Sunday, January 29, 2017

Joint Statements on Climate Change from National Academies of Science Around the World

The Science of Climate Change (Statement of 17 National Science Academies, 2001) (Credit: science.sciencemag.org) Click to Enlarge.
National academies of sciences from around the world have published formal statements and declarations acknowledging the state of climate science, the fact that climate is changing, the compelling evidence that humans are responsible, and the need to debate and implement strategies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.  Not a single national science academy disputes or denies the scientific consensus around human-caused climate change.  A few examples of joint academy statements since 2000 on climate are listed here.  Many national academies have, in addition, published their own reports and studies on climate issues.  These are not included here.

Read more at Joint Statements on Climate Change from National Academies of Science Around the World

4 New Ways to Store Renewable Energy With Water - IEEE Spectrum

If Elon Musk has his way, in the future we'll all be storing renewable electricity inside big banks of lithium-ion batteries.  But let's not forget the energy storage situation today.  In the United States, 97 percent of utility-scale storage in 2014 was in pumped-storage hydroelectric plants, according to research by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee.

In traditional pumped hydro, a dam separates a lower reservoir from an upper reservoir.  When a utility company needs to store energy, the system pumps water from the bottom to the top.  It generates electricity when water flows back down through a turbine.  In 2015, Citibank estimated that the cost of power from pumped hydroelectric was about 5 percent of the cost of grid-scale battery-stored electricity.  The problem is that there are many places that "consume high amounts of power but don't have geological opportunities to build conventional pumped-storage plants," says Jochen Bard, an energy processing technology manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES), in Germany.

In 2017, a number of new pumped-hydro technologies should achieve milestones.  They aim to bring the low cost of the technology to geographies that ordinarily wouldn't allow it. Here are four you might hear about:

The Concrete Bunker
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Compressed-Air Bags
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Earth, Wind & Water: DNV GL’s energy island concept creates a lake in the ocean that stores wind energy by pumping water out. (Photo Credit: DNV GL) Click to Enlarge.
Energy Island
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Wind Turbines With Water Storage






Read more at 4 New Ways to Store Renewable Energy With Water - IEEE Spectrum

The War on Facts Is a War on Democracy - Scientific American Blog Network

In a time when facts don’t matter, and science is being muzzled, American democracy is the real victim


Trump [Credit: Gage Skidmore Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)] Click to Enlarge.
There is a new incumbent in the White House, a new Congress has been sworn in, and scientists around the country are nervous as hell.

We’re nervous because there seems to be a seismic shift going on in Washington, D.C., and its relationship with facts, scientific reality, and objective truth has never been more strained.

Already, in the opening days of his administration, Mr. Trump’s Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, willfully ignored clear, empirical evidence about the size of the inauguration crowds, and bristled at the suggestion experts said they were smaller than in years past.  He seemed almost paranoid, and insinuated that a media conspiracy—rather than simple arithmetic—was trying to embarrass his boss.  And the Trump Administration continues to claim, without any evidence, that widespread voter fraud cost Mr. Trump the popular vote, even though this has been thoroughly debunked by numerous, bipartisan sources—including his own lawyers.

Even more bizarrely, Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to Mr. Trump, has offered up the notion that “alternative facts”, rather than actual truth, were in play now.  I don’t know what “alternative facts” are, but I think my parent’s generation would have called them “falsehoods” or even “lies.”

But it’s not just absence of facts that’s troubling, it is the apparent effort to derail science and the pursuit of facts themselves.

Read more at The War on Facts Is a War on Democracy - Scientific American Blog Network

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Will Global Warming Make Hurricane Forecasting More Difficult?

Great Galveston Hurricane (Credit: wunderground.com) Click to Enlarge.
Will Global Warming Make Hurricane Forecasting More Difficult?  That’s the title and provocative premise of a new paper by MIT hurricane scientist Kerry Emanuel (early online PDF available here from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.)  Dr. Emanuel makes the case that the most dangerous storms—tropical cyclones that intensify rapidly just before landfall, catching forecasters and populations off guard, thereby risking large casualties—are likely to become increasingly frequent and severe as the globe warms, increasing from one such storm every 100 years to one every 5 - 10 years.

