Wednesday, November 30, 2016

  Wednesday, Nov 30

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

How a Data Tweak Could Rock Tomorrow's Grid

The Department of Energy last month embraced a change in how it calculates the value of renewable energy, such as wind power, on the electric grid. (Photo Credit: OLC Fiber/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
In October, the Department of Energy made a little change to how it values renewable energy on the electric grid.  It immediately resolved a tussle between the electric grid and the natural gas grid over efficiency standards, with the electric utilities scoring a strategic win.

But that's just the start of its consequences.

Decades from now, if renewable energy like wind and solar keeps up its rapid growth, it could make electricity more appealing than gas as a means to curb carbon emissions and boost the electrification of all kinds of appliances.  It could make the economic case for renewable energy stronger, while also boosting technologies and techniques that lower emissions, like energy storage and efficiency.

And it could prompt a fundamental rethinking of the United States' energy math, in ways that could have the country legitimately claim a big rise in energy productivity and an even more dramatic drop in energy use.

At issue is a little-known metric — the source-to-site ratio — that calculates how much energy goes into making electricity.  The ratio compares the amount of energy from a power plant (the source) to the electricity actually received at a building (the site).  Four decades ago, during the energy crisis of the 1970s, energy planners made a sweeping assumption about the source-to-site ratio for renewable energy, like hydro, wind and solar power.

Their curious answer:  exactly as much as an average power plant running on fossil fuels.

That assumption, called fossil-fuel equivalency, made sense in the 1970s, when the goal was to get the United States off oil.  But it seems out of place today, when oil is plentiful and one of the main advantages of renewable energy is that it burns no fuel and causes no carbon emissions.

"It's a really, really important number," said Keith Dennis, a senior principal at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which, along with other electric utility lobbying groups, asked DOE to take a hard look at the issue.

How the government values one energy source versus another is crucial for every player on the electric grid, from nuclear to coal to solar power, and the source-to-site metric is just one way to do it.  But this particular version of it has woken up from a decades long slumber and into a lively debate over the future of electricity, natural gas and carbon emissions.

The fact that the electric utility industry put a unified lobbying effort behind the change is itself significant.  Utilities for years have been reluctant to embrace renewable energy.  But now, as the pull toward wind and solar becomes irresistible, it has realized that correcting DOE's 1970s assumption could be a boon.  Using the new ratio, its products look better from an emissions perspective compared with appliances that can also be powered by natural gas, like furnaces and water heaters.  And the more renewables the industry adopts, the bigger the advantage will become. 

How a Data Tweak Could Rock Tomorrow's Grid

Trudeau Approves Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline as Part of Canada’s ‘Climate Plan’

Justin Trudeau (Credit: desmog.ca) Click to Enlarge.
Justin Trudeau announced the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline Tuesday, saying the project is integral to meeting Canada’s climate commitments.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will twin an existing pipeline running from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C. increasing transport capacity from 300,000 barrels of oil per day to 890,000 barrels per day.  Trudeau also approved an application to increase capacity of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline from 390,000 to 915,000 barrels per day.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the two pipelines combined represent an increase of 23 to 28 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent released into the atmosphere.
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“If built, these projects would facilitate huge growth in the tar sands,” Adam Scott, analyst with Oil Change International, said, “increasing total greenhouse gas pollution by as much as [27 megatonnes] of CO2 every year — equivalent to the pollution from 58 million cars on the road.”

Trudeau acknowledged the Trans Mountain approval was made in light of increased production in the oilsands.

“We know there will be an increase in the production in oilsands in coming years,” Trudeau said, adding Canada’s pipeline network is operating at capacity, meaning more pipelines are necessary.

But Scott says that position isn’t backed up by the facts.

“There is no need for any additional pipeline capacity,” Scott said, pointing to a recent analysis done by Oil Change International.

Read more at Trudeau Approves Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline as Part of Canada’s ‘Climate Plan’

2,000 Veterans Head to Support Dakota Access Protesters, Offer Protection from Police

Q&A with Michael Wood Jr., a former Marine organizing a large veterans group headed to N.D.: 'If they want to shoot at 2,000 veterans...so be it.'


