  One paper concluded that the AMOC has declined in strength by 15% since the mid-20th century to a “new record low.”  The other paper found that the AMOC has slowed over the past 150 years and is now weaker than at any time in more than a millennium.  These findings prompted an editorial in Nature.

In an article on Monday, Carbon Brief assessed nine new carbon budget estimates for limiting warming to 1.5°C released by different groups over the past two years.  Most show larger allowable emissions than were featured in the last IPCC report, but there is a lot of variability among the estimates.  Then, on Friday a paper in Nature Climate Change showed that it is possible to limit warming to 1.5°C without the use of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) by employing a suite of highly ambitious mitigation options.

A study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications found that heat waves over the world’s oceans are becoming longer and more frequent, damaging coral reefs and creating chaos for aquatic species.  The amount of sea ice off Western Alaska coasts this spring was the lowest in more than 150 years of record-keeping.  Writing at DW, Ruby Russel reviewed the state-of-the-art in determining whether extreme weather events are related to climate change.

Monarch butterfly caterpillars can eat only milkweed and doing so makes them toxic to predators because of the uptake of poisonous cardenolides from the plant.  A paper in the journal Ecology reported that the caterpillars prefer tropical milkweed, but this may prove to be a problem because tropical milkweed contains more cardenolides under warmer temperatures, which may overpower the caterpillars’ tolerance.  On the subject of plants and insects, a paper in Global Change Biology reported that drought reduces the overall number of flowers produced by plants.  Consequently, as drought increases due to climate change, there will be less food for bees and other pollinators.

North America is divided into two distinct geographic regions, with the west being dry and the east moist.  Historically, these regions have been separated by the 100th meridian.  Now, two papers in the journal Earth Interactions have shown that the dividing line has shifted eastward about 140 miles, to near the 98th meridian.

A new five-year study that will be published in the May 2018 issue of the journal Agricultural Systems suggests that cattle can be raised, fed, and slaughtered in a way that reduces their greenhouse gas emissions to a tolerable level.  Weather volatility is going to disrupt the agriculture world in the coming decades, bringing more frequent droughts, flooding and storms, according to a report from BMI Research on agriculture megatrends.  “Enhanced rock weathering” may be another way that significant amounts of CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere.  The process would involve pulverizing silicate rocks, like basalt, and adding it to farmland to speed the ability of minerals to store carbon in soil.  However, since this has never been tried on large scale, considerable research is required to be sure that it works and that there are no negative effects.

Energy

The Environmental Defense Fund on Wednesday announced plans to build and launch a satellite that will measure major global sources of methane, including 50 oil-and-gas regions that make up about 80% of production, as well as feedlots and landfills.  Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC announced Wednesday that it plans an extension of the 303-mile natural gas pipeline currently under construction, connecting with the project’s end point in Pittsylvania County, VA, and heading another 70 miles south into North Carolina.

Renewable energy holds great promise for allowing living standards to be increased globally while simultaneously reducing greenhouse emissions.  Like all manufactured items, however, the components that generate renewable energy have finite lifetimes.  What will we do with them when the end of those lifetimes is reached?  Two articles this week explored that question.  One focused on solar panels while the other looked at solar panels, batteries, and wind turbines.

Under a new international agreement, global shipping must at least halve its CO2 emissions by 2050.  The agreement, reached by the International Maritime Organization on Friday, is an initial step for one of the world’s biggest polluting industries.  Over the next five years, negotiators will develop a package of measures to fulfill the target, delivering a final strategy in 2023.  Another industry with high CO2 emissions is cement production.  According to a new report from the Carbon Disclosure Project, those emissions must be reduced sharply if the world is to meet the climate change goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has announced two wind energy leasing areas totaling nearly 390,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts, along with additional acreage off the coast of New York.  The world’s most powerful wind turbine, at 8.8 MW, has been installed at Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Center off the coast of North East Scotland.  The center is set to be a testbed for new offshore wind technologies.  Thomas Brostrom is president of Ørsted North America.  Ørsted, which is headquartered in Denmark, develops, constructs, and operates offshore wind farms.  In a guest column in The Virginian-Pilot on Sunday, Brostrom said “Virginia has the chance to leverage its port assets, high-quality workforce and favorable business climate to become a major hub for the [offshore wind energy] supply chain. However, this must be coupled with strong public policy signals from state and local leaders that this industry is valued.”

