Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lots of Popular Climate Change Articles Aren’t Totally Credible, Scientists Say

25 Most Shared Climate Articles on Social Media in 2017 (Credit: Climate Feedback) Click to Enlarge.
Some of these articles are sensationalized very nearly to the point of inaccuracy.  Others are cases of “elaborate misinformation.”

A review from Climate Feedback, a group of scientists who survey climate change news to determine whether it’s scientifically sound, looked at the 25 most-shared stories last year that focused on the science of climate change or global warming.

Of those, only 11 were rated as credible, meaning they contained no major inaccuracies. Five were considered borderline inaccurate.  The remaining nine, including New York Magazine’s viral The Uninhabitable Earth, were found to have low or very low credibility.  However, even the top-rated articles were noted as somewhat misleading.  (Read the reviews here.) 

“We see a lot of inaccurate stories,” Emmanuel Vincent, a research scientist at the University of California and the founder of Climate Feedback, told Grist.  Each scientist at Climate Feedback holds a Ph.D. and has recently published articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Vincent says that the New York Times and Washington Post are the two main sources that Climate Feedback has found “consistently publish information that is accurate and influential.”  (He notes that Grist’s Ice Apocalypse by Eric Holthaus also made the credibility cut.)

“You need to find the line between being catchy and interesting without overstepping what the science can support,” he says.

Read original at Lots of Popular Climate Change Articles Aren’t Totally Credible, Scientists Say

Shell, Swedfund, ENGIE Invest $20 Million in Rural Distributed Renewables in Asia & Africa

Husk mini-grid (Credit: Husk) Click to Enlarge.
Husk Power Systems, a leading rural distributed utility company which operates mini-grids in Asia and Africa, has announced the closure of a $20 million equity investment from Shell, Swedfund, and ENGIE, which will serve to accelerate the company’s growth in the global mini-grid market

Established in 2007, Husk Power Systems is known for designing, building, and operating one of the world’s lowest-cost hybrid power plant and distribution networks in India and Tanzania, and has developed a proprietary system by combining and synchronizing solar PV, biomass gasification system, and batteries, which provides highly reliable and 24/7 power in areas where traditional power systems either don’t exist or are ineffective.  Husk also provides its customers with a “pay-as-you-go” system using mobile smart monitoring services.

“Together with our strategic partners, we are now confident of achieving our vision of becoming the world’s largest rural utility company providing 24/7, 100% renewable and affordable power to drive inclusive and sustainable development in growth markets,” said Manoj Sinha, CEO and co-founder of Husk Power Systems.  “We believe that mini-grids are the most capital efficient way to help reach 100% national electrification goals.”

The $20 million equity investment announced this week was joined by Shell Technology Ventures LLC, Swedish development finance institution Swedfund International, and ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies — ENGIE group’s impact investment fund.

“We see Husk as a leading player providing reliable and affordable energy to off-grid and weak-grid communities in India and Africa and we believe they have a very credible business model,” said Brian Davis, Vice President, Integrated Energy Solutions for New Energies at Shell.  “We believe that decentralized solutions will play an important role in providing productive energy to customers who currently lack reliable power.  This investment is an important step for our Energy Access portfolio and we look forward to helping the business to scale and reach its growth aspirations.”

Read more at Shell, Swedfund, ENGIE Invest $20 Million in Rural Distributed Renewables in Asia & Africa

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday, Jan 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.

Solar Grabs Half of Global Renewables Investment in 2017, Reaching $161 Billion

In its recently released annual figures, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said that solar led the way in global renewable energy investments.


Solar panels are sold alongside food in a market in Burkina Faso. (Photograph Credit: Joerg Boethling/Alamy) Click to Enlarge.
The global investment in solar reached about $161 billion last year, according to new annual figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

That total is an increase of 18 percent over the previous year, and represents almost half of the total global investment in renewable energy and energy-smart technologies of $334 billion.

BNEF said that solar investments in 2017 were up 3 percent over 2016.

Jon Moore, BNEF chief executive, said in a statement that the total investment for 2017 was remarkable considering that capital costs for solar technology continue to fall sharply.  Typical utility-scale PV systems, he said, were about 25 percent cheaper per megawatt last year than they were two years earlier, when global investments in renewables and clean tech reached a record $360.3 billion.

About half the total global investment in solar in 2017 was spent in China.

“China installed about 20 GW more solar capacity in 2017 than BNEF forecast, according to Justin Wu, head of Asia-Pacific for BNEF.  Wu said that increase happened for two reasons; “first, despite a growing subsidy burden and worsening power curtailment, China's regulators, under pressure from the industry, were slow to curb build of utility-scale projects outside allocated government quotas.  Developers of these projects are assuming they will be allocated subsidy in future years.

