Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Renewable Energy Sources to Account for 85% of Global Electricity Production by 2050

Energy Transition Outlook 2017 - Click to View Report.
Renewable energy sources will provide 85% of global electricity production in 2050, led by solar PV and onshore wind, according to a new report published this month.

Electricity consumption will be the largest energy carrier in 2050, increasing by 140% over the next 30 years, followed by natural gas, while other energy carriers such as coal and oil will experience significant reductions, or only slight increases in consumption over the same period.  Meanwhile, over the same period, renewable energy sources will rise to become the leading source of global electricity production, accounting for 85%.  Solar PV will account for around a third of the world’s electricity, followed by onshore wind, hydropower, and offshore wind (in that order).

These are the key findings from the Energy Transition Outlook (ETO): Renewables, Power and Energy Use report, the first report in a new suite of Energy Transition Outlook publications by global quality assurance and risk management company, DNV GL.  Unfortunately, the report also concludes that humanity will exhaust the 2°C carbon budget — the amount of CO2 that can be emitted without triggering dangerous levels of climate change — by 2041, which leads DNV GL to predict that global warming will reach 2.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

“Our report shows that the energy industry, more than any other, has the power and knowledge to manage the world’s carbon budget in a smarter way,” said Ditlev Engel, CEO at DNV GL – Energy.

“Until 2050 the electricity share of energy demand will grow from 18% to 40% yet this transformation is not happening fast enough.  Speeding up the acceleration of electrifying sectors like heat and transport will be one vital measure to put the brakes on global warming. The climate challenge is not an engineering challenge, but one of governance.  We call upon all stakeholders to maximize the electrification of their operations.”

Based on the modeling done for the report, DNV GL determined three key global themes across the forecast period. First among these is the prediction that final energy demand will plateau around 2030 at 430 exajoules (EJ), 7% higher than in 2015, thanks primarily to greater energy efficiency of end-users, less use of fossil fuels at relatively low thermal efficiency, and slower population and productivity growth.  Specifically, the authors of the report state that, “Realizing that future growth is not guaranteed, market participants will switch from expansion-led to defensive behaviour.”  In sectors that are set to slow or shrink the big players will seek to diversify their holdings, as can be seen by big-name oil and gas majors diversifying into the renewable energy field.

The second key global theme to emerge from DNV GL’s modeling was the aforementioned 140% increase in electricity consumption.  Similarly, the third theme was the growth of renewables, which while monstrous in scale nevertheless fails to “introduce any insuperable new issues in order to maintain secure electricity systems.”  Already the growth of renewables is being seen in European electricity grids, and the massive influx of variable renewable energy has been shown to be of no problem for system operators.

The report further concludes that there is no one single solution that can help humanity avoid dangerous levels of climate change, rather, DNV GL authors explain that “multiple achievable actions must be taken both locally and globally, involving collaboration within the energy sector and across industries.

Read Report at Renewable Energy Sources to Account for 85% of Global Electricity Production by 2050

Defying Trump, Pentagon Moves to Protect Bases from Climate Change

Image via Wikimedia Commons: Service members salute the American flag during a retreat ceremony Oct. 2, 2014, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The four military members represented each branch of the U.S. military and assembled to show solidarity. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel/Released) Click to Enlarge.
The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to protect its bases and operations from rising seas and other impacts of climate change, despite an order by President Trump to halt climate planning.

On March 28th, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that rescinded all climate change actions within federal agencies.  These actions had been mandated by a rule from the former Obama administration that required federal agencies to take the necessary steps to protect their respective agencies from climate threats.  The original Obama order required military bases to factor climate change into their planning operations for expansions, existing structures, and future developments.

President Trump signed the March 28th executive order while flanked on either side by coal miners and fossil fuel executives, where he proudly proclaimed to the miners that this order meant that they would be “going back to work,” as reported by The New York Times.  However, in spite of his promise, the coal industry has continued on a steady decline even after the rescinded climate protections.

Even though the executive order issued by Trump in March put an end to the requirement that government agencies plan for climate impacts, the Pentagon is still moving forward with plans to protect its military installations in the United States from the growing threat.

As The Military Times points out, the Obama administration order on climate change required the Department of Defense to draft what came to be known as a climate change roadmap in 2014.  In 2016 the DoD issued directive 4715.21 which required military bases to begin factoring climate change threats into their planning as a way to preserve bases if catastrophic events like floods or severe storms were to pose an imminent threat.

The Military Times has more:
“…the 2014 roadmap was invalidated by Trump’s March 28 executive order, the Pentagon said.  It is also now reviewing directive 4715.21, “to determine if it should be suspended, revised, or rescinded,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Evans said.”
While directive 4715.21 is being reviewed, the Pentagon has instructed all branches to treat the directive as if it is still in place, meaning that military bases are still doing what they can to prepare themselves for the threat of climate catastrophes.  The military is also trying to get around Trump’s executive order by excluding the mention of “climate change” as they work on flood mitigation, drought, and storm plans for their bases.

Regardless of which political party is in power, the United States military has long been at the forefront of climate awareness.  As far as back 1965, scientists and advisers began warning then-President Lyndon Johnson about the threat of rising carbon pollution.  Unearthed memos from both the Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. administrations show that military leaders were concerned about the threat that climate change posed to the United States, a sentiment that was echoed by the Pentagon during the George W. Bush administration.

