Wednesday, October 18, 2017

China's President Xi Says Will Continue Years-Long War on Smog

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during the opening of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. (Photo Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
China will keep up its years-long battle against smog to ensure “blue skies” and promote a “revolution” in clean energy, President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday at the opening ceremony of a key Communist Party congress.

Improving the notoriously toxic air across the northern regions of the world’s second-largest economy has been a cornerstone of Beijing’s economic and social policy in recent years.

China has ordered factories to cut output in a bid to enforce bigger emission cuts in coming months and avoid a repeat of the near-record levels of choking smog that enveloped key northern areas at the start of the year.

In the long term, it has also launched a series of measures to curb the use of coal, the nation’s favorite fuel, and boost use of renewable power, like wind and solar.

The government will also take measures to improve rural areas by restoring soil and waterways, Xi added, as China moves to modernize its vast agricultural sector.

Read original at China's President Xi Says Will Continue Years-Long War on Smog

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

  Tuesday, Oct 17

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.

A New Way to Harness Wasted Methane

Approach developed at MIT could help curb needless 'flaring' of potent greenhouse gas.

Flaring (Credit: Financial Tribune) Click to Enlarge.
MIT chemistry professor Yogesh Surendranath and three colleagues have found a way to use electricity, which could potentially come from renewable sources, to convert methane into derivatives of methanol, a liquid that can be made into automotive fuel or used as a precursor to a variety of chemical products.  This new method may allow for lower-cost methane conversion at remote sites.  The findings, described in the journal ACS Central Science, could pave the way to making use of a significant methane supply that is otherwise totally wasted.

Existing industrial processes for converting methane to liquid intermediate chemical forms requires very high operating temperatures and large, capital-intensive equipment. Instead, the researchers have developed a low-temperature electrochemical process that would continuously replenish a catalyst material that can rapidly carry out the conversion.  This technology could potentially lead to "a relatively low-cost, on-site addition to existing wellhead operations," says Surendranath, who is the Paul M. Cook Career Development Assistant Professor in MIT's Department of Chemistry.

The electricity to power such systems could come from wind turbines or solar panels close to the site, he says.  This electrochemical process, he says, could provide a way to do the methane conversion -- a process also known as functionalizing -- "remotely, where a lot of the 'stranded' methane reserves are."

Already, he says, "methane is playing a key role as a transition fuel."  But the amount of this valuable fuel that is now just flared away, he says, "is pretty staggering."  That vast amount of wasted natural gas can even be seen in satellite images of the Earth at night, in areas such as the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota that light up as brightly as big metropolitan areas due to flaring.  Based on World Bank estimates, global flaring of methane wastes an amount equivalent to approximately one-fifth of U.S. natural gas consumption.

When that gas gets flared off rather than directly released, Surendranath says, "you're reducing the environmental harm, but you're also wasting the energy."  Finding a way to do methane conversion at sufficiently low cost to make it practical for remote sites "has been a grand challenge in chemistry for decades," he says.  What makes methane conversion so tough is that the carbon-hydrogen bonds in the methane molecule resist being broken, and at the same time there's a risk of overdoing the reaction and ending up with a runaway process that destroys the desired end-product.

Catalysts that could do the job have been studied for many years, but they typically require harsh chemical agents that limit the speed of the reaction, he says.  The key new advance was adding an electrical driving force that could be tuned precisely to generate more potent catalysts with very high reaction rates.  "Since we're using electricity to drive the process, this opens up new opportunities for making the process more rapid, selective, and portable than existing methods," Surendranath says.  And in addition, "we can access catalysts that no one has observed before, because we're generating them in a new way."

Read more at A New Way to Harness Wasted Methane

The War on Coal Is Over.  Coal Lost. - by dana1981

Last week, Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced, “the war on coal is over.”  If there ever was a war on coal, the coal industry has lost.  According to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, many old American coal power plants are being retired or converted to natural gas, and new coal power plants aren’t being built because they’ve become more expensive than natural gas, wind, and solar energy:
The share of US electricity coming from coal fell from 51 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in 2016—an unprecedented change.  New UCS analysis finds that, of the coal units that remain, roughly one in four plans to retire or convert to natural gas; another 17 percent are uneconomic and could face retirement soon.
Evolution of the American power grid mix since 1960. (Illustration Credit: Carbon Brief) Click to Enlarge.
Natural gas has now surpassed coal to supply 32% of US electricity (up from 21% in 2008), and solar and wind are up to 10% (from 3% in 2008).

US power
This trend will continue.  As old coal plants continue to retire and be replaced by cheaper renewables and natural gas, their share of the US electricity supply will continue to plummet, and coal will become a fossil fuel in every sense of the word.  That’s why American companies continue to invest in cheap, clean renewable energy.  As a result, our air and water are becoming cleaner, Americans are becoming healthier, and our carbon pollution is falling.