“Second, the cost of solar continues to fall in China, and more projects are being deployed on rooftops, in industrial parks or at other distributed locales.  These systems are not limited by the government quota.  Large energy consumers in China are now installing solar panels to meet their own demand, with a minimal premium subsidy.”

Overall, BNEF said that Chinese investment in all the clean energy technologies was a record $132.6 billion.  The next biggest investing country was the U.S., at $56.9 billion, up 1 percent over 2016.

Read more at Solar Grabs Half of Global Renewables Investment in 2017, Reaching $161 Billion

24-Hour Solar Energy:  Molten Salt Makes It Possible, and Prices Are Falling Fast

Molten salt storage in concentrated solar power plants could meet the electricity-on-demand role of coal and gas, allowing more old, fossil fuel plants to retire.


Falling Prices for CSP Plants  (Credit: Paul Horn/Inside Climate News) Click to Enlarge.
The first thing you see of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility, and you can be miles away, is a light so bright you can't look directly at it.  This sits atop a 640-foot cement tower, rising from the flat, empty Nevada desert around the halfway point on the highway from Reno to Las Vegas.  The tower's surrounded by a nearly two-mile-wide field of mirrors that send shimmering beams of light into the sky.
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What people are actually seeing is a 110-megawatt concentrated solar power (CSP) plant, built and operated by SolarReserve of Santa Monica, California.  It's not from outer space, but there's not yet anything quite like it of this size anywhere else on the planet. 

SolarReserve is trying to prove that the technology that drives Crescent Dunes can make solar power an affordable, carbon-free, day-and-night energy source, dispatched on the electric grid like any fossil fuel plant.  Here, concentrated sunlight heats molten salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit in that shimmering tower; then the salt gets stored in a giant insulated tank and can be tapped to make steam to run a turbine.

If this plant and several similar facilities under construction, or soon to be, prove reliable, the technology is poised to take off.  Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels can displace fossil fuels during the day, and wind turbines can do the same as long as it's windy.  But molten salt towers may be able to meet the challenge of electricity on demand, and push more older, dirtier fossil-fuel plants into retirement.
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The Next Big Thing?  It's the Storage
Power generation at Crescent Dunes starts with 10,347 mirrors, a total of 13 million square feet of glass—enough to completely cover the National Mall in Washington from the steps of the Capitol to the Washington Monument.  The mirrors are called heliostats because each one can tilt and turn to precisely point its beam of light.  Arranged in concentric circles, they focus sunlight on the "receiver" at the top of the central tower.  Tourists' assumptions aside, this is not actually a light.  The receiver, matte black when there's no sunlight on it, absorbs energy to heat the molten salt flowing through a series of pipes.  Hot salt then flows down to a 3.6 million gallon stainless steel storage tank.

The salt, which at these temperatures looks and flows pretty much like water, runs through a heat exchanger to make steam to run a standard turbine generator.  The tank holds enough molten salt to run the generator for 10 hours; that represents 1,100 megawatt hours of storage, or nearly 10 times more than the largest lithium-ion battery systems that have been installed to store renewable power.

Read more at 24-Hour Solar Energy:  Molten Salt Makes It Possible, and Prices Are Falling Fast

Study Finds that Global Warming Exacerbates Refugee Crises

Higher temperatures increase the number of people seeking asylum in the EU.


Farm tractor drives in low greenery area (Credit: theguardian.com) Click to Enlarge.
The refugee crisis – particularly in the Mediterranean area – has received large amounts of new attention in the past few years, with people fleeing from Syria and entering the European Union emblematic of the problem.  There has been some research connecting this refugee problem with changes to the climate.  In particular, the years preceding the Syrian refugee crisis were characterized by a severe drought that reduced farm output and led to economic and social strife there.

Separating out the influences of climate change from general social instability may be impossible, because they are intimately linked.  But we do know that climate change can cause social and economic instability.  We also know that these instabilities can boil over into larger problems that lead to mass exodus.  The problem isn’t knowing the connection between climate and refugees exists – rather the problem is quantifying it.

All of this is important because we want to be able to plan for the “now” as well as the “tomorrow.”  If we are already seeing climate-related migrations, can you imagine what’s in store in the next few decades as temperatures and extreme weather continue to increase?

A very recent publication appearing in the journal Science investigates this complex subject. The paper, Asylum Applications Respond to Temperature Fluctuations, was published by Anouch Missirian and Wolfram Schlenker from Columbia University.  It focused not just on Syria and the Mediterranean area, but expanded their study to be worldwide.

The researchers identified 103 countries that contributed to asylum applications to the European Union.  Collectively, these nations submitted 350,000 applications to the EU per year.  The authors combed the weather histories from these 103 source sites and explored how the weather varied in the 2000–2014 time period. 

They found that when temperatures in agricultural areas and seasons at the source countries varied away from an optimal value (of about 20°C (68°F)], the number of people seeking asylum increased.  And the increase wasn’t just proportional.  They found it was nonlinear, meaning that initial increases in temperature only mildly changed the asylum application numbers.  But as temperatures varied more and more, the number of seekers increased more quickly.