The Dakota Access protesters are about to get a big influx of support from military veterans. (Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
Michael Wood Jr., a Marine Corps veteran and former Baltimore police officer, is leading a group of 2,000 veterans to North Dakota this weekend to join ongoing protests against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Wood, 37, made headlines last year for speaking out in a series of tweets against what he viewed as wrongdoing within his police department.  He spoke out after Freddie Gray died from a spinal cord injury after being taken into custody by Baltimore police and is a prominent supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Earlier this month, Wood and fellow veteran Wes Clark Jr., son of former General Wesley Clark, put out a call for 500 veterans and $100,000 in funding to help oppose what they feel is escalating police violence against the Dakota Access protesters.  The group, Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, had to end the sign-ups after 2,000 veterans signed on.  The group has received more than $580,000 via an online funding campaign to help pay for travel costs, winter camping, communications, protective gear and money to post bail.

Read more at 2,000 Veterans Head to Support Dakota Access Protesters, Offer Protection from Police

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

  Tuesday, Nov 29

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

Catastrophic Fire Hits Southeast Tennessee Homes and Resorts - by Bob Henson

Fire erupts on the side of The Spur on Highway 441 between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN, on Monday night, November 28, 2016. In Gatlinburg, smoke and fire caused the mandatory evacuation of downtown and surrounding areas. (Image credit: Jessica Tezak/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP) Click to Enlarge.
What appears to be the most damaging wildland fire to strike a Southeast U.S. community in many decades tore into the tourist mecca of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on Monday night.  The Chimney Top Fire has burned hundreds of structures in and near this much-loved city and has injured at least four people.  Nearby Pigeon Forge, home of the Dollywood theme park, has also been affected by the fire, which began in the adjacent Great Smoky Mountains.  At least 14,000 people were evacuated from the area, and an estimated 1000-plus people were in shelters on Tuesday morning.
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Unfortunately, the Gatlinburg fire may be a harbinger of increased fire risk across the Southeast in the decades to come, as suggested by the U.S. National Climate Assessment.  A 2015 study led by Renaud Barbero (University of Idaho) suggests that the number of week-long periods with very large fires over the southern and central Appalachians may double by the 2040s - 2060s as a result of climate change.  Population growth is also adding to the region’s risk.  As more people move to the fringes of towns and cities, more than half of the nation’s wildland-urban interface is now located within the Southeast. 

Gatlinburg is the second catastrophic wildfire this year to strike a sizable North American community in an unexpected fashion.  It follows the disastrous blaze that swept across Fort McMurray, Canada, in early May, after record-setting mid-spring temperatures close to 90°F came on the heels of a very early snowmelt.  The Fort McMurray fire was the costliest disaster in Canadian history, with more than $3 billion US in damage.  As I wrote in a post on that event:  “We have much more to learn about exactly why and how the atmosphere is moving in directions that favor devastating fire--but for now, perhaps it’s enough simply to know that the dice are being loaded.  Together with the many other threats posed by climate change, this should be more than enough motivation to get serious about emission cuts.  The vast and profound effects of human-produced greenhouse gases--from intensified downpours and drought impacts to ocean acidification and sea-level rise--call for a sustained commitment to change that transcends any single disaster.”

Read more at Catastrophic Fire Hits Southeast Tennessee Homes and Resorts

Monday, November 28, 2016

  Monday, Nov 28

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

Protection of Public Lands Cast in Doubt

The Bighorn Mountains are federally owned as part of Bighorn National Forest in northern Wyoming. (Credit: Bobby Magill/Climate Central) Click to Enlarge.
Donald Trump’s election portends a major shift in how one of America’s greatest bulwarks against the impacts of climate change will be protected and used for fossil fuel development.

Scientists and conservationists are just beginning to grasp what may lay ahead for more than 600 million acres of national forests, monuments, parks, conservation areas and other federal public lands.  But, they say Trump’s statements promoting fossil fuels development on public lands make it clear that the days of managing these lands with renewable energy, conservation and climate change in mind may soon be over.

Federal lands make up roughly 27 percent of the land area of the U.S. — equivalent to the landmass of California, Texas and Alaska combined.  The forests they preserve store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and federal lands act as a living laboratory for scientists to study the impacts of climate change on ecosystems.  Public lands protect biological diversity and vast ecosystems that act as a major defense against the effects of climate change.