The shift away from coal poses a challenge for regions in which the local economy depends on the fossil fuel, but the transition is inevitable.  A wise economic policy would involve funding programs to help those regions adapt to the change (Hillary Clinton proposed one such plan during her presidential campaign).  A recent study showed that Americans are willing to pay a carbon tax with some of the revenue going to assist displaced coal workers.   The Trump administration has instead opted to try and slow coal’s inevitable decline.

Trump is desperate to burn more coal
The Trump administration seems hell-bent on causing as much global warming as possible.  First there was the historically irresponsible decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, joining war-torn Syria as the only world countries to reject the treaty.  Then just a few weeks ago, Trump’s Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a plan to effectively take coal out of the free market and instead subsidize it with taxpayer dollars to bail out the industry and keep uneconomical coal power plants open.  The hypocrisy ran thick – as Perry called for propping up the coal industry with increased taxpayer subsidies, Pruitt called for an end to subsidies for renewable energy:
I would do away with these incentives that we give to wind and solar.  I’d let them stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas and other sources, and let utilities make real-time market decisions on those types of things as opposed to being propped up by tax incentives and other types of credits that occur
Soon thereafter, Priutt announced that Trump’s EPA will repeal the Clean Power Plan.  That policy represented America’s most significant effort to cut its carbon pollution, but had been mired in a legal battle over whether the plan exceeded EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act.  Rather than let the courts decide the case, which many experts felt the EPA would win, Pruitt stopped defending the case in court and ended the program.

The problem is that according to the US Supreme Court, the EPA is legally required to regulate dangerous carbon pollution.  Pruitt’s EPA may propose a dramatically weakened plan that probably wouldn’t survive a court challenge, or he may just try to run out the clock on Trump’s term.  As with the disastrous Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they don’t have a replacement plan.  In the meantime, states and environmental groups will take his Clean Power Plan repeal to court.

Pruitt’s Clean Power Plan repeal justification is largely based on bogus economics, which the Trump administration is using to reduce government estimates of the ‘social cost of carbon.’  This figure – which estimates how much a ton of carbon pollution costs society in terms of damages caused by climate change – is integral to many government policies.  A majority of economists think the government’s estimate is too low, but Pruitt’s EPA manipulated the math by ignoring the costs of America’s carbon pollution to the rest of the world, and by using a high discount rate, which essentially says we care more about saving money now than preventing climate damages and suffering for future generations.

However, because renewables and natural gas are now cheaper than coal, an analysis by the Rhodium Group found that the US will meet the Clean Power Plan target of cutting carbon pollution from electricity generation 32% below 2005 levels by 2030 despite its repeal.

Read more at The War on Coal Is Over.  Coal Lost.

Judge Allows 'Necessity' Defense by Climate Activists in Oil Pipeline Protest

A Minnesota judge ruled that three activists charged with felonies can argue they had no legal alternative to protect citizens from climate change impacts.

Emily Johnston and two other activists were charged with felonies for shutting down a pipeline in Minnesota. A fourth activist filmed it. A judge in their trial has allowed the defendants to use the "necessity" defense. (Credit: Direct Climate Action) Click to Enlarge.
A judge in Minnesota has cleared the way for an unusual and potentially groundbreaking defense, allowing climate activists to use the "necessity" of confronting the climate crisis as justification for temporarily shutting down two crude oil pipelines last year.

Robert Tiffany, a district court judge in Clearwater County, Minnesota, ruled on Oct. 11 that three activists who were arrested and charged with felonies last year can argue that they violated the law in order to protect citizens from the impacts of global warming and that they had no legal alternative.  

"It is extremely unusual for a court to allow presentation of the necessity defense by environmental protesters," said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.  "It will be fascinating to see how this trial goes and how much evidence the court allows."

The ruling is only the third time a judge in the United States has allowed for such a defense in a climate case.  The first case, in Massachusetts in 2014, did not go to trial after the prosecutor dropped the charges.  A judge allowed the necessity defense in a Washington State case in 2016 but then instructed jurors they could not acquit on necessity.  "Only a few courts have allowed presentation of the climate necessity defense, and until Friday, no judge in a jury trial in the United States had recognized the defense in writing," the Climate Defense Project, a legal nonprofit that provided pre-trial briefing and is part of the defendants' legal team, said in a statement.

Read more at Judge Allows 'Necessity' Defense by Climate Activists in Oil Pipeline Protest

Rabobank, U.N. Launch $1 Billion Fund to Boost Sustainable Farming

 The Dutch Rabobank headquarters building in the city of Utrecht- Click to Enlarge.
Rabobank NA [RABOVR.UL] is launching with the United Nations $1 billion in financing for farmers to transition to more sustainable practices as food companies and consumers are demanding more supply chain transparency.