Tropical Cyclone Mortality Dominated by a Small Number of Events
Since 1971, tropical cyclones (which include all hurricanes, typhoons, tropical storms, and tropical depressions) have killed 470,000 people (about 10,000 per year) and caused $700 billion in damage, according to the international disaster database, EM-DAT.  Most of these deaths were caused by just a few storms—for example, three Atlantic hurricanes (the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the 1928 Lake Okeechobee hurricane, and Hurricane Katrina of 2005)—caused 56% of all U.S. hurricane deaths since 1900.

Increased vulnerability due to growing coastal populations
In recent years, better tropical cyclones forecasts have resulted in reduced death tolls and lower damages than would otherwise have occurred.  However, a large increase in coastal population resulted in an almost three-fold increase in the global population exposed to tropical cyclone hazards between 1970 and 2010 (Peduzza et al., 2012.)  This helped fuel an increase in tropical cyclone damages of about 6% per year between 1970 and 2015, according to EM-DAT.  Thus, much improved forecasts and/or major reductions in vulnerability though better preparedness and building codes are needed to avoid increasing tropical cyclone death tolls in the coming decades.

Poor intensity forecasts make us vulnerable
While track forecasts of hurricanes have improved by more than a factor of two over the past 20 years, intensity forecasts have shown little improvement.  Dr. Emanuel gives four reasons for this:
  1. Very high resolution computer models are needed (1 km resolution or better), which are beyond the capability of modern computers to run economically.
  2. We have poor understanding of and models of the processes in the lowest few hundred meters of the atmosphere (the boundary layer).
  3. We have difficulty modeling how the top few hundred meters of the ocean responds to a storm.
  4. The process of taking observations that show a dramatic variation over short distances and correctly initializing a hurricane model with these observations is difficult.
The 2016 hurricane season gave us two humbling examples of how far we still have to go with intensity forecasts.  As Hurricane Matthew drifted across the southern Caribbean Sea in late September, the hurricane rocketed in strength from Category 1 to Category 5 in just 24 hours (from 80 mph sustained winds at 03Z on September 30 to 160 mph at 03Z on October 1).  The official NHC forecast at the start of this day-long burst was for Matthew to take three days to top out at high-end Category 2 strength (105 mph).  Less dramatic but still eye-opening was Nicole’s surge from Category 1 to Category 4 strength in the Northwest Atlantic over just 21 hours (from 90 mph sustained winds at 06Z on October 12 to 135 mph at 03Z on October 13). Like Matthew, Nicole had also been predicted at the start of its rapid strengthening to remain just below the major hurricane threshold (Category 3).  Dr. Emanuel gives an additional troubling example of a rapid intensification evert that was poorly forecasted:  Hurricane Patricia of October 2015, which hit a relatively unpopulated portion of the Pacific coast of Mexico as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds after topping out as the strongest tropical cyclone ever measured—215 mph sustained winds.  During a 24-hour period from October 22 at 06 GMT to October 23 at 06 GMT, Patricia intensified by an astonishing 120 mph—from an 85 mph Category 1 storm to a 205 mph Category 5 storm.  During this same period, the National Hurricane Center predicted an intensification by only 35 mph. Dr. Emanuel notes, “Had the storm made landfall at the end of this period of rapid intensification, the result could have been catastrophic given the poor anticipation of the magnitude of the event.”

Read more at Will Global Warming Make Hurricane Forecasting More Difficult?

Trump’s Border Wall Will Be Awful for the Environment

It will create millions of tons of carbon dioxide and cause ecological damage—but on the bright side, it may raise gas prices.



Wall (Photograph Credit: Guillermo Arias | Getty) Click to Enlarge.
Projected wall
We’ve already shown that the wall could cost as much as $40 billion to build.  But the materials required to build it would take their toll on the environment.  A 1,000-mile  that's 50 feet tall with 15 feet underground and one-foot thick would require 9.7 million cubic meters of concrete and 2.3 billion kilograms of steel.

According to According to figures from the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment at University of Bath, there are about 380 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions for every cubic meter of concrete poured.  So the wall’s concrete could produce up to 3.7 million tons of CO2.  (Some of that will actually be absorbed by the concrete over time, but only slowly.)

Then, depending on the quantity of recycled metal within it, there are around 1.8 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions embodied within a kilogram of steel.  That means the steel would contribute a further 4.1 million metric tons of CO2.

All told, the wall will tally 7.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Read more at Trump’s Border Wall Will Be Awful for the Environment

Friday, January 27, 2017

  Friday, Jan 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.