Public lands also account for about 24 percent of all fossil fuels produced in the U.S.  They’re the source of 21 percent of the oil, 14 percent of the natural gas and 40 percent of the coal produced in the country, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Read more at Protection of Public Lands Cast in Doubt

Heat Hits Wheat Yields per Field

As demand for grain increases to feed a rising population, scientists warn that global warming could seriously reduce wheat productivity.


Wheat harvests in Egypt could be reduced by up to 20%. (Image Credit: Aaron Morton via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Farmers and consumers have just been issued another warning:  global warming will almost certainly reduce wheat yields.

For every 1°C rise in global average temperatures, the harvest per hectare of the grain that feeds more than half the planet will fall by an average of 5.7%.

This average conceals huge variation at local levels.  At Aswan in Egypt, a 1°C rise could reduce harvests by between 11% and 20%.  At Krasnodar in Russia, productivity could fall by 4% or 7%.

Global demand for food is likely to rise by 60% by mid-century, as the world’s population soars to an estimated 9 billion.  And wheat is one of the staples that nourish the entire planet.
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Wheat warning
The wheat warning is not new:  in effect, more than 60 scientists from more than 50 institutions worldwide report in Nature Climate Change that they have looked at the predictions.  They have tested them using three entirely independent approaches, and data from just one grain crop – and they get the same bleak answer about reduced yields.

Read more at Heat Hits Wheat Yields per Field

  Sunday, Nov 27

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Companies Hit by Rising Water Costs

Higher costs of water as a result of droughts and floods linked to climate change are severely affecting corporate financial performance globally.


Taking greater care of water supplies is vital for companies. (Image Credit: Matthew Robey via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Companies worldwide are being warned that taking water preservation measures is now vital, and that those whole fail to act are likely to face mounting financial losses.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a not-for-profit organisation that tracks corporate environmental performance, says a combination of droughts and floods linked to climate change, plus a tightening of water regulations, are costing companies billions of dollars.

In a new report, Thirsty business:  Why water is vital to climate action, CDP says data supplied by more than 600 companies around the world showed that corporate costs related to water amounted to US$14 billion over the last financial year. These costs include preservation measures put in place by many companies.

Permanent condition
In drought-hit California, which has been suffering water shortages for several years, the US aerospace and defence firm United Technologies Corporation invested US$1.7 million last year in water-saving infrastructure at its six sites in southern California − where, it says, shortages will be “a permanent condition”.
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Drought also affected the operations of the US multinational General Motors, which says it incurred costs of $8 million in 2015 due to drought conditions at various locations, and also because of higher utility charges.

But by far the biggest corporate water cost in 2015 noted by CDP was the $10 billion spent by Japan’s largest power company, TEPCO, which is now effectively under state control.
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Risk management
“The energy sector is a major laggard and the least transparent about water risks,” CDP reports.

It says 77 of the 109 energy companies surveyed did not provide information about their water risk management policies.  These included the giant concerns ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell.

Read more at Companies Hit by Rising Water Costs

Africa’s Smallholder Farmers Among the Most Hurt by Climate Change

Drought struck farm field (Photo Credit: FAO) Click to Enlarge.
Experts use many numbers when talking about climate change.  However, rising temparatures, the resulting crop failure, and the consequent loss of livelihoods and destitution of millions of households are this year’s most important and urgent developments for millions of smallholder farmers across the vastness of the African agro-ecological landscapes.

To illustrate the unfolding crisis, let us consider the case of Malawi, one of the few countries to have achieved a fair deal of agricultural success but is now facing the worst drought in over three decades.  As is the case with many countries in southern Africa, Malawi has experienced widespread crop failures due to a devastatingly strong El NiƱo.  The country witnessed late on-set of rains, erratic rainfall, floods and prolonged dry spells this year.

As a result, the production of maize - the country’s main staple crop - is estimated at just over 2.5 million tonnes in 2016.  This is 16 percent lower than the reduced harvest in 2015 and 34 percent below the previous five‑year average and has left 39 percent of the population dependant on national and international food aid to survive - a 129 percent increase over last year’s vulnerable population.  In the hardest hit areas, harvest reduced by 70 percent while farmers in some areas simply couldn’t plant as the rains never came.

