Tuesday, May 22, 2018

E-buses to Surge Even Faster than EVs; Supply of Cobalt Potential Risk to the Pace of Growth

Annual global light duty vehicle sales. (Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance)  Click to Enlarge.
The electrification of road transport will move into top gear in the second half of the 2020s, due to tumbling battery costs and larger-scale manufacturing, with sales of electric cars surging to 28%, and those of electric buses to 84%, of their respective global markets by 2030.

The latest long-term forecast from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) shows sales of electric vehicles (EVs) increasing from a record 1.1 million worldwide last year to 11 million in 2025, and then surging to 30 million in 2030 as they establish cost advantage over internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.  China will lead this transition, with sales there accounting for almost 50% of the global EV market in 2025 and 39% in 2030.

The pace of electrification in transport will vary by country, particularly over the next 12 years as some markets jump ahead of others.  BNEF forecasts that in 2030, EVs will make up 44% of European light-duty vehicle sales, 41% of those in China, 34% in the U.S., and 17% in Japan.  However, a shortage of charging infrastructure and a lack of affordable models will hold back the market in India, so that EVs will make up just 7% of new car sales in 2030 there.

BNEF’s projections imply big opportunities for lithium-ion battery manufacturers.  China is already dominant in this market, with a 59% global share of production capacity in 2018, and this is forecast to rise to 73% by 2021.

The number of combustion engined (ICE) vehicles sold per year (gasoline or diesel) is expected to start declining in the mid-2020s, as EVs bite hard into their market.  In 2040 some 60 million EVs are projected to be sold, equivalent to 55% of the global light-duty vehicle market.  Shared mobility cars will be a small but growing element.

E-buses.  The advance of e-buses will be even more rapid than for electric cars, according to BNEF’s analysis.  It shows electric buses in almost all charging configurations having a lower total cost of ownership than conventional municipal buses by 2019.  There are already more than 300,000 e-buses on the road in China, and electric models are on track to dominate the global market by the late 2020s.

Read more at E-buses to Surge Even Faster than EVs; Supply of Cobalt Potential Risk to the Pace of Growth

Climate Change on Track to Cause Major Insect Wipeout, Scientists Warn

Insects are vital to ecosystems but will lose almost half their habitat under current climate projections.

The famous migration of the North American monarch butterfly is one of the most well-documented examples of an insect species affected by climate change. (Photograph Credit: Joel Sartore/NG/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Global warming is on track to cause a major wipeout of insects, compounding already severe losses, according to a new analysis.

Insects are vital to most ecosystems and a widespread collapse would cause extremely far-reaching disruption to life on Earth, the scientists warn.  Their research shows that, even with all the carbon cuts already pledged by nations so far, climate change would make almost half of insect habitat unsuitable by the end of the century, with pollinators like bees particularly affected.

However, if climate change could be limited to a temperature rise of 1.5C - the very ambitious goal included in the global Paris agreement - the losses of insects are far lower.

The new research is the most comprehensive to date, analyzing the impact of different levels of climate change on the ranges of 115,000 species.  It found plants are also heavily affected but that mammals and birds, which can more easily migrate as climate changes, suffered less.

“We showed insects are the most sensitive group,” said Prof Rachel Warren, at the University of East Anglia, who led the new work.  “They are important because ecosystems cannot function without insects.  They play an absolutely critical role in the food chain.”

“The disruption to our ecosystems if we were to lose that high proportion of our insects would be extremely far-reaching and widespread,” she said.  “People should be concerned - humans depend on ecosystems functioning.”  Pollination, fertile soils, clean water, and more all depend on healthy ecosystems, Warren said.

In October scientists warned of “ecological Armageddon” after discovering that the number of flying insects had plunged by three-quarters in the past 25 years in Germany and very likely elsewhere.

Read more at Climate Change on Track to Cause Major Insect Wipeout, Scientists Warn

Trump Administration Joins Fossil Fuel Companies in Climate Fight Against Cities

Arguing against cities that want Big Oil to compensate for climate damages, federal lawyers say such an outcome would curb fossil fuel production, a Trump priority.

San Francisco and Oakland have sued five major oil and gas companies in an attempt to hold fossil fuel producers accountable for the effects of climate change. Lawyers for the Trump administration have now filed a brief in support of the companies' efforts to have these cases dismissed. (Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Image) Click to Enlarge.
Just before a critical hearing to determine the fate of a pair of climate lawsuits in California, the United States government has weighed in as a heavyweight ally on the side of the fossil fuel companies.

