Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Great Barrier Reef Has Been Forever Changed by Global Warming, Scientists Warn

Rising temperatures in 2016 caused a catastrophic die-off of almost 30 percent of the iconic reef.

The snowy white branching coral front-and-center of this image is severely bleached, while the boulder corals around it have experienced minimal bleaching. (Photo Credit: ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies/ Gergely Torda) Click to Enlarge.
A bleak new study describes the profound damage that climate change has wreaked on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  Rising temperatures in 2016 “cooked” swathes of corals, the scientists found, causing the catastrophic die-off of almost 30 percent of the world’s largest coral reef system.

Global warming has already radically — and possibly permanently — transformed the reef’s ecology, according to the study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature.  If action is not taken promptly and comprehensively to curb warming, it could be “game over” for the reef, scientists warned.

“It’s catastrophic,” Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a New South Wales-based climate researcher who was not involved in the new study, told Australia’s ABC News after reviewing the research.  “There might have been a glimmer of hope that it wasn’t as bad or might recover faster than we thought.  But this paper made the reality very present.  The bleaching will forever change the Barrier Reef.”

Read more at The Great Barrier Reef Has Been Forever Changed by Global Warming, Scientists Warn

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday 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.

VW's Electrify America to Install EV Chargers at Walmart Stores

Walmart (Credit: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Volkswagen AG (VOWG.DE) unit Electrify America will install electric vehicle charging stations at more than 100 Walmart Inc (WMT.N) store locations in 34 U.S. states by mid-2019 as part of Electrify’s plans to bolster charging infrastructure across the country, the two companies said on Wednesday.

“We recognize that electric vehicles are going to grow and become more relevant,” Mark Vanderhelm, vice president for energy at Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, told Reuters. “We are trying to get out in front of that.”

The Walmart charging stations are part of a broader Electrify America project to install 2,000 chargers at nearly 500 charging stations across the country by June 2019.

Wayne Killen, Electrify America’s senior director for infrastructure, said that 80 percent of the Walmart charging stations would be at store locations alongside highways, while the remaining 20 percent would be in metro areas.

Killen said the highway locations will primarily provide chargers for trips between U.S. cities but also cross-country journeys along Interstate 10 between Santa Monica, California and Jacksonville, Florida, plus Interstate 80 that runs from San Francisco and Teaneck, New Jersey.

“These charging stations will go a long way toward convincing folks that there are a lot of chargers out there,” Electrify America’s Killen said.

Clusters of four to 10 chargers will be installed at the Walmart charging stations.

VW has agreed to spend $800 million in California and a total of $2 billion nationwide on clean car infrastructure as part of its agreement after admitting to diesel emissions cheating.

Electrify America said on Tuesday it has selected several suppliers, including Switzerland’s ABB Ltd (ABBN.S) and South Korea’s Signet EV Inc 260870.KN, to install more than 2,000 high-speed electric vehicle chargers by the end of 2019.

Many of the chargers will be able to provide a high-speed recharge for electric vehicles.

Read more at VW's Electrify America to Install EV Chargers at Walmart Stores

Boulder Sues Exxon over Climate Change:  Wildfires, Droughts and Water Are a Few Reasons Why

The Colorado city and two counties are suing oil companies Exxon and Suncor over the costs of climate change.  They’re already dealing with the damage.

A wildfire near Boulder, Colorado, in 2010 burned more than 160 homes in the first 12 hours and caused millions of dollars in losses. (Credit: John Moore/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
In Boulder, Colorado, climate change means extreme weather and wildfires.  It means worrying about water security for people and farms, and about heat waves and mosquito-borne diseases.  These aren't just future risks—they're problems the city and its surrounding county are facing now.

On Tuesday the city and Boulder County joined San Miguel County, home to the ski slopes of Telluride, in suing two fossil fuel companies—ExxonMobil and Suncor—over the costs of dealing with climate change.

Their lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal actions by communities that are attempting to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the problems climate change creates.  Until now, the plaintiffs had been coastal cities and counties worried primarily about sea level rise.