Dealing with this challenge in the future will require both efforts to reduce climate change and, most importantly, strategies to enable farmers to adapt to its effects.  All eyes are now on the outcomes of the meeting that took place in Marrakesh of the world’s climate change experts and policy makers, aimed at setting the world on track to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.  Last year, the same experts met in Paris and reached a welcome agreement that seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels by 2℃.  However, the emissions of greenhouse gases are not yet falling and the effects of climate change are worsening.  Much more still needs to be done to address this challenge proactively. 

Nowhere else is the imperative to act more urgent than in Africa, where 70 percent of the population is dependent on rain-fed, smallholder agriculture.  As the case of Malawi demonstrates, rising temperatures in Africa often signal drought and other extreme weather events that put the lives and livelihoods of smallholder farmers at greater risk, increasing their vulnerability to famine and diseases.  This reality is here with us today, and far beyond Malawi and southern Africa, with large swathes of the continent currently under the grip of a historical drought.

Read more at Africa’s Smallholder Farmers Among the Most Hurt by Climate Change

  Saturday, Nov 26

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Arctic Ice Melt Could Trigger Uncontrollable Climate Change at Global Level

Scientists warn increasingly rapid melting could trigger polar ‘tipping points’ with catastrophic consequences felt as far away as the Indian Ocean


Arctic sea ice this summer shrank to its second lowest level since scientists started to monitor it by satellite. (Credit: AP) Click to Enlarge.
Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”.  Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

“The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report.  “[These developments] also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.”

Climate tipping points occur when a natural system, such as the polar ice cap, undergoes sudden or overwhelming change that has a profound effect on surrounding ecosystems, often irreversible.

In the Arctic the tipping points identified in the new report, published on Friday, include: growth in vegetation on tundra, which replaces reflective snow and ice with darker vegetation, thus absorbing more heat; higher releases of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the tundra as it warms; shifts in snow distribution that warm the ocean, resulting in altered climate patterns as far away as Asia, where the monsoon could be effected; and the collapse of some key Arctic fisheries, with knock-on effects on ocean ecosystems around the globe.

The research, compiled by 11 organisations including the Arctic Council and six universities, comes at a critical time, not only because of the current Arctic temperature rises but in political terms.

Aides to the US president-elect, Donald Trump, this week unveiled plans to remove the budget for climate change science currently used by NASA and other US federal agencies for projects such as examining Arctic changes, and to spend it instead on space exploration.

“That would be a huge mistake,” said Carson, noting that much more research needs to be done on polar tipping points before we can understand the true dangers, let alone hope to tackle them.  “It would be like ripping out the aeroplane’s cockpit instruments while you are in mid-flight.”

He added:  “These are very serious problems, very serious changes are happening, but they are still poorly understood.  We need more research to understand them.  A lot of the major science is done by the US.”

Scientists have speculated for some years that so-called feedback mechanisms – by which the warming of one area or type of landscape has knock-on effects for whole ecosystems – could suddenly take hold and change the dynamics of Arctic ice melting from a relatively slow to a fast-moving phenomenon with unpredictable and potentially irreversible consequences for global warming.  For instance, when sea ice shrinks it leaves areas of dark ocean that absorb more heat than the reflective ice, which in turn causes further shrinkage, and so on in a spiral.

Read more at Arctic Ice Melt Could Trigger Uncontrollable Climate Change at Global Level

Bolivian Water Crisis as Glaciers Vanish

The now-barren slopes at the world’s highest ski resort on Chacaltaya mountain in the Bolivian Andes above La Paz. (Image Credit: Ville Miettinen / Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
The government of Bolivia, a landlocked country in the heart of South America, has been forced to declare a state of emergency as it faces its worst drought for at least 25 years.

Much of the water supply to La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, and the neighbouring El Alto, Bolivia’s second largest city, comes from the glaciers in the surrounding Andean mountains.

But the glaciers are now shrinking rapidly, illustrating how climate change is already affecting one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

The three main dams that supply La Paz and El Alto are no longer fed by runoff from glaciers and have almost run dry.  Water rationing has been introduced in La Paz, and the poor of El Alto − where many are not yet even connected to the mains water supply − have staged protests.

The armed forces are being brought in to distribute water to the cities, emergency wells are being drilled, and schools will have to close two weeks ahead of the summer break

President Evo Morales sacked the head of the water company for not warning him earlier of the dangerous situation, but the changes produced by global warming have been evident for some time.