GTM Research has released a report that provides a global overview of the energy storage market.  The U.S. is expected to remain the world’s biggest market until 2022, with China its closest rival.  The renewable energy market, however, is another story.  Last year nearly half of the world’s new renewable energy investment came from China, whose investment rose 30% compared with 2016, and was more than three times that of the U.S.

LG Electronics has deployed its new NeON 2 solar panels at a large facility in North Carolina.  The panels use an innovative wiring system that increases light absorption, as well as bifacial capability, to achieve an output of 395 watts/panel.  (By comparison, my four-year-old panels achieve around 250 watts each.)

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.

Celebrating Earth Day with a Picnic and Tree Planting

Thank you to everyone who came out and participated in the Earth Day Celebration in Purcell Park on April 22, 2018!

Notably among the attendees was Daily News-Record reporter Kelly Clark. We found her nice work on the front page of the paper the very next day: An Earth Day Birthday: Group Planted Black Gum, Swamp Oak Tree.

We’d also like to thank Mayor Deanna Reed for graciously attending and sharing her thoughtful comments with us. We’ve posted her remarks here.

Harrisonburg Landscape Manager Mike Hott, with support of the Department of Parks and Recreation, did a wonderful job of facilitating the tree planting and guiding us on an educational tour of trees of Purcell Park. We hope to watch the pond-side swamp oak and black gum trees prosper for years to come!

Scroll down for photos of the event.


CAAV's EARTH DAY CELEBRATION.600

purcellparkmapsnipEarth Day Picnic in the Park
Sunday, April 22 from 12 noon to 2 PM

Purcell Park
Shelter #3 (near the pond)
41 Monument Ave, Harrisonburg

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley invites you to celebrate Earth Day, Sunday April 22, with them.

Bring your picnic basket and come to Purcell Park, Shelter #3 close to the pond, at noon to eat and visit with friends. Stay to hear the comments by Mayor Deanna Reed and plant two new trees (holes already dug!) Then you can take a hike, go on a tree ID walk led by Mike Hott, certified arborist, play Frisbee, or check out the playground with your kids. Or you can just sit, soak up the sun, and enjoy Mother Earth on Her Day.

picnicsite.cs


Click on a photo below to enlarge it and see a slide show version of these photos:

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/6/2018

Policy and Politics

A new report by Oil Change International and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis claims that the International Energy Agency has wrongly guided governments into decisions about the use of oil, gas, and coal that are inconsistent with the long-term climate objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement.  The International Maritime Organization environment meeting in London is expected to set a concrete target for shipping emissions in the coming decades.  Because of the impacts that solar radiation management (SRM) activities are likely to have on developing nations, scientists from several of them have said that they need to “play a central role” in the conversation around SRM.  Because of a federal court ruling in August 2017 that found the EPA did not have the authority to regulate hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, which are potent greenhouse gases, the California Air Resources Board adopted a regulation that prohibits their use.

On Monday, the Trump administration announced that the fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks are too stringent and must be revised downward.  (The New York Times had two good graphics comparing the U.S. standards to others around the world.)  The EPA also said it was considering whether to revoke the waiver that allows California to set its own, tougher emissions rules.  California officials promptly vowed to defend its standards in court, signaling that years of litigation and uncertainty could lie ahead, which is something auto manufacturing officials don’t want.  Behind the scenes, however, the administration and California were in quiet talks about a compromiseInside Climate News has a good history of the fuel economy standards as well as an analysis of the impacts of any reductions.  Interestingly, the phrase “climate change” does not appear in the 38-page document outlining EPA’s reasons for the change.  Similarly, National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge.  Fifteen attorneys general and the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against the EPA and Administrator Scott Pruitt on Thursday for not controlling methane emissions.  Pruitt’s ethics were in the news this week, with revelations about his housing and his hiring practices.  E&E News provided some background on “administratively determined” hires, which were at the center of the hiring issue.