Lawyers from the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division filed a friend of the court brief last week in support of five of the world's largest oil and gas companies, which are seeking to have lawsuits by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland dismissed.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup is scheduled to hear arguments on Thursday on a motion by the companies to throw out the cases.

Federal lawyers argue in their brief that if the two lawsuits succeed, it could stymie domestic and international energy production.

"The United States has strong economic and national security interests in promoting the development of fossil fuels, among other energy resources," according to the 24-page brief filed May 10.

The brief cites President Trump's March 2017 Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, suggesting the fight being waged by the two cities against the companies runs counter to the administration's support of unrestricted fossil fuel development.

"It's hardly surprising that Donald Trump's Justice Department is cozying up to Big Oil," said John Coté, a spokesman for the San Francisco City Attorney's Office.  "But this a legal matter, not a political one."

The sister cities filed suit last year against ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP, blaming them for the effects of climate change.  The parallel lawsuits seek billions of dollars to build sea walls and other coastal infrastructure to protect neighborhoods and property from sea level rise.

The lawsuits claim the companies produced fossil fuels in disregard of their own understanding of the consequences of global warming.

"This egregious state of affairs is no accident," according to the San Francisco lawsuit.

Read more at Trump Administration Joins Fossil Fuel Companies in Climate Fight Against Cities

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Solar and Wind Are Coming.  And the Power Sector Isn’t Ready. - By David Roberts

The rise in renewable energy will scramble the decision making of grid managers.

Here they come. (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
The US electricity system is at an extremely sensitive and uncertain juncture.  More and more indicators point toward a future in which wind and solar power play a large role.  But that future is not locked in.  It still depends in large part on policies and economics that, while moving in the right direction, aren’t there yet.

And so the people who manage US electricity markets and infrastructure, who must make decisions with 20-, 30-, even 50-year consequences, are stuck making high-stakes bets in a haze of uncertainty.

That uncertainty has increased markedly under the recent Republican administration (somewhat ironically, given its oft-stated goal of “regulatory certainty”).  Under President Obama, the feds established a consistent cross-agency push toward clean energy.  The long-term trajectory was clear.

Now it’s been thrown into doubt.  President Trump has embraced fossil fuels, and the owners of struggling coal plants are appealing to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for bailouts.

Should utilities and market managers bet that the Trumpian revolt against modernity will succeed in slowing the growth of renewable energy?  Or should they bet that it’s a passing phase and renewable energy will triumph?

A fascinating bit of new research from the energy geeks at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) sheds some light on the stakes involved.

In a nutshell, things will look different in an electricity system with lots of variable renewable energy (VRE) — different prices, a different shape of demand, different timing, different needs — and if the people managing the electricity system bet on low VRE and get high, they are going to screw up all sorts of things.

If the US gets serious about renewables, the electricity system will look very different

As of 2016, wind and solar power — VRE — provide 7.1 percent of US electricity. VRE affects utility and market decisions, but it is not yet central to them. The LBNL team (Joachim Seel, Andrew Mills, and Ryan Wiser) notes that “many long-lasting decisions for supply- and demand-side electricity infrastructure and programs are based on historical observations or assume a business-as-usual future with low shares of VRE.”

But what if VRE takes off?  What if it hits 40 or 50 percent of national electricity supply by 2030? (Climate hawks would prefer an entirely decarbonized power sector by then; neither goal will be possible without a serious national policy push.)  Would high VRE penetrations substantially change the decisions that energy regulators, policymakers, and investors need to make?

In a word, yes.  They would.

Wholesale Price Effects of 40-50% Wind & Solar (Credit: LBNL) Click to Enlarge.
The team modeled the effects of high (40 percent) VRE and found several notable changes relevant to the operation of wholesale energy markets.  Here they are all at once, in a giant, info-packed chart!

Now that your eyes are bleeding, let’s back up and walk through the changes.

The team modeled four 2030 scenarios:  a baseline, with VRE shares frozen at 2016 levels, and three high-VRE scenarios, one that’s wind at 30 percent share and solar at 10 percent, one that’s the reverse, and a “balanced” 20-20 scenario. They ran these four scenarios for each of four energy markets in the US:  the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) covering Kansas, Oklahoma, and portions of surrounding states; the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Here are some of the results, which will throw wholesale markets into a new equilibrium.