The new case takes climate litigation to the middle of the country, where the risks take on new shapes and high costs.

The Colorado communities are already seeing climate-related damage to property, health and safety, and "the damage will only multiply as climate change worsens," the lawsuit says.

It points to the dwindling snowpack, which is critical for the state's agriculture, water supply, and $5 billion ski industry.  (This month, the snowpack in the mountains of southern Colorado was less than 50 percent of normal.)  It also raises concerns about the loss of water flow into the Colorado River, and about extreme summer heat, wildfires, and droughts.  (San Miguel County, like much of the Four Corners region, is facing extreme drought conditions.)

Read more at Boulder Sues Exxon over Climate Change:  Wildfires, Droughts and Water Are a Few Reasons Why

MIT Spin-off Faces Daunting Challenges on Path to Build a Fusion Power Plant in 15 Years

Commonwealth Fusion Systems has pledged to build a commercial fusion reactor based on new superconducting magnets.

Experimental reactor (Image Credit: Ken Filar, PSFC Research Affiliate) Click to Enlarge.
Fusion power is always two or three decades away.  Dozens of experimental reactors have come and gone over the years, inching the field forward in some regard, but still falling short of their ultimate goal: producing cheap, abundant energy by fusing hydrogen nuclei together in a self-sustained fashion.

Now an MIT spin-off wants to use a new kind of high-temperature superconducting magnet to speed up development of a practical fusion reactor.  The announcement, by Commonwealth Fusion Systems, based in Cambridge, Mass., caused quite a stir.  CFS said it will collaborate with MIT to bring a fusion power plant online within 15 years—a timeline faster by decades than other fusion projects.

CFS, which recently received an investment of US $50 million from Eni, one of Europe’s largest energy companies, says the goal is to build a commercial fusion reactor with a capacity of 200 MWe.  That’s a modest output compared to conventional fission power plants—a typical pressurized water reactor, or PWR, can produce upwards of 1,000 MWe—but CFS claims that smaller plants are more competitive than giant, costly ones in today’s energy market.

It’s certain that, between now and 2033, when CFS expects to have its reactor ready for commercialization, the company will face a host of challenges.  These revolve around key milestones that include:  fabricating and testing the new class of superconducting magnets, and using them to build an experimental reactor, which CFS named SPARC; figuring out how to run SPARC so that fusion reactions inside the machine can produce excess energy in a continuous manner, one of the biggest challenges in any fusion reactor; and finally, scaling up the experimental design into a larger, industrial fusion plant. 

Each of these steps embodies numerous scientific and engineering quandaries that may have never been seen before or have already confounded some of the smartest physicists and nuclear engineers in the world.  Can CFS and MIT finally harness fusion power?  Maybe. In 15 years?  Probably not. 

“Fusion research remains fusion research,” says Robert Rosner, a professor of physics at the University of Chicago and the former director of Argonne National Laboratory.  “It’s a field where getting to a practical, energy-generating reactor is not an engineering issue, but a basic science issue.”

Read more at MIT Spin-off Faces Daunting Challenges on Path to Build a Fusion Power Plant in 15 Years

Drought Returns to Huge Swaths of U.S., Fueling Fears of a Thirsty Future

Global warming, worsening droughts, vanishing groundwater and growing populations will make the U.S. more vulnerable to water shortages in the 21st century, experts say.

Residents line up in February to fill plastic water bottles and containers at a natural water spring on the site of a local brewery in Cape Town, South Africa. As a waterless Cape Town has become a potential reality, its story has sparked new concerns over the growing scarcity of the planet’s most basic resource. (Credit: Bram Janssen/The Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Less than eight months after Hurricane Harvey pelted the Texas Gulf Coast with torrential rainfall, drought has returned to Texas and other parts of the West, Southwest and Southeast, rekindling old worries for residents who dealt with earlier waves of dry spells and once again forcing state governments to reckon with how to keep the water flowing.

Nearly a third of the continental United States was in drought as of April 10, more than three times the coverage of a year ago.  And the specter of a drought-ridden summer has focused renewed urgency on state and local conservation efforts, some of which would fundamentally alter Americans’ behavior in how they use water.