For U.S. Jobs Creation, Renewables Are a Better Bet than Coal - IEEE Spectrum

Solar Farm (Credit: IEEE Spectrum) Click to Enlarge.
For jobs creation, the new Trump administration would do well to take a fresh look at clean energy rather than focusing only on fossil fuels.  The solar power sector employed twice as many workers in 2016 than power generation from coal, gas and oil combined, according to a U.S. Department of Energy report on employment in energy and energy efficiency.

The solar workforce was about 374,000-strong, making up around 43% of the total employees in the power generation field.  Wind power employed 101,738 workers, an increase of 25%.  Coal, gas and oil-fired generation together accounted for just over 187,000 jobs, or 22% of the workforce.

A majority of fossil fuel energy jobs are in mining and extraction rather than power generation, but these jobs are declining.  Coal mining reached its peak employment in 2012, and now employs around 53,000.  Oil and gas extraction jobs reached a peak in 2014 with 541,000 jobs, and in mid-2016 had 388,000 workers.
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Even if President Trump can delay coal power plant retirement, the job payoff will be small, according to the Christian Science Monitor. The coal industry might have better long-term success if it was made cleaner using carbon capture and storage technologies.

Read more at For U.S. Jobs Creation, Renewables Are a Better Bet than Coal

Climate and Health Summit Scheduled to Replace One CDC Scrapped

Al Gore helped organize the replacement meeting, after the official one was canceled by the Centers for Disease Control following Donald Trump's election


Former Vice President Al Gore helped organize a replacement meeting for a cancelled climate and health summit. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Former Vice President Al Gore and public health experts will hold a climate change and health meeting in mid-February as a replacement for a similar conference recently canceled by the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC event was scrapped after President Trump's election in an apparent act of self-censorship.  The Trump administration has moved quickly to scrub climate-related content from federal websites and limit communications between scientific agencies and the public.

Health experts have joined in the chorus of those alarmed by Trump's early actions.

"Climate change is already affecting our health," Georges Benjamin, executive director of American Public Health Association (AHPA), said in a press release about the reinstated health conference.  "This meeting fills an important void and will strengthen the public health response to this growing threat."

Read more at Climate and Health Summit Scheduled to Replace One CDC Scrapped

  Thursday, Jan 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.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Climate March to Descend on Washington in April

The next People's Climate March is being organized to protest President Trump's agenda of attacking climate action and promoting fossil fuel development.


Organizers hope the next People's Climate March in Washington rivals the turnout of the one in New York in 2014, when more than 400,000 people rallied for climate action. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Motivated by the success of the women's march last weekend, as well as the Trump administration's efforts to revamp the nation's environmental protection and science policy, advocacy groups have announced a People's Climate March on Washington for April 29.

A steering committee of more than two dozen organizations is organizing the event.  It is supported by the major national environmental groups and an array of social justice, religious, and labor groups, ranging from the Hip Hop Caucus to the Franciscan Action Network to the BlueGreen Alliance.  More than 100 groups have endorsed the march.

The People's Climate effort is recreating the coalition that put together the largest climate march in history:  when 400,000 people gathered in the streets of New York City in September 2014 to coincide with the United Nations general assembly.

This time, the groups are turning their sights on Washington, where Donald Trump is embarking on his agenda for his first 100 days, which aims to sweep aside climate protections and expand fossil fuel development.

Climate activist Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org wrote in a story in Rolling Stone magazine that the purpose of the march was "to show the election didn't cancel physics."

"Politicians need to be reminded, even as they do the bidding of the industry, that the rest of us are watching," McKibben wrote, noting that the march will take place on the 100th day of the Trump administration.  "His early surge can't be avoided, but it can be slowed."

Read more at Climate March to Descend on Washington in April

Climate Change Paper Studies Carbon Uptake in Ecosystems

A new report delves into one of the great uncertainties in predicting future climate: carbon uptake in ecosystems.


Climate sensitivity of terrestrial carbon cycle processes over the last three decades. (Credit: nature.com) Click to Enlarge.
A new paper out Jan. 23 in the journal Nature Climate Change by University of Montana researcher Ashley Ballantyne delves into one of the great uncertainties in predicting future climate.

"Will ecosystems take up more carbon or release more carbon as the climate changes?" Ballantyne said.  "This is a key question in trying to predict what the climate might look like in the future."

