Thursday, June 30, 2016

31 Science Groups to Congress:  Stop Denying and Start Fighting Climate Change - by Joe Romm

Water spilling off earth (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
In a blunt letter to Congress, 31 leading scientific societies reaffirmed the reality that humans are causing climate change and only we can stop it.  “To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced,” they write.
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But as long as the media still gives presidential candidates (and pretty much every other major politician) a free pass on this most preventable of existential threats to America, scientists will have to keep “reminding” policymakers of the broad scientific understanding about human-caused climate change.

After all, if you are a smoker, and your doctor told you a long time ago to quit or you’d start getting a bad cough and worse, she doesn’t stop telling you to quit when you show up years later coughing with early stage emphysema.

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver,” explain the 31 scientific groups.  “This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science.'”

The letter notes, “There is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is having broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health.”  Significantly, this statement is considerably stronger than a 2009 letter sent from scientific groups, which only warned of the impacts to come:  “Moreover, there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment.”

Read more at 31 Science Groups to Congress: Stop Denying and Start Fighting Climate Change

Coral with Leaves: Millions of Trees Joining the List of Climate Change Casualties

Even forests in unexpectedly vulnerable places like Poland are suffering the effects of climate change with millions of dying trees. (Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
Scientists have increasingly linked forest mortality with climate impacts—and in Southern California, it is most directly tied to a steady increase in droughts that weaken trees, making them more susceptible to pine beetles.  A 2015 study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters found that human-caused warming "substantially increased the overall likelihood of extreme California droughts."

Widespread climate impacts to forests have also been documented in other regions, including the Southwest, and in Europe.  Global forest mortality has potentially profound ecological and societal implications, given the importance of forests to everything from water supplies, wildlife habitat and food to the global carbon cycle.  Collectively, the world's forests suck up about a quarter of human-caused carbon emissions.

"From a forester's perspective it is a catastrophe.  Environmental services are under threat for an extended period of time," said Klaus Katzensteiner, a forest ecologist at the University of Vienna, Austria.  In many places, he said the global forest changes will affect water flows and water quality, increase wildfire danger and alter the carbon balance of forests for a long time.
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Some scientists have raised concern that the issue is being underestimated.

"We surmise that mortality vulnerability is being discounted in part due to difficulties in predicting threshold responses to extreme climate events," according to a comprehensive forest study published last year in the journal Ecosphere by leading forest and climate researchers.  The research documented tree deaths due to hotter and more frequent droughts, as well as warming feedbacks from forest die-offs.

In the decades of warming ahead, "there are key climate change drivers we know with high confidence will drive forest deaths around the world," the researchers said.

Read more at Coral with Leaves: Millions of Trees Joining the List of Climate Change Casualties

U.S. Solar Energy Market Experiencing an Unprecedented Boom

The future for U.S. solar isn't without its bumps. (Credit: Bromford/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Thanks to a renewal of federal tax credits and a continuing steep drop in the price of photovoltaic panels, U.S. solar energy production is surging to record highs. New market reports show that the U.S. solar industry is expected to install 14.5 gigawatts of solar power in 2016, nearly double the record 7.5 gigawatts installed last year.  (Less than 1 gigawatt of solar power was installed in 2010.) 

Revenues from solar installations increased 21 percent from 2014 to 2015, surpassing $22 billion.  In terms of megawatts of electricity produced, new solar installations are expected in 2016 to surpass all other new sources, including natural gas-fired power plants. 

The extension of a 30-percent federal tax credit and a sharp drop in prices — the wholesale price of solar panels has fallen from $4 per watt in 2008 to $0.65 per watt today — are contributing to the boom. 

U.S.-based Solar World is building a giant solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York that is expected to employ 3,500 people.

Read original at U.S. Solar Energy Market Experiencing an Unprecedented Boom

Just Five Common Foods Produce More Greenhouse Gas Emissions than Nearly All Countries

Seeder on farm field (Credit: AP Photo/J.D. Pooley, File) Click to Enlarge.
Think about the last time you ate something that included wheat, soy, corn, rice, or palm oil.

As some of the most common commodity crops in the world, it’s likely that your last meal contained at least one of these ingredients, even if you weren’t aware of it. Palm oil can hide in things like sandwich bread or pizza dough, while soy can find its way into everything from cereal to canned soups.

That means that, knowingly or not, your last meal probably helped contribute to the greenhouse gas pollution that is driving global climate change.  According to a new report from Oxfam America, the production of these five commodity crops emits more greenhouse gases annually than each of the world’s countries, save for the United States and China.

A lot of those emissions occur on the farm, released from eroded soil or overgenerous amounts of fertilizer.  Specific crops also contribute to climate change in unique ways:  rice production is especially dangerous to climate because it generates methane, while crops like palm oil and soy contribute to global warming through deforestation.  But emissions from food also extend well beyond the field, from the trucks it takes to ship the goods from warehouses to stores, to the methane that is released when those products end up in landfills.