In California, for example, officials are considering rules to permanently ban water-wasting actions such as hosing off sidewalks and driveways, washing a vehicle with a hose that doesn’t have a shut-off valve, and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.  The regulations, awaiting a final decision by the California State Water Resources Control Board, were in force as temporary emergency measures during part of a devastating five-year drought but were lifted in 2017 after the drought subsided.

Water restrictions, either forced or voluntary, are nothing new to states and communities where battling drought is often a part of life.  In Amarillo, Texas, the city’s water department stresses conservation with the message, “every drop counts,” and urges customers to do “at least one thing a day to save water.”  A similar mantra — “squeeze every drop” — is part of the water-saving culture in Oklahoma City, where officials enforce mandatory lawn-watering restrictions and impose higher rates for excessive water use.

Years of studies by government and environmental groups have warned that future demand for water is threatening to outstrip availability, particularly in the drought-plagued West and Southwest, unless policymakers take steps to reverse those trends.

“More and more cities around the world are running into limits on how much water they have available to meet their needs,” said Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute and an expert on water and climate issues.

Read more at Drought Returns to Huge Swaths of U.S., Fueling Fears of a Thirsty Future

Children's Health Is Disproportionately Affected by Climate Change

They're more vulnerable than adults.

Child near factories (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Rising temperatures, drought, and weather disasters can threaten people’s health.  Nobody is exempt.  But …

Perera:  “The health of children is disproportionately affected by climate change.”

Frederica Perera is director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.  She says children are vulnerable because their immune systems are not mature.  And, their rapidly growing bodies are more sensitive to damage from disease and environmental contaminants.

In particular, children are more likely than adults to die from diarrheal disease, which is expected to become more common in some areas as the climate warms.

And some children are at more risk than others.

Perera:  “It is the children living in low income countries and communities who are most affected.”

Low-income communities often lack the resources to effectively prevent and treat illness.  What’s more, climate change-related food shortages can lead to malnourishment, which puts children at greater risk of other health problems.

To help protect children, Perera says we need to limit global warming by reducing fossil fuel emissions.

Read more at Children's Health Is Disproportionately Affected by Climate Change

Wind-Fanned Wildfires Threaten to Spread in Parched Oklahoma

The Rhea Fire that started on April 12, 2018 in Western Oklahoma grew quickly with Red Flag fire weather conditions and has now consumed over 100 000 hectares (246 000 acres).(Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Wildfires which have killed two people in western Oklahoma could spread and more could ignite as wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour whip an area where scant rain has fallen in five months, fire and forestry officials said on Tuesday.

Several wildfires have begun in the past week, and the largest, dubbed the Rhea Fire, began on Thursday.  By Tuesday it covered nearly 250,000 acres, in western Oklahoma, and was only 3 percent contained, said Shawna Hartman, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Forestry Services.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for 52 of the state’s 77 counties because of the wildfires and critical conditions for more fires to start.

Western Oklahoma has had no significant rainfall in more than 150 days, while the relative humidity is extremely low, said Hartman.

“This presents unprecedented conditions for this part of Oklahoma for sure,” Hartman said in a phone call.

There was a “100 percent chance” that a spark would ignite if it flew into the state’s dry grasslands, she said, and any fire would spread rapidly because of the high winds.

Read more at Wind-Fanned Wildfires Threaten to Spread in Parched Oklahoma

Tesla Aiming to Build 6,000 Model 3 Cars per Week by End-June

A Tesla Model 3 is seen in a showroom in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 12, 2018. (Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo) Click to Enlarge.
Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) is aiming to ramp up production to 6,000 Model 3 cars per week by the end of June to reach its weekly goal of 5,000 and allow for a margin of error, automotive news website Electrek reported on Tuesday, citing a letter to employees from Chief Executive Elon Musk.

Underscoring Tesla’s need to roll out cars quickly to customers and collect needed revenue, the company will also begin working around the clock on the Model 3 sedan, adding another shift within general assembly, and both the body and paint shops, Electrek quoted Musk as saying.
The news comes a day after Tesla temporarily suspended its Model 3 assembly line in what the company said was a planned pause, its second since February, to improve automation and address bottlenecks that have delayed production.