Rabobank and the United Nations are splitting the cost of the program, which is designed to push farmers to consider more sustainable practices despite higher costs and potentially lower yields at the outset, executives for the Dutch bank said on Tuesday in an interview.

With the three-year program, Rabobank plans to offer a mix of grants, loans with lower interest rates, and insurance products.

“We have to incentivize farmers to change their practices,” said Berry Marttin, a member of Rabobank’s managing board.  Marttin said the bank had done a project in Brazil to curb deforestation and encourage farmers to extend their crop rotations to boost soil productivity.

The bank did not provide a full range of specific criteria for sustainability but said that farmers are regularly measured.  The bank will provide updates on the program’s progress.  That could include lower ratings for high use of pesticides, for example.

Large food manufacturers like Mars Inc and Mondelez International Inc have made public commitments to boosting sustainability in their supply chains.  The industry has been under pressure from consumers to increase transparency and provide healthier products, reducing demand growth for conventional packaged foods.

Read original at Rabobank, U.N. Launch $1 Billion Fund to Boost Sustainable Farming

Hurricane Ophelia Sheds Light on Another Climate Change Concern

This is the farthest east that a Category 3 hurricane has ever traveled in the Atlantic Basin since records began.

Waves whipped up by Hurricane Ophelia crash in Cornwall, England, on Oct. 16, 2017. (Credit: Matt Cardy / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The remnants of former hurricane Ophelia slammed into Ireland and the western United Kingdom on Monday, claiming at least three lives, leaving nearly 400,000 without power and further cementing the 2017 hurricane season’s place in history. 

This time, scientists warn, the storm’s far reach into the eastern Atlantic illustrates how rising global temperatures could potentially expand the range of dangerous storms across the globe. 

Read more at Hurricane Ophelia Sheds Light on Another Climate Change Concern

New Study Finds Nature Is Vital to Beating Climate Change

Top 10 Mitigation Pathways with Co-Benefits (Credit: The Nature Conservancy) Click to Enlarge.
Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought, according to the most comprehensive assessment to date of how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and stored in forests, farmland, grasslands, and wetlands using natural climate solutions.

The peer-reviewed study, led by scientists from The Nature Conservancy and 15 other institutions , and published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, expanded and refined the scope of land-based climate solutions previously assessed by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).  The findings are expected to bolster efforts to ensure that large scale protection, restoration, and improved land management practices needed to stabilize climate change are achieved while meeting the demand for food and fiber from global lands.

Accounting for cost constraints, the researchers calculated that natural climate solutions could reduce emissions by 11.3 billion tonnes per year by 2030 - equivalent to halting the burning of oil , and offering 37% of the emissions reductions needed to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2030.  Without cost constraints, natural climate solutions could deliver emissions reductions of 23.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, close to a third (30%) more than previous estimates .

Mark Tercek, CEO The Nature Conservancy said:  "Today our impacts on the land cause a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.  The way we manage the lands in the future could deliver 37% of the solution to climate change.  That is huge potential, so if we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature, as well as in clean energy and clean transport.  We are going to have to increase food and timber production to meet the demand of a growing population, but we know we must do so in a way that addresses climate change."

Read more at New Study Finds Nature Is Vital to Beating Climate Change

Monday, October 16, 2017

  Monday, Oct 16

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

New Sulfur Flow Battery for Affordable Long-Term Grid Storage

(Photo Credit: EnergywiseEnergyRenewables)  Click to Enlarge.
The high cost of batteries still prevents them from being used to store renewable energy for times when the wind dies down or there’s no sun.  Pumped hydroelectric storage is the cheapest known energy-storage technology today, but is limited by geography.

With a new battery, researchers at MIT say they have found the sweet spot for energy storage.  The energy-dense battery could be the first to compete with the installed cost of pumped hydro and compressed-air storage, which cost around $100 per kilowatt-hour of energy stored.  Scaled-up versions of the new battery could store electricity for a fifth of that, at $20/kWh.  By comparison, Tesla claims its Gigafactory can produce batteries for around $125/kWh. 

The new battery might even have what it takes to replace fossil fuel “peaker” plants that can quickly inject power into the grid at high demand times.  To compete with peaker plants, we need immense batteries that store energy from wind and solar for multiple days, even months, at an installed cost of around $50/kWh.

The device, reported in the journal Joule, is a type of flow battery, in which both the anode and cathode are liquid electrolytes.  The anode in this case is sulfur dissolved in water, while the cathode is an aerated liquid salt solution that takes up and releases oxygen.

Lithium ions move between the electrolytes, and the salt solution at the cathode takes up or releases oxygen to balance the charge.  During discharge, it takes up oxygen and the anode ejects electrons into an external circuit.  When the oxygen is released, electrons go back to the anode, recharging the battery.

MIT materials scientist and engineer Yet-Ming Chiang says that his team’s main goal in building it was to keep costs to a minimum.  They chose a water-based flow battery concept, which would have lower energy than a traditional battery but would be much cheaper per kWh.

