Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lots of Popular Climate Change Articles Aren’t Totally Credible, Scientists Say

25 Most Shared Climate Articles on Social Media in 2017 (Credit: Climate Feedback) Click to Enlarge.
Some of these articles are sensationalized very nearly to the point of inaccuracy.  Others are cases of “elaborate misinformation.”

A review from Climate Feedback, a group of scientists who survey climate change news to determine whether it’s scientifically sound, looked at the 25 most-shared stories last year that focused on the science of climate change or global warming.

Of those, only 11 were rated as credible, meaning they contained no major inaccuracies. Five were considered borderline inaccurate.  The remaining nine, including New York Magazine’s viral The Uninhabitable Earth, were found to have low or very low credibility.  However, even the top-rated articles were noted as somewhat misleading.  (Read the reviews here.) 

“We see a lot of inaccurate stories,” Emmanuel Vincent, a research scientist at the University of California and the founder of Climate Feedback, told Grist.  Each scientist at Climate Feedback holds a Ph.D. and has recently published articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Vincent says that the New York Times and Washington Post are the two main sources that Climate Feedback has found “consistently publish information that is accurate and influential.”  (He notes that Grist’s Ice Apocalypse by Eric Holthaus also made the credibility cut.)

“You need to find the line between being catchy and interesting without overstepping what the science can support,” he says.

Read original at Lots of Popular Climate Change Articles Aren’t Totally Credible, Scientists Say

Shell, Swedfund, ENGIE Invest $20 Million in Rural Distributed Renewables in Asia & Africa

Husk mini-grid (Credit: Husk) Click to Enlarge.
Husk Power Systems, a leading rural distributed utility company which operates mini-grids in Asia and Africa, has announced the closure of a $20 million equity investment from Shell, Swedfund, and ENGIE, which will serve to accelerate the company’s growth in the global mini-grid market

Established in 2007, Husk Power Systems is known for designing, building, and operating one of the world’s lowest-cost hybrid power plant and distribution networks in India and Tanzania, and has developed a proprietary system by combining and synchronizing solar PV, biomass gasification system, and batteries, which provides highly reliable and 24/7 power in areas where traditional power systems either don’t exist or are ineffective.  Husk also provides its customers with a “pay-as-you-go” system using mobile smart monitoring services.

“Together with our strategic partners, we are now confident of achieving our vision of becoming the world’s largest rural utility company providing 24/7, 100% renewable and affordable power to drive inclusive and sustainable development in growth markets,” said Manoj Sinha, CEO and co-founder of Husk Power Systems.  “We believe that mini-grids are the most capital efficient way to help reach 100% national electrification goals.”

The $20 million equity investment announced this week was joined by Shell Technology Ventures LLC, Swedish development finance institution Swedfund International, and ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies — ENGIE group’s impact investment fund.

“We see Husk as a leading player providing reliable and affordable energy to off-grid and weak-grid communities in India and Africa and we believe they have a very credible business model,” said Brian Davis, Vice President, Integrated Energy Solutions for New Energies at Shell.  “We believe that decentralized solutions will play an important role in providing productive energy to customers who currently lack reliable power.  This investment is an important step for our Energy Access portfolio and we look forward to helping the business to scale and reach its growth aspirations.”

Read more at Shell, Swedfund, ENGIE Invest $20 Million in Rural Distributed Renewables in Asia & Africa

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday, Jan 16

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.

Solar Grabs Half of Global Renewables Investment in 2017, Reaching $161 Billion

In its recently released annual figures, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said that solar led the way in global renewable energy investments.

Solar panels are sold alongside food in a market in Burkina Faso. (Photograph Credit: Joerg Boethling/Alamy) Click to Enlarge.
The global investment in solar reached about $161 billion last year, according to new annual figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

That total is an increase of 18 percent over the previous year, and represents almost half of the total global investment in renewable energy and energy-smart technologies of $334 billion.

BNEF said that solar investments in 2017 were up 3 percent over 2016.

Jon Moore, BNEF chief executive, said in a statement that the total investment for 2017 was remarkable considering that capital costs for solar technology continue to fall sharply.  Typical utility-scale PV systems, he said, were about 25 percent cheaper per megawatt last year than they were two years earlier, when global investments in renewables and clean tech reached a record $360.3 billion.

About half the total global investment in solar in 2017 was spent in China.

“China installed about 20 GW more solar capacity in 2017 than BNEF forecast, according to Justin Wu, head of Asia-Pacific for BNEF.  Wu said that increase happened for two reasons; “first, despite a growing subsidy burden and worsening power curtailment, China's regulators, under pressure from the industry, were slow to curb build of utility-scale projects outside allocated government quotas.  Developers of these projects are assuming they will be allocated subsidy in future years.

“Second, the cost of solar continues to fall in China, and more projects are being deployed on rooftops, in industrial parks or at other distributed locales.  These systems are not limited by the government quota.  Large energy consumers in China are now installing solar panels to meet their own demand, with a minimal premium subsidy.”

Overall, BNEF said that Chinese investment in all the clean energy technologies was a record $132.6 billion.  The next biggest investing country was the U.S., at $56.9 billion, up 1 percent over 2016.