  1. VRE reduces average wholesale power prices.
  2. In all high-VRE scenarios, in all markets, average wholesale power prices go down.  Depending on the scenario and region, the drop is anywhere from $5 to $16.  Note that average prices fall the most under the high-solar scenario, in every market but ERCOT.  Unlike the other states, Texas is a bit isolated, running its own grid with few interconnections to other grids through which it can import or export power.  It has to deal with all that solar on its own (more on that later).  Lower prices are good for consumers but bad for owners of big, uneconomic coal and nuclear plants, who rely on high prices to keep running.  (Yes, it is a peculiar market in which most of the people responsible, including the president, view low prices as a threat.)
  3. VRE bumps fossil fuels off the grid.
  4. In high-VRE scenarios, markets see anywhere from 4 to 16 percent retirement in “firm capacity,” i.e., coal, oil, and steam turbines.  The exception is CAISO, which sees a small, 2 to 4 percent boost in firm capacity via the growth of natural gas.  (Natural gas also grows in SPP and NYISO, though it’s offset by coal and oil retirements.)  Notably, VRE reduces the amount of energy generated from fossil fuels (MWh) much faster than it reduces capacity (MW), anywhere from 25 to 50 percent (the most in NYISO).  Basically, every new kWh from VRE displaces a kWh from fossil fuels. 
  5. VRE makes periods of very low prices and very low emissions more frequent.
  6. Depending on the market and scenario, high VRE buildout reduces overall carbon emissions anywhere from 21 to 47 percent and “leads to an increase in frequency of hours with very low marginal emission rates ranging from 5% of all hours in CAISO (wind scenario) to 31% in SPP (solar scenario).”  Also more frequent under high VRE are periods in which wholesale power prices are extremely low, under $5 a MWh.  (It’s these periods that so wreck the economics of big coal and nuclear plants.)  The effect is especially pronounced in ERCOT under high solar.
Read more at Solar and Wind Are Coming.  And the Power Sector Isn’t Ready.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday 18

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.

Rising Sea Levels Putting Wildlife at Risk

Rising seas pose threats to wildlife habitat, and many species are losing important habitat for critical life functions such as nesting.

UC-Davis graduate student Mickey Agha poses with a pair of western pond turtles. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mickey Agha) Click to Enlarge.
Just as rising seas pose serious threats to coastal residents and human-built systems and structures, and cause human climate refugees to flee low-lying atolls, these seas are also threatening many diverse species of wildlife.

Coastal species are particularly affected, and some are losing habitat as rising water covers the beaches they rely on for important life functions, like nesting.  Another chief concern is the intrusion of salty sea water into freshwater habitats and the impacts that has on some species.

A recent University of California-Davis study predicts up to 90 percent of coastal freshwater turtle species will be at risk from sea-level rise.  The study was published in Biological Reviews in March.  If sea levels rise three feet by 2100 – a frequently cited estimate well within the range of NASA’s projections – salty seawater is likely to inundate many of the freshwater habitats these turtles need.

Read more at Rising Sea Levels Putting Wildlife at Risk

Urgent Climate Action Required to Protect Tens of Thousands of Species Worldwide, New Research Shows

Limiting global warming to 2 degrees and not the more ambitious 1.5 degrees would put far more species at risk of extinction.  Insects are especially vulnerable.

A mere half degree of extra global warming could mean profound risks for tens of thousands of the planet's species, scientists have found. (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Humanity can powerfully improve the survival odds of tens of thousands of species, but only if nations dramatically raise their ambitions in the fight against climate change, according to new research published on Thursday in the journal Science.

One key to salvaging plant and vertebrate habitat and protecting the world's biodiversity is to limit warming to the most challenging benchmark established under the 2015 Paris treaty—1.5 degrees Celsius of warming—not to the treaty's less stringent 2 degree guardrail, the study found.

The study assessed, in more detail than ever before, a key measure of extinction risk:  the shrinking size of each species' current geographical range, or natural habitat.  It projected that for an alarming number of species, their range size would shrink by at least half as temperatures rise past the Paris goals.

If nations do no more than they have pledged so far to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions—and warming consequently shoots past 3 degrees by the end of this century—6 percent of all vertebrates would be at risk.  So would 44 percent of plants and a whopping 49 percent of insects.

But the dangers would be greatly reduced if warming can be limited to 1.5 degrees.  That might protect the overwhelming majority of the 115,000 species assessed by the researchers.  Just 4 percent of vertebrates would lose more than half of their current range.  Only 8 percent of plants and 6 percent of insects would face that risk.

Keeping warming to 2 degrees is not nearly as effective, they found.  The additional half degree of warming would double the impact on plants and vertebrate species, and triple the impact on insects.