Together with former UM doctoral student William Smith, Ballantyne investigated the sensitivity of these carbon feedbacks.  While carbon dioxide has increased steadily over the last 50 years, Earth's temperatures have increased in an erratic stair-step pattern due to redistribution of energy in Earth system.

"We were curious to learn how Earth's carbon cycle responded during periods of rapid warming and periods of less rapid warming," Ballantyne said.  "We discovered that the amount of carbon taken up by land ecosystems slows during periods of rapid warming and speeds up during periods of slower warming."

Read more at Climate Change Paper Studies Carbon Uptake in Ecosystems

EPA Pick Pruitt Abandoned Environmental Protections in Oklahoma, Lawyers Say

Legal experts say Scott Pruitt did not pursue enforcement of environmental laws in favor of industries that were also among his biggest political donors.

At his Senate confirmation hearing for EPA chief, Scott Pruitt argued he had pursued cases to protect Oklahoma's environment as state attorney general. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Environmental lawyers from Oklahoma joined the chorus of those pressuring U.S. senators to reject President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.  They argue Pruitt abandoned environmental cases and regulation in his state, in favor of polluting oil, gas and agricultural industry interests.

The lawyers met with members from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works this week, rebutting Pruitt's claims during his confirmation hearing that he has taken steps to protect the environment.

Their criticisms go back to the beginning of Pruitt's tenure.  Shortly after taking office in 2011, Pruitt dismantled the office's Environmental Protection Unit, established by his Democratic predecessor in 1996 to pursue violators of the state's environmental laws.  The unit pursued dozens of cases against polluters, especially in the farming industry.  In 1997, it helped establish the state's Environmental Crimes Task Force, which launched 142 investigations and 56 criminal prosecutions, according to the unit's former chief, Kelly Hunter Foster.

In his confirmation hearing last week, Pruitt referred to a list of environmental cases his office has pursued.  That list cites 15 cases, all but three inherited from his predecessor.

Read more at EPA Pick Pruitt Abandoned Environmental Protections in Oklahoma, Lawyers Say

Nation’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Will Be Built Off Long Island - The New York Times

The Long Island Power Authority’s board on Wednesday approved a wind farm for the waters between the eastern tip of Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard. “It is the largest project to date, but it will not be the last project,” said Thomas Falcone, center, chief executive of the utility. (Credit: Donna Alberico for The New York Times) Click to Enlarge.
Seeking to meet growing electric demand in the Hamptons with renewable energy, the Long Island Power Authority approved the nation’s largest offshore wind farm on Wednesday, set for the waters between the eastern tip of Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

The farm, with as many as 15 turbines capable of powering 50,000 average homes over all, is the first of several planned by the developer, Deepwater Wind.  It will be in a 256-square-mile parcel, with room for as many as 200 turbines, that the company is leasing from the federal government.
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Wind power has struggled to take off in the United States, but the Long Island project signals that the long-awaited promise of a new, lower-carbon source of electricity is poised to become part of the national energy mix.

Read more at Nation’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Will Be Built Off Long Island

Antarctic Bottom Waters Freshening at Unexpected Rate

Shift could disturb ocean circulation and hasten sea level rise, researchers say


In some places along the Antarctic coast, ice formation causes seawater to grow saltier and therefore denser, so that it sinks to the sea floor. Known as the Antarctic Bottom Waters (AABW), these deep, cold waters play a critical role in regulating circulation, temperature, and availability of oxygen and nutrients throughout the world's oceans. (Credit: Eric Taylor, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) Click to Enlarge.
In the cold depths along the sea floor, Antarctic Bottom Waters are part of a global circulatory system, supplying oxygen-, carbon- and nutrient-rich waters to the world's oceans.  Over the last decade, scientists have been monitoring changes in these waters.  But a new study suggests these changes are themselves shifting in unexpected ways, with potentially significant consequences for the ocean and climate.

Read more at Antarctic Bottom Waters Freshening at Unexpected Rate

  Wednesday, Jan 25

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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Turning Point:  Solar Cheaper Than Wind

It was bound to happen, and apparently it has:  utility-scale solar-generated power, certainly in sunny parts of the world, appears to be cheaper than wind and both are cheaper than fossil-fuel generated power, writes Fereidoon Sionshansi, president of Menlo Energy Economics and publisher of the newsletter EEnergy Informer

Solar Surprise: Prices Fall Below Wind (Credit: BNEF) Click to Enlarge.The headline news – long awaited by renewable enthusiasts – is based on a number of recent competitive auctions in sunny deserts of Chile and the Middle East resulting in record-cheap solar prices. (Read the fine print for details of when, where and under what conditions this applies.)