Read more at Solar Grabs Half of Global Renewables Investment in 2017, Reaching $161 Billion

24-Hour Solar Energy:  Molten Salt Makes It Possible, and Prices Are Falling Fast

Molten salt storage in concentrated solar power plants could meet the electricity-on-demand role of coal and gas, allowing more old, fossil fuel plants to retire.

Falling Prices for CSP Plants  (Credit: Paul Horn/Inside Climate News) Click to Enlarge.
The first thing you see of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility, and you can be miles away, is a light so bright you can't look directly at it.  This sits atop a 640-foot cement tower, rising from the flat, empty Nevada desert around the halfway point on the highway from Reno to Las Vegas.  The tower's surrounded by a nearly two-mile-wide field of mirrors that send shimmering beams of light into the sky.
What people are actually seeing is a 110-megawatt concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, built and operated by SolarReserve of Santa Monica, California.  It's not from outer space, but there's not yet anything quite like it of this size anywhere else on the planet. 

SolarReserve is trying to prove that the technology that drives Crescent Dunes can make solar power an affordable, carbon-free, day-and-night energy source, dispatched on the electric grid like any fossil fuel plant.  Here, concentrated sunlight heats molten salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit in that shimmering tower; then the salt gets stored in a giant insulated tank and can be tapped to make steam to run a turbine.

If this plant and several similar facilities under construction, or soon to be, prove reliable, the technology is poised to take off.  Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels can displace fossil fuels during the day, and wind turbines can do the same as long as it's windy.  But molten salt towers may be able to meet the challenge of electricity on demand, and push more older, dirtier fossil-fuel plants into retirement.
The Next Big Thing?  It's the Storage
Power generation at Crescent Dunes starts with 10,347 mirrors, a total of 13 million square feet of glass—enough to completely cover the National Mall in Washington from the steps of the Capitol to the Washington Monument.  The mirrors are called heliostats because each one can tilt and turn to precisely point its beam of light.  Arranged in concentric circles, they focus sunlight on the "receiver" at the top of the central tower.  Tourists' assumptions aside, this is not actually a light.  The receiver, matte black when there's no sunlight on it, absorbs energy to heat the molten salt flowing through a series of pipes.  Hot salt then flows down to a 3.6 million gallon stainless steel storage tank.

The salt, which at these temperatures looks and flows pretty much like water, runs through a heat exchanger to make steam to run a standard turbine generator.  The tank holds enough molten salt to run the generator for 10 hours; that represents 1,100 megawatt hours of storage, or nearly 10 times more than the largest lithium-ion battery systems that have been installed to store renewable power.

Read more at 24-Hour Solar Energy:  Molten Salt Makes It Possible, and Prices Are Falling Fast

Study Finds that Global Warming Exacerbates Refugee Crises

Higher temperatures increase the number of people seeking asylum in the EU.

Farm tractor drives in low greenery area (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The refugee crisis – particularly in the Mediterranean area – has received large amounts of new attention in the past few years, with people fleeing from Syria and entering the European Union emblematic of the problem.  There has been some research connecting this refugee problem with changes to the climate.  In particular, the years preceding the Syrian refugee crisis were characterized by a severe drought that reduced farm output and led to economic and social strife there.

Separating out the influences of climate change from general social instability may be impossible, because they are intimately linked.  But we do know that climate change can cause social and economic instability.  We also know that these instabilities can boil over into larger problems that lead to mass exodus.  The problem isn’t knowing the connection between climate and refugees exists – rather the problem is quantifying it.

All of this is important because we want to be able to plan for the “now” as well as the “tomorrow.”  If we are already seeing climate-related migrations, can you imagine what’s in store in the next few decades as temperatures and extreme weather continue to increase?

A very recent publication appearing in the journal Science investigates this complex subject. The paper, Asylum Applications Respond to Temperature Fluctuations, was published by Anouch Missirian and Wolfram Schlenker from Columbia University.  It focused not just on Syria and the Mediterranean area, but expanded their study to be worldwide.

The researchers identified 103 countries that contributed to asylum applications to the European Union.  Collectively, these nations submitted 350,000 applications to the EU per year.  The authors combed the weather histories from these 103 source sites and explored how the weather varied in the 2000–2014 time period. 

They found that when temperatures in agricultural areas and seasons at the source countries varied away from an optimal value (of about 20°C (68°F)], the number of people seeking asylum increased.  And the increase wasn’t just proportional.  They found it was nonlinear, meaning that initial increases in temperature only mildly changed the asylum application numbers.  But as temperatures varied more and more, the number of seekers increased more quickly.

After making this connection to observations, the authors then projected into the future.  Using a collection of climate models that are able to predict Earth’s future climate, the authors estimated that on a business-as-usual emissions pathway (where countries don’t meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions), asylum applications will increase by almost 200% by the end of the century.  On the other hand, under a modest warming scenario, where humans take some meaningful action to reduce emissions, the increase falls to about 30%.  Again, this shows that what humans do today to combat climate change really matters.

Read more at Study Finds that Global Warming Exacerbates Refugee Crises