That’s a problem, the report argues, especially if the world really wants to stick to the goal of limiting the world to well below 2 degrees Celsius of warming agreed on in Paris last December.  In order to fully achieve the vision set in Paris, Aditi Sen, Oxfam America’s senior policy adviser for climate change, says that food companies need to play a major role, which involves stepping up their commitment to climate action.

“It’s impossible to reach [the Paris] goal unless food and agriculture [emissions] reductions are made,” Sen told ThinkProgress.  “The food sector absolutely needs to be part of the solution.”

Ironically, the food sector is also one of the sectors most vulnerable to climate change — making action on climate imperative not just for the planet, but for the bottom line of some of the world’s largest companies.

Read more at Just Five Common Foods Produce More Greenhouse Gas Emissions than Nearly All Countries

Ignore Climate Change at Your Peril, Lord Browne Warns Oil Groups

Former BP chief executive Lord Browne is urging traditional energy businesses to embrace change (Credit: ft.com) Click to Enlarge.
Oil companies could go bankrupt if they do not address the risks created by climate change and invest more in renewable energy, Lord Browne has warned.

The former chief executive of BP said the big oil and gas groups could go the way of Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest private sector coal producer, which filed for bankruptcy protection in April.

Peabody is the largest of several US coal producers to have gone bankrupt after a slump in demand as western countries switch to cleaner fuels to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.

Lord Browne told the Financial Times: “If society is saying it is time to change our energy mix, I do think the big players should be involved in the change.

“If they are not involved in that change in a productive way, they will be made to do so.”

He added: “Traditional energy businesses should reflect carefully on the bankruptcy of Peabody coal.  Great companies do go into difficult times when they have a product that people don’t want.”

Lord Browne made a name for himself as BP chief executive between 1995 and 2007 by pioneering its shift towards renewable energy and rebranding the company as “Beyond Petroleum”.

Under that strategy, BP invested heavily in solar and wind power.

But when Lord Browne left, BP reversed much of that strategy, focusing instead on its core oil and gas business.

In 2011, the company exited its solar business, despite strong sales of panels, saying it could not make any money out of this operation.

Despite pressure to develop renewables, many energy majors see more money in traditional markets

Lord Browne said he had been disappointed at the reversal, adding:  “I am sorry that BP got out of the renewables business.”

He also accused large energy groups of being seduced by a high oil price into focusing their operations on fossil fuels.

“With oil at $100 it is tempting to say, ‘Oil is where the future is and nothing can compete with it’,” he said.

“It turns out that was not true, partly because the cost base went up so much that it meant returns in oil and gas were not what they were expected to be.  Meanwhile returns in renewables were not bad.”

Read more[$] at Ignore Climate Change at Your Peril, Lord Browne Warns Oil Groups

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

  Wednesday, June 29

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Click to Enlarge.

U.S., Mexico, Canada Pledge Joint 50 Percent Clean Power by 2025

A wind turbine stands over a farmhouse in Adair, Iowa. (Credit: Charlie Neibergall/AP) Click to Enlarge.
The United States, Canada, and Mexico will pledge on Wednesday to generate 50 percent of their electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2025, according to U.S. officials. 

The three nations are expected to set the ambitious goal at a North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa. 

The commitment includes not just renewable sources of power such as energy and wind, but also hydropower, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage at coal-fired power plants, and gains in energy efficiency. 

Under that definition, the three nations now produce 37 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. 

Canada is leading the way in non-fossil fuel power generation, with 59 percent of its electricity coming from hydropower and 16 percent from nuclear plants. 

Continent-wide cooperation on clean energy issues has improved since the election last year of Justin Trudeau as Canada’s Prime Minister.

Read more at U.S., Mexico, Canada Pledge 50 Percent Clean Power by 2025

Obama’s Ambitious Clean-Energy Goal Will Depend on Nuclear—and the Next President

Obama walks in solar farm (Credit: technologyreview.com) Click to Enlarge.
President Barack Obama, along with Canadian premier Justin Trudeau and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, is expected to announce ambitious new clean-energy goals at the “Three Amigos” summit in Ottawa this week.  According to the White House, the three leaders will set a target of generating half of North America’s power from non-carbon-emitting sources by 2025.  That is well beyond the emissions reduction targets set by the Paris climate accord, last December.

For Canada, that is not a stretch:  the country already gets more than 80 percent of its electricity from clean sources, including hydro, solar, wind, and nuclear.  For Mexico and the U.S., however, it will be tougher:  Mexico gets about one-quarter of its electricity from clean sources, while the U.S. gets around one-third.  Both of those totals include nuclear power—which, unfortunately, is on the decline.