“We will be stopping for three to five days to do a comprehensive set of upgrades.  This should set us up for Model 3 production of 3,000 to 4,000 per week next month,” Electrek quoted Musk as saying.

“Another set of upgrades starting in late May should be enough to unlock production capacity of 6,000 Model 3 vehicles per week by the end of June,” he added.

Read more at Tesla Aiming to Build 6,000 Model 3 Cars per Week by End-June:  Report

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tuesday 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.

Carbon Markets Pay Off for These States as New Businesses, Jobs Spring Up

A 3-year review found $1.4 billion in economic benefits across the 9 RGGI states, no harm to electric grid reliability, and long-term benefits for residents.

States in RGGI (NJ is in but not shown here)
Nine years after its launch, the nation's first mandatory carbon-trading program is still boosting the economy and creating jobs while continuing to cut power plant emissions in its nine-state region, a new report shows.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, wasn't designed for economic development, but that's been an important outcome, the Analysis Group, an economic research firm, reported Tuesday.

The nine Eastern states [NJ rejoined after this analysis] gained $1.4 billion in economic benefits from RGGI over the past three years because of the way they invested proceeds from the cap-and-trade program, the analysts found.  The biggest payoff came in investments in energy efficiency programs, which have led to more businesses and jobs in activities such as energy audits and installing energy-efficiency equipment.

The analysts also found that the cap-and-trade system has not undermined the reliability of the electricity grid, and it has not led to a net increase in electricity bills.

Indeed, the financial benefits clearly exceed the costs, and have done so in each three-year period since the program's inception, adding at least $4 billion over the program's nine years.  That doesn't include climate-related benefits, such as reducing health costs and damages related to climate change, or the additional money states saved by buying less fossil fuel from out-of-state suppliers ($1.37 billion over the past three years).

The report shows a program that has low risks and clear financial benefits, the analysts said.

Read more at Carbon Markets Pay Off for These States as New Businesses, Jobs Spring Up

VW Unit Electrify America Selects Suppliers for U.S. EV Chargers

ABB electric car chargers (Credit: Fred Lambert) Click to Enlarge.
Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) unit Electrify America said on Tuesday it has selected several suppliers, including Switzerland’s ABB LtdS and South Korea’s Signet EV Inc, to install more than 2,000 high-speed electric vehicle chargers in the United States by the end of 2019.

The chargers will be installed at 484 charging stations across the country.  Electrify America said the fast chargers will deliver 20 miles of range per minute of charge [200 mi/10 min], seven times faster than chargers currently in operation.

Other suppliers chosen include Portugal’s Efacec Electric Mobility, S.A., and Santa Ana, California-based BTC Power Inc.

VW has agreed to spend $800 million in California and a total of $2 billion nationwide on clean car infrastructure as part of its agreement with federal regulators after admitting to diesel emissions cheating.

ABB said it would supply its Terra HP charging stations, which can recharge “even the largest electric vehicle battery in under 15 minutes.”

Read more at VW Unit Electrify America Selects Suppliers for U.S. EV Chargers

8 Kids from Florida Are Suing Their State over Climate Change

Eroded seashore (Credit: Joseph Michael Lopez/The Washington Post/Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
Rick Scott, who has served as Florida’s governor since 2011, hasn’t done much to protect his state against the effects of climate change — even though it’s being threatened by sea-level rise.

On Monday, eight youth filed a lawsuit against Scott, a slew of state agencies, and the state of Florida itself.  The kids, ages 10 to 19, are trying to get their elected officials to recognize the threat climate change poses to their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

18-year-old Delaney Reynolds, a member of this year’s Grist 50 list, helped launch the lawsuit.  She’s been a climate activist since the age of 14, when she started a youth-oriented activism nonprofit called The Sink or Swim Project.  “No matter how young you are, even if you don’t have a vote, you have a voice in your government,” she says.