According to the latest data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), unsubsidized large-scale solar is beginning to beat not only wind but also coal and natural gas at current prices.  If true, and if the same begins to apply elsewhere, it will be a turning point in global electricity markets making solar-generated power the cheapest form of electricity generation.

More Solar Added than Wind in 2016 (Credit: EIA) Click to Enlarge.
The BNEF’s accompanying chart, which shows the average cost of new wind and solar from 58 recently completed projects and/or auctions in places such as China, India, and Brazil suggests that the solar’s steep price drop since 2010 has caught up with wind – which has more or less held steady in the recent past.
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BNEF’s Liebreich acknowledges that, “… the overall shift to clean energy can be more expensive in wealthier nations, where electricity demand is flat or falling and new solar must compete with existing billion-dollar coal and gas plants,” adding, “But in countries that are adding new electricity capacity as quickly as possible, renewable energy will beat any other technology in most of the world without subsidies.
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Not surprisingly, BNEF concludes that emerging markets have taken the lead over the 35 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) in renewable investment.  In 2015, the former invested $154.1 billion compared to $153.7 billion by OECD members, a trends that is likely to gather momentum.  The lower costs of renewables and the need for new capacity additions makes renewables a good fit for rapidly growing economies.  Climate concerns and the Paris Agreement to cut down emissions is mere icing on the cake.

Read more at Turning Point:  Solar Cheaper Than Wind

Toxic Algae May Thrive as Climate and Oceans Warm, Study Says

As oceans soak up the Earth's excess heat, algae blooms that can have fatal implications to humans are becoming far more common, researchers show.


Toxic algae blooms have plagued the California coast like this outbreak that killed or sickened thousands of animals that volunteers raced to save. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
A newly established link between warmer ocean temperatures and toxin-spawning algae provides the latest sign that climate change is causing biological disturbances in the oceans.  Scientists tracked West Coast outbreaks of the planktonic algae back to 1991, finding them strongly correlated with warm phases of Pacific Ocean cycles.

The new research, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on a single-cell species of phytoplankton called Pseudo-nitzschia.  It produces domoic acid, which can be fatal to humans if consumed at high levels by eating shellfish.  Domoic acid has also been implicated in mass die-offs of marine mammals, including sea lions, sea otters, dolphins and whales.

A 2015 Pseudo-nitzschia bloom from the central California coast up to Alaska was the most widespread on record, taking a $100 million bite out of the Dungeness crab industry in Washington, Oregon and California, according to NOAA.  Scientists monitor for the toxin and close down fisheries when it reaches dangerous levels.  There were unprecedented outbreaks of similar pathogens around the world that year, which was Earth's warmest on record (until it was surpassed by 2016).

Researchers have documented the changes to plankton cycles in recent years, including bigger and longer-lasting blooms spreading to new territory.  Evidence points to ocean warming as a big part of the problem, with some regional nuances.  In 2014, a European Union science report concluded that toxic algae blooms will increase under climate change.

Read more at Toxic Algae May Thrive as Climate and Oceans Warm, Study Says

States, Not Trump, Will Decide Future of U.S. Energy

Solar Panels (Photo Credit: Slimdandy via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
With the coming change of administration in the U.S., speculation on the future of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) is running high.  During the campaign, the president-elect made his views on climate change—it’s a hoax perpetrated by China—perfectly clear; and, since the election, he has appointed people to key agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy (DOE)—who have, by word or action, expressed similar skepticism.  The transition team has made a very public inquiry into the current work of DOE, targeting for special investigation those officials who have been engaged in climate-change-related activities.  There is every reason, therefore, to conclude that the next president will act as these behaviors foretell, and cease all efforts that are dedicated to mitigating global warming.  Foremost among them will be abandonment of the CPP.