After analyzing dozens of known battery materials, they chose sulfur because it’s cheap and abundant.  Giant heaps of sulfur are produced as waste from tar sands refineries.  “One existing stockpile of 4 million cubic meters, if turned into sulfur-based batteries, would store several times the entire pumped hydroelectric capacity in the world today (∼1.6 TWh),” the researchers write in an accompanying article in Joule.

The battery can store 20 to 40 kWh per liter of its electrolytes, making it 500 to 1,000 times denser than pumped hydro systems.  Which means portable versions of this battery could be situated wherever they are needed near wind and solar farms.  Plus, the cost of all the active materials in the battery is only $1/kWh, less than that for most any other rechargeable battery.

The battery is ideal for long-term storage because it is “scalable to a large size, made of earth-abundant materials, and has a stable chemistry in storage,” says Chiang.  And as it gets bigger, storing energy gets cheaper.  “System cost is a strong function of storage duration,” he says.  “For long duration storage beyond a day, cost continues to drop and reaches $20 to $30 per kilowatt-hour.”

Read more at New Sulfur Flow Battery for Affordable Long-Term Grid Storage

Tide Has Turned':  Global Rating Agency Says Climate Economics Trump Politics

Taking the not-so short-term view: Michael Wilkins, Managing Director of Environmental and Climate Risk Research at S&P Global Ratings during a visit to Sydney.  (Photo Credit: Janie Barrett) Click to Enlarge.
The global shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy will continue regardless of political action such as President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement or outbursts from ex-Australian prime ministers, a senior ratings analyst says.

"The tide has turned," said Michael Wilkins, the head of climate and environmental risks at Standard & Poor's Global Ratings, adding the transition meant the economic viability of assets such as coal mines and coal-fired power stations would be "vastly impaired".

Mr Wilkins' comments come as new S&P research points to deep falls in the costs of renewable energy as other groups report important shifts by corporations at home and abroad on climate risks.

Read more at Tide Has Turned':  Global Rating Agency Says Climate Economics Trump Politics

UN:  Ignore Trump on Climate

UN:  Ignore Trump on Climate.

Trump rally in Louisiana, US, December 2016. (Image Credit: Tammy Anthony Baker via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The hurricanes and wildfires that have severely damaged large areas of the United States in recent weeks have had no impact on US president Donald Trump’s determination to ignore the perils of climate change and support the coal industry.

In a deliberate denial of mainstream science, the Trump administration has issued a strategic four-year plan for the US Environment Protection Agency that does not once mention “greenhouse gas emissions”, “carbon dioxide,” or “climate change” in its 48 pages.

Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager of the Union of Concerned Scientists, describes this as “stunning” in its ignorance.  “This was not an oversight,” she says, “this is a deliberate strategy by this administration.”

Trump effect
However, President Trump’s repudiation in June of the 2015 Paris Agreement designed to combat global warming, and his refusal to acknowledge any connection between recent extreme weather events and climate change, seems to have made the world even more determined to tackle the issue.

The acid test will be the progress that is made in November at the annual meeting of the parties for the Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, hosted by Fiji, one of the small island states expected to be most affected by sea-level rise and more frequent storms.

Ahead of the conference, three of the UN’s most senior climate change figures have issued a statement urging world leaders to see the recent spate of disasters as a “shocking sign of things to come”.

In a joint statement, Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Climate Change Convention, and Robert Glasser, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for disaster risk reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said the events of the last few months were a reminder that climate change threatens more frequent and severe disasters such as those just witnessed.

The three officials emphasize that there have been many more extreme weather events that have not received the publicity given to the hurricanes in the Caribbean and the United States.

Read more at UN:  Ignore Trump on Climate

Giant NewMotion EV Charging Network Acquired by Shell

Shell Station (Credit: Shell Europe) Click to Enlarge.
Many years ago, when tobacco companies started to see the handwriting on the wall warning of tough economic times ahead, they began diversifying into a broad range of consumer products in an effort to insulate themselves from declining cigarette sales.  Now, Royal Dutch Shell is starting to do the same as it sees changes in the marketplace looming on the road ahead.  It announced this week that it has acquired NewMotion, which operates one of Western Europe’s largest EV charging networks.

NewMotion specializes in converting parking spots into electric charging stations and has more than 30,000 EV charging points in Europe.  Like Shell, it is also based in the Netherlands, where awareness of global warming is a staple of the local culture.  “This is a way of broadening our offer as we move through the energy transition,” Matthew Tipper, Shell’s vice president of new fuels, told CNN Money in an interview.  “It’s certainly a form of diversification.”

The corporate marriage is a strange one, given that NewMotion’s founding principle is creating “a cleaner world by eradicating fossil fuels.”  Its CEO, Sytse Zuidema, says the deal will speed up the growth of the company by letting it plug in (you should pardon the expression) to Shell’s vast business network.  “We are here not to fuel cars with petrol, but with electricity,” Zuidema says.