Reynolds and the other seven plaintiffs are asking for a “court-ordered, science-based Climate Recovery Plan” — one that transitions Florida away from a fossil fuel energy system.

This lawsuit is the latest in a wave of youth-led legal actions across the United States.  Juliana v. United States, which was filed by 21 young plaintiffs in Oregon in 2015, just got confirmed for a trial date in October this year.

Read original at 8 Kids from Florida Are Suing Their State over Climate Change

Sea Level Rise Is Accelerating in Florida, Scientists Warn

In dozens of locations along Florida's 1,350-mile coastline, sea level rise is no longer an esoteric discussion or a puzzle for future generations to solve.

Sea level trends (Credit: Click to enlarge.
Sea level rise is happening now and is forecast to worsen over the next 20 to 30 years.

Canal systems in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables have become a liability.  For officials in Port Orange and Longboat Key, fortifying storm drains against encroaching seawater is a concern.  Along the Withlacoochee River on Florida's Gulf Coast and the Matanzas River at Marineland, residents report finding saltwater species they've never seen before in those waterways.

Federal gauges stationed around the state's coast document the slowly rising water.  After decades of almost imperceptible increases, the sea began rising faster about 30 years ago, said William Sweet, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  It jumped again beginning in 2006.  Now NOAA reports sea levels are rising along parts of the Florida coast by more than a third of an inch every year.

The average person visiting a favorite beach or fishing hole surely won't notice the difference.  But soon, if the trend of the past 30 years continues, the impact will be hard to miss.
"Until the last couple of years, the only time the water would have come over the seawall would have been for a named tropical event or one of the extraordinary nor'easters," said Henderson, executive director of Stetson University's Institute of Water and Environmental Resilience.  In the fall of 2015 and 2016, he said, "the water came out of the banks on cloudless, breezeless days."

A coast in peril
Mid-range projections by NOAA scientists — not the worst-case scenario — put the seas around Florida up to 17 inches higher by 2030, with the highest rise at Mayport, Fernandina Beach and Daytona Beach.

With just a 9-inch rise in sea level, NOAA advisories for coastal flooding capable of causing "significant risks to life and property" could occur 25 times more often, said Sweet, lead author of NOAA's January report describing the updated sea level scenarios.  Higher seas would push seawater inland in waterfront areas along bayfronts in Sarasota and Apalachicola and in low-lying areas along the St. Johns, Suwanee and other rivers, flooding neighborhoods with increasing frequency and longer duration.

Read more at Sea Level Rise Is Accelerating in Florida, Scientists Warn

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday 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.

The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health Is Impossible to Ignore

Sour Lake, Texas Sept. 6, 2017: Residents in the Pinewood subdivision outside Sour Lake face the daunting task of cleaning up their homes as they were just let back into the area Wednesday, nine days after floodwater decimated the area after Hurricane Harvey. Credit: Bob Daemmrich/Alamy Live News (Credit:  Bob Daemmrich / Alamy Stock Photo) Click to Enlarge.
Mental illness remains poorly understood, stigmatized and feared, too often experienced in shame and isolation.  And the funding needs for mental health services and research are not being adequately addressed the world over.

That same neglect is reflected in the research around mental health and climate change.  For example, as I show in a paper published in Nature Climate Change last week, a search on the online research database Scopus for studies concerning climate change and mental health yields just 208 publications between 2007 and 2018.  And of these, only 29 critically evaluate mental health.

So, what does the available research tell us about the impacts of climate change on mental health?

Aggravating risk
Overall, the consensus in the scientific literature is that climate change will increase the number of people exposed to extreme events and, therefore, to subsequent psychological problems, such as worry, anxiety, depression, distress, loss, grief, trauma and even suicide.

Heatwaves, for example, are of particular concern.  Research across the Australian population shows their impact on mental health is similar to that of unemployment.  Night-time heat is associated with reduced sleep – a cause and consequence of poor mental health – and some psychoactive medicines become ineffective during heatwaves.

Research has shown a rise in hospital admissions for mental health issues during heatwaves in the Australian city of Adelaide, and identified a link between extreme heat, reduced crop yields and suicides in Indian farmers.