Read more at Urgent Climate Action Required to Protect Tens of Thousands of Species Worldwide, New Research Shows

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Thursday 17

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

New Rules on Ship Emissions Herald Sea Change for Oil Market

Shipping vessels and oil tankers line up on the eastern coast of Singapore in this July 22, 2015. (Credit: Reuters/Edgar Su/Files) Click to Enlarge.
New rules coming into force from 2020 to curb pollution produced by the world’s ships are worrying everyone from OPEC oil producers to bunker fuel sellers and shipping companies.

The regulations will slash emissions of sulfur, which is blamed for causing respiratory diseases and is a component of acid rain that damages vegetation and wildlife.

But the energy and shipping industries are ill-prepared, say analysts, with refiners likely to struggle to meet higher demand for cleaner fuel and few ships fitted with equipment to reduce sulfur emissions.
Will Everyone Follow the Rules?
Many vessels may try to dodge the new rules, unable to afford the cost of scrubbers and reluctant to pay the premium for cleaner fuel.  But how much of the industry will cheat is open to debate, with estimates ranging from 10 to 40 percent.

The IMO says it will ban ships that do not have scrubbers from carrying any fuel oil, making it easier to catch cheaters.

Oil major BP expects 10 percent of ships could cheat, while consultancy Wood Mackenzie expects a figure of about 30 percent when the rules launch in 2020.  Consultant Citac says industry polls indicate cheating could be in a range of 25 to 40 percent.

Can Refiners Meet New Demand?
The global refining industry needs to process an extra 2.5 million bpd of crude to make distillates for cleaner fuel, says Robert Herman, refining executive at Phillips 66.

Some refiners have invested in cutting sulfur in their output, but fitting hydrocracker or coker unit so that a refinery produces more distillates with lower sulfur content while reducing fuel oil output can cost about $1 billion, analysts say.

Small refineries, unable to afford the upgrade, may find they are churning out fuel oil without finding buyers.

A KBC consultancy survey showed 40 percent of Middle Eastern and European refineries are not prepared.  European plants, which tend to be less complex than those in other regions, produce more fuel oil and may face the biggest challenge.

Morgan Stanley says refineries of Spain’s Repsol (REP.MC), Turkey’s Tupras, India’s Reliance (RELI.NS) and U.S. independent Valero (VLO.N) are among the best prepared because they already produce high middle distillate and low high-sulfur fuel oil.

What Will Happen to the Crude Market?
The simplest way for refineries to produce fuel with less sulfur is to buy and process crude that contains less sulfur, a shift that could change demand for different oil grades and lead to greater oil market volatility.

For example, processing Iraq’s Basra Heavy grade with high sulfur content produces as much as 50 percent fuel oil, while using light, sweet North Sea crude with less sulfur produces about 12 percent fuel oil.

“There will be a bidding war for sweet crude,” said Stephen George, chief economist with KBC Advanced Technologies.

This could hike the price of sweeter crudes, including several grades used to make dated Brent, the benchmark for three quarters of the world’s oil.  Meanwhile, the cost of refining “sour” crudes with more sulfur, such as those from Venezuela, Mexico, and Ecuador, “could be more than its value,” he said.

Who Will Pay the Price?
Energy firms and shippers may face a squeeze on margins.  But, ultimately, extra costs are likely to fall on consumers of everything from household appliances to gasoline that are shipped around the world.  Roughly 90 percent of world trade is by sea.

Wood Mackenzie estimates that global shipping fuel costs are likely to rise by a quarter, or $24 billion, in 2020.  Others estimate extra costs for container shipping alone will be $35 billion to $40 billion.

In addition a surge in distillate demand by shippers could push up prices of other products, such as jet fuel and diesel.

“It’s going to make moving anything more expensive,” said AlphaTanker’s Wilson.

Read more at New Rules on Ship Emissions Herald Sea Change for Oil Market

European Wind Energy Generation Potential in a 1.5 Degree C Warmer World

The UK and large parts of northern Europe could become windier if global temperatures reach 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, according to a new study.

This has implications for wind energy generation among other things.  The results suggest that wind could be a more important source of energy generation than previously thought, with stronger winds across the UK.  The research team concludes there could be a 10% increase in UK onshore wind energy generation, which would be sufficient to power the equivalent of an extra 700,000 homes every year based on current installed capacity.  The results are relevant for decisions about future investment in onshore wind farms.

To evaluate potential changes in European wind power generation in a 1.5 degrees C warmer world, researchers from British Antarctic Survey, the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol combined data from 282 onshore wind turbines collected over 11 years with climate model data from the HAPPI project.