After making this connection to observations, the authors then projected into the future.  Using a collection of climate models that are able to predict Earth’s future climate, the authors estimated that on a business-as-usual emissions pathway (where countries don’t meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions), asylum applications will increase by almost 200% by the end of the century.  On the other hand, under a modest warming scenario, where humans take some meaningful action to reduce emissions, the increase falls to about 30%.  Again, this shows that what humans do today to combat climate change really matters.

Read more at Study Finds that Global Warming Exacerbates Refugee Crises

Global Carmakers to Invest at Least $90 Billion in Electric Vehicles

Visitors look at cars in the Ford booth at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. January 15, 2018. (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst) Click to Enlarge.
Ford Motor Co’s plan to double its electrified vehicle spending is part of an investment tsunami in batteries and electric cars by global automakers that now totals $90 billion and is still growing, a Reuters analysis shows.

That money is pouring in to a tiny sector that amounts to less than 1 percent of the 90 million vehicles sold each year and where Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc, with sales of only three models totaling just over 100,000 vehicles in 2017, was a dominant player.

With the world’s top automakers poised to introduce dozens of new battery electric and hybrid gasoline-electric models over the next five years - many of them in China - executives continue to ask:  Who will buy all those vehicles?

“We’re all in,” Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr said of the company’s $11 billion investment, announced on Sunday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.  “The only question is, will the customers be there with us?”

“Tesla faces real competition,” said Mike Jackson, chief executive of AutoNation Inc, the largest U.S. auto retailing chain.  By 2030, Jackson said he expects electric vehicles could account for 15-20 percent of New vehicle sales in the United States.

Investments in electrified vehicles announced to date include at least $19 billion by automakers in the United States, $21 billion in China and $52 billion in Germany.

But U.S. and German auto executives said in interviews on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show that the bulk of those investments are earmarked for China, where the government has enacted escalating electric-vehicle quotas starting in 2019.

Mainstream automakers also are reacting in part to pressure from regulators in Europe and California to slash carbon emissions from fossil fuels.  They are under pressure as well from Tesla’s success in creating electric sedans and SUVs that inspire would-be owners to flood the company with orders.

While Tesla is the most prominent electric car maker, “soon it will be everybody and his brother,” Daimler AG Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche told reporters on Monday at the Detroit show.

Read more at Global Carmakers to Invest at Least $90 Billion in Electric Vehicles

Transmission Upgrades & Expansion Are Necessary to Meet Increasing Demand for Wind & Solar

Transmission Line (Photo Credit: Wind Energy Foundation) Click to Enlarge.
A newly released report from the Wind Energy Foundation (WEF) calls upon transmission planners to take into account the significant renewable energy demand of large non-utility customers, especially from Fortune 500 companies.  That’s because big companies are increasingly signing deals to buy wind and solar power, and their large and growing demand for transmission upgrades may exceed existing plans.

According to the WEF report, Transmission Upgrades and Expansion:  Keys to Meeting Large Customer Demand for Renewable Energy, a coalition of more than 100 corporate entities set a goal of purchasing 60 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by the year 2025, equal to 110 conventional power plants and enough electricity to power nearly 50 million homes.  The report estimates that, considering the 9 GW of renewable energy already procured by the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) since 2013, there are at least 51 GW remaining in this goal.

The report questions whether current transmission plans can accommodate the increase in demand.

Investment in transmission infrastructure is essential, the report’s authors say, to support not only significant additions of renewable generation to meet corporate and other demand but also to support the longer-term electrification of transport, heating, and cooling.  Four key findings emerged in the Wind Energy Foundation report:
  1. Renewable energy commitments from large corporations are growing rapidly and will lead to significant renewable energy procurement through 2025.
  2. Most of the best renewable energy resources are in a 15-state mid-America region, while load growth is highest outside that region.
  3. Expanded and upgraded transmission is needed to unlock new low-cost renewable energy for corporate and other consumers.
  4. Transmission planners should account for corporate demand to procure renewable energy.
Read more at Transmission Upgrades & Expansion Are Necessary to Meet Increasing Demand for Wind & Solar

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday, Jan 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.

Ford Says It Will More Than Double Previously Announced Investment in Electrification; $11b by 2022, 40 Electrified Vehicles

Ford Focus Electric at 2011 LA Auto Show (Credit: Ford) Click to Enlarge.
Ford will boost its investment in electrification to $11 billion by 2022, said Executive Chairman Bill Ford, speaking at the Detroit Auto Show.  In 2015 Ford had said it would invest an additional $4.5 billion to add 13 electrified vehicles to its portfolio by 2020.  (Earlier post.)

At the time, the $4.5 billion was Ford’s largest-ever electrified vehicle investment in a five-year period.