It won’t necessarily be easy.  The CPP is an adopted rule under federal law responding to a finding (upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court) that carbon pollution endangers public health.  A president lacks the authority to unilaterally withdraw it.  It is true that the CPP has been “stayed”—that is, its implementation has been delayed pending judicial review—but supporters remain optimistic that it will survive scrutiny by the Supreme Court.  The likelihood of this happening may be affected by the new president’s appointment of a justice to the ninth seat on the Court, which had been kept controversially vacant by the Republican-controlled Senate since the death of Antonin Scalia a year ago.  In any event, we cannot expect the new administration to defend the CPP in court or to put much effort into implementing it, if indeed it is upheld.

It seems safe, then, to assume that the CPP will become dead paper, for the next four years at least.  What does this mean for U.S. action on climate change?  An optimist will say “Perhaps less than one might fear.”  The reasons for this is simple:  the states.

The power of states
Climate change is, at its core, an energy problem, a problem of how we produce and use energy.  The states have long recognized this and have led the clean energy revolution.  The federal government has never set a comprehensive, coherent national energy policy.  Yes, over the years, Congress has acted variously to support nuclear power and some renewables, the exploitation of domestic fossil-fuel resources, and the opening up of the electric grid to independent power producers; but, at the national level, there has been no real attempt at comprehensive reform to drive energy production and use toward the lowest cost and least environmentally harmful resources.

The states stepped into the breach.  Under the powers reserved to them by the U.S. Constitution, these “laboratories of democracy” over the last forty years have filled the void created by federal inaction.  They have recognized that environmental damage is a real cost of energy use and therefore made investment in end-use energy efficiency the law of the land, as the first resource to meet demand for energy services, not the last.  They have developed and implemented programs for financing renewable technologies, until those technologies are able to compete on fair terms in the market.  They have created new markets to provide not only electricity, but also the unique services—flexibility and balancing—that electricity production needs, because kilowatt-hours cannot yet be easily or economically stored.  They have seen how technological change has made small-scale, distributed clean energy a reality, and made it possible for consumers to manage their demand in ways that benefit the system and save money.  And they have implemented programs that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions and create revenue streams for direct investment in clean energy measures—that is, in end-use efficiency and renewables—that accelerate emissions reduction and drive down the costs of compliance.  The cumulative national carbon effects of state actions are already projected to achieve nearly all of what the CPP would require by 2030.

Read more at States, Not Trump, Will Decide Future of U.S. Energy

Will Rooftop Solar Really Add to Utility Costs?

Installing Rooftop PV Panels(Photo Credit: Lester Lefkowitz / spectrum.ieee.org) Click to Enlarge.
Regulations in most states obligate utilities to derive some of their electricity generating capacity from renewable sources.  Unsurprisingly, the most widely available options—wind and solar—dominate.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that by 2050, solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation will contribute 16 percent of the world’s electricity, and 20 percent of that capacity will come from from residential installations.

By offering local generation, residential or rooftop PV reduces the need for transmission facilities to move power from large generating stations to distribution substations.  But the effect on the distribution grid is less straightforward.  The conventional distribution grid is designed for neither two-way power flow nor large generation capacity.  So the prevailing thought is that the grid will need a costly upgrade to accommodate the high PV penetration. Our study within the Full Cost of Electricity program aims to estimate the cost of maximizing residential PV capacity without any grid impacts.  The bottom line?  We found that even without hardware upgrades to the distribution circuits, such circuits can handle significant solar generation.

Read more at Will Rooftop Solar Really Add to Utility Costs?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

  Tuesday, Jan 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.

Trump Revives Keystone XL, Dakota Access Pipelines

Protesters outside the State Department office in Boston in October, 2013. (Credit: Kayana Szymczak/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
President Trump signed executive orders on Tuesday advancing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, breathing new life into projects that were halted by the Obama administration and vehemently opposed by environmental and Native American groups.

Trump said that the U.S. would renegotiate both pipelines, which were stopped by the Obama administration because of their effects on the environment and climate.  In taking the action, Trump fulfilled a pledge he made to voters on the campaign trail.
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The Obama administration declined to permit Keystone XL in 2015 because it would not substantially contribute to the U.S. economy and did not align with U.S. climate policy, which at the time called for cutting U.S. carbon emissions to keep global warming below levels scientists consider dangers — 2°C (3.6°F).
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The Canadian oil sands are among the continent’s worst climate polluters, dumping at least 17 percent more carbon emissions into the atmosphere than conventional oil.