Read more at The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health Is Impossible to Ignore

Researchers Demonstrate High-Capacity Mn-rich Li-ion Cathodes; a Design Pathway Away from Cobalt and Nickel

Electrochemical performance of Li2Mn2/3Nb1/3O2F. a–d,Voltage profiles and capacity retention of Li2Mn2/3Nb1/3O2F under various cycling conditions: a, 1.5–4.6 V, 20 mA g−1; b, 1.5–4.8 V, 20 mA g−1; c, 1.5–5.0 V, 20 mA g−1; and d, 1.5–5.0 V, 10 mA g−1. e, The first-cycle voltage profiles of Li2Mn2/3Nb1/3O2F when cycled between 1.5 V and 5.0 V at 10, 20, 40, 100, 200, 400 and 1,000 mA g−1. f, The first-cycle and second-charge profiles of Li2Mn2/3Nb1/3O2F under different voltage windows: 1.5–4.6 V, 1.5–4.8 V and 1.5–5.0 V. All tests were conducted at room temperature. (Credit: Lee et al.)  Click to Enlarge.
Researchers led by a team at UC Berkeley have demonstrated high-capacity manganese-rich cathodes for advanced lithium-ion batteries.  The work, reported in the journal Nature, shows a possible design approach for cathode materials that move away from the current reliance on nickel and cobalt—which are limited resources and are associated with safety problems. The work was a collaboration between scientists at UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab, Argonne National Lab, MIT and UC Santa Cruz.
… it is remarkable that almost all Li-ion cathode materials rely on only two transition metals, Ni and Co, which are the electroactive elements in the layered-rocksalt cathode materials in the Li(Ni,Mn,Co)O2 chemical space (NMCs).  On one end of this compositional spectrum, LiCoO2 dominates the electronics sector, whereas Ni-rich materials are of interest for the automotive sector.  Although Mn [manganese] has been used in a spinel cathode, and Fe in the LiFePO4 olivine, these compounds suffer from low energy density.

Given the limits of energy density that can be achieved with the layered NMCs and the potential resource constraints on cobalt, it is of interest to develop high-capacity cathode materials based on other redox metals.  In particular, transition metals that can exchange two electrons are of interest for their ability to create high capacity, similar to the Ni2+/Ni4+ couple in NMC cathodes.  Low cost and low toxicity make the Mn2+/Mn4+ couple particularly desirable for designing high-performance Li-ion batteries that are also inexpensive and eco-friendly.

… The development of a high-performance Li-ion cathode based on the Mn2+/Mn4+ couple requires a material that forms in its discharged state, contains enough Mn2+ and Li+ ions to provide high capacity and preferably crystallizes in a dense structure, such as the layered or disordered-rocksalt structure, to maximize its volumetric energy density.  Introducing Mn2+ in the dense layered or disordered materials has been difficult, as the Li excess (x > 1 in LixTM2−xO2, where TM is transition metal) required to achieve high practical capacity demands a high average transition metal valence.

In this work, we demonstrate that high capacity (>300 mAh g-1) and energy density (about 1,000 Wh kg−1) can be achieved in disordered-rocksalt Li-rich intercalation cathodes from Mn2+/Mn4+ double redox combined with a small amount of O redox.

—Lee et al.
In 2014, the lab of senior author Gerbrand Ceder, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Berkeley, discovered a way that cathodes can maintain a high energy density without using the layerered structure of current cathodes—a concept called disordered rock salts.  The new study shows how manganese can work within this concept.

Read more at Researchers Demonstrate High-Capacity Mn-rich Li-ion Cathodes; a Design Pathway Away from Cobalt and Nickel

Sea Level Rise Poses Huge Threat to California, Heightening Urgency of Liability Cases

Half of the San Francisco Airport runways could be submerged by rising seas this century, a study shows.  (Photo Credit: Shaw/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
As fossil fuel companies try to fend off climate liability lawsuits from coastal California communities, a recent study revealed some alarming flood projections for the San Francisco Bay Area, bolstering the communities’ argument that rising seas pose imminent harm.