Nuclear plants in the U.S. currently provide about 20 percent of the country’s electricity, but utilities in recent years have closed or announced plans to close several large nuclear plants, including the Diablo Canyon station in California.  As many as 20 nuclear plants could be shuttered over the next decade, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.  If that power is replaced by fossil fuels, it would dramatically increase emissions of greenhouse gases. Getting to the target of 50 percent clean energy generation is probably unattainable without significant contributions from nuclear power, but the industry appears to be withering.

Of course, it will be up to the next president, who takes office in seven months, to determine whether we ever attain what the Obama administration admits is a “stretch goal.”  Hillary Clinton has announced a sweeping plan for increasing renewable energy if elected, but she has flip-flopped several times over the years on whether nuclear power should be part of the nation’s energy portfolio.  Most recently, she says her “Clean Energy Challenge” would include grants to support new nuclear construction.

Read more at Obama’s Ambitious Clean-Energy Goal Will Depend on Nuclear—and the Next President

High-Level EPA Adviser Accused of Scientific Fraud in Methane Leak Research - DeSmogBlog

Pumpjacks in oil field (Photo Credit: Oil Rig, by SMalindo, via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
It's one of the highest-stakes debates in the battle over climate change policy action:  how much methane is spewing from oil and gas sites nationwide, and what do we do as a result?  If enough of the odorless, colorless methane gas leaks or is vented into the air, scientists say, then burning natural gas — marketed as a green fuel that can help wean the U.S. off of high-carbon fuels — will actually be worse for the climate than coal, long seen as the fuel that contributes the most to global warming.

Recently, over 100 community and environmental groups sent a letter urging the Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog to investigate claims that a top methane researcher had committed scientific fraud and charging that he had made false and misleading statements to the press in response to those claims.

Earlier this month, NC WARN, an environmental group, presented the EPA Inspector General with evidence it said showed that key research on methane leaks was tainted, and that one of the EPA's top scientific advisors fraudulently concealed evidence that a commonly-used tool for collecting data from oil and gas wells gives artificially low methane measurements.

The 68-page complaint dated June 8 laid out evidence that David Allen, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas who served as the chairman of the EPA's Science Advisory Board from 2012 to 2015, disregarded red flags that his methane measuring equipment malfunctioned when collecting data from fracked well sites, a problem that caused his University of Texas study to lowball leak rates.

“We used the terms scientific fraud and cover-up because we believe there’s possible criminal violations involved,” said NC WARN executive director Jim Warren.  “The consequence is that for the past 3 years the industry has been arguing, based largely on the 2013 study, that emissions are low enough that we shouldn’t regulate them.”

Read more at High-Level EPA Adviser Accused of Scientific Fraud in Methane Leak Research

Universal Support Needed to Tackle Global Warming, UN Climate Chief Says

Christiana Figueres: ‘a universal climate agreement of nations also needs universal support from the private sector beyond Europe and North America.’ (Photograph Credit: Alexander F. Yuan/AP) Click to Enlarge.
“Universal support” is needed from businesses across the world to tackle global warming, the United Nations climate chief says.

Business leaders and politicians are meeting in London to discuss how to implement the first comprehensive climate agreement, secured at UN talks in Paris in December, to cut greenhouse gas emissions and avoid dangerous temperature rises.

The two-day Business and Climate Summit will look at how companies can continue with leadership that has already seen firms take steps such as pledging to source 100% clean energy to transforming their supply chains.

In her final speech as the head of the UN’s climate change convention body, Christiana Figueres, will say that in the run-up to the Paris talks an extraordinary alliance of business and investors committed to “ambitious” action on driving down emissions.

But she will also warn that “a universal climate agreement of nations also needs universal support from the private sector beyond Europe and North America”, and urge businesses to reach out to those in Africa, Asia and Latin America to build action.

Ségolène Royal, French environment minister and president of the talks in Paris, will say that wide-scale use of a price on carbon pollution will help encourage the move towards a clean economy.

“Businesses are key for the implementation of the Paris agreement.  Many advocate carbon pricing in order to give the right signal to investors and drive the transition towards a low carbon economy, which is very encouraging,” she will say.

Read original at Universal Support Needed to Tackle Global Warming, UN Climate Chief Says

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

  Tuesday, June 28

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Click to Enlarge.

GHGs Are Rising Despite Fuel Economy Standards.  What's the Solution?

Americans' cars are getting bigger and they're driving more than ever before -- two reasons why U.S. transportation emissions continue to grow despite fuel economy standards, experts say. (Photo Credit: Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Fuel economy is the Obama administration's main strategy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.  But emissions keep rising.  In the first two months of 2016, greenhouse gases from transportation topped those from the power sector for the first time, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas emissions standards have only achieved around two-thirds of the expected fleetwide fuel and emissions savings since 2010.  That piles on the pressure for federal transportation agencies, which are currently in the midst of reviewing the standards' effectiveness.

To kick off the process, they are reassessing their assumptions about technology and markets from when the rules were finalized in 2010 and 2012.  The analysis is expected this week.  The impact of low oil prices on the promised fuel savings, and potential new expectations for the future, will likely be a key part of the report.