Also speaking at the Detroit Auto Show, Raj Nair, president of Ford North America, said the the company is developing 16 battery electric vehicles by 2022 and 24 hybrid and plug-in vehicles.

Ford currently offers the battery-electric Focus, the Fusion and C-MAX hybrids and plug-in hybrids, and the Lincoln MKZ hybrid, for a total of six electrified vehicles.

Read original at Ford Says It Will More Than Double Previously Announced Investment in Electrification; $11b by 2022, 40 Electrified Vehicles

A Bold Bid for Climate Justice

Jeffrey Sachs is a university professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University (Credit: cnn.com) Click to Enlarge.
Americans are paying a fearsome price for global warming.  The federal government's National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported earlier this week that the three powerful Atlantic hurricanes of 2017 -- Harvey, Irma and Maria -- cost Americans $265 billion, and massive Western forest fires another $18 billion.  Scientists have shown that human-induced climate change has greatly increased the frequency and intensity of such disasters

This week, New York City showed bold leadership with decisive action for climate safety and justice.

The oil companies have known for decades that their product is dangerous for the planet, but they relentlessly hid the evidence, stoking confusion rather than solutions.  Through individual company efforts to support climate denialism and confusion, and through relentless and reckless lobbying by the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, the companies launched a full-blown assault on climate science to stop or delay the shift to renewable energy.

Big Oil bought the Republican Congress with massive campaign donations.  Republican senators led the witless Donald Trump to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

There are alternatives to runaway climate change.  North America has vast reserves of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and other zero-carbon energy to power the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  New York can go green and electric by midcentury through electric vehicles, electricity-powered public transit, and electric heat pumps for buildings, powered by electricity from wind, solar and hydroelectric power.

Read more at A Bold Bid for Climate Justice

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday, Jan 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.

NASA Just Made a Stunning Discovery About How Fracking Fuels Global Warming

Natural gas is not part of the climate solution, it's part of the problem.


Flaring (Credit: AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) Click to Enlarge.
A new NASA study is one final nail in the coffin of the myth that natural gas is a climate solution, or a “bridge” from the dirtiest fossil fuels to low-carbon fuels like solar and wind.

NASA found that most of the huge rise in global methane emissions in the past decade is in fact from the fossil fuel industry–and that this rise is “substantially larger” than previously thought.  And that means natural gas is, as many earlier studies have found, not a climate solution.

Natural gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas.  And methane emissions are responsible for about a quarter of the human-caused global warming we’re suffering today.

So scientists have been scrambling to figure out why methane emissions have been soaring in recent years after leveling off around the year 2000.  The total methane in the air has been rising by 25 teragrams (27.5 million U.S. tons) a year, which NASA helpfully explains is the weight of some 5 million elephants.

Many studies have estimated that leaks from oil and gas production, particularly fracking, are a major driver of rising methane emissions.  “A review of more than 200 earlier studies confirms that U.S. emissions of methane are considerably higher than official estimates,” as one 2014 Stanford University analysis explained.  “Leaks from the nation’s natural gas system are an important part of the problem.”
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With wildfire emissions way down, it was now possible for both fossil fuel emissions and wetland emissions to be up.  Indeed, the researchers found that some 17 teragrams of the 25 teragram annual increase is from fossil fuel production, 12 is from wetlands or rice farming, while fires are decreasing emissions by 4 teragrams (17 + 12 – 4 = 25).

Significantly, the authors point out that the huge rise in fossil fuel methane emissions “found here is substantially larger than in previous literature.”  In short, the recent jump in methane emissions from oil and gas production appears to be a whole lot bigger than we previously thought.

After all, methane (CH4) traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period.  That’s why countless studies find that even a very small leakage rate of methane from the natural gas supply chain (production to delivery to combustion) can have a large climate impact  —  enough to gut the entire benefit of switching from coal-fired power to gas for a long, long time.
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Equally important, many studies find  that natural gas plants don’t replace only high-carbon coal plants.  They often replace very low carbon power sources like solar, wind, nuclear, and even energy efficiency.  And that means even a very low leakage rate wipes out the climate benefit of fracking.

But the new study suggests leakage rates aren’t very low, and that would mean fracking is truly part of the climate problem, and likely to become a bigger problem over time as natural gas competes more and more with renewable energy sources.

Read more at NASA Just Made a Stunning Discovery About How Fracking Fuels Global Warming

Tesla Supercharger Network 2018 — Plans Call for Rapid Expansion Throughout North America, Asia, Europe, & Oceania

Tesla is aiming to rapidly grow its network of proprietary electric vehicle superfast-charging stations over the coming months.  Of course this is all the more important and interesting as Tesla Model 3 production ramps up and the total fleet of Tesla vehicles on roads around the world grows at a quicker and quicker pace.