This study did not consider offshore wind energy generation potential.

Across northern Europe, the results suggest that large areas of Germany, Poland, and Lithuania could become more viable for wind power in future.  But the biggest increases in wind could be seen in the UK -- along with marked seasonal shifts in wind.

Lead author, climate modeler Dr Scott Hosking at British Antarctic Survey, says:
"In future, nine months of the year could see UK wind turbines generating electricity at levels currently only seen in winter.  Future summers could see the largest increase in wind generation.  Therefore, wind could provide a greater proportion of the UK's energy mix than has been previously assumed."

Read more at European Wind Energy Generation Potential in a 1.5 Degree C Warmer World

The UN Security Council Is Starting to Take Climate Change Seriously

The most powerful UN body is tentatively addressing the links between global warming and instability.  It can and should do more, writes Ashley Murphy.

Climate change is one of the great security challenges of the 21st century.  As the world warms, conflicts over water, food or energy will become more common and many people will be forced from their homes.

Scientists, think-tanks, NGOs, militaries, and even the White House (albeit under President Obama) all agree that climate change threatens human safety and well-being.  Yet the organisation charged with global security has remained relatively silent.

The UN Security Council, responsible for maintaining international peace and security, is comprised of 15 countries.  Five seats are reserved for permanent members with veto powers (China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US) while the other ten members are elected to represent their region (“Africa”, “Asia-Pacific”, etc) for two-year terms.

The ten current elected members (Italy and the Netherlands split one two-year term between them). 

Together, this semi-rotating group of 15 takes binding decisions for all 193 UN members.  This alone makes the Security Council a very powerful institution, but combined with its capacity to sanction, and intervene in the affairs of states it has an influence far exceeding that of any other international body.  It is, in many respects, the executive of the international system.

For this reason the council has considered contemporary security challenges such as international terrorism, nuclear weapon proliferation, and transnational crime.  Positive results include an international crackdown on the financing of terrorism, the sharing of information to tackle various criminal problems, stronger border controls for nuclear materials, and the global mobilization of experts to address a health epidemic.

The fact the Security Council has helped combat these varied and largely unrelated challenges shows its potential to do good.  Yet these interventions also pose the critical question of why it has yet to engage climate change in any meaningful way.  Article 41 sanctions would be available to the council in the event of states not meeting their Paris Agreement obligations.  Economic sanctions could also be placed upon corporations, that currently operate with relatively little international scrutiny.  What the council brings is an ability to coerce – something that is currently lacking throughout international climate law.

The council hasn’t entirely ignored climate change, of course.  In 2007 the first open debate on the matter took place, though this was based on the unofficial proviso that no binding output would follow.  Similar discussions were held in 2011 and 2013 but again stark divides among the members prevented any meaningful outputs.

Read more at The UN Security Council Is Starting to Take Climate Change Seriously

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday 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.

How Global Warming and Land-Use Change Threaten Water Security Worldwide

Pandharkawda, Maharashtra, India - Mangi villagers wait for a water tanker that arrives twice a week to replenish their dried up water well. The land here is ferociously dry and suffocating to plants. Water is the biggest crisis facing India in terms of spread and severity, affecting one in every three persons. (Credit Image: © Michael Francis McElroy/zReportage.com) Click to Enlarge.
The world’s water supply has been severely altered by global warming and changes to land use – such as agriculture and damming – over the past 15 years, new satellite data shows.

The Nature study of 32 world regions finds that the largest freshwater losses are occurring across the Middle East, India, Antarctica, and Greenland.  In contrast, the largest gains are taking place in parts of Asia, North America, and South America.

From 2002 to 2016, Greenland lost an average of 279m tonnes of freshwater a year – which is almost 10 times the amount of the water stored in Lake Mead, the world’s largest manmade reservoir.  The reservoir was formed between Nevada and Arizona by the construction in the 1930s of the Hoover Dam.

The findings show that there is now a “clear human fingerprint” on the global water supply, the researchers say.  However, natural variability also played a role in driving changes to water availability over the study period, they add.

Read more at How Global Warming and Land-Use Change Threaten Water Security Worldwide

Global 2 Degrees C Rise Doubles Population Exposed to Multiple Climate Risks Compared to 1.5 Degrees C

Drought farmer (Credit: © JoeyPhoto / Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
New research identifying climate vulnerability hotspots has found that the number of people affected by multiple climate change risks could double if the global temperature rises by 2°C, compared to a rise of 1.5°C.

