Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ahead of Peru Climate Summit, Cautious Hope for Strong Draft Text

Alejandra OA and Peru Delegation to the People's Climate March in NYC (Credit: Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The two-week United Nations climate conference in Peru, which begins Monday, is the final pit stop before Paris in 2015, where negotiators aim to strike a deal obligating, for the first time, all countries to combat climate change.

The Lima talks are expected to deliver a draft text to be negotiated and finalized in Paris next year. Nations aim to chart a course for unprecedented action on reducing carbon emissions, while ensuring that developing nations' goals of economic growth to bring millions out of poverty are not derailed. 

After years of shifting blame at such talks, China and the United States boosted the political momentum ahead of the Lima negotiations by announcing a major climate change agreement on Nov. 11.

The U.S. pledged to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2015 and China pledged to begin reducing its emissions by 2030.  Separately, the European Union has decided to reduce emissions by at least 40 percent compared with 1990 levels by 2030.

Read original article at Ahead of Peru Climate Summit, Cautious Hope for Strong Draft Text

Animal Extinctions from Climate Rival End of Dinosaurs

Grizzly Bear. (Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Animals are dying off in the wild at a pace as great as the extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago because of human activity and climate change.

Current extinction rates are at least 12 times faster than normal because people kill them for food, money or destroy their habitat, said Anthony Barnosky, a biology professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

“If that rate continues unchanged, the Earth’s sixth mass extinction is a certainty,” Barnosky said in a phone interview.  “Within about 200 to 300 years, three out of every four species we’re familiar with would be gone.”

The findings, due to air in a documentary on the Smithsonian Channel on Nov. 30, add to pressure on envoys from some 190 countries gathering next week at a United Nations conference in Peru to discuss limits on the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
‘Extinction Crisis’

“We would have an extinction crisis without climate change simply through how we use land and water and population growth,” Carroll said.  “But now you add to that this global force of climate change and that changes relationships between species and ecosystems in unpredictable ways.”
Grizzly bears and polar bears sometimes mate, and that produces offspring with neither camouflage for the snow nor the ability to hunt in the woods.

Badly Adapted

“The hybrids aren’t really adapted for either environment,” Hadly said. “Climate change will cause more of those unpleasant surprises.”

Read more at Animal Extinctions from Climate Rival End of Dinosaurs

Bangladesh Farmers Turn Back the Clock to Combat Climate Stresses

A worker carries a sack of rice at a farm in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 21, 2009. (Credit: Reuters/Andrew Biraj) Click to Enlarge.
Indigenous varieties of rice are making a comeback in Bangladesh as farmers abandon high-yielding hybrid rice in favor of more resilient varieties that can cope with more extreme climate conditions, researchers say.

About 20 percent of the rice fields planted in the low-lying South Asian nation now contain indigenous varieties that can stand up to drought, flooding or other stresses, said Jiban Krishna, director general of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute.

At its peak, high yielding varieties of rice accounted for 90 percent of total rice grown in Bangladesh.

"In places where newly invented varieties fail to cope with stresses, farmers cultivate local varieties," Krishna told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

Read more at Bangladesh Farmers Turn Back the Clock to Combat Climate Stresses

   Saturday, November 29

Saturday, November 29, 2014

US Financial Support of Green Climate Fund Is in America's Interest

Clipper Windturbines installed in Mexico; Walmart. (Credit: Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The U.S. and other countries have pledged initial resources to help the Green Climate Fund (GCF) spur emissions reductions in developing countries and assist the most vulnerable in adapting to the impacts of climate change.  The U.S. pledge of $3 billion is a serious commitment to helping achieve a strong climate agreement next year.  The U.S. joins other countries that have already pledged to the GCF and more countries are expected to pledge in the coming days.  This new fund is in America’s interest.  It helps spur global action on climate change that is damaging the U.S. and countries around the world, it helps companies tap into the growing demand for clean energy, and minimizes the need for even greater investments to clean up the mess of extreme weather damages around the world.
The U.S. contribution is in America’s interest as the GCF will help:
  • Spur global clean energy deployment, creating new markets for renewable energy and energy efficiency companies.  Leading U.S.-based companies are already tapping into the growing clean energy market and more are poised to join.  U.S.-based companies have already taken advantage of the predecessor funds ranging such as Iowa based Clipper Wind securing a purchase of 27 wind turbines thanks to a wind project in Mexico supported by the Clean Technology Fund.

    The GCF will help speed up these markets by working with key countries to develop tangible projects that will help transform markets for wind, solar, energy efficiency, and geothermal around the world.  For example, a GCF clean energy project will include resources for transformative renewable energy projects that combine small public-sector investments in a particular large-scale renewable energy project (e.g., a wind or solar farm), financial tools that help leverage large private sector financing for the project, and necessary policy reforms to ensure that this project spurs wide-scale renewable energy deployment beyond the individual project.  You can see some elements of this in the World Bank managed Climate Investment Funds where every $1 of public financing from the fund has spurred almost $6 of other financing from the private sector and the budgets of the recipient countries.
  • Increase the resilience of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, avoiding much larger costs.  Countries around the world are already feeling the impacts from extreme weather events caused by climate change and these impacts will get worse if critical steps aren’t taken.  The U.S. is always one of the first to respond to such disasters as witnessed with the response to the recent typhoon in the Philippines and Ebola in Africa.  And evidence from disaster response around the world shows that spending $1 today helps avoid around $7 of investments needed after the disaster hits.  Upfront and early funding to assist countries strengthen their resilience will help countries avoid damages from climate change.
  • Reduce deforestation emissions through efforts such as ensuring deforestation-free supply chains.  Deforestation is a major driver of climate change throughout the world.  There are emerging signs of progress with key countries such as Brazil significantly reversing their forest loss in recent years and major companies committing to end deforestation in their supply-chain by demanding products that aren’t driving deforestation.  The GCF will help such promising efforts into lasting reforms in key countries that will (hopefully) end deforestation by 2020.
Read more at US Financial Support of Green Climate Fund Is in America's Interest