Read more at Bolivian Water Crisis as Glaciers Vanish

Army Corps of Engineers Orders Dakota Pipeline Protesters to Abandon Camp

Oahe Dam and Reservoir Free Speech Area (Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) Click to Enlarge.
Activists protesting the continued construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline must shut down one of their camps by Dec. 5, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered in a letter sent to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's leader.

Citing increased violence between protesters and law enforcement and the increasingly harsh winter conditions, the corps said it decided to close its land to the protesters who have been there since early April.  This will shut down the Oceti Sakowin camp, which is one of the three camps located near the construction site.

"Today we were notified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that on Dec. 5th, they will close all lands north of the Cannonball River, which is where the Oceti Sakowin camp is located," Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II in a statement.  "The letter states that the lands will be closed to public access for safety concerns, and that they will allow for a 'free speech zone' south of the Cannonball River on Army Corps lands."
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Activists protesting the continued construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline must shut down one of their camps by Dec. 5, the Army Corps of Engineers ordered in a letter sent to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's leader.

Citing increased violence between protesters and law enforcement and the increasingly harsh winter conditions, the corps said it decided to close its land to the protesters who have been there since early April.  This will shut down the Oceti Sakowin camp, which is one of the three camps located near the construction site.

"Today we were notified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that on Dec. 5th, they will close all lands north of the Cannonball River, which is where the Oceti Sakowin camp is located," Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II in a statement.  "The letter states that the lands will be closed to public access for safety concerns, and that they will allow for a 'free speech zone' south of the Cannonball River on Army Corps lands."

Read more at Army Corps of Engineers Orders Dakota Pipeline Protesters to Abandon Camp

Canada Plans New Fuel Rules, Aims 30 Megatonne Emissions Cut by 2030

Environment Canada logo (Credit: pa.op.dlr.de/nawdex) Click to Enlarge.
Canada will require reduced carbon footprints for all fuels so that the country can achieve a 30-megatonne cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the country's environment department said on Friday.

The government will not mandate specific changes to fuels and will focus just on reducing their emissions, officials said after a government announcement in Toronto.

Precise steps are to be determined after consultations, including with Canada's provinces and relevant industries, and the government will release a discussion paper in February 2017, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.
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Canada's new measures, the "Clean Fuel Standard," will aim to reduce fuels' carbon intensity, a measure of emissions relative to the amount of energy derived, according to the environment department.

Separately Canada announced on Monday it will virtually eliminate the use of traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030.

Read more at Canada Plans New Fuel Rules, Aims 30-Megatonne Emissions Cut by 2030

Alberta Reaches $1.36B Deal to Shut Down Coal Plants

From left, Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman, Shannon Phillips is the Minister of Environment and Parks and the Minister Responsible for the Climate Change Office.and Marg McCuaig-Boyd, Energy Minister. The Alberta government outlined their plan to move away from coal fired electricity at the Federal Building in Edmonton on November 24, 2016. Photo by Shaughn Butts / Postmedia Stuart Thomson Story For a Stuart Thomson/CP story running in the Sun and Journal. (Credit: Shaughn Butts / Edmonton Journal) Click to Enlarge.
The Alberta government will pay three coal power producers more than $1 billion over the next 14 years to compensate them for shutting down their plants early as part of its climate change agenda.

The province said it is also nearing the end of negotiations over power contract disputes that led to a controversial lawsuit, having reached three agreements with companies, though two are tentative.

Talks with a fourth player, Calgary-based public utility Enmax, are ongoing.  The deals are the latest in a series of changes the NDP government has made to Alberta’s energy landscape to cut greenhouse gas emissions and produce cleaner power.

Read more at Alberta Reaches $1.36B Deal to Shut Down Coal Plants

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trump or NASA – Who’s Really Politicizing Climate Science?

Polarization of perceived consensus among Republicans and Democrats. [Credit: Dunlap et al. (2016)] Click to Enlarge.
Climate research conducted at NASA had been “heavily politicized”, said Robert Walker, a senior adviser to US President-elect Donald Trump.

This has led him to recommend stripping funding for climate research at NASA.

Walker’s claim comes with a great deal of irony.  Over the past few decades, climate science has indeed become heavily politicized.  But it is ideological partisans cut from the same cloth as Walker who engineered such a polarized situation.