"When it comes to climate, fuel economy standards are the only game in town to address impacts from transportation," said Sam Ori, the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.  "If we're falling short of our goals, it really behooves everyone to take a look."

The rules require automakers to nearly double the miles per gallon of new cars by 2025 from 2010.  They're doing their job:  Automakers are improving the fuel efficiency of their cars every year.  Most of the time, new cars flush with novel technologies even exceed the standards, and they're mostly on track to keep doing so.

But even the best technology can't fight market forces.
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Last year, Americans drove more than ever before, logging more than 3.15 trillion miles, according to the Federal Highway Administration.  Just the increase from the previous year, about 1.07 billion, would be equivalent to every person in New Jersey driving to San Francisco and back -- twice.  So far this year, the United States is on track to beat that record.

Not only are Americans driving more, but they are choosing more gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs than the agencies setting the standards expected.  As a result, the net real-world benefits of the government's standards have fallen below projections, and the gap is growing.

"The fact that you're seeing changes in the fleet re-emphasizes the need to push forward with the strongest standards as we look to achieve oil reduction and climate goals," said Dave Cooke, a senior vehicles analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

As part of a previously agreed-upon midterm review, U.S. EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the California Air Resources Board will have to decide by 2018 whether to tighten, loosen or maintain the standards for 2025.

Read more at GHGs Are Rising Despite Fuel Economy Standards.  What's the Solution?

State Policies Drive Utilities to Invest in Clean Energy Boom

Xcel Energy Ranking (Credit: ceres.org) Click to Enlarge.
Midwest utilities are embracing renewable energy and energy efficiency and supportive state policy is a major driver of this trend.

A new Ceres report ranking 30 of the nation’s largest electric utilities shows that the top performing utilities on renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings are typically based in states and regions with more ambitious clean energy policies.

While most of the top scorers are on the coasts, Midwest utilities are catching up, thanks to some important state policy trends.  For example, Xcel Energy saw a 15 percent jump in renewable energy sales from 2012 to 2014.  Strong renewable portfolio standards in Minnesota and Colorado, where Xcel Energy has a significant presence, were key catalysts for the jump in green energy, which now accounts for 21 percent of its overall sales.  Both states are pushing to get 30 percent or more of their energy from renewables.  Federal tax credits and innovation in the industry are also helping increase utility clean energy deployment by driving down the prices of renewables.  Now, wind, solar, and energy efficiency are some of the cheapest forms of energy throughout the Midwest.
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No doubt, clean energy is here to stay.  Utilities shifting towards clean energy will be best positioned to cope with federal policies pushing the power sector to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.   As states begin to implement the EPA’s Clean Power Plan—aimed at reducing power sector carbon pollution by a third—states with existing clean energy policies will have an easier time complying with the new rules, since they already have clean energy included in their long range planning.

Read more at State Policies Drive Utilities to Invest in Clean Energy Boom

Scientists Find Common Ground over Climate Sensitivity

Where is the heat from global warming going? (Credit: Rosamund Pearce, Carbon Brief) Click to Enlarge.
A new paper helps to shed light on one of the biggest questions in climate science:  how much the climate will warm in future?

The answer to this depends a lot on something scientists call the “climate sensitivity” – a measure of how much the climate warms in response to greenhouse gases.

Until now, scientists have been grappling with how to reconcile the fact that different ways to estimate the climate sensitivity have, so far, come up with quite different answers.

This uncertainty has never been a reason to question whether climate change will be serious or to delay action to tackle emissions, though it has often be misused by climate skeptics this way.

But a question mark over the value of climate sensitivity has meant that projections of future temperature rise are less precise than scientists would like.  It also makes it harder to gauge our chances of staying below a given temperature limit, such as 2C above pre-industrial levels.

A new paper published in Nature Climate Change says there is, in fact, no disagreement between the different methods after all.  In reality, they measure different things and once you correct for the fact that the historical temperature record underestimates past warming, the gap closes.

The implications are significant since it suggests we’ve seen around 0.2C more warming than previously thought, says co-author Dr Ed Hawkins in his Climate Lab Book blog.

Read more at Scientists Find Common Ground over Climate Sensitivity

On an Overheating Planet, "Gasland" Filmmaker Josh Fox Lets Go and Loves All the Things Climate Can't Change



In an interview with Andy Revkin for Dot Earth, Josh Fox, the director of the anti-fracking manifesto "Gasland," describes his new film, which tackles a far vaster issue, climate change. In the film, "How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change," Fox circles the world conveying stories of people grappling with oil spills, coal ships, choking smog, superstorms and other environmental threats.

The filmmaker's learning journey almost founders as he runs into a wall of despair conveyed by analysts seeing little cause for hope.  But love and the energy that comes from community action save the day, if not the climate. 