Indonesia Cracks Down on Deforestation in Symbolic U-Turn

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo joins members of the Sungai Tohor community in damming a canal draining peatlands on Tebing Tinggi island on Thursday. (Credit: Ardiles Rante/Greenpeace) Click to Enlarge.
Indonesia’s reforming new president is to crack down on the rampant deforestation and peatland destruction that has made the nation the world’s third largest emitter of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

Joko Widodo signalled the significant change of direction for Indonesia when he joined a local community in Sumatra in damming a canal designed to drain a peat forest.  Halting the draining and burning of peatland will also tackle the forest fires which have trebled since 2011 and can pump smoke across the entire region.

Indonesia suffers more deforestation than any other country, including Congo and Brazil where new data shows deforestation is dropping.  One study estimated 80% of the deforestation in Indonesia was illegal, with most of it being cleared for palm oil and timber plantations.

During his visit to Sungai Tohor village, in Riau province, Widodo announced a review of plantation company operations:  “If they are indeed destroying the ecosystem because of their monoculture plantations, they will have to be terminated.  It must be stopped, we mustn’t allow our tropical rainforest to disappear because of monoculture plantations like oil palm.”

Widodo also said he would strengthen legal protection for peatlands, which store massive amounts of carbon and rarely burn if left undisturbed.

“Peatlands can’t be underestimated, they must be protected because they constitute a special ecosystem,” he said.  “This [drainage] canal dam is very good and must be made permanent.  What’s best is for peatland to be given to the community to be managed for sago [palm starch similar to tapioca].  Community management is usually environmentally friendly, but if it’s given to companies it is turned into monocultures like acacia and oil palm.”

Greenpeace welcomed the move and said it hoped it would lead to better forest and peatland protection in Indonesia, where the campaign group said existing laws are “weak and poorly enforced”.

“Indonesia’s new president has wasted no time stepping into an international leadership role, well timed to position his country ahead of next week’s UN climate negotiations in Lima, Peru,” said Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace’s international executive director.

Read more at Indonesia Cracks Down on Deforestation in Symbolic U-Turn0

Pollution to Follow as Gas Replaces Hydropower:  Corporate Brazil

Power lines connected to the Itaipu hydroelectric dam stand in this aerial photo taken near Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. Thermal plants, which are faster and easier to build and open than wind or hydroelectric facilities, will be used as a stopgap to ensure energy supplies after the worst drought in eight decades dried up reservoirs at hydro-dams that produce 70 percent of Brazil’s power. (Credit: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg) Click to Enlarge.
Thermal plants, which are faster and easier to build and open than wind or hydroelectric facilities, will be used as a stopgap to ensure energy supplies after the worst drought in eight decades dried up reservoirs at hydro-dams that produce 70 percent of Brazil’s power. Without the extra energy supplies, Brazil may be forced to ration power as soon as next year if the drought continues, said BNP Paribas SA and consultant Thymos Energia.

“Coal and gas plants can meet an urgent need,” Bernardo Bezerra, a manager at the Rio de Janeiro-based energy consultant PSR, said in an interview.  “The big question mark is:  is it worth contracting an expensive source of energy for so many years, when you have cheaper and cleaner sources available like wind simply because of a short-term need?”

Energy ‘Security’

Brazil’s energy research and planning agency, known as EPE, says it is.

“It’s important for the security of the system that we have more thermal energy -- it was because of thermal that we avoided rationing last year,” Jose Carlos de Miranda Farias, EPE director of electric energy research, said in a telephone interview from Brasilia.  “We need to guarantee supplies to Brazilian consumers who refuse to deal with energy shortages of even half an hour.”

Using fossil fuels at a time of need highlights tensions facing Brazilian policy makers as they join United Nations talks next week aimed at limiting global warming.  While envoys from 190 nations are pushing for an agreement in 2015 to limit fossil-fuel emissions, Brazil may need to boost emissions to stabilize its power market and meet growing demand.

Brazil, the biggest polluter in Latin America, had a 6.7 percent jump in carbon emissions last year, according to data from BP Plc.  That was the fastest increase worldwide after Qatar, Colombia and the Philippines.  A spokesman for Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy wasn’t immediately available to comment.

For the world to meet its goals of limiting global warming, Brazil would have to cut carbon emissions an average of 0.9 percent a year until 2040, the International Energy Agency estimates.  Current government policies put Brazil on course for annual increases of 1.8 percent over that period, the Paris-based institution estimates.

Read more at Pollution to Follow as Gas Replaces Hydropower:  Corporate Brazil

Can China Turn Carbon Capture into a Water Feature?

Artist's impression of the GreenGen coal-fired power plant that uses a new type of carbon capture and storage. (Credit: Huaneng Corp) Click to Enlarge.
In an intriguing footnote to their historic climate deal this month, Chinese [Chairman] Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama called for demonstration of a hitherto obscure tweak to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology that could simultaneously increase its carbon storage capacity and reduce its thirst for water.  Such an upgrade to CCS holds obvious attraction for China, which is the world's top carbon polluter and also faces severe water deficits, especially in the coal-rich north and west.

As the Union of Concerned Scientists puts it in its The Equation blog, “Cracking this nut … could be a huge issue for China.”

Obama and Xi's deal pledges joint funding for a project that would inject about 1 million tons per year of captured carbon dioxide deep underground and, in the process, produce approximately 1.4 million cubic meters of water annually.  One potential target is GreenGen, an advanced coal-fired generating plant in Tianjin that was explicitly designed as a CCS test bed. 