Believe it or not, climate change used to be a bipartisan issue.  In 1988, Republican George H.W. Bush pledged to “fight the greenhouse effect with the White House effect”.

Since those idealistic days when conservatives and liberals marched hand-in-hand towards a safer climate future, the level of public discourse has deteriorated.

Surveys of the US public over the past few decades show Democrats and Republicans growing further apart in their attitudes and beliefs about climate change.

For example, when asked whether most scientists agree on global warming, perceived consensus among Democrats has steadily increased over the last two decades.  In contrast, perceived consensus among Republicans has been in stasis at around 50%.

How is it that party affiliation has become such a strong driver of people’s views about scientific topics?

In the early 1990s conservative think-tanks sprang to life on this issue.  These are organizations promoting conservative ideals such as unregulated free markets and limited government.

Their goal was to delay government regulation of polluting industries such as fossil fuel companies.  Their main tactic was to cast doubt on climate science.

Using a constant stream of books, newspaper editorials and media appearances, they generated a glut of misinformation about climate science and scientists.

The conservative think-tanks were assisted by corporate funding from the fossil fuel industry – a partnership that Naomi Oreskes poetically describes as an “unholy alliance”.

Over the past few decades, conservative organizations that receive corporate funding have grown much more prolific in publishing polarizing misinformation compared to groups that didn’t receive corporate funding.

Read more at Trump or NASA – Who’s Really Politicizing Climate Science?

Trump Fools the New York Times on Climate Change

Trump waves to crowd as he leaves New York Times Tuesday. (Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan) Click to Enlarge.
Donald Trump spouted incoherent anti-scientific nonsense on climate change at length with New York Times reporters and editors Tuesday — and they totally fell for it.

Ignoring most of what he actually said, the Times ran a story, “Trump, in Interview, Moderates Views but Defies Conventions,” which opens, “President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday tempered some of his most extreme campaign promises … pledging to have an open mind about climate change.”  (Emphasis added.)

Why does the Times say Trump has an “open mind” on climate?  Because Trump said he has an “open mind” on climate.  In fact, he said it six times in the span of a few minutes.

Pay no attention to the hardcore climate denier that Trump named his chief White House strategist, the hardcore climate denier Trump put in charge of the EPA transition (and who is on the shortlist to run the EPA), the climate action opponent Trump named as his Chief of Staff, the fossil fuel executives and lobbyists overseeing his transition for the departments of Energy and Interior, and the conservative Supreme Court judge he can name who would be the fifth vote to block the EPA’s modest domestic climate plan.

And, whatever you do, pay no attention to what else Trump said in that interview (transcript here).  Here he is on climate science:
It’s a very complex subject.  I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know…. they say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists…. Terrible.  Where they got caught, you know, so you see that and you say, what’s this all about.  I absolutely have an open mind.
Seriously.  He has an open mind, but he doubts scientists will ever know the truth about climate change, not to mention those “terrible” emails (which were in fact a true nothingburger, as seven independent inquiries concluded)

Read more at Trump Fools the New York Times on Climate Change

Thursday, November 24, 2016

  Thursday, Nov 24

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

Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate - The New York Times

Waves crashing over an experimental sea wall built to protect homes during high tide in Isle of Palms, S.C., last year. (Credit: Mic Smith/Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Real estate agents looking to sell coastal properties usually focus on one thing:  how close the home is to the water’s edge.  But buyers are increasingly asking instead how far back it is from the waterline.  How many feet above sea level?  Is it fortified against storm surges?  Does it have emergency power and sump pumps?

Rising sea levels are changing the way people think about waterfront real estate.  Though demand remains strong and developers continue to build near the water in many coastal cities, homeowners across the nation are slowly growing wary of buying property in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

A warming planet has already forced a number of industries — coal, oil, agriculture and utilities among them — to account for potential future costs of a changed climate.  The real estate industry, particularly along the vulnerable coastlines, is slowly awakening to the need to factor in the risks of catastrophic damage from climate change, including that wrought by rising seas and storm-driven flooding.

But many economists say that this reckoning needs to happen much faster and that home buyers urgently need to be better informed.  Some analysts say the economic impact of a collapse in the waterfront property market could surpass that of the bursting dot-com and real estate bubbles of 2000 and 2008.