The team, led by IIASA Energy Program researcher Edward Byers, investigated the overlap between multiple climate change risks and socioeconomic development to identify the vulnerability hotspots if the global mean temperature should rise by 1.5°C, 2°C and 3°C by 2050, compared to the pre-industrial baseline.  Since those in poverty are much more vulnerable to climate change impacts, knowing where and how many vulnerable people are at high risk is therefore important for creating policies to mitigate the situation.

The researchers from IIASA, Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the University of Oxford, and the University of Washington, developed 14 impact indicators in three main sectors -- water, energy, and food & environment -- using a variety of computer models.  The indicators include a water stress index, water supply seasonality, clean cooking access, heat stress events, habitat degradation, and crop yield changes.  They compared the potential risks at the three global temperatures and in a range of socioeconomic pathways, to compare more equitable, sustainable development with pathways characterized by development failures and high inequality.

In 2011 an estimated 767 million people were living on less than US$1.90 per day, classed as extreme poverty, and the research team estimated that a further 3.5 billion people are "vulnerable to poverty," living on less than US$10 per day.

"Few studies have consistently investigated so many overlapping climate and development challenges," says Byers.  "The research considers both different global mean temperature rises, such as the differences between 1.5°C and 2.0°C, and uses new socioeconomic datasets of income levels and inequality, to identify where and to what extent the most vulnerable in society are exposed to these climate-development challenges."

Multisector risk is one where the risk goes beyond tolerable in at least two of the three main sectors.  At lower temperatures hotspots occur primarily in south and east Asia, but with higher global temperatures, hotspots further spread to Central America, west and east Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.  The actual global land mass affected is relatively small, at 3-16% depending on the scenario.  However, the areas at highest risk tend to be densely populated. At 1.5°C of warming, 16% of the population of the world in 2050, 1.5 billion people, will have moderate-to-high levels of multisector risk.  At 2°C of warming, this almost doubles to 29% of the global population, 2.7 billion people.  At 3°C of warming, that figure almost doubles again, to 50% of the population, or 4.6 billion people.

Depending on the scenario, 91-98% of the exposed and vulnerable population live in Asia and Africa.  Around half of these live in south Asia alone, but Africa is likely to face greater risks as the least developed region with high social inequality.

Read more at Global 2 Degrees C Rise Doubles Population Exposed to Multiple Climate Risks Compared to 1.5 Degrees C

San Francisco Commits to All-Electric Bus Fleet by 2035

San Francisco commits to all-electric bus fleet By 2035; MUNI Board approves pilot program.

One of MUNI’s newer 40' electric trolley buses. (Credit: MUNI) Click to Enlarge.
San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which operates MUNI (the city’s public transit), announced San Francisco’s commitment to have an all-electric bus fleet by 2035.  SFMTA will only purchase all-electric buses starting in 2025 to meet the goal for 2035.

The SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday approved a resolution supporting the commitment towards an all-electric bus fleet along with a pilot program to evaluate and implement battery electric vehicles.  MUNI currently operates the largest fleet of electric trolley buses.

The trolley buses, like all light rail, streetcar, and cable car vehicles in the city, run on Hetch Hetchy hydroelectricity via overhead wires.  MUNI also runs a fleet of hybrid electric vehicles which use renewable diesel.

(The Hetch Hetchy watershed, an area located in Yosemite National Park, provides approximately 85% of San Francisco’s total water needs.  Owned and operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the Hetch Hetchy system also has a combined total hydroelectric generating capacity of approximately 385 megawatts.  Hydroelectricity from Hetch Hetchy powers all of the City’s municipal facilities (SFO, SFGH, MUNI, fire stations and more), residents and businesses in the Hunter’s Point Shipyard, Treasure Island and other retail customers. )

Read more at San Francisco Commits to All-Electric Bus Fleet by 2035; MUNI Board Approves Pilot Program

Tesla to Produce More than 500 Model 3s Per Day this Week:  Electrek

A charging station for electric-powered Tesla cars (Credit: WTKR.com) Click to Enlarge.
Tesla Inc’s Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said production of its crucial Model 3 sedan is likely to exceed 500 vehicles per day this week, automotive news website Electrek reported on Tuesday.

That would translate to about 3,500 Model 3s per week, up quite a bit from the weekly production rate of 2,270 it hit in the last week of April.

Earlier this month, Tesla said its Model 3 production target remains on track, expecting about 5,000 per week in about two months.

Read more at Tesla to Produce More than 500 Model 3s Per Day this Week:  Electrek

Warming Planet Faces Cooling Crisis

As climate change warms the Earth, one significant concern is the cooling crisis, the quest for energy-hungry artificial ways to keep ourselves cool.