Writing at The Atlantic, environmental journalist Michelle Nijhuis explored questions such as “When are kids ready—both intellectually and emotionally—to learn about an abstract, global problem that may affect their future in very tangible, often disturbing ways?”  The second part of Yale Climate Connection’s series on books about energy features those that consider how renewable energies will reshape America and the world.  One policy aimed at reducing CO2 emissions that has not received much attention is restricting the supply of fossil fuels.  Prompted by the writings of a pair of economists, David Roberts examined the pros and cons of this approach at Vox.  Recently, climate change protesters in Massachusetts were acquitted by using the necessity defense.  Writing in The New Yorker, Carolyn Kormann explored the history and application of that defense.

Climate

New research, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, used satellite data to analyze changes in the surface elevation of glaciers all around the Antarctic coastline.  It found that from 2010 to 2016, the continent lost about 560 square miles total of grounded ice.  Furthermore, nearly 11% of the glaciers around Antarctica are apparently retreating at a faster pace today than they were at the end of the last ice age, around 20,000 years ago.

Several papers addressed the different impacts that would be felt with 1.5°C and 2.0°C of warming.  Two published in Nature Climate Change found that, under 1.5°C of warming, Arctic waters could experience ice-free summers around 2.5% of the time, or one in every 40 years.  Under 2°C of warming, ice-free conditions could occur 19-34% of the time, or once every three to five years.  A new paper in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, A reported on the economic impacts of both 1.5°C and 2°C of warming.  Compared to a scenario without any warming, by 2100, median per capita GDP would be 8% lower with 1.5°C and 13% lower with 2°C of warming.  Other papers in the same journal addressed other issues, such as rising seas and food stress.

A new study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, has found that although food sources like plankton, insects, and vegetation have been appearing earlier each year, seabird populations are not matching their breeding and nesting patterns to adapt to this change.

Pet food represents as much as 30% of all meat consumption in the U.S. and is a significant source of greenhouse gases.  Consequently, at least one company is developing pet food using fake-meat technology.

At least seven countries set March high-temperature records late last week.  As the world heats up, cities will experience some of the worst warming because of the heat island effect.  In a feature article in Science News, Aimee Cunningham explored the impacts of hotter cities and things that can be done to lessen their warming.

Energy

Internal company documents uncovered by a Dutch news organization show that Royal Dutch Shell had a deep understanding, dating at least to the 1980s, of the science and risks of global warming caused by fossil fuel emissions.  On Wednesday, Friends of the Earth Netherlands (FEN) warned Shell that if it did not revise plans to invest only 5% in sustainable energy and 95% in greenhouse-gas emitting oil and gas, FEN is prepared to bring suit to force it to do so.  This is just the latest lawsuit against the oil and gas industry.  On Wednesday, Inside Climate News provided a summary of actions to date in the U.S.

A Danish off-shore wind company that has proposed projects in Massachusetts and Virginia will be opening an office in Atlantic City with the goal of supplying enough energy for 1.5 million homes.  On the other side of the country, Redwood Coast Energy Authority is the lead agency organizing a floating wind farm project near Eureka, CA.  The plan is to have 10-15 turbines 20 miles off-shore producing 100-150 MW of power.

Investors worldwide plowed a record $161 billion into solar energy last year, representing more than half the investment in all renewables apart from large hydroelectric projects, according to a report jointly published by the UN and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  Unfortunately, investment by developed countries in renewable energy has halved since 2011.

The world’s largest wind turbine maker Vestas is partnering with Sweden’s Northvolt to develop a lithium-ion battery for wind and solar power storage.

In some instances, the impediment to larger use of renewable energy has been the difficulty in building transmission lines from the places where the energy is generated to the places where it is needed.  SunZia submitted its application in March to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission for approval of transmission line locations and right of way widths for lines that will take energy into Arizona and other locations in the southwest.

For some time, the conventional wisdom has been that natural gas will serve as a bridge fuel until renewable energy can be developed sufficiently to supply the bulk of our energy needs.  However, technological advances and declining costs of wind and solar PV are challenging that “wisdom,” putting proponents of natural gas on the defensive.

JinkoSolar has confirmed plans to invest $50 million in a factory in Florida to supply NextEra Energy Resources with up to 2.75 GW of solar modules over four years. It’s the first move by a Chinese PV company to invest in U.S. manufacturing in response to the Trump administration’s 30% tariff on imported solar products.

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.