Shell is introducing fast charging points at its gasoline and diesel stations.  It is also experimenting with smart charging technology that will help balance the electrical grid.  The NewMotion system will be separate from the EV charging infrastructure being installed at Shell stations in Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, and the Philippines.

“They’re complementary offers.  One is fast charging on the go [at the service stations] and the other is a slightly slower rate of charge at the workplace or at home.  At this stage there are no plans to integrate the two,” Shell’s vice-president for new fuels, Matthew Tipper, tells the press.

Electric cars are popular in Europe, where people tend to drive fewer miles to work and back every day and urban congestion makes larger vehicles less suitable than in the US.  In addition, European regulators are pushing hard to make emissions standards tougher.  Norway, France, Germany, and the UK have all announced efforts to phase out vehicles powered solely by fossil fuels.
Demand for electric vehicles is expected to rise significantly in coming decades and Morgan Stanley estimates that up to 3 million public EV charging points could be needed in Western Europe by 2030.  Currently, there are fewer than 100,000.

The news from Europe stands in sharp contrast to what’s going on in the US, where the majority of service station operators are showing no interest in installing EV charging equipment.  Instead, it is assumed that governments and automakers will do the heavy lifting.  No one seems to be at all concerned that all those lovely gas stations may one day disappear from the American landscape.  The dinosaurs probably didn’t see the meteor coming, either.

Read more at Giant NewMotion EV Charging Network Acquired by Shell

Toon of the Week: CO2 Doesn’t Cause Climate Change / Witches and Goblins cause Climate Change

Toon of the Week: CO2 Doesn’t Cause Climate Change / Witches and Goblins cause Climate Change

Read original at 2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #41

Poster of the Week - Halloween Movies Are Scary in October

Poster of the Week - Halloween Movies Are Scary in October but Climate Change Is a Real Horror Show All Year Long.

Read original at 2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #41

Sunday, October 15, 2017

  Sunday, Oct 15

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.

Our Power Puerto Rico for a Just Recovery & Resilient Rebuild

This map shows the devastation that Hurricane Maria wreaked upon Puerto Rico. (Credit: CrowdRescue HQ) Click to Enlarge.
Congressional House Representatives will be voting this week on the Federal Aid Package for Puerto Rico before they go on recess.  The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) called for A National Day of Action on Wednesday, October 11th, to demand that Congress pass an immediate federal aid package designed for the Just Recovery and Resilient Rebuild of Puerto Rico.

The relief package must include debt relief, the repeal of the Jones Act, transparency in distribution of resources, an assessment of infrastructure, and additional provisions detailed in an online petition that was delivered to US representatives the day of the mass actions.  Angela Adrar, Executive Director of CJA, explains why action is needed now to help Puerto Rico develop a sustainable and pragmatic approach to recovery.
“Wall Street’s business-as-usual approach to relief and recovery has led to land-grabs and riches off the misfortune of vulnerable communities.  If we act with a clear vision for a Just Recovery, Puerto Rico can serve as a model for areas suffering the same climate injustice.”
What are you doing today for the National Call to Action?  In Washington D.C., Our Power Campaign will begin its Congressional Visit tour and drop petitions off to provide #JustRecovery for Puerto Rico and a lift to the Jones Act.  You can follow their progress on Twitter:  @CJAOurPower.

Hurricane Maria’s Devastation of Puerto Rico
On September 20th, Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds, struck Puerto Rico full force only days after the Irma storm. Two weeks later, Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents are suffering intensely in what has quickly become a major humanitarian and environmental justice disaster.

Hurricane Maria attacked Puerto Rico with devastating winds, drenched the island with destructive flooding, crippled communications, decimated buildings, and damaged a dam that placed  downstream residents at risk of catastrophe. But help has been slow to come to communities where the destruction is described as “apocalyptic,” officials and residents argue.

A systemic change in relief and response is needed, as well as an engineering vision for sustainable infrastructure that can withstand category 5+ storms, which are predicted by scientists to become more commonplace as a consequence of the changing climate.

Read more at Our Power Puerto Rico for a Just Recovery & Resilient Rebuild

Fossil Fuels Win Billions in Public Money After Paris Climate Deal, Angry Campaigners Claim

Coal, oil, and gas finance from major development banks totalled $5bn in year after historic climate pact, according to estimates.

Millions went to an offshore gas exploration project in Azerbaijan, money that was counted as climate finance on the basis it reduced emissions compared to baseline. (Photograph Credit: Elnur Amikishiyev/Alamy) Click to Enlarge.
Billions of dollars of public money was sunk in new fossil fuel projects by the world’s major development banks in the year after the Paris climate change deal was agreed, according to campaigners who are calling for the banks to halt their financing of coal, oil, and gas.