A windcatcher in Iran. (Image Credit: Folkertherly, via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
One of the ironies of increasing climate change is the cooling crisis:  the hotter the planet becomes, the greater our demand for ways to cool down.  And most often, in rich countries, that means switching on the air conditioning, which in turn means using more electricity and emitting more fossil fuels to escape the heat we’ve emitted by burning so much already.

Just how serious that irony is in practice is clear from a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on the future of cooling.  The Agency’s executive director, Fatih Birol, sums up the problem in his foreword:  “The world faces a looming ‘cold crunch.’

“Using air conditioners and electric fans to stay cool accounts for nearly 20% of the total electricity used in buildings around the world today. And this trend is set to grow as the world’s economic and demographic growth becomes more focused in hotter countries.”

Since 1990, the report says, global sales of electrically-powered fans and air-conditioning systems (ACs) have more than tripled.  More than half of them are used in just two countries – China and the United States.  Over a year the 1.6bn ACs in use worldwide consume more than 2,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity – 2.5 times more than Africa’s total annual electricity consumption.

Carbon dioxide emissions from cooling have also tripled since 1990, to 1,130m tonnes, causing corresponding growth in local air pollution.  And the growing demand for cooling is moving south, driven by economic and population growth in the hottest parts of the world.

Very limited effect
Most of the projected growth by 2050 in energy use for cooling is expected to come from the emerging economies, half of it from three countries – India, China and Indonesia.

The IEA says its analysis shows that governments’ policies to address current and future electricity consumption so as to meet cooling demand would have only “a very limited effect” in slowing it.  Its baseline scenario sees the energy needed tripling by 2050 to 6,200 TWh, with meeting peak electricity demand a major challenge, because of the need for extra generation and distribution equipment.

But the baseline scenario is not the only option, the IEA says.  Its alternative vision is what it calls an efficient cooling scenario which greatly strengthens policies for limiting the energy needed for cooling, and which it says “is compatible with the ambitious goals to limit climate change that were agreed in the Paris Agreement”.

The key word here is “efficient”.  This scenario focuses on achieving massive improvements in the efficiency of AC equipment, accompanied by other measures like tougher minimum energy performance standards, and clear labeling to guide consumers.

Read more at Warming Planet Faces Cooling Crisis

11 Ways the Paris Climate Deal Is Working in the Real World

Like an old car that has gone as far as it can go, UN climate talks in Bonn last week stuttered, spluttered, and stalled.

Not a car in sight. Barcelona's superblocks have created a car free space in the city center, now other cities are copying the idea (Photo Credit: JasonParis/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
In 2015 in Paris, governments struck a deal that lacked much of the substance needed to fight climate change.  Now diplomats are trying to negotiate the complex rules of the deal.  Their failure to make serious progress has been met with concern around the world.

Climate negotiations are becoming ever-more detached from the starburst of activity released by the Paris deal.  In the coming years, the role of the UN will remain important, but no longer be the primary driver of global change.

Not willing to wait for the finer details, businesses, researchers, governments, and citizens are coming up with new ways to move the climate to a safer place.  There are thousands of stories, big and small.  Here are just a few.

Read more at 11 Ways the Paris Climate Deal Is Working in the Real World

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tuesday 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.

Arctic Oil 'Undrillable' Amid Global Warming:  U.N.'s Ex-Climate Chief

Christiana Figueres was noted at climate talks for her ability to bring warring factions together, with calm, good humour. (Photograph Credit: Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
An architect of the Paris climate agreement urged governments on Tuesday to halt oil exploration in the Arctic, saying drilling was not economical and warming threatened the environmentally fragile region.

Christiana Figueres, formerly head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat when the Paris accord was reached by almost 200 nations in 2015, told Reuters by telephone “the Arctic has been rendered undrillable.”

The past three years have been the hottest since records began in the 19th century, and Figueres said the heat was a threat to everything from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to ice in Antarctica.

The former Costa Rican diplomat who campaigns for a peak in global emissions by 2020 said it made no economic sense to explore in the Arctic, partly because it was likely to take years to develop any finds.

Capital investment would be better used developing renewable energies such as solar and wind to cut emissions, she said.

“The stakes are visibly higher than they were just a few years ago,” she said.