The fallout would be felt by property owners, developers, real estate lenders and the financial institutions that bundle and resell mortgages.

Read more at Perils of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate

EU in Danger of Missing Its Own Climate Targets

A new report urges the European Union to adopt stricter regulations on decarbonisation if it is to meet its 2030 and 2050 climate goals.


The German parliament is pushing to phase out the combustion engine by 2030. (Image Credit: only_point_five via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
A massive new drive to get more diesel cars off the road and close more coal-fired power stations is needed if the European Union is to meet its own climate goals, according to a new report.

The trading bloc is already substantially “off-track” from its own 2030 and 2050 targets, even though CO2 emissions have been naturally depressed by lower-than-expected economic growth due to the financial crisis.

The tough assessment comes from the Paris-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) alongside calls for a “significant revision” of green policies throughout Europe.

Ambitious plans
The IDDRI says there has been progress in key areas of power production with a shift to renewable energy, but “in other sectors such as transport and industry the transition towards deep decarbonization has barely started in any member state whatsoever”.

The EU has adopted ambitious plans to cut carbon pollution by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.  This is considered a crucial milestone towards plans to slash emissions by 80% to 95% by the middle of the century.

The IDDRI claims to have drilled down into data from all 28 member states and looked in far more detail at individual parts of the economy.

It concludes that the EU has made significant progress in cutting the carbon intensity from its power sector by 21% from the year 2000 to 2014.

There have also been annual reductions of a similar nature in the intensity of home energy consumption and a 9% cut in EU passenger fuel consumption.

Read more at EU in Danger of Missing Its Own Climate Targets

Oceans Act as a 'Heat Sink'

The so-called global warming "hiatus" phenomenon -- the possible temporary slowdown of the global mean surface temperature (GMST) trend said to have occurred from 1998 to 2013 -- did not in fact occur.  New research points to the prominent role global ocean played in absorbing extra heat from the atmosphere by acting as a "heat sink" as an explanation for the observed decrease in a key indicator of climate change.


A multi-institutional study sheds light into global warming "hiatus." (Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan) Click to Enlarge.
A new multi-institutional study of the so-called global warming "hiatus" phenomenon -- the possible temporary slowdown of the global mean surface temperature (GMST) trend said to have occurred from 1998 to 2013 -- concludes the hiatus simply represents a redistribution of energy within Earth system, which includes the land, atmosphere and the ocean.

In a paper published in Earth's Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, lead author Xiao-Hai Yan of the University of Delaware, along with leading scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and University of Washington, discuss new understandings of the global warming "hiatus" phenomenon.

In particular, the researchers point to the prominent role played by the global ocean in absorbing the extra heat from the atmosphere by acting as a "heat sink" as an explanation for the observed decrease in GMST, which is considered a key indicator of climate change.

Read more at Oceans Act as a 'Heat Sink'

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

  Wednesday, Nov 23

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

What a Warmer Future Means for Southeastern Wildfires

A heavy air tanker drops fire retardant over the Boteler wildfire near Hayesville, N.C., on Nov. 10. Credit: Reuters / Michael David Chiodini) Click to Enlarge.
‘A Carpet of Fuel’
Nearly three dozen large wildfires are burning across seven states in the Southeast, charring a total of more than 100,000 acres.  The fires in the worst-hit states, Georgia and North Carolina, have burned about 45,000 acres in each state.

Thousands of firefighters have descended on the region to quash and contain the flames at the cost of millions of dollars.  In the meantime, residents even hundreds of miles away have had to deal with air quality alerts and curb their outdoor activities as shifting winds spread the fires’ smoke.


While the Southeast is no stranger to wildfires, the number so far this fall is “many, many more than what we normally have,” Chip Konrad, director of the Southeast Regional Climate Center, said.  And the sheer scale of some of them is far larger than is typical for the Appalachians.

The Southeast often experiences a secondary fire season in the fall, as October is typically the driest month of the year for many parts of the region.  But the bone-dry conditions this year have added considerable fuel to the flames.
...
Future Fire
What climate change might mean for drought and wildfires in Southeast in the future is a tricky question.  Unlike some areas of the country, like the Southwest, climate models differ on how overall precipitation in the region might change as temperatures rise.