Such ‘enhanced water recovery’ can be understood as an extension of the CCS-based enhanced oil recovery that is financing installation of carbon capture equipment at several North American coal-fired power plants.  These include the upgraded coal generator in Estevan, Saskatchewan, that recently became the first coal plant to capture its CO2.  
Canadian utility SaskPower sells 1 million tons (1 megaton) of compressed CO2 to an aging oilfield nearby where it is pumped down into the oil-bearing formation to accelerate the upward flow of petroleum. 

If enhancing oil production is a revenue option for CCS, producing water with CCS is primarily about easing the storage of captured CO2 in deep saline aquifers.  Geologists see carbonating saline aquifers as the most likely storage target for CCS if it becomes a universal aspect of fossil fuel power generation.  Bringing up briny water in the process is not as lucrative as oil production, but offers some potentially significant benefits, starting with decreasing the pressure of the aquifer.

Read more at Can China Turn Carbon Capture into a Water Feature?

Setting a Course for Carbon-Free Shipping

The world’s first electric ferry will enter service in Norway’s Sognefjord in 2015. It will have a capacity of 360 passengers and 120 cars without any emissions. (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
In conjunction with Fjellstrand, a Norwegian shipyard, Siemens has developed the technology for the world’s first electrically-powered car ferry.  The fact that the electric ship, which will enter service in 2015, causes no carbon dioxide emissions is in part due to the electricity mix in Norway.
Fjellstrand and Siemens engineers have come up with a simple idea to address the ferry’s batteries’ range problem.  “We want to recharge the batteries at the docks after each trip,” Moen explains.  Still, this will give the ferry operator only ten minutes for recharging while passengers and vehicles disembark.  The problem is that the power grid in the region is relatively weak, as it was designed to provide electricity only to small villages.  “Briefly consuming so much energy from the medium-voltage system to recharge the ferry batteries would cause the washing machines in all the houses in the area to stop running.  Obviously we can’t do that to the residents here,” Moen explains.

Siemens’ experts therefore plan to install one lithium-ion battery at each pier to serve as a buffer.  The 260-kWh unit will supply electricity to the ferry while it waits.  Afterward, the battery will slowly recoup all of this energy from the grid until the ship comes back again to drop off passengers and recharge.  The charging stations will be housed in a small building about the size of a newsstand.  The ship’s batteries will be recharged directly from the grid at night after the ferry stops operating.  This solution is both simple and ingenious.  “Under the prevailing conditions, it was the only feasible way of building and operating a battery-powered ferry,” says Moen.  “Otherwise we would have had to expand the entire grid, and that would not have been possible due to the high costs of such a project.”

It isn’t just its drive system that makes the new ferry so environmentally friendly.  Its electric motors are of course virtually silent and don’t burn any fossil fuels.  They also don’t produce any pollutants.  By contrast, a conventional ferry traveling the same route consumes around one million liters of diesel fuel and emits 2,680 tons of carbon dioxide and 37 tons of nitrogen oxide each year.  Nevertheless, the real reason for the positive environmental balance is the electricity mix.  “The electricity in this area is generated exclusively by hydroelectric plants,” says Moen.  “This makes the energy the ferry uses cheaper than diesel.  It also means the ship doesn’t emit even one gram of carbon dioxide, directly or indirectly.”
Moen believes the great potential offered by electric ships can already be exploited today. “There are 50 routes in Norway alone which battery-powered ferries could operate profitably,” he says.  “And we expect that batteries will become considerably more efficient and less expensive over the next five years.”  He also points out that Norwegians are very enthusiastic about innovations.

Read original article at Setting a Course for Carbon-Free Shipping

   Friday, November 28

Friday, November 28, 2014

Deforestation Drops 18% in Brazil's Amazon

A deforested area near Novo Progresso in Brazil's northern state of Para. (Credit: File, AP) Click to Enlarge.
Deforestation in the Amazon rain forest dropped 18% over the past 12 months, falling to the second-lowest level in a quarter century, Brazil's environment minister said on Wednesday.

Izabella Teixeira told participants at a news conference that 4 848 square kilometres of rain forest were destroyed between August 2013 and July 2014.  That's a bit larger than the US state of Rhode Island.

The figures were down from 5 891 square kilometres razed during the same period a year earlier, in the wake of the adoption of a controversial bill revising the Forest Code.

The measure, which passed in 2012 after more than a decade-long effort by Brazil's powerful agricultural lobby, mostly eased restrictions for landowners with smaller properties, allowing them to clear land closer to riverbanks.

Wednesday's lower figures came as a surprise because many environmental groups had been warning of a second consecutive spike in the annual deforestation numbers, as the forest continues to be razed to make way for grasslands for cattle grazing, soy plantations and logging.  Teixiera insisted the numbers were accurate.

Read more at Deforestation Drops 18% in Brazil's Amazon

The Climate-Change Finance Gap at a Glance

Climate Finance Gap (Credit: Environment Institute) Click to Enlarge.
Depending on who you ask, the $9.6 billion in pledges for the Green Climate Fund is either a woeful start or an encouraging sign that wealthy nations are serious about helping poorer ones deal with climate change.

As climate treaty talks begin next month in Peru, it's the opinions of those within developing nations that matter most.  Negotiators for those countries have said they cannot commit to emissions reductions or sign a climate treaty without adequate financial support.

The pledge total is just shy of the $10 billion goal for the initial phase of the Green Climate Fund, and well short of the $15 billion that developing nations wanted.

The fund was set up to supply public and private money for projects that would help vulnerable nations shift to low-carbon energy and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Estimates for how much money is needed vary widely.  After reviewing many of those estimates, the Stockholm Environment Institute said poorer nations would likely need, on average, more than $600 billion per year in climate aid just for the shift to low-carbon energy.