Read more at On an Overheating Planet, "Gasland" Filmmaker Josh Fox Lets Go and Loves All the Things Climate Can't Change

James Hansen:  The Climate…in Your Backyard

Dr James Hansen, pictured in 2012 (Photograph Credit: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian) Click to Enlarge.
HEFFNER: I’m Alexander Heffner your host on The Open Mind.  Joining me today is perhaps the world’s most famous climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, Director of Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
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HEFFNER: People in our industry have a tendency – not this show, per se – to hyperbolize.  And so I asked you off-camera – I wanted to give you the courtesy of clarifying – people know your perspective and the science that substantiates it, but I wanted to ask you to elaborate:  Why a “fraud” or a “fake,” the Paris talks?

HANSEN: Yeah, absolutely.  Because it’s not going to reduce the emissions globally.  You know, it’s analogous to the Kyoto Protocol.  People clapped themselves on the back after that and pretended that it was addressing the problem, and emissions accelerated.  You know, as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, then people will keep burning them, so.  But they are…  Of course, they are not really the cheapest, because they don’t include the cost to society:  The effect of fossil fuels on human health…on, um, on climate change.  We need to include those costs in the price of the fuels.
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Even if you band together with millions of people and try to reduce your emissions, there are billions of people on the planet, and there are many countries where they want to raise the people out of poverty, and they are going to burn fossil fuels, if there is no alternatives.  So we have to have… We have to effect policies.  Uh, governments have to step up to the job. And the job has to include making the price of fossil fuels honest, it’s very simple. And if governments would try to explain this to the public:  You know, that you are gonna have to… The price of fuel at the pump is going to go up.  But if the money that’s collected from the fossil fuel companies is given to the public, most people can come out ahead.  So this could be explained, um…  There was the director of the…an organization called Republicans for the Environment…who said, Gee, this makes a lot of sense.  You could explain this in a, in a two minute elevator talk.  Well, uh, so there are people who understand this, but our politicians are still too much bound by the special interests and the lobbyists and the fossil fuel money.  And the public is confused because they see advertisements on television from “I am an energy voter.”  The fossil fuel company makes it sound very logical:  Oh, the… ..More oil in North Dakota is making the United States more energy independent and creating jobs….  Uh, yeah, it sounds logical.  Unfortunately, it’s not actually what’s in our best interest, in the long run.

HEFFNER: When you describe – in the minutes we have remaining – when you describe that process by which the public would monetarily benefit – get a fee that is, that the fossil fuel companies are subjected to.  How, how would you ensure that the money going to the public is not thrust back into the vicious cycle of the present scheme?

HANSEN: Sure.  And on the first day that you get your dividends, you may go out and, and spend money on fuel for your present vehicle.  But the next time you buy one, you would like to come out ahead.  And, and you know, everything that you buy is affected by fossil fuel prices – some things more than others – so it will automatically be included… You will… When you buy things, you will tend to buy things that do not have as heavy a tax on them.

HEFFNER: It’s, it’s about creating a disincentive.  That…

HANSEN: Yeah.

HEFFNER: …is the number one…

HANSEN: Right.

HEFFNER: …principle goal…

HANSEN: Yeah, yeah.  And as the economic studies show, …  People will…  Many people will change their practices, because they have other things to use their money for.  They don’t want to waste it on fossil fuels, if they have alternatives.
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HANSEN: Well, uh, no one has adopted, um, a revenue neutral, carbon fee.  I have gone to about a dozen different countries and tried to persuade, um, them of such a model.  It turns out that the fossil fuel industry is powerful in all governments that I have, uh, become acquainted with… So the public is gonna have to understand this.  Um, it’s not easy.  But, uh, the future for our children and grandchildren depends upon us getting this right, and doing it soon.

HEFFNER: Is there a country that’s come close, remotely close, to what you are imagining?

HANSEN: Well, there, there are… Sweden is a good example of a country that de-carbonized its electricity.  And that’s the most fundamental requirement for solving the climate problem. Because, although they still have a carbon footprint because their vehicles are using petrol…are using carbon based fuels.  But you can make, uh, fuels, once you have carbon-free electricity.  So they, uh, have a lot of hydro power, and they have built nine nuclear power plants.  So they have completely carbon-free electricity.  So they have come the closest.  They have the smallest carbon footprint.

Read more at James Hansen:  The Climate…in Your Backyard

What Brexit and Trump’s Rise Mean for the Global Community’s Fight Against Climate Change - by Joe Romm

UK Independence Party pro-Brexit poster features “Syrian refugees being escorted along the Slovenian border during the migrant crisis last October. (Credit: UKIP) Click to Enlarge.
In a globally warmed world, we will face endless refugee crises like Syria’s

The problem from a climate perspective is that while these hundreds of thousands of refugees have led to the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis since World War II,” as the European Commission has described it, the numbers of refugees pale in comparison with what the world faces if we don’t avoid catastrophic climate change.