Read more at Trump Revives Keystone XL, Dakota Access Pipelines

In Message to Trump, EU Says Will Remain Top Investor Against Climate Change

European Investment Bank (EIB) President Werner Hoyer (Credit: Olivier Hoslet/EPA) Click to Enlarge.
The European Investment Bank, the EU's lending institution, will maintain a target of investing around 20 billion dollars a year to fight climate change over the next five years, it said on Tuesday, sending a warning to climate skeptics.

Climate investment is already about a quarter of EIB total loans. Last year the bank lent 83.8 billion euros ($90 billion), of which 19 billion went to projects to counter climate change.

"We, Europeans, must lead the free world against climate skeptics," the EIB president Werner Hoyer said at a news conference in Brussels.
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Hoyer said the bank would maintain ambitious targets against global warming.  "We aim to provide $100 billion for climate action over the next five years, the largest contribution of any single multilateral institution," he said.

Read more at In Message to Trump, EU Says Will Remain Top Investor Against Climate Change

Two-Thirds of Americans Disagree with Trump’s Focus on Fossil Fuels

The president promises to boost oil and coal, but Americans’ interest in renewable energy is growing.

Pew Pole Results (Credit: Pew Research Center) Click to Enlarge.
As President Donald Trump prepares to boost fossil fuel production, a Pew Research Center poll finds that 65 percent of Americans would rather the U.S. focus on developing clean energy.

The new poll, released Monday, shows that 27 percent said fossil fuels should be a priority, compared with 65 percent who favored renewable energy.  Public support for renewable fuels has risen 5 percentage points since 2014, Pew said, with 81 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of Republicans now backing it as a priority.  Among those aged 18 to 49, 73 percent favored renewables, compared with half of those over 50.

Read more at Two-Thirds of Americans Disagree with Trump’s Focus on Fossil Fuels

EPA Freezes Grants, Tells Employees Not to Talk About It, Sources Say

It’s unclear whether the freeze is temporary or indefinite.


EPA logo (Credit: EPA) Click to Enlarge.
The Environmental Protection Agency has frozen its grant programs, according to sources there.

EPA staff has been instructed to freeze all its grants ― an extensive program that includes funding for research, redevelopment of former industrial sites, air quality monitoring and education, among other things ― and told not to discuss this order with anyone outside the agency, according to a Hill source with knowledge of the situation. 

An EPA staffer provided the information to the congressional office anonymously, fearing retaliation.

It’s unclear whether the freeze is indefinite or temporary as the agency transitions fully to the Trump administration; the Senate has not yet confirmed Trump’s pick for EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt.  It’s also not clear the immediate impact the grant freeze would have on programs across the country, since EPA grants are distributed at varying intervals and frequency. 

Read more at EPA Freezes Grants, Tells Employees Not to Talk About It, Sources Say

Monday, January 23, 2017

  Monday, Jan 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.

Trump’s Pick for Agriculture Secretary Is a Climate Denier, Too

Sonny Perdue wrote in 2014 that “ridiculous” climate warnings have become a “running joke.”


Sonny Perdue, former Republican governor of Georgia, arrives at Trump Tower on Nov. 30. President Donald Trump has nominated Perdue to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Credit: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool Via Bloomberg/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
It appears to be a recurring theme among President Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees:  climate skepticism. 

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), whom Trump named Thursday as his nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has continued that trend.

Perdue, 70, is well known for leading a prayer for rain to end a drought in Georgia in 2007, but his record of adherence to questionable environmental science doesn’t stop there.
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Perdue’s stance on climate change — which appears to be in line with Trump’s nominees to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department and Department of Energy — is important because the agriculture industry both contributes to the problem and bears the brunt of its consequences.

About 9 percent of the nation’s total emissions can be directly linked to agriculture, according to the latest EPA figures.  These emissions come from livestock, which produce methane, and soil management practices, such as the use of fertilizer and tillage, that emit nitrous oxide.

Looking at the problem through an international lens, the problem is more significant.  The World Resources Institute estimates that 13 percent of global emissions can be linked to farming, and that appears to be on the rise.

Read more at Trump’s Pick for Agriculture Secretary Is a Climate Denier, Too

Will Theresa May Tackle Trump on Climate?

UK prime minister Theresa May is packing her bags – she’ll be in Washington DC to meet the new man in the White House this coming Friday.


Theresa May (Credit: Pic Number 10/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Downing Street won’t say if climate change will make the talking points when May meets Trump – but in an interview on the BBC on Sunday she said trade and security would feature.