Read original article at The Climate-Change Finance Gap at a Glance

Smog Rule Latest Green Policy Obama Bequeathing His Successors

The tighter limits proposed Wednesday for emissions of smog-producing ozone, for example, will phase in for most of the country by 2025. Because California’s smog problems are so intense, the EPA said the cuts mandated for some areas of that state will phase in through 2037. (Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
With a far-reaching plan to cut smog unveiled Wednesday, President Barack Obama moved closer to solidifying an environmental framework that’s likely to impact the U.S. economy and Americans’ health for decades to come.

Rules the Environmental Protection Agency has or plans to issue to limit carbon pollution, enforce higher fuel economy and cut sulfur from gasoline will take at least a decade to fully implement, ensuring a lively debate between supporters and opponents for years after Obama leaves office.

The tighter limits proposed Wednesday for emissions of smog-producing ozone, for example, will phase in for most of the country by 2025.  Because California’s smog problems are so intense, the EPA said the cuts mandated for some areas of that state will phase in through 2037.

“This process will play out in the weeks, and months and years ahead,” Paul Billings, a senior vice president of the American Lung Association, said, referring to implementing standards for smog-producing ozone, which was unveiled yesterday.  “These issues never go away.”

Health advocates such as Billings say these plans will solidify health gains, cutting heart attacks, asthma episodes and premature deaths.  Republican lawmakers and industry lobbyists argue that it’s just this long-term impact that’s a problem, as the administration is locking in new standards that will impose billions of dollars of costs on businesses -- without real tangible benefit on health or the environment.

Read more at Smog Rule Latest Green Policy Obama Bequeathing His Successors

Politico’s Normal, Awful Story on EPA’s New Air Rule - David Roberts

Politico stand (Credit: Raymond Bryson) Click to Enlarge.
Tuesday night, the top story on was headlined, “‘The most expensive regulation ever.’”  It is unremarkable in that it follows the same template as a thousand pieces like it, with quotes from both sides on all the right beats and no big factual errors. In a sense, though, it is a perfect artifact, a case study in how the U.S. political media handles air regulations, environmentalists, and the left generally.

Read more at Politico’s Normal, Awful Story on EPA’s New Air Rule

What’s At Stake in Lima Climate Talks

The World (Credit: NASA) Click to Enlarge.
The U.N. Environmental Program says climate pollution levels must drop to zero during the third quarter of this century if a U.N. goal of limiting warming to 2°C, or roughly 3.6°F, is to be met.  At the rate we’re going, scientists say we will have dumped enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in just a few decades from now to warm the planet by far more than that.

Based on decisions reached during previous climate negotiations, the pact that is finalized in Paris next year will call for climate action by all nations, not just the rich ones, and provide funding to help developing countries curb climate change and adapt to it.  Aspects of the next climate pact could eventually touch on everything from forest protection and agriculture to subsidies to support carbon capture and sequestration technology at coal power plants.  Perhaps most importantly, at least from a wonky policy perspective, it will balance out the heavy-handed top-down approach of Kyoto, which tried to imposed uniform emissions reductions on groups of countries, with the flexibility of a bottom-up approach, in which nations decide for themselves how they will contribute in a measurable way to a global climate solution.  Climate negotiators call these commitments INDCs, because it’s less of a mouthful than saying “intended nationally determined contributions.”

The national contributions are due to be announced early next year.  Rules governing how they are laid out and what they will cover, and when, are planned to be decided during the two weeks of Lima talks.

Sketches of what the world’s most polluting countries plan to contribute have emerged in recent months.  China has said it will stabilize or reduce the amount of greenhouse pollution it releases every year after 2030.  It will do that in part by capping its annual use of coal at 4.2 billion metric tons by 2020, which would be 16 percent more coal than it burned last year.  In a joint announcement with China’s president this month, President Obama said the U.S. would produce less than three quarters as much carbon pollution in 2025 than was the case in 2005.  European Union leaders have committed to reducing the amount of climate pollution the bloc releases in 2030 by 40 percent compared with 1990.

Putting the world on track to avoid a 2°C temperature rise would still require a global energy industry revolution that’s well beyond the ambition of current negotiations.  Nonetheless, the announcements have been widely lauded as important starting points in spurring meaningful global climate action.

Harvard University environmental economics professor Rob Stavins, who as director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements has been closely involved with the climate talks, described the recent joint China-U.S. announcement as “potentially the most important development in international climate negotiations in the past 5 to 10 years.”  But he cautioned against expecting an agreement in Paris next year that would outright solve the problem of climate change.  Instead, he said the Paris agreement could provide a post-Kyoto framework that finally gets the world on track for an eventual climate fix.  “The way to judge the negotiations coming out of Paris is whether or not the structure is a sound foundation for meaningful long-term reductions,” he said.
“Allowing for carbon markets and their international linkage is a very important topic for Lima and Paris,” Stavins said.  “Some brief text will likely be included in the Paris agreement, and then this will be elaborated in subsequent talks.”

Stavins and other economists say that pricing carbon – whether through a cap-and-trade system or through a carbon tax – is the best way for nations and regions to achieve pollution reduction goals.  Revenues from carbon fees can be put toward environmental projects or used to reduce income and corporate tax rates.  The idea is growing in popularity, even outside of circles of markets-infatuated academics.  More than 70 nations, which are together responsible for more than half the greenhouse gas pollution produced every year, have joined Royal Dutch Shell, British Airways, China Steel Corporation and more than 1,000 other companies in voicing their support for carbon pricing.  Meanwhile, 39 carbon pricing programs are now up and running in Europe, China, North America and elsewhere.  The Sightline Institute calculated that they collectively put a price on 12 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Read original article at What’s At Stake in Lima Climate Talks

Mercury Rising:  2014 Likely to Surpass 2010 as Warmest Year on Record

Figure 1 - Global surface temperature anomalies for January-October from 1880-2014. As indicated, 2014 is now the warmest January-October period on record - beating out 1998 and 2010 (tied) by 0.02°C. (Credit: NOAA NCDC) Click to Enlarge.
The monthly global analysis for October has been released at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and it reveals that global surface temperature for October 2014 is the warmest October in 135 years of record-keeping.  This follows on from the 2nd warmest April, and the warmest May, June, August, and September, ever recorded.  In fact the first 10 months of 2014, January to October, are the warmest such period ever recorded, and 2014 is very likely to end up as the warmest year - taking over the title from the previous record year in 2010.  Other surface temperature data sets, such as NASA GISTEMP and the Japan Meteorological Agency, also have 2014 on pace to break the annual record.