On the one hand, study after study are now finding that only aggressive climate action can save the world’s coastal cities from inundation by century’s end.  The world should be anticipating five to six feet of sea level rise by 2100 — which by itself would generate hundreds of millions of refugees.

But at the same time, we face as many (if not more) refugees from Dust-Bowlification and the threat to our food supplies.
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We are currently on track to make drought and extreme drying the normal condition for the Southwest, Central Plains, the Amazon, southern Europe, and much of the currently inhabited and arable land around the world in the second half of the century.

Brexit and Trumpism make plainly — and painfully — visible that even rich, democratic nations deal poorly with a moderate amount of refugees, immigration, and economic dislocation. Imagine how we’ll deal with the 100-fold escalation of those problems if we fail to stop catastrophic climate change.

Read more at What Brexit and Trump’s Rise Mean for the Global Community’s Fight Against Climate Change

EU Out Vote Puts UK Commitment to Paris Climate Agreement in Doubt


Neither the UK government or the EU have ratified the Paris climate agreement yet. (Photograph Credit: Stephane Mahe/Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
The UK government won high praise six months ago for taking a leading role in the successful Paris climate change agreement, the first legally binding commitment on curbing carbon emissions by all 195 United Nations countries.

With the vote to leave the EU, the UK’s future participation in that landmark accord is now in doubt.

More importantly, for the rest of the world, the Leave campaign’s victory provides a fillip globally for groups opposed to climate action, and if it causes delays to the Paris accord coming into effect, it could provide an opening for aspiring right-wing leaders - including Donald Trump - to try to unpick the pact.

“There is a risk that this could kick EU ratification of the Paris agreement into the long grass,” Jonathan Grant, director of sustainability at PwC, told the Guardian.

That would be a setback to the UN in itself, but also concerns participants because of the US presidential election this year.

Donald Trump has vowed to withdraw from the Paris agreement if elected.  Proponents of the agreement are therefore hoping for a quick process of ratification by as many parties as possible, including EU member states, which would bring the agreement into immediate effect and make it much harder for countries to renege upon afterwards.

As an EU member state, the UK negotiated on key issues such as greenhouse gas emissions limits as part of the bloc, and was expected to take on its own tally of emissions reductions based on an EU-wide “burden-sharing” agreement, yet to be worked out.  But while the UK is also individually party to the agreement, as a sovereign nation, neither the government nor the EU has yet ratified the accord in law.

This means a future, possibly Eurosceptic, prime minister will face the choice of whether to ratify, unless the current government, led by David Cameron for the next three months, decides to do so as a matter of urgency.

France became the first EU member state to ratify the agreement individually earlier this month, so in theory Britain could follow suit quickly.  But this would be an unusual step given the host of pressing issues following from the referendum, and would be likely to prompt an outcry from sections of the pro-Brexit right, prominent members of which are also climate change sceptics.

Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, who was praised by many other countries for taking a leading role at Paris, has not yet revealed what the plans are likely to be.

Read more at EU Out Vote Puts UK Commitment to Paris Climate Agreement in Doubt

Monday, June 27, 2016

  Monday, June 27

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Click to Enlarge.

Study Links 6.5 Million Deaths Each Year to Air Pollution

Fatih Birol is the executive director of the International Energy Agency. (Credit: telegraph.co.uk) Click to Enlarge.
A sobering report released on Monday by the International Energy Agency says air pollution has become a major public health crisis leading to around 6.5 million deaths each year, with “many of its root causes and cures” found in the energy industry.

The air pollution study is the first for the agency, an energy security group based in Paris, which is expanding its mission under its executive director, Fatih Birol.

The agency, whose 29 members are wealthy, industrialized countries, was founded in response to the Arab oil embargo in 1973 to coordinate international responses to energy issues.  It is perhaps best known for its monthly oil market reports that are eagerly awaited by traders.

Mr. Birol, an economist, argues that pressing concerns about climate change and the emergence of countries like China and India as major energy consumers and polluters mean that the agency needs to shift its strategy.

“To stay relevant,” he said in an interview on Friday, we “need to work much closer with new emerging energy economies.”

Mr. Birol has been working to build bridges with China in particular, which energy experts say is crucial to the success of global efforts to reduce emissions.

“To solve today’s biggest energy problems, the I.E.A. needs to have the world’s most important energy players as part of it,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

Environmental issues, Mr. Birol said, are very important to emerging economies like India and China, whose cities are often plagued by choking smog.

Helping these countries solve problems through increasing energy efficiency or filtering out pollutants can make progress on climate change goals.  We need to make these countries “understand that their problems are our problems,” Mr. Birol said.
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Mr. Birol said that through relatively low-cost actions, like adopting more ambitious clean air standards and more effective policies for monitoring and enforcement, countries could make major strides in reducing pollution over the next quarter-century.

China, for instance, needs to retire polluting coal-fired power plants and to establish stricter standards for motor vehicles.