1,130 Supercharger Stations with 8,496 Superchargers (Credit: tesla.com) Click to Enlarge.
Based on the maps seen on the Tesla website, a very large number of new Supercharger stations will be opening “soon” — with particularly large numbers to be opened in North America, China, and Eastern Europe.

With regard to North America, what’s probably most notable is that the plan is clearly there to close off all remaining gaps in long-distance travel routes … but also that the company is working to further develop the charging infrastructure within large cities where Tesla ownership rates are high. Clearly, this is partly an attempt to provide for the needs of Model 3 buyers who don’t have access to home charging facilities (and will thus be reliant upon public facilities).

With regard to the USA specifically, California, Texas, Florida, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and pretty much all of the Northeast will be built out considerably more than they are now over the near term — if the company’s map for planned stations is to be believed, anyways. It’s also interesting that North Dakota will be getting its first stations soon, meaning every state in the contiguous US will then feature Supercharger stations.

With regard to Mexico, Tesla is now counting on quite a buildout in the country, with the plans slated to allow for nearly continuous travel from Texas to the Yucatán (there’s a further gap that will have to be bridged). Also noteworthy is that Monterrey and Guadalajara will both be getting their first stations.

With regard to Canada, the plans will see cross-country travel made possible, with the prairie provinces slated to get their first stations as well as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Read more at Tesla Supercharger Network 2018 — Plans Call for Rapid Expansion Throughout North America, Asia, Europe, & Oceania

Ecosystems Are Collapsing, Food Bowls Are Next - by David Fickling

The world we grew up in is disappearing.

From the tropics to the poles, the effects of climate change are transforming environments that humans have known since prehistory.

Chances of saving the world's coral reefs are disappearing because of mass bleaching, according to a paper by scientists on four continents published in the journal Science last week.  Such events, caused by warmer-than-usual waters, had never been observed until the 1980s, but are now occurring once every six years.  Many marine biologists now believe they'll see the demise of coral reefs worldwide within their lifetimes.

Similar trends are afoot in colder climes.  The Arctic shows no signs of returning to the conditions of reliable ice cover that have persisted at least since data was first collected in the late 19th century, scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration wrote in an annual review last month.  Permafrost temperatures hit record-high levels in 2016, and the region as a whole is warming at twice the global rate, they wrote.

If you think that's the worst thing the coming century of climate change has in store, check what's happening to agricultural land.

Location, Location, Location
Global comparison of agriculturally suitable area between 1961–1990 and 1961–1990 (Credit: PLOS ONE, 2014) Click to Enlarge.
Land at least moderately suitable for agriculture will barely grow this century.

Production from the world's farms needs to grow at a headlong pace over the coming decades.  Rising populations and growing incomes that are already driving up consumption of land-intensive produce such as meat mean demand for farm products will rise between 70 percent and 110 percent between 2005 and 2050, according to the UN's Food & Agriculture Organization.

Usable land, though, is expected to barely increase.  Despite warmer climates opening up frigid stretches of Canada, Russia, and China to agriculture, desertification and degradation elsewhere means the area of land considered moderately or highly suitable for agriculture will only rise from 33.2 million square kilometers to 34.1 million square kilometers toward the end of this century, according to one 2014 study.

Climate change is already playing a part here.  Heavy spring rainfalls in the U.S. Midwest, which have been linked to the effects of global warming, are one of the main causes of a dearth of protein in wheat that's already caused ructions in U.S. grain markets.  The current freezing winter weather could exacerbate the same problems, while rising carbon dioxide concentrations themselves could be reducing the nutrient content of crops on a global scale. 

It's too soon to despair.  While the 19th and 20th centuries' devastating famines in the British and Chinese empires initially seemed to confirm economist Thomas Malthus's predictions that the world risked running out of food, recent decades have demonstrated that hunger is more a result of bad or wicked policy than environmental constraints.

Better Fed
Prevalence of undernourishment has slumped in emerging economies so far this century.

Undernourishment, which ran as high as 20 percent of the world's population in the early 1990s, fell to just 10.6 percent in 2015, before rising in 2016 for the first time in 14 years.  The existing stock of land would be quite adequate to meet 2050's agricultural demands so long as farmers manage to use it more efficiently and profitably, according to a 2015 study.  Indeed, at present the world appears to be drowning in a surfeit of farm produce.  The Bloomberg Agriculture Subindex touched a record-low 46.8 last month due to slumps in the price of sugar, coffee, wheat, and corn.
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The 20th century's green revolution in agriculture took place against the backdrop of a global climate in a steady state that allowed similar recoveries from crop failures, but those conditions are rapidly passing into history.

For decades now humanity has mostly kept its edge in the race between farm productivity and starvation.  In the future we'll be running faster just to keep up.