With two complete months of data yet to come, it may appear premature in declaring 2014 a likely record-breaker, but 2014 is different to the evolution in surface temperature during 2010 - the previous record holder.  Record warm years are typically associated with the development of El Niño events, whereas in 2014 El Niño is yet to even put in an appearance. 

El Niño is a periodic, and naturally-occurring, phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, a time when anomalous heat is discharged from the tropical ocean in response to a temporary relaxation of the trade winds.  El Niño typically builds up mid-year, peaks December-January, and then winds down the following year.  The 2010 record occurred in the 2nd calender year of an El Niño event and surface temperatures fell throughout that year after April-May.  In comparison, 2014 has seen warming from March onwards.  2014 and 2010 are on two contrasting trajectories; a mostly cooling trend in 2010, and a general warming trend in 2014.

So the main reason why 2014 is likely to break the record is that El Niño may only just be forming, and surface temperatures are therefore expected to stay high.  Even if El Niño does not take hold, a sizeable Kelvin wave is heading east across the subsurface Pacific Ocean.  When this blob of warmer-than-normal water reaches the surface ocean in the eastern Pacific it's likely to keep surface temperatures elevated over a large area.

Ongoing emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, ensure that global warming will continue for decades into the future, and thus 2014's (likely) reign as the warmest year on record is going to be short-lived - as was 2010's reign.  The only outstanding issue is the margin by which 2014 surpasses 2010.  For that we will have to wait and see.

Read more at Mercury Rising: 2014 Likely to Surpass 2010 as Warmest Year on Record

   Thursday, November 27

Thursday, November 27, 2014

New Carbon Market Most Important in Climate Deal, U.K. Says

Certified emission reduction units (CERs) by country of origin October 2012 (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
A new carbon market that will spur emerging nations to cut emissions is the key element of next year’s planned global climate accord, a U.K. official said.

Winning United Nations support for a market that would give credits for emission reductions “would be the most important part of any international agreement,” Amber Rudd, parliamentary under secretary of state for climate change, said yesterday at a hearing at the U.K. Parliament in London. Rather than specify what nations must do, the meeting needs to agree on a framework, or “toolbox that countries can take down and operate” themselves, she said.

Certified Emission Reduction credits for December 2015 have more than doubled in value since June 4, when they matched a record low on ICE Futures Europe in London.  Prices gained as the U.S. and China agreed to limit emissions and the UN climate secretariat published a report stating the market that creates those credits and others could be extended beyond 2020.

The Nov. 24 UN report shows that carbon markets will probably help give nations confidence to pledge bigger contributions to emission cuts during the next year or so because they will provide the ability to tap private investment capital, according to the International Emissions Trading Association.  The Geneva-based industry group’s members include BP Plc and Morgan Stanley.

Read more at New Carbon Market Most Important in Climate Deal, U.K. Says

Another Major Climate Breakthrough:  China Will Cap Its Coal Consumption by 2020

Chinese Coal Power (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Hard on the heels of last week’s historic US-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change, in which China pledged for the first time to cap its CO2 emission by 2030, China’s State Council has just announced a new energy strategy action plan that includes, also for the first time, a cap on national coal consumption by 2020.  This is another major breakthrough for climate and for China’s people, since coal is the largest contributor to CO2 emissions as well as to China’s dangerous PM 2.5 air pollution.

Putting a lid on coal is the single most important step China can take to reduce its CO2 emissions, and an ambitious yet achievable cap can help China peak its CO2 emissions even earlier than the 2030 date announced last week.  But that’s not all China is doing. Beijing’s pledge to boost the share of non-fossil energy to 20% by 2030 will require it to install the carbon-free energy equivalent of Spain’s entire generating capacity each year until 2030, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.  Although China already leads the world in renewable energy production and clean energy investment, and installed more new non-fossil fuel capacity than fossil fuel capacity last year, these are major accomplishments, and can hardly be called business as usual.

Read more at Another Major Climate Breakthrough:  China Will Cap Its Coal Consumption by 2020

Cool Discovery Blasts Summer Heat into 'the Cold Darkness of the Universe'

In this illustration, the reflective panel is coated with a material invented by Stanford engineers. They designed it to help cool buildings without air conditioning. The material works in two ways--It reflects incoming sunlight (yellow splotch) that would otherwise heat the building. And it sends heat from inside the structure directly into space as infrared radiation (reddish rays). The blue areas on an otherwise warm roof show the cooling effect. (Credit: Fan Lab, Stanford Engineering) Click to Enlarge.
Technology being developed at Stanford University could slash the need for summertime air conditioning, which currently uses up about 15 percent of the $180 billion spent on energy for commercial buildings in the U.S.

Lowering a building's temperature typically requires burning coal or gas to generate electricity, which runs the AC, which lowers the mercury. Far easier and cheaper than burning fuel to cool hot places would be to both stop the heat before it comes in and suck it out when it's too hot.