The fact that the military has long considered climate change a threat gives hope that we may someday move beyond the politically squabbling over science and move into an era where those in power take the threats seriously and work together to stop looming catastrophes from becoming realities.

Read more at Defying Trump, Pentagon Moves to Protect Bases from Climate Change

Get the Dirt:  What Does Climate Change Have to Do with Soil Health?

When it comes to the consequences of climate change, some have a way of seizing the headlines.

Soil organic matter (Credit: deeproot.com) Click to Enlarge.
Global temperatures increasing steadily at their fastest rates in millions of years?  Very scary.  Glaciers calving and collapsing into the sea?  Hard to miss.  The Atlantic Ocean lapping down the streets of Miami?  Front page news almost everywhere.

Others – like declining soil health – may be a little less immediately dramatic, but they can be equally impactful and even more far-reaching.  It’s not the sort of thing that inspires a telethon, but over time the toll of erosion, pollution, losses in organic matter, and other soil impacts of the climate crisis imperil a very basic human need – to eat.

The health and vitality of soil everywhere, from the smallest backyard garden to the largest Midwestern farm, plays an integral role in food production – and it’s threatened by climate change.

“I think a big problem that people have when they talk about climate change is they don’t emphasize enough the risks to food production, and I think that really shortchanges some of the arguments and the concerns down the road,” says journalist and author Chris Clayton. “The idea that you could have millions of migrants moving all over the world because they can’t eat, and the disruption and instability that creates doesn’t get enough appreciation in the world.”

Read more at Get the Dirt:  What Does Climate Change Have to Do with Soil Health?

A Cereal Crop Survives Heat and Drought

Pearl millet genome sequence provides a resource to improve agronomic traits in extreme environments.

Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) cultivation in india (Credit: alamy.com) Click to Enlarge.
Plant diversity and adaptation to different climatic conditions -- especially important in the era of global climate change -- is synonymous for the concept of natural and genetic diversity.  Research tackling this natural genetic variation and the corresponding biodiversity provides one of the largest treasures of humankind.  Exactly this genetic variation of plant families, plant genera and even within one plant species is the key to cope with global climate change and dramatic consequences for agriculture.

Read more at A Cereal Crop Survives Heat and Drought

Monday, September 18, 2017

  Monday, Sept 18

Global surface temperature relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP analysis (mostly NOAA data sources, as described by Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004.  We suggest in an upcoming paper that the temperature in 1940-45 is exaggerated because of data inhomogeneity in WW II. Linear-fit to temperature since 1970 yields present temperature of 1.06°C, which is perhaps our best estimate of warming since the preindustrial period.

New Hope for Limiting Warming to 1.5°C

Photographs from the 1940s to 2000s show the drastic effect of climate change on our planets glaciers. Here are photos of Alaska's Muir glacier in August 1941 left and august 2004 (Credit: NASA) Click to Enlarge.
Significant emission reductions are required if we are to achieve one of the key goals of the Paris Agreement, and limit the increase in global average temperatures to 1.5°C; a new Oxford University partnership warns.

In a collaboration involving the University of Exeter, University College London, and several other national and international partners, researchers from the University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute (ECI) and Oxford Martin School have investigated the geophysical likelihood of limiting global warming to "well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C."

Published today in the journal Nature Geoscience, the paper concludes that limiting the increase in global average temperatures above pre-industrial levels to 1.5°C, the goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, is not yet geophysically impossible, but likely requires more ambitious emission reductions than those pledged so far.

Read more at New Hope for Limiting Warming to 1.5°C

Feds on Notice as Court Smacks Down Climate Review for Coal

Coal mining on public tracts in the Powder River Basin. (Credit: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
A major court decision dressing down the federal government for "irrational" consideration of the climate impacts of coal leasing stands to reverberate throughout the Trump administration.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week ruled that the Bureau of Land Management failed to adequately consider the greenhouse gas emissions of four large coal leases in Wyoming's Powder River Basin.

A three-judge panel rejected BLM's "perfect substitution" theory, a recurring agency argument that suggests federal coal leasing has no significant impact on the climate because steady U.S. demand means that if coal isn't mined on federal land, the same amount will be mined elsewhere.

The court said the approach "contradicted basic economic principles" and violated the National Environmental Policy Act (Greenwire, Sept. 15).

Now the ruling is expected to feature prominently in other challenges working their way through agencies and the courts.  It provides new ammunition for critics who scrutinize federal environmental reviews for not looking closely enough at climate change.

"This opinion is significant because it means that future federal agencies cannot just rest on these questionable assumptions and will have to do meaningful analysis as to the actual greenhouse gas emission effects from their leasing decisions," said Jayni Hein, policy director at New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity.  "They can't just conclude that there's no net effect."

The decision also puts BLM on notice.  In the near term the agency must revise its 2010 environmental impact statement for the Wright Area leases at issue.  More broadly, the court's rebuke is expected to spur the agency to, at the very least, show its work more clearly in other analyses.

"The tools are there, and the courts have said, 'You're not going to get away with just sweeping all these impacts under the rug,'" said WildEarth Guardians attorney Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, who represented environmentalists in the case.  "So I would hope that they would take it seriously and do the analysis.

Read more at Feds on Notice as Court Smacks Down Climate Review for Coal