Read more at Ecosystems Are Collapsing, Food Bowls Are Next

Alaska Releases First Detailed Report on Negative Health Impacts of Climate Change

Stanley Tom skirts water on walkways made of mats in the village of Newtok on Aug. 14, 2009. Tom says the eroding Ninglick River and melting permafrost are forcing the village to relocate. (Credit: Marc Lester / ADN) Click to Enlarge.
On Monday the state Division of Public Health released the first comprehensive report about the adverse health impacts climate change could have on Alaskans.

The sweeping list of potential health implications include the introduction of new diseases; an increase in accidents; an increase in anxiety and depression; a worsening allergy season; and increasingly dangerous hunting and harvesting conditions limiting subsistence activity.

State health officials say the 77-page report is meant to raise awareness of how climate change could impact public health in a state where, over the past century, the air and water temperatures have warmed faster than the rest of the country.

[Alaska just had its warmest December on record]

"We wanted to get ahead of the potential health impacts of climate change in Alaska and make sure we could provide a big-picture perspective on what we can expect if the (National Climate Assessment) prediction models are accurate," said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

McLaughlin said the division started working on the report in 2015.

While there were analyses of the potential health impacts of climate change in certain Alaska communities, a detailed statewide report did not exist, said Sarah Yoder, lead author of the report and a public health specialist in the Environmental Public Health Program at the department.

A statewide report on how climate change could affect health is still rare in the U.S.

"This report is one of the only reports, really, nationwide that provides a statewide overview of the potential health impacts of climate change," Yoder said.

Read more at Alaska Releases First Detailed Report on Negative Health Impacts of Climate Change

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday, Jan 13

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.

It’s Time to Go Nuclear in the Fight Against Climate Change - by Eric Holthaus

Nuclear Plant (Credit: Clare Jackson / EyeEm / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
After holding steady for the past three years, global carbon emissions rose in 2017 by an estimated 2 percent.  That increase comes amid the largest renewable energy boom in world history.

That irony points to what I see as an inescapable conclusion:  The world probably can’t solve climate change without nuclear power.

Something big has to change, and fast, in order to prevent us from going over the climate cliff.  Increasingly, that something appears to be a shift in our attitudes toward nuclear energy.

By nearly all accounts, nuclear is the most rapidly scalable form of carbon-free power invented.  And, the technology is rapidly improving.  But lingering concerns about waste and safety have kept nuclear power from staying competitive.

Solar power has grown at a whopping 68 percent average rate over the past 10 years, but still accounts for less than 2 percent of total U.S. electricity generation.  The 99 reactors in the U.S. generate about 10 times that amount.  Roughly 30 nuclear facilities are set to retire in the next few years because those plants have become economically infeasible.  (California regulators voted unanimously Thursday to shutter Diablo Canyon, the state’s last remaining plant, in 2025.)  That’s despite these facilities producing more than double the amount of electricity than all the solar panels in the United States combined.

“In 2016 renewables received about 100 times more in federal subsidies than nuclear plants,” Michael Shellenberger, founder of the Berkeley, California-based, pro-nuclear advocacy group Environmental Progress, wrote in an email to Grist.  “If nuclear received a fraction of those subsidies, there would be no risk of nuclear plants closing in California or anywhere else.”

Jesse Jenkins, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, reveals in a preliminary scientific paper — meaning it’s still awaiting peer review — that the rapid decline in the cost of natural gas has been the driving factor in undercutting the electricity market in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.  Those regions are home to a majority of the nuclear reactors now expected to go offline.

The take home?  The advent of fracking — in addition to being the fastest-growing source of emissions in the U.S. — is also cannibalizing what is currently our biggest source of carbon-free electricity.

A similar story is playing out in Germany.  The country’s nuclear power plants have been shuttered with only part of the capacity replaced by wind and solar.  Dirty coal has filled the gaps.  So it’s no surprise, German electricity sector emissions are actually rising slightly — and the country’s leaders are now considering scrapping an ambitious climate goal for 2020.

Jenkins wrote on Twitter that Germany’s shift in energy policy was misguided and resulted effectively in fossil fuels replacing much of the missing nuclear power — a pattern that’s playing out at home, as well.  To get to a cleaner energy mix faster, you’d want to nix coal before nuclear.

For once-and-future climate leaders like Germany and the United States to turn their backs on one of the best tools we have for rapidly decarbonizing the global economy is a short-sighted decision of international and multi-generational consequence.  It’s also a climate story few people are talking about.

Historically, nuclear power has been the fastest way to decarbonize the global economy, Shellenberger argues, and it can be again.  New reactor designs offer a generational leap in terms of cost and safety, but proponents have so far struggled to secure the billions of dollars in funding that renewables are getting.

Big name climate experts, like former NASA scientist James Hansen agree that a bias against nuclear is holding it back.  He and Shellenberger see support for the industry as a tactic for attracting the Trump Administration’s attention on climate policy.  (In September, the Trump administration made a conditional loan to help finish the construction of a languishing nuclear power project in Georgia.)