Research published Wednesday in the journal Nature describes a new, experimental material that can do those two things.  Thin, silicon-based wafers act as both a rooftop mirror, reflecting sunlight and heat skyward, and as a kind of thermal funnel, drawing a building's internal heat up through the roof.  Neither requires a volt of electricity.

The Stanford material can reduce the temperature by up to 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit), below the outside air temperature, according to the study.  Experiments have proven successful on an eight-inch-diameter wafer.  The researchers' next job is to scale up the effort.  "We need to get to a point where I can cover part of your roof," said Shanhui Fan, a co-author and professor of electrical engineering.  "So there's still a way to go."

The reflective panel and coating can probably be manufactured using existing fabrication techniques, Fan said.  Scaling-up will require more time, testing and money.  The work so far has been supported by the U.S. Energy Department's high-end research agency, ARPA-E.  The scientists haven't yet formed a company to commercialize their research.

Read more at Cool Discovery Blasts Summer Heat into 'the Cold Darkness of the Universe'

   Wednesday, November 26

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Latest Global Warming Bill and the Republican Conundrum

“Solution Aversion: On the Relation between Ideology and Motivated Disbelief,” Campbell and Kay, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  (Credit: American Psychological Association) Click to Enlarge.
Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced a climate bill in the US Senate last week.  The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act proposes to tax carbon pollution at the source or at the border for imports, and return 100% of the revenue to taxpayers.  The tax would therefore be revenue-neutral, not increasing the size of government.

A revenue-neutral carbon tax has become an increasingly popular proposal for tackling global warming.  Liberals have long been on board with requiring that polluters pay for their carbon emissions, but in the United States and a few other countries where climate science is treated as a partisan issue, conservatives have been resistant to this concept.

Research has shown that fear of government regulations is one of the primary reasons conservatives tend to reject the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused global warming.  A majority of Republicans accept the scientific reality when they realize there are free market solutions available.

Read More at The Latest Global Warming Bill and the Republican Conundrum

Aerodynamic Upgrades to Large Trucks Would Save Billions of Gallons of Fuel

Boat tail fairing (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The fuel consumption of the 2 million tractor-trailer trucks hauling cargo across the U.S. — which currently burn 36 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year — could be cut by billions of gallons through the use of drag-reducing devices, according to researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  In wind tunnel tests, researchers fitted a scale-model truck with two types of devices designed to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics:  a trailer skirt, which consists of panels affixed along the lower side edges of a trailer, and a boat tail fairing, which is affixed to the back of the trailer to reduce the size of its wake.  The researchers found that using the devices in combination — technology currently installed on only 3 to 4 percent of the nation’s large trucks — reduced the aerodynamic drag by as much as 25 percent, which translates to a 13-percent decrease in fuel consumption.  If the U.S. tractor-trailer fleet were to improve its fuel economy by 19 percent, which the researchers say is achievable, 6.5 billion gallons of diesel fuel would be saved each year, avoiding 66 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

View original article at Aerodynamic Upgrades to Large Trucks Would Save Billions of Gallons of Fuel

Geoengineering Our Climate Is Not a 'Quick Fix'

Geoengineering Proposals - The deliberate, large-scale intervention in the Earth's climate system is not a "quick fix" for global warming, according to the findings of the UK's first publicly funded studies on geoengineering. (Credit: University of Leeds) Click to Enlarge.
The deliberate, large-scale intervention in the Earth's climate system is not a "quick fix" for global warming, according to the findings of the UK's first publicly funded studies on geoengineering.  The results of three projects -- IAGP, led by the University of Leeds; SPICE, led by the University of Bristol; and CGG, led by the University of Oxford -- are announced at an event held at The Royal Society, London, on 26 November 2014.

Professor Piers Forster, Professor of Physical Climate Change at the University of Leeds, and the principal investigator of the Integrated Assessment of Geoengineering Proposals (IAGP) project, said: "Our research shows that the devil is in the detail.  Geoengineering will be much more expensive and challenging than previous estimates suggest and any benefits would be limited.

Read More at Geoengineering Our Climate Is Not a 'Quick Fix'

Obama’s Climate Change Envoy:  Fossil Fuels Will Have to Stay in the Ground

Todd Stern says a global deal to fight climate change would necessarily require countries to abandon known reserves of oil, coal and gas. (Credit: Richard Hamilton Smith/Corbis) Click to Enlarge.
The world’s fossil fuels will “obviously” have to stay in the ground in order to solve global warming, Barack Obama’s climate change envoy said on Monday.

In the clearest sign to date the administration sees no long-range future for fossil fuel, the state department climate change envoy, Todd Stern, said the world would have no choice but to forgo developing reserves of oil, coal and gas.

The assertion, a week ahead of United Nations climate negotiations in Lima, will be seen as a further indication of Obama’s commitment to climate action, following an historic US-Chinese deal to curb emissions earlier this month.

A global deal to fight climate change would necessarily require countries to abandon known reserves of oil, coal and gas, Stern told a forum at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

“It is going to have to be a solution that leaves a lot of fossil fuel assets in the ground,” he said.  “We are not going to get rid of fossil fuel overnight but we are not going to solve climate change on the basis of all the fossil fuels that are in the ground are going to have to come out.  That’s pretty obvious.”

Read More at Obama’s Climate Change Envoy:  Fossil Fuels Will Have to Stay in the Ground

China Plans National Carbon Market by 2016 Amid Emission Pledge

China Carbon Trading (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
China, the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, plans to start a nationwide carbon market in the next two years following a pledge to cap emissions by 2030.

Opening in 2016, the market would have matured by 2020, Su Wei, an official at the climate change department under the National Development and Reform Commission, said today at a press conference in Beijing.  China, which is working on an absolute control plan for carbon emissions, may announce rules for carbon-permit trading as early as the end of the year, Su said.