Such changes could produce big benefits.  In India, the proportion of the population exposed to a high concentration of fine particles, a type of pollution, would fall to below 20 percent in 2040, from 60 percent today.  In China, it would drop to below one quarter, from well over one half.

Read original at Study Links 6.5 Million Deaths Each Year to Air Pollution

Toon of the Week - Toon of the Week - Another Day ... / Another Heat Record ...

Toon of the Week - Another Day ... / Another Heat Record ... / ... Another Slathering of Reality Screen (Credit: www.facebook.com/iheartcomsci)


Read original at 2016 SkS Weekly Digest #26

Quotes of the Week - “It’s actually crazy to me, and it should be crazy to anyone in the military, that Congress is telling them not to do this”

Andrew Holland is an expert on energy, climate change, and infrastructure policy - and how they relate to national security. He is the Director of Studies and Senior Fellow at the American Security Project, a non-partisan national security think tank. (Credit: andrew-holland.com)  Click to Enlarge.
“It’s actually crazy to me, and it should be crazy to anyone in the military, that Congress is telling them not to do this,” said Andrew Holland, the senior fellow for energy and climate at the American Security Project.

“This is what we ask our military and national security people to do, to think long-term, look at emerging threats, figure out ways to protect against these threats,” he said.

Why the GOP is trying to stop the Pentagon's climate plan by Danny Vinik, Politico, June 23, 2016

Read original at “It’s actually crazy to me, and it should be crazy to anyone in the military, that Congress is telling them not to do this”

Poster of the Week - Anyone who wants to see climate change in all its accelerated misery

Poster of the Week - Anyone who wants to see climate change in all its accelerated misery can do what I did this week -- take a walk in those dead woods. ... The dead woods are a sad symptom of a larger planetary illness.  Last year more than 10 million acres burned in the United States -- a record consuming an area larger than Maryland.  Fire seasons are nearly 80 days longer than they were in the 1970's, according to the Forest Service. (Credit: www.facebook.com/iheartcomsci)


Read original at 2016 SkS Weekly Digest #26

Sunday, June 26, 2016

  Sunday, June 26

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Click to Enlarge.

Solar Power to Grow Sixfold as Sun Becoming Cheapest Resource

Solar farm (Photograph Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg) Click to Enlarge.
The amount of electricity generated using solar panels stands to expand as much as sixfold by 2030 as the cost of production falls below competing natural gas and coal-fired plants, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Solar plants using photovoltaic technology could account for 8 percent to 13 percent of global electricity produced in 2030, compared with 1.2 percent at the end of last year, the Abu Dhabi-based industry group said in a report Wednesday.  The average cost of electricity from a photovoltaic system is forecast to plunge as much as 59 percent by 2025, making solar the cheapest form of power generation “in an increasing number of cases,” it said.

Renewables are replacing nuclear energy and curbing electricity production from gas and coal in developed areas such as Europe and the U.S., according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  California’s PG&E Corp. is proposing to close two nuclear reactors as wind and solar costs decline.  Even as supply gluts depress coal and gas prices, solar and wind technologies will be the cheapest ways to produce electricity in most parts of the world in the 2030s, New Energy Finance said in a report this month.
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Solar Growth
Bloomberg New Energy Finance also forecasts growth in solar photovoltaics, reaching 15 percent of total electricity output by 2040, according to Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis in Zurich.  “Irena’s assumptions are reasonable,” she said.  “Solar just gets so cheap under any reasonable scenario.”

The “most attractive” markets for solar panels up to 2020 are Brazil, Chile, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, according to Irena. Global capacity could reach 1,760 to 2,500 gigawatts in 2030, compared with 227 gigawatts at the end of 2015, it said.

Smart grids, or power networks capable of handling and distributing electricity from different sources, and new types of storage technologies will encourage further use of solar power, Irena said.

As of 2015, the average cost of electricity from a utility-scale solar photovoltaic system was 13 cents per kilowatt hour.  That’s more than coal and gas-fired plants that averaged 5 cents to 10 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Irena.  The average cost of building a solar-powered electricity utility could fall to 79 cents per watt in 2025 from $1.80 per watt last year, it said. Coal-fired power generation costs are about $3 per watt while gas plants cost $1 to $1.30 per watt, according to Irena.

Read more at Solar Power to Grow Sixfold as Sun Becoming Cheapest Resource

TransCanada Formally Seeks NAFTA Damages in Keystone XL Rejection

A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota November 14, 2014. (Reuters/Andrew Cullen) Click to Enlarge.
TransCanada Corp is formally requesting arbitration over U.S. President Barack Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, seeking $15 billion in damages, the company said in legal papers dated Friday.

TransCanada submitted a notice for an arbitration claim in January and had then tried to negotiate with the U.S. government to "reach an amicable settlement," the company said in files posted on the pipeline's website.