The new analysis also reveals that some of the taxpayers’ money given to coal and gas projects was counted as “climate” finance.

Funding for fossil fuel projects from the six main international development banks totaled at least $5bn in 2016, according to a report from researchers at Oil Change International (OCI).

In particular, OCI estimate the funding for exploration for new oil and gas more than doubled in 2016, to $2.1bn. Funding for clean energy also grew by more than a third, to $11.4bn.

A second report from analysts at E3G suggests that in recent years the World Bank and European Bank for Development and Reconstruction (EBRD) have given similar levels of funding to fossil fuels as to climate-friendly energy projects.

“Despite the Paris Agreement being reached, multilateral development banks that say all the right things on climate are still financing billions of dollars in oil, gas, and coal projects,” said Alex Doukas at Oil Change International. “They are using relatively scarce public resources that need to be used as strategically as possible if we have a hope of meeting the agreement’s aims. If they really want to help lift people out of poverty, taxpayer-funded banks can no longer finance climate destruction. They must stop funding fossil fuels.”

Read more at Fossil Fuels Win Billions in Public Money After Paris Climate Deal, Angry Campaigners Claim

Penguin Disaster as Only Two Chicks Survive from Colony of 40,000

‘Catastrophic breeding event’ leads to demands for a marine protected area to be set up in East Antarctica.

One of the many dead Adélie penguin chicks found on Petrels Island in the Antarctica. (Photograph Credit: Y Ropert-Coudert/CNRS/IPEV) Click to Enlarge.
A colony of about 40,000 Adélie penguins in Antarctica has suffered a “catastrophic breeding event” – all but two chicks have died of starvation this year.  It is the second time in just four years that such devastation – not previously seen in more than 50 years of observation – has been wrought on the population.

The finding has prompted urgent calls for the establishment of a marine protected area in East Antarctica, at next week’s meeting of 24 nations and the European Union at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart.

In the colony of about 18,000 breeding penguin pairs on Petrels Island, French scientists discovered just two surviving chicks at the start of the year.  Thousands of starved chicks and unhatched eggs were found across the island in the region called Adélie Land (“Terre Adélie”).

The colony had experienced a similar event in 2013, when no chicks survived. In a paper about that event, a group of researchers, led by Yan Ropert-Coudert from France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, said it had been caused by a record amount of summer sea ice and an “unprecedented rainy episode”.

The unusual extent of sea ice meant the penguins had to travel an extra 100km (62 miles) to forage for food.  And the rainy weather left the chicks, which have poor waterproofing, wet and unable to keep warm.

This year’s event has also been attributed to an unusually large amount of sea ice.  Overall, Antarctica has had a record low amount of summer sea ice, but the area around the colony has been an exception.

Ropert-Coudert said the region had been severely affected by the break-up of the Mertz glacier tongue in 2010, when a piece of ice almost the size of Luxembourg – about 80 km (50 miles) long and 40km (25 miles) wide – broke off.  That event, which occurred about 250km from Petrels Island, had a big impact on ocean currents and ice formation in the region.

“The Mertz glacier impact on the region sets the scene in 2010 and when unusual meteorological events, driven by large climatic variations, hit in some years this leads to massive failures,” Ropert-Coudert told the Guardian. “In other words, there may still be years when the breeding will be OK, or even good for this colony, but the scene is set for massive impacts to hit on a more or less regular basis.”

The link between climate change and the sea-ice extent around Antarctica is not very clear. Sea ice has been increasing in recent years, which could be attributed to a rise in the amount of freshwater in the ocean around the continent caused by climate change. However, over the long term, climate change is expected to cause the sea ice to shrink dramatically.

“For the moment, sea ice is increasing and this is a problem for this species as it pushes the feeding place – the sea ice edge – farther away from their nesting place,” Ropert-Coudert said. “If it shrinks it would help but if it shrinks too much then the food chain they rely on may be impacted. Basically, as a creature of the sea ice they need an optimum sea-ice cover to thrive.”

Elsewhere, human pressures including climate change have already been having a severe impact on the numbers of Adélie penguins. On the Antarctic Peninsula, which has been badly affected by climate change, populations have been decreasing, and some researchers suggest they may become extinct there.

Ropert-Coudert said there were more anthropogenic threats on the horizon – fishing and possibly tourism – that the penguins needed protection from.

He has called for a marine protected area (MPA) to be established there.

Read more at Penguin Disaster as Only Two Chicks Survive from Colony of 40,000

Worrying New Research Finds that the Ocean Is Cutting Through a Key Antarctic Ice Shelf

Melt from Dotson ice shelf results in 40 billion tonnes of freshwater being poured into the Southern Ocean every year, and this canyon alone is responsible for the release of four billion tonnes – a significant proportion (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
A new scientific study published Tuesday has found that warm ocean water is carving an enormous channel into the underside of one of the key floating ice shelves of West Antarctica, the most vulnerable sector of the enormous ice continent.