President Xi Jinping for the first time set a target date for capping emissions under an agreement with U.S. President Barack Obama on Nov. 12.  China will begin reducing its total carbon dioxide emission by about 2030 and is “confident” of meeting the peak timeline, Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of NDRC, said in the same briefing today, calling the agreement “win-win” for both nations.

Seven test regions in China traded a combined 13.75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide as of October, totaling 500 million yuan ($81 million).  China’s energy use per gross domestic product unit fell by 4.6 percent between January and September from the same period last year and its carbon intensity dropped by 5 percent, according to Xie Zhenhua.

China aims to cut its 2020 carbon intensity by 45 percent from the 2005 level and expects all nations to review their climate change targets set before 2020 in the meeting at Lima due to take place from Dec. 1 to Dec. 12, according to Xie Zhenhua.

Read More at China Plans National Carbon Market by 2016 Amid Emission Pledge

India to Double Renewables in Energy Mix, Minister Says

The air is thick with smoke from coal fires in this mining camp in Jharkhand, India. (Credit: Robb Kendrick, National Geographic) Click to Enlarge.
India plans to more than double the share of renewables in the mix of fuels it consumes, an effort to reduce the dominance of coal.

Renewables such as solar and wind may account for 15 percent of India’s energy supply in the next five years, up from 6 percent currently, said Piyush Goyal, a government minister in charge of power, said at a conference in New Delhi.

“While coal will continue to dominate our energy mix for sometime, we are taking steps to protect the environment,” Goyal said today.  “Neither India nor the world has the luxury of time when it comes to protection of the environment.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to speed up clean energy deployment in India as it tries to attract more than $100 billion of investment for the industry in the next four years. At present, coal generates 60 percent electricity in a nation that suffers from chronic blackouts.

The minister reiterated his previously stated view that renewables can’t count on government subsidies for too long.  He said the industry should focus on convincing banks to make funding for projects as easily available as loans for cars.

Read More at India to Double Renewables in Energy Mix, Minister Says

   Tuesday, November 25

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Will New Climate Treaty Be a Thriller, or Shaggy Dog Story?

 Peru’s environment minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, during one of the many events held to promote the COP 20. As chairman of the conference, his negotiating ability and energy will be crucial to the progress made towards a new draft climate agreement. (Credit: COP20 Peru) Click to Enlarge.
This December, 195 nations plus the European Union will meet in Lima for two weeks for the crucial U.N. Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, known as COP 20.  The hope in Lima is to produce the first complete draft of a new global climate agreement.

However, this is like writing a book with 195 authors. After five years of negotiations, there is only an outline of the agreement and a couple of ‘chapters’ in rough draft.

The deadline is looming: the new climate agreement to keep climate change to less than two degrees C is to be signed in Paris in December 2015.
The future climate agreement, which could easily be book-length, will have three main sections or pillars:  mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage.  The mitigation or emissions reduction pillar is divided into pre-2020 emission reductions and post-2020 sections.

Both remain contentious, in terms of how much each country should reduce and by when.
“There were very good discussions around renewable energy and policies to reduce emissions in Bonn,” agrees Enrique Maurtua Konstantinidis, international policy advisor at CAN-Latin America, a network of NGOs.
Ironically, the most advanced mitigation chapter, REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), is the most controversial outside of the COP process.

REDD is intended to provide compensation to countries for not exploiting their forests. Companies and countries failing to reduce emissions would pay this compensation.

Read original article at Will New Climate Treaty Be a Thriller, or Shaggy Dog Story?

Can Green Bonds Bankroll a Clean Energy Revolution?

Green Mountain Wind Farm - Green bonds can finance large-scale renewable energy projects like wind farms. (Credit: Leaflet/Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
Looked at from one angle, climate change is an infrastructure problem.  To limit global warming to 2 degrees C and avoid the worst effects of climate change, about $44 trillion will need to be invested in low-carbon projects like wind farms, solar panels, nuclear power, carbon capture, and smart buildings by 2050, the International Energy Agency estimates. That’s more than $1 trillion a year — roughly a four-fold jump from current investment levels. 

Where’s the money going to come from?  Maybe from green bonds, say bankers and environmentalists alike.  Green bonds, which are also known as climate bonds, are fixed-income investments that are designed to finance environmentally friendly projects. Pioneered by international development banks — the European Investment Bank issued the first climate bond in 2007, followed a year later by the World Bank — they are today issued by state and local governments (Massachusetts, Hawaii, New York, and the cities of Stockholm and Spokane, Washington, among others) and by big companies (Bank of America, Unilever, and the French utility GDF Suez). 
Proponents of green bonds say that all the buzz they are generating is, by itself, valuable because it raises awareness of green investments.  Governments and businesses are making new connections with environmentally oriented investors, they say.  If investors in the fixed-income market, where an estimated $80 billion to $100 billion of bonds are sold every year, shift even a fraction of their purchases to green bonds, they will provide new and much-needed financing for low-carbon infrastructure.  If money continues to flow into green bonds, their yields — that is, the interest they pay, which is currently the same as ordinary bonds — could drop, which would make green projects cheaper to build.

Read More at Can Green Bonds Bankroll a Clean Energy Revolution?

U.S.-China Climate Agreement Won’t Slow Warming Enough, World Bank Says

Emissions rise from the American Electric Power Co. Inc. coal-fired John E. Amos Power Plant in Winfield, West Virginia, U.S. Global emissions are growing about 2.5 percent a year, a pace that will probably cause the 2 degree threshold to be breached within 30 years, according to a World Bank report on climate change released Sunday. (Credit: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg) Click to Enlarge.
An agreement between the U.S. and China to curb greenhouse-gas emissions won’t slow global warming enough to prevent extreme weather that damages crops, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said.

President Barack Obama committed the U.S. to cut emissions more quickly under the deal, announced Nov. 12 in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  For its part, China pledged for the first time to cap its emissions.