The sheer urgency of climate change demands an all-of-the-above approach to making carbon-free energy.

“If we discovered nuclear power today, we would be working like mad to make it as safe and cheap as possible,” Stanford University climate scientist Ken Caldeira tweeted last summer.

But resistance by mainstream environmental organizations has helped stymie that progress.  And the most ardent supporter of climate change legislation in last year’s presidential election, Bernie Sanders, ran on an anti-nuclear platform.  (In December Shellenberger announced he is running for California governor as an explicitly pro-environment, pro-nuclear independent.)

The more the world feels the powerful effects of climate change and the longer we wait to reduce emissions the more attractive nuclear energy could become.  On our current track, scientists are increasingly alarmed that multiple simultaneous weather and environmental disasters — like last year’s horrific hurricanes and wildfires — could ultimately bend society to the breaking point in our lifetimes.

If we were smart, we’d see nuclear power for what it is:   A good bet to save the world.

Read original at It’s Time to Go Nuclear in the Fight Against Climate Change

Make Security Strategy Include Climate Again, Lawmakers Urge Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing a proclamation to honor Martin Luther King Jr. day in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2018. (Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts) Click to Enlarge.
A group of more than 100 bipartisan lawmakers in the U.S. House urged President Donald Trump on Friday to reconsider the omission of climate change from his administration’s national security strategy, saying it is a step backward on science.

In December, a new national security strategy document dropped former President Barack Obama’s description of climate change as a national security threat.

Climate will also be omitted from a Pentagon strategy document to be released later this month, an official has said.

“Failing to recognize this threat ... represents a significant step backwards on this issue and discredits those who deal in scientific fact,” said the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

The letter was addressed to Trump, a Republican, and signed by 106 U.S. representatives.

The lawmakers, representing nearly a quarter of the House, said they have heard from scientists and military leaders who believe climate change is a “direct threat” to the country.

The letter was spearheaded by Representative James Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat, who last year introduced a measure into the defense policy bill that said climate change threatens the United States. Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican, also signed the letter.

Trump signed the defense bill in December. He has vowed to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord but said this week that the administration “could conceivably go back in” to the agreement.

U.S. military leaders have long been concerned about climate change. In written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing last year, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis wrote that “climate change can be a driver of instability” and “a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of-government response.”  The testimony was first published by ProPublica.

Retired top U.S. military officers and former national security officials have said storms, droughts and floods made more intense by climate change can be a burden on the Pentagon by fueling unrest in unstable countries and boosting the need for humanitarian missions.

Read original at Make Security Strategy Include Climate Again, Lawmakers Urge Trump

California's Water Saving Brings Bonus Effects

Save Our Water logo (Credit: ellyndembowski.com) Click to Enlarge.
Water-saving measures in California have also led to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and electricity consumption in the state.

That is the conclusion of new research from the University of California, Davis, published Thursday in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Measures to cut water use by 25 per cent across California were implemented in 2015, following a four-year drought in the state that caused the fallowing of 542,000 acres of land, total economic costs of $2.74 billion, and the loss of approximately 21,000 jobs.

The UC Davis researchers found that, while the 25 per cent target had not quite been reached over the one-year period - with 524,000 million gallons of water saved - the measures' impact had positive knock-on effects for other environmental objectives.

In California the water and energy utility sectors are closely interdependent.  The energy used by the conveyance systems that move water from the wetter North to the drier and more heavily populated South - combined with utility energy use for treatment and distribution, end-user water consumption for heating, and additional pumping and treatment - accounts for 19 per cent of total electricity demand and 32 per cent of total non-power plant natural gas demand state-wide.

Lead author Dr Edward Spang, from UC Davis, said:  "Due to this close interdependence, we estimated that the decrease in water usage translated into a significant electricity saving of 1,830 gigawatt hours (GWh).  Interestingly, those savings were around 11 percent greater than those achieved by investor-owned electricity utilities' efficiency programs over the same period.

"In turn we calculated that the GHG emissions saved as a direct result of the reduction in electricity consumption are also significant - in the region of 524,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).  That is the equivalent of taking 111,000 cars off the road for a year."

Read more at California's Water Saving Brings Bonus Effects

Adaptation Now:  River Flood Risks Increase Around the Globe Under Future Warming

An overview of flooding in Houston, from Buffalo Bayou on Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Photo Credit: AP / Karen Warren) Click to Enlarge.
Rainfall changes caused by global warming will increase river flood risks across the globe.  Already today, fluvial floods are among the most common and devastating natural disasters.  Scientists have now calculated the required increase in flood protection until the 2040s worldwide, breaking it down to single regions and cities.  They find that the need for adaptation is greatest in the US, parts of India and Africa, Indonesia, and in Central Europe including Germany.  Inaction would expose many millions of people to severe flooding.