Those rising temperatures are the clearest tie-in with climate change for future drought.  “Most definitely we’re seeing an increase in the frequency of above-normal temperatures,” Konrad said.

More days of high heat means that when the region does see a drop-off in precipitation, “you can go into drought more quickly,” Konrad said.  Some of that effect was seen in late summer and early fall this year, as the drought in the Southeast rapidly deepened and expanded.

Some of the same factors that limit what can be said about future droughts also limit projections of future wildfire risk.

“There’s so much uncertainty on the precip that it’s really hard to say what the future’s going to be,” Prestemon, of the Forest Service, said.

Wildfires are also very complex, with myriad factors contributing to them.  A study published earlier this year and led by Prestemon used both climate models and projections of societal changes, like population growth and development, to look at how they might impact wildfire projections.

They found that societal changes suggested a small reduction in the area burned by human-caused fires (which account for the bulk of wildfires in the Southeast) by mid-century, likely because development reduced the amount of forests and created more breaks that could stop the spread of fire.  Conversely, changes in climate suggested lightning-started fires would burn larger areas.

Prestemon stresses that the findings aren’t a forecast, merely a look at what’s possible and how different factors influence wildfire activity.

But, as with drought, the fact that temperatures are steadily rising and making extreme heat more common could make wildfires like these more likely to occur in the future with the right conditions.

Read more at What a Warmer Future Means for Southeastern Wildfires

Trump Wants to Dump the Paris Climate Deal, but 71 Percent of Americans Support It, Survey Finds

Participation in the Paris Agreementn on Climate Change (Credit: Chicago Council on Global Affairs) Click to Enlarge.
Since the election of Donald Trump as president, climate change has rushed to the front of the news because of Trump’s pledges to wipe away major U.S. attempts to address it.  Of particular concern to scientists and environmentalists around the world is Trump’s vow to “cancel” U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement, negotiated by nearly 200 countries late last year and the foundation for a global push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, country by country.

However, a new survey released by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Monday suggests that if Trump were to withdraw from the agreement, that may not be popular in the United States.  The survey of 2,061 Americans, conducted in June, finds that 71 percent support the Paris deal, including 57 percent of Republicans — – a notable finding on a topic that, at least so far, does not seem to have received much polling attention.

Read more at Trump Wants to Dump the Paris Climate Deal, but 71 Percent of Americans Support It, Survey Finds

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

  Tuesday, Nov 22

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

Electric Cars Are About to Dent Global Gasoline Consumption

Demand for the fuel rose dramatically in the last 25 years—but forecasts claim that electric vehicles are about to force a worldwide decline.


Pumpjack (Photograph Credit: Spencer Platt | Getty) Click to Enlarge.
Gasoline is like some kind of drug:  we know it’s bad for the planet, but we just can’t give it up.  Now a number of voices from the energy industry suggest that our addiction could begin to ease, thanks to the rise of electric cars.  In fact, demand for passenger vehicle gas may fall by 2020.

A new forecast by the International Energy Agency claims that global gasoline consumption for passenger vehicles will decrease in the next five years.  The decline is predicted to be pretty modest:  according to Bloomberg, the agency reckons that global consumption will fall from 23 million barrels of gas per day last year to 22.8 million barrels a day by 2020.  The IEA’s predictions suggest that there’s scope for demand to increase again at some point before 2040.

But by the time that date rolls around, the agency thinks that consumption will have decreased by 0.2 percent compared to today.  That’s small, but it’s the right direction—especially when you consider that consumption grew by 20 percent in the last 25 years.

Interestingly, the IEA’s prediction is much sunnier for oil producers than some estimates from within the industry.  Shell, for example, has recently stated that total oil demand could peak in just five years’ time.  In contrast, the IEA reckons other types of refined oil, such as jet fuel and diesel, will continue to grow.

The IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, attributes the predictions to the fact that “electric cars are happening.”  He’s right:  a recent report suggested that as many as two-thirds of all cars on the road in some wealthy cities could be electric by 2030.

A surge in electric car use and a leveling-off of gas demand can’t come soon enough: transportation could surpass the electricity sector as the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States this year.  Making sure the situation gets better is a primary concern in the fight against climate change.

Read more at Electric Cars Are About to Dent Global Gasoline Consumption