"Unfortunately, the parties were unable to settle the dispute."

TransCanada said it then filed its formal arbitration request under North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provisions, seeking to recover what it says are costs and damages.

Read more at TransCanada Formally Seeks NAFTA Damages in Keystone XL Rejection

Survey Shows Strength of Climate Science

If we do not do anything towards adaptation and mitigation, the potential for catastrophe in the next 50 years resulting from climate change for other parts of the world is (Credit: Dennis Bran and Hans von Storch) Click to Enlarge.
One of the first peer-reviewed surveys of scientists used to determine the level of consensus on human-made climate change was undertaken by Dennis Bran and Hans von Storch in 1996.  They used a standard survey response format known as the “Likert Scale,” where respondents answer questions based on a scale of 1 to 7 to determine, for example, how confident they are that warming is happening or that it’s human-caused. 

They’ve repeated the survey a few times since 1996, and have recently released the 5th International Survey of Climate Scientists, for 2015/2016.  Bart Verheggen helpfully goes over the key consensus findings as well as a couple of issues with the survey. 

Because of the Likert Scale response format, though, describing the findings in numbers isn’t as effective as just looking at the graphs of responses.  In many cases, the responses are so lopsided that some very clear statements can be made. 

We can see that, as science has progressed, the level of risk associated with climate change has increased as has what’s at stake.  In contrast to folks like Judith Curry who play up uncertainty as an excuse for inaction, the majority of scientists think that since 1996, climate science uncertainty has dropped.  Meanwhile, if society were to listen to voices highlighting uncertainty, and fail to act because of them, the potential for catastrophe for some parts of the world is fairly great.

To the point of the GOP AGs suggesting that Gore and others could be held responsible for exaggerating climate risks, scientists clearly think sea level rise will be just as bad as we thought five years ago, if not worse.  The same can be said for other negative impacts.  Over the last five years, the urgency to act on climate change has grown. 

As for the public, scientists clearly think they should be told to be worried as we are already starting to experience the impacts of climate change.  For example, they agree that the frequency of extreme events is increasing, as well as the intensity of those events, and the probability that those extreme events occur.  Scientists expect these extreme events to become more powerful, tropical storms to get more intense, and certainly not any less frequent.  Heat waves over the last 20 years are growing more intense as well as more frequent. 

Most importantly, an overwhelming majority of scientists are convinced that climate change poses a serious and dangerous threat to humanity, with only 2% responding that they’re not at all convinced.  Again, with the Likert scale it’s a bit difficult to put simply.  Assuming a 4 out of 7 is the midway point between “not at all” concerned and "very much" concerned, 8% of respondents fell between 1 and 3, 5.667% right in the middle at 4, and 85.74% between 5 and 7. 

Read more at Survey Shows Strength of Climate Science

Suing and Spewing: The Massive Pollution Behind the Fight to Overturn the Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan, or CPP, was finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, on August 5, 2015, and establishes the first-ever standards for carbon emissions from power plants.  The CPP will help the United States reduce the pollution that causes increased global temperatures, rising sea levels, and other effects of climate change.  According to the Energy Information Administration—a federal agency that collects and analyzes data on energy production and usage—the CPP will reduce the power sector’s carbon pollution by 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.  This puts annual pollution levels more than 400 million metric tons lower than their projected totals without the CPP in place.  The power producers who would be responsible for achieving these emissions reductions have had a mixed response to the plan.  Some power producers have supported the CPP, recognizing business opportunities in a growing clean energy sector.  Some have remained neutral pending judicial review of the rule while other power producers are opposing the CPP altogether, because they are heavily invested in higher-polluting electricity generation.

On October 23, 2015, electric power producers, trade associations, coal companies, and 24 state attorneys general filed suit against the EPA to block implementation of—and ultimately undo—the CPP.  Subsequently, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a stay of the CPP and halted implementation requirements of states’ emissions reductions plans until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the rule on its merits.  The court will hear oral arguments on this case—State of West Virginia, et al. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, et al.—on September 27, 2016.  Much of the opposition to the CPP comes from power producers and the trade associations that represent them—both of these groups have a vested interest in continuing to pollute at current levels.  This issue brief details the amount of carbon pollution emitted by the largest power producers that are affiliated with the lawsuit against the CPP in order to demonstrate the significant effect these entities have on domestic and international efforts to curtail climate change.
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Power Producers CO2 Emissions and Litigating Status (Credit: americanprogress.org) Click to Enlarge.
CAP found that 43 of the top-100 electric power producers are directly or indirectly affiliated with the lawsuit.  Some key findings include:
  • In 2013 alone, these power producers emitted nearly 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide, or 21 percent of the United States’ total carbon pollution that year.
  • ...
  • The carbon pollution from these power producers was greater than that of 6 of the 10 top economies in the world.


Read more at Suing and Spewing: The Massive Pollution Behind the Fight to Overturn the Clean Power Plan