Read more at Arctic Oil 'Undrillable' Amid Global Warming:  U.N.'s Ex-Climate Chief

On Rollbacks, Automakers Tell Trump 'Not So Fast,' Kochs Say 'Burn More Gas'

(Image Credit: President Trump meets with auto industry executives days after taking office. (Credit: The White House, public domain) Click to Enlarge.
It’s a classic case of be careful what you wish for.  Automakers asked the Trump administration to weaken emissions and efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, and are now anxious about just how much the Trump administration actually plans to weaken the standards.

On Friday, May 12, heads of car companies visited the White House, to make the awkward request that Trump not actually give them what they asked for.

In late April a draft of a joint Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) plan leaked, signaling the administration’s intent to halt increases in fuel efficiency (or CAFE) standards after model year 2021, and to perform a legal end run around California’s authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own greenhouse gas emissions standards for personal vehicles.

Fearing years of litigation from states — including California and at least a dozen others — and indefinite regulatory uncertainty, the automakers were quick to announce that they aren’t seeking such a radical rollback from the current program.

“We are not asking the administration for a rollback,” said Bill Ford, chairman of Ford Motor Co., at the company’s annual meeting last Thursday.  “We want California at the table, and we want one national standard.”

Mitch Bainwol, head of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (or Auto Alliance), the main domestic trade group of car companies, warned Congress of a  “regulatory nightmare” if the federal standards and California’s were not aligned.  Bainwol also said that “automakers continue to support increased year-over-year fuel efficiency standards and are investing heavily in new technologies to improve fuel economy for our customers and the environment.”

Not long ago, Bainwol and the automakers were singing a different tune.  “If left unchanged, those standards could cause up to 1.1 million Americans to lose jobs due to lost vehicle sales,” Bainwol wrote in a February 2017 letter to Scott Pruitt and other Trump appointees.

As of this past week, the Auto Alliance is asking for the preservation of “One National Program,” while asking “California to compromise” as well and allow for some added flexibilities to allow for easier compliance as the standards continue to increase. 

Read more at On Rollbacks, Automakers Tell Trump 'Not So Fast,' Kochs Say 'Burn More Gas'

Study Says Insurance Industry Dangerously Unprepared for Extreme Weather

Historic flooding hits British Columbia after record snowpack starts melting, Canada (Credit: watchers.news) Click to Enlarge.
As historic flooding caused by climate change devastates communities in New Brunswick and British Columbia, new research from the University of Waterloo reveals the insurance industry hasn't considered a changing climate in their practices, putting homeowners at financial risk.

The study which looked at data from 178 insurers, found that most insurance companies assumed the risk to property from extreme weather is static and based their premiums on historical data.  However, as extreme weather events are increasing in severity, frequency, and unpredictability, insurers have not adjusted.

"As extreme events become more frequent, insurers that ignore climate change will not put away enough money to cover their claims.  To re-coup those losses, they'll have to raise rates or pull coverage from high risk areas," said Jason Thistlethwaite, a climate change economist at the University of Waterloo.  "When this shift happens, thousands of people will lose coverage or it will be unaffordable."

Another finding in the report outlined how reinsurers, insurers for insurance companies, have been better at reacting and adapting to climate change-related financial risk.  This dynamic could lead to significant disruption in global insurance industry.

"Some insurers are better at understanding climate change than others.  These organizations will survive, and likely be able to sell climate services to their counterparts struggling to understand the problem," said Thistlethwaite.  "Those that don't, will fail.  Insurers are supposed to watch our backs by looking into the future and protect us from unexpected events.  We pay to not worry about these things."

Read more at Waterloo Study Says Insurance Industry Dangerously Unprepared for Extreme Weather

Majorities See Government Efforts to Protect the Environment as Insufficient

There is strong bipartisan agreement over expanding renewable energy sources, but deep political divides remain over fossil fuels and the effects of climate change.

Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to protect key aspects of the environment, according to a new study released today by Pew Research Center.

In a national survey of 2,541 U.S. adults, 69% of Americans say the federal government isn't doing enough to protect water quality of lakes, rivers and streams and 64% say the same about air quality.  Two-thirds (67%) say the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change.

At the same time, the survey, conducted March 27-April 9, 2018, found that Americans are closely divided (52% to 48%) over whether or not it is possible to cut back on regulations while still effectively protecting air and water quality.  There is a wide political divide on this issue, with around three-quarters of Republicans (74%, including independents who lean to the Republican Party) convinced this is possible but a majority of Democrats (64%, including independents who lean Democratic) convinced it is not possible.

And, although large majorities of Americans - including majorities of both political parties - favor expanding solar and wind turbine facilities, the political divides over fossil fuels remain vast.

Read more at Majorities See Government Efforts to Protect the Environment as Insufficient