The Dotson ice shelf, which holds back two separate large glaciers, is about 1,350 square miles in area and between 1,000 and 1,600 feet thick.  But on its western side, it is now only about half that thickness, said Noel Gourmelen, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the lead author of the research, which was just published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The reason is the same one that is believed to be shrinking glaciers and pouring ice into the ocean across West Antarctica — warm ocean water located offshore is now reaching the ice from below.

In Dotson’s case it appears the water is first flowing into the deep cavity beneath the shelf far below it, but then being turned by the Earth’s rotation and streaming upward toward the floating ice as it mixes with buoyant meltwater.  The result is that the warm water continually melts one part of the shelf in particular, creating the channel.

“We think that this channel is actually being carved for the last 25 years,” said Gourmelen, whose research team detected the channel using satellite observations.  “It’s been thinning and melting at the base for at least 25 years, and that’s where we are now.”
In the particular case of Dotson, the ultimate fear is that the undermining of the shelf will increase the flow of ice outward from the glaciers behind it, named Smith and Kohler, which contributes to sea level rise.  If the ice shelf collapsed, that would speed up even further.

Read more at Worrying New Research Finds that the Ocean Is Cutting Through a Key Antarctic Ice Shelf

Saturday, October 14, 2017

  Saturday, Oct 14

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.

Musk Is Only Somewhat Right that Tesla’s Solar & Storage Can Scale to Rebuild Puerto Rico’s Grid

Stringent Florida building codes (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Puerto Rico suffered devastating losses due to Hurricane Maria.  Along with a long list of other challenges, the hurricane destroyed the island’s antiquated generation, transmission, and distribution grids.  In part, this is due to their dependence on low-resiliency fossil fuels.

Is Tesla able to provide a mixture of rooftop solar and utility-scale solar sufficient to provide for all of Puerto Rico’s electricity needs?  Yes.
Tesla acquired SolarCity and has built utility-scale, commercial, and residential solar installations around the USA.  Puerto Rico had electricity demand of roughly 20 TWh annually prior to Maria.  That would require in the range of 11.4 GW of solar capacity, if solar were the only option.  Puerto Rico already has both wind and solar farms with a combined capacity of about 340 MW.  Wind has a higher capacity factor than solar all else being equal, so the combination generated about 2% of Puerto Rico’s demand in 2016.

SolarCity had an installed base of 2.45 GW of capacity when it was acquired by Tesla, so this is a stretch.  Tesla has started production at its solar gigafactory in New York state.  This, combined with ongoing purchases from absurdly larger-scale Chinese manufacturers, make the number of solar panels achievable.  China installed 3 times the amount Puerto Rico would need in 2016 alone, but it’s China.

As someone pointed out recently, Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by water, so it’s easy to get the requisite solar panels there cheaply.  Enough solar generation could be sourced and delivered.  Installing it all would require imported labor to bolster the Puerto Ricans, but unions from the USA are already landing members to support the rebuilding, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.  This does point to another challenge with replacing the existing structures, which is that unions would also have to agree with both the changes and the labor imports.
Is Tesla able to provide a mixture of building and grid storage sufficient to provide for all of Puerto Rico’s grid balancing needs with the solar? Eventually, yes.
Being in the tropics reduces the actual need for storage to a day of demand to achieve much greater resilience of electricity than they had prior to Hurricane Maria.  After all, when Maria passed, the sun came out again.  That amounts to about 55 GWh of battery storage.

Once again, that’s a big number, bigger than anything Tesla has done before.  Its largest installation to date is 100 MWh and is only now closing in on completion.  However, that ignores the cars.  About 210,000 Teslas with an average of about 75 kWh of batteries make for about 16 GWh of batteries.  Then there are the Powerwalls, which are a bit of a rounding error, but would be critical in the Puerto Rican context.  With the Gigafactory, which will produce its batteries online and on track to achieve 35 GWh a year by end of 2018, including all car demand, this is obviously a limiting factor.

Unlike solar panels, there isn’t another source of Tesla’s grid and home storage that the company can leverage.  Tesla is already one of the biggest producers in the world.  And the output of the Gigafactory is expected to serve a massive number of new cars rolling off of the line as well as home and grid storage projects all over the world.
Would a solar and storage solution be more resilient in the event of another hurricane? Yes.
Tesla’s new solar tiles have been tested to be able to withstand massive hail better than alternative tiles do, meaning that they would also stand up to objects thrown by hurricane-force winds.  Similarly, solar panels in general are typically designed to survive up to 140 mph (225 km/h) winds.  And as many analysts including the Department of Energy have pointed out, grid resiliency is not increased by fossil fuels but by renewables.