"More than half of the United States must at least double their protection level within the next two decades if they want to avoid a dramatic increase in river flood risks," says lead-author Sven Willner from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).  Without additional adaptation measures -- such as enhancing dykes, improved river management, increasing building standards, or relocating settlements -- the number of people affected by the worst 10 percent of all river flooding events will increase in many places:  In Northern America from 0.1 to 1 million -- while this seems not like a large number, it is a tenfold increase.  In Germany it could rise sevenfold, from 0.1 to 0.7 million.

Absolute values are even bigger elsewhere: in South America the number of people affected by flooding risks will likely increase from 6 to 12 million, in Africa from 25 to 34 million, and in Asia from 70 to 156 million.  The real numbers might be even higher in the future as population growth and further urbanization is not taken into account.

"Even in developed countries with good infrastructure the need for adaptation is big"
...
"We have been surprised to find that even in developed countries with good infrastructure the need for adaptation is big," says co-author Anders Levermann, head of global adaptation research at PIK and a researcher at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York.  "Our yardstick is that people want to keep the protection level they have today -- they don't want things to become worse.  Consequently, in countries with a fairly good level of protection, much has to be done to keep the same level of protection and prevent that people indeed have to leave their homes due to flooding."

If we do not limit climate change, risks will surpass our abilities to adapt

An increase in river flood risks over the next 2-3 decades will be driven by the amount of greenhouse-gases already emitted into the atmosphere, hence it does not depend on whether or not we limit global warming.  "However, it is clear that without limiting human-caused warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, river flood risks in our century will increase in many regions to a level that we cannot adapt to," says Levermann.  "To keep people safe climate-change-induced risks must be taken seriously and money must be spent for adaptation.  If we act now, we can protect against the risks of the next two decades.  But further climate change must be limited by cutting greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels to avoid risks that surpass our abilities to adapt."

Read more at Adaptation Now:  River Flood Risks Increase Around the Globe Under Future Warming

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday, Jan 12

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

How Electric Trucks Could Disrupt Highway Transport and Save Businesses Billions

Tesla semi-truck demo (Credit: Tesla) Click to Enlarge.
Tesla’s much-anticipated electric semi-truck is garnering attention for its futuristic look and zero-emission promise – and it’s part of an innovation trend that is changing the future of trucking, with implications for entire supply chains.

United Parcel Service, Anheuser-Busch, Walmart, PepsiCo, and J.B Hunt are among the companies rushing to secure orders of Tesla’s trucks, which are expected to be in production in 2019.

All-electric trucks can bring tangible benefits not just to truck owners, whose conventional vehicles can consume more than $60,000 worth of fuel a year, but also to their customers.

Fuel has long been a top cost for trucking, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the per-mile cost.  Because fuel bills are passed on to companies that hire trucks to get their goods to market, electric trucks can thus promise businesses significantly lower and more stable operating costs.

For the business community as a whole, savings could be in the billions.

Truck manufacturers hurrying to grab market share
Indeed, Tesla is just one among a number of large auto manufacturers that are now investing in electricity-powered trucks because they see a robust, long-term market for such products and clear bottom-line benefits:
  • Cummins recently announced the electric semi-truck tractor unit Aeos, which is scheduled for production by 2019.  It’s designed for buses, delivery vehicles, and drayage duty trucks with a range of 100 miles.
  • Daimler recently launched a fleet of urban delivery trucks in New York City.  The trucks, which have a 60-mile range, are set for scaled production in 2019.  Daimler is also expected to unveil a larger class 7 electric truck.
  • New Flyer, BYD, and Proterra are all taking orders for electric buses.  A dozen major cities, including Los Angeles, have committed to buying buses. 
  • Nikola, meanwhile, is readying a zero-emission fuel-cell-powered truck for production by 2021.
Along with the economic benefits, medium and heavy-duty trucks provide major health and environmental benefits for neighborhoods and communities nationwide.

Trucks move about 70 percent of freight in the United States today, and while only accounting for 10 percent of highway miles traveled, they are a major source of harmful nitrogen oxide and particulate matter – especially in cities and towns along congested truck routes.

Electric trucks also offer significantly lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions at a time when nations and states are looking for new technology solutions to meet their carbon reduction goals.

Long-haul capability:  Key to this market shift
Most electric truck announcements so far have been for urban or regional vehicle use where buses and delivery trucks don’t need to drive very far and follow predictable driving patterns in areas with charging stations.

As the market for electric trucks grows, dense cities and communities will be the first to benefit from the reduction in local air pollution – but as battery technology continues to improve, look for more electric trucks to drive long-distance.

This will be the ticket to the major disruption of the truck industry that many experts believe will come in just a few years, and with benefits multiplying across our economy.

Read more at How Electric Trucks Could Disrupt Highway Transport and Save Businesses Billions