The accord won’t prevent global temperatures from rising by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), an increase scientists expect to drive a spike in extreme weather events, Kim said.

“There’s a lot more optimism now than there was before the agreement, but there’s still a tremendous amount of work to do,” he said on a conference call.

Global emissions are growing about 2.5 percent a year, a pace that will probably cause the 2 degree threshold to be breached within 30 years, according to a World Bank report on climate change released Sunday.

That would lead to lower crop yields, an increase in extreme heatwaves, and a spike in tropical storms from rising sea levels, the World Bank said.

Read More at U.S.-China Climate Agreement Won’t Slow Warming Enough, World Bank Says

   Monday, November 24

Monday, November 24, 2014

Toon of the Week - If being cold means there's no such thing as global warming

If being cold means there's no such thing as global warming, does being full mean there's no such thing as global hunger?
If being cold means there's no such thing as global warming, does being full mean there's no such thing as global hunger?

Read originl article at Toon of the Week - If being cold means there's no such thing as global warming

Quote of the Week - "This winter looks a whole lot like last winter, it’s a very amplified jet stream pattern."

The position of this upper-level jet stream denotes the location of the strongest SURFACE temperature contrast. (Credit: Click to enlarge.
According to Francis*, the extreme U.S. winter of last year and now, the extremes at the beginning of this season, fit her theory.  "This winter looks a whole lot like last winter, it’s a very amplified jet stream pattern," she says.  "We know that when we get these patterns, it tends to be very persistent.  And it is definitely the type of pattern that we expect to see more often as the Arctic continues to warm so fast."

*Jennifer Francis, Research Professor, Rutgers University

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While the College Divestment Campaign Struggles, Cities and Pension Funds See Some Benefits

On November 17, the Boston City Council voted “yes!” urging the state of Massachusetts to divest from fossil fuel companies. (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
When it comes to the fallout from financial bubbles, the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s lost roughly half its value from 2000 to 2001 after it popped, and the aftershocks from the real estate bubble that helped precipitate the financial meltdown of 2007 and 2008 are still being absorbed worldwide.

Today, the possibility of a bursting "carbon bubble" has the underpinnings of perhaps even more financial turmoil than either of those predecessors.

Students, part of the still-nascent fossil fuel divestment movement, have argued that their schools' continued investment in fossil energy extraction companies is a dangerous and unethical decision.  Some financial analysts point to long-term risks.  Above all, investment advisers often cite the possibility of "stranded assets" as one reason for investors to be wary of fossil fuel-based investment.

In order to prevent a global temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, climate scientists say, the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground.  As international governments enact more policies to limit carbon emissions, energy companies could be stuck with untouchable pockets of oil, coal and natural gas.

"Financial analysts are increasingly warning investors of the risks that tighter regulations on carbon dioxide emissions and falling demand for fossil fuels could make fossil fuel reserves substantially less valuable, or even 'stranded' and ultimately rendered worthless," write the authors of a report by Impax Asset Management, a financial services firm.  "So the question becomes:  how should a fiduciary compare the risks to portfolios by stricter carbon regulations to the risks associated with reducing exposure to fossil fuel stocks?"

The Carbon Tracker Initiative, working with the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, published a watershed report on carbon risk and so-called bubbles in 2013.

The analysis places the remaining carbon budget between 900 gigatons of carbon dioxide (for an 80 percent chance to remain below the 2 C threshold) and 1,075 gigatons for a 50 percent change to hit that mark.

"The scale of this carbon budget deficit poses a major risk for investors," the authors write.  "They need to understand that 60-80 percent of coal, oil and gas reserves of listed firms are unburnable."

Though some investors have become increasingly concerned about fossil fuel bubbles and the ensuing carbon crash that some forecast, the most strident voices against fossil fuel investment are coming from college students, not activist investors.

Read More at While the College Divestment Campaign Struggles, Cities and Pension Funds See Some Benefits

NRG Seeks to Cut 90% of Its Carbon Emissions

NRG has invested in the Petra Nova project, which will capture and reuse emissions from this coal-fired power plant in Texas. (Credit: Eric Kayne/Invision for NRG, via Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
NRG, which built a leading electricity business from coal and other conventional power plants, is aiming to reduce its carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, the company said on Thursday.

David Crane, the company’s chief executive, made the announcement at a ceremony breaking ground for the company’s new headquarters in Princeton, N.J., conceived as a green-energy showcase that will open in 2016.

“The power industry is the biggest part of the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, but it has the potential to be an even bigger part of the solution,” Mr. Crane said in an interview before the announcement.

Since 2005, the company has reduced its carbon emissions 40 percent, executives say, and the new goals would use this year’s projected level of 125 million metric tons as a baseline.  Few power companies have made similar commitments, although they have become common in corporate America and are part of the impetus for NRG’s move.

Businesses like Coca-Cola, Google and Walmart are increasingly looking to buy or produce more green energy as a way of reducing their carbon footprints, creating a potentially lucrative market for companies like NRG.  This week, for instance, Ikea announced it had bought a second wind farm in the United States, part of its goal of, by 2020, producing as much renewable energy as the company consumes globally.

“We are working with these companies on putting solar panels all over their facilities, and it’s helpful for them to know that we’re heading in the right direction,” Mr. Crane said.

In addition, Mr. Crane said that he was mindful of the growing pressure from younger Americans and investors to decrease dependence on fossil fuels.  A report this week commissioned by Ceres, a Boston advocacy group that focuses on the economic risks of climate change, concluded that investments in large fossil fuel and nuclear plants had a higher chance of causing financial harm to utilities than investments in renewable sources, in part because of proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations for power plants and the falling costs for large-scale wind and solar installations.

Read More at NRG Seeks to Cut 90% of Its Carbon Emissions