That said, more has to be done to make solar farms in Puerto Rico capable of dealing with hurricane-force winds.  Existing solar farms had minimal to extensive damage during Maria.

Read more at Musk Is Only Somewhat Right that Tesla’s Solar & Storage Can Scale to Rebuild Puerto Rico’s Grid

Poll:  Americans Blame Wild Weather on Global Warming

In this Aug. 27, 2017, file photo, people look at submerged cars on a freeway flooded by Tropical Storm Harvey near downtown Houston, Texas. After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria blitzed the nation, most Americans think weather disasters are getting more severe and they see global warming’s fingerprints all over them. A new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research says 68 percent of those surveyed think weather disasters seem to be worsening, compared to 28 percent who think they are staying the same and only 4 percent who say they are less severe. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File) Click to Enlarge.
After hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria blitzed the nation, most Americans think weather disasters are getting more severe and see global warming’s fingerprints.

A new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 68 percent of Americans think weather disasters seem to be worsening, compared to 28 percent who think they are staying the same and only 4 percent who say they are less severe.

And 46 percent of those who think it’s getting worse blame man-made climate change mostly or solely for the wild weather, while another 39 percent say it’s a combination of global warming and natural variability.

“Just with all the hurricanes that are happening this year ... it just seems like things are kind of mixed up,” said Kathy Weber, a 46-year-old stay-at-home mom from Menomonie, Wisconsin.

When Hurricane Nate washed ashore in the Gulf Coast earlier this month, it was one of the first storms that Greg Thompson did not evacuate for.  Thompson, a retired pest control researcher in New Orleans, said “it’s pretty irrational” that people and politicians can deny global warming when the Gulf of Mexico is so much hotter than decades ago and storms seem so much more powerful.

“When so many things are happening and so many of them (storms) are intense and so many of them are once-in-500-year levels and they’re all occurring, it’s a pretty good sign global warming is having an effect,” Thompson said.

Read more at Poll:  Americans Blame Wild Weather on Global Warming

A Cheap Sodium Salt Battery Could Shake Up Grid Storage

Salt and Pepper batteries (Credit: Antrepo Design) Click to Enlarge.
Stanford University researchers have made a sodium-ion battery that can store the same amount of energy as today’s ubiquitous lithium-ion batteries at much lower cost.  The battery, reported in the journal Nature Energy, could provide a cheap, green way to store renewable energy.

Storing energy in batteries is going to be crucial as wind and solar power use climbs around the world.  Lithium batteries have been the workhorse for energy storage until now.  But the technology remains expensive and the supply of lithium is limited.

Batteries based on sodium would be much more cost-effective since battery-grade sodium salts are plentiful and they can store a lot of charge.

The Stanford team’s battery design has an anode made of phosphorus and a cathode made of disodium rhodizonate, one of the most promising materials for sodium-ion batteries.  All of these materials are abundant in nature:  rhodizonate ionic crystals are made from a natural compound found in plants.

Sodium rhodizonate should theoretically store four sodium ions, translating to a high capacity for storing electric charge (501 milliampere hours per gram).  But when the material is used in batteries, this storage capacity drops drastically with repeated battery charging.

So the researchers analyzed changes in the atomic-level structure of the cathode material as it takes up and releases sodium ions.  They found that by decreasing the size of sodium rhodizonate particles and using a special electrolyte, they could make these structural changes more reversible, so that the material can keep its high storage capacity.

Their battery has a reversible charge-storing capacity of 265 mAh/g and an energy-density higher than any sodium battery reported so far.  Its energy efficiency is over 87 percent.  The researchers say that it should cost less then 80 percent than a lithium-ion battery with the same storage capacity.

Next, the researchers plan to tackle the anode.  “This is already a good design, but we are confident that it can be improved by further optimizing the phosphorus anode,” Stanford materials science and engineering professor Yi Cui said in a press release.

Read more at A Cheap Sodium Salt Battery Could Shake Up Grid Storage

Trump’s New Environmental Nominee Says Carbon Dioxide Isn’t a Pollutant.

Kathleen Harnett White (Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett White to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office in charge of promoting the improvement of the environment.

Like many Trump picks who came before her, Hartnett White is an outspoken climate skeptic.  In an interview with the Washington Post last fall, she said, “Carbon dioxide has none of the characteristics of a pollutant that could harm human health.”

That’s not the only bonkers thing Trump’s nominee has said about climate change. Previously chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Hartnett White was a candidate for head of the EPA before the position went to another climate skeptic, Scott Pruitt.

In a column published in Townhall in 2015, Hartnett White wrote that “industrialized nations that utterly depend on the consumption of fossil fuels have not amplified environmental degradation of the natural world.”

And in an op-ed last year, she suggested that CO2 “may not be the cause of warming but instead a symptom of it.”

Read more at Trump’s New Environmental Nominee Says Carbon Dioxide Isn’t a Pollutant.