“I will be talking to Donald Trump about the issues we share and how we can build on the special relationship,” she said.  “It is the special relationship that allows us to say when something is unacceptable.

“Whenever there is something I find unacceptable, I won’t be afraid to say that to Donald Trump.”

Foreign leaders Trump has already spoken to include Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.

ICYM – Team Trump did not wait long to make their mark.
Soon after the bronzed billionaire made his inaugural address the White House website underwent a rapid re-vamp, losing all references to climate change.

Instead a series of pledges to erase Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, support so-called clean coal and reduce “burdensome regulations” were listed as priorities.

California’s climate plan
With impeccable timing California released its own climate plan on Friday:  aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Here’s the basics from a press release:
“The proposed plan continues the Cap-and-Trade Program through 2030 and includes a new approach to reduce greenhouse gases from refineries by 20 percent.  It incorporates approaches to cutting super pollutants from the Short Lived Climate Pollutants Strategy.  And it acknowledges the need for reducing emissions in agriculture and highlights the work underway to ensure that California’s natural and working lands increasingly sequester carbon.”
UK industrial plan
The government will deliver a  draft set of proposals for a new industrial strategy on Monday – which will offer a sense of how green this government’s thinking is.

Here’s May’s spiel in the pre-launch bumpf:  “Our modern Industrial Strategy is a critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain.  As we leave the EU it will help us grasp the bigger prize:  the chance to build that stronger, fairer Britain that stands tall in the world and is set up to succeed in the long-term.”
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Healthy journalism
... The medical journal The Lancet has just officially announced this month that it is launching The Lancet Planetary Health, a new online open access title looking specifically at the intersection of climate and environmental issues with health.

Read more at Will Theresa May Tackle Trump on Climate?

G20 Farm Ministers Seek to Protect Precious Water Supplies

People arrive for the G20 agriculture ministers meeting in Berlin, Germany, January 22, 2017. (Credit: Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke) Click to Enlarge.
Greater global efforts should be taken to safeguard precious world water supplies to secure food production, the agriculture ministers of the group of 20 leading economies (G20) said on Sunday.

"We commit to approaches that improve sustainability of water use in food and agricultural production while ensuring food security and nutrition in accordance with our multilateral trade commitments," they said in a statement after meeting in Berlin.

Climate change, the growing world population and demands for industrialization have put a strain on global water supplies, with the impact felt on rich and poor nations.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation warned in December that 12 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia need food aid as farmers struggle with the impact of repeated droughts, compelling Ethiopia to make major wheat imports.

Saudi Arabia has been ending its crop farming to save precious water and has been importing food instead.

"We will protect water and water-related ecosystems by encouraging water-friendly, sustainable agricultural practices and technologies that enhance the water quality and resilience of water bodies," the G20 statement on Sunday said.

"We are therefore committed to developing and implementing corresponding strategies at the national level," it added.

Global farming needs sustainable water supplies to feed the growing world population and provide the basis for world peace and stability, the meeting's host, German agriculture minister Christian Schmidt, said.

Read more at G20 Farm Ministers Seek to Protect Precious Water Supplies

Prehistoric Alert for Future Sea Level

Warning for coastal cities as research shows that it is 120,000 years since the global sea level was substantially higher than it is now.


Coastal flooding in the US capital, Washington D.C. (Image Credit: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño) Click to Enlarge.
The prehistoric past may have just delivered an ominous warning for the future.  Around 120,000 years ago, global average temperatures were roughly the same as they are now − and the global mean sea level was at least six meters and possibly nine meters higher than at present.

If that sea level was replicated, it would be enough to drown much of New York, London, Miami, Shanghai, Amsterdam, or any other great coastal city.

At the last count 634 million people were living at sea level or no higher than 10 meters above it, on the coastal plains of Bangladesh, China, Guyana, Egypt, Vietnam, Gambia, Netherlands, the Nile delta, and many more areas.

But it is not certain that prehistory will repeat itself:  what happened during a warm spell in the last Ice Age is at the moment no more than a guide to what could happen in centuries to come.
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“The study suggests that, in the long term, sea level will rise six meters at least in response to the warming we are causing.

“The good news is that, with luck, it will continue to rise slowly, so that we have time to adapt, but the bad news is that eventually all our present coastal city locations will be inundated.”

Read more at Prehistoric Alert for Future Sea Level

  Sunday, Jan 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.