The study looked at land subsidence, or land that is sinking, which exacerbates flooding risk as sea levels rise.  Previous flood hazard maps underestimated the land area at risk by up to 90 percent, researchers found, because they were based only on sea level rise projections.

Taking the sinking land into account adds to the urgency, and projected costs, of adaptation.

“As sea levels rise and subsidence increases, and possibly groundwater increases, we have a perfect storm of very significant challenges and problems,” said Diana Sokolove, senior planner for the San Francisco Planning Department.  “We’re looking at billions of dollars [in costs] over time.”

San Francisco and neighboring Oakland are demanding that the big oil companies—ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and ConocoPhillips—help foot the bill.  The cities claim the companies knowingly extracted and sold a dangerous product that resulted in climate change harms like sea level rise, which constitutes a public nuisance.  For relief, the cities want the companies to pay into an abatement fund that will help cover the costs of building seawalls and other adaptive infrastructure.

Read more at Sea Level Rise Poses Huge Threat to California, Heightening Urgency of Liability Cases

New Satellite to Spot Planet-Warming Industrial Methane Leaks

Multimillion dollar project will scan and make public methane leaks from oil and gas plants that are a major contributor to global warming.

MethaneSAT will be built and launched by the Environmental Defense Fund and will operate as an ‘eye in the sky’ that will spot industrial methane leaks around the world. (Photograph Credit: EDF) Click to Enlarge.
Methane leaking from oil and gas facilities around the world – a major contributor to global warming – is set to be spotted from space.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has announced it aims to launch a satellite called MethaneSAT by 2021 to scan the globe and make major leaks public.  That information will then enable governments to force action, EDF hopes.  Building and launching the satellite will cost tens of millions of dollars, but EDF says it has already raised most of the money.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the short term, and is responsible for about a fifth of human-caused climate change.  The oil and gas industry is to blame for about a third of anthropogenic methane emissions, from fracking and other exploration sites, and from leaky pipelines.

“Cutting methane emissions from the global oil and gas industry is the single fastest thing we can do to help put the brakes on climate change right now,” said Fred Krupp, EDF president.  Only 3% of oil and gas companies currently report quantitative methane emissions, according to EDF.  “By providing reliable, fully transparent data on a worldwide scale, MethaneSAT will help transform a serious climate threat into a crucial opportunity,” he said.

Plugging methane leaks is widely seen as a fast, cheap way to tackle climate change.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates half of the gas leaks could be stopped at zero cost, because the cost of doing so is offset by the value of the extra gas captured and then sold.  But currently public information about the leaks is scarce and near-absent in regions where scrutiny is unwelcome.

“Our analysis has consistently emphasized that an effective response to the problem of methane emissions requires good data,” said Fatih Birol, IEA executive director.  “This announcement is a major step forward.”

Read more at New Satellite to Spot Planet-Warming Industrial Methane Leaks

German Minister to Carmakers:  Invest in Electric Cars or Lose Out

German Economic Minister Peter Altmaier walks after delivering a statement regarding the Trump Administration's steel and aluminum tariffs outside of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2018. (Credit: Reuters/ Leah Millis) Click to Enlarge.
The German automotive industry must invest heavily in electric car technology and develop battery production facilities in Europe to keep up with global competitors, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in a newspaper interview published on Monday.

Altmaier told Germany’s mass-circulation Bild newspaper that the carmakers needed to invest high “two-digit billion amounts” in electric car technology, saying he did not understand why the firms had hesitated for so long.

Investments were also needed in battery production, given expected demand for many millions of electric batteries that could help firms earn good money, he said.

“Otherwise we’ll have to accept that a large part of the added value will be produced in Asia or the United States, instead of here with us,” he said.

Read more at German Minister to Carmakers:  Invest in Electric Cars or Lose Out

A North American Climate Boundary Has Shifted 140 Miles East Due to Global Warming

Climate change has moved the 100th meridian west climatic divide from its historical position (solid line) 140 miles eastward (dotted line) in recent decades. (Modified from Seager et al. Earth Interactions, 2018) Click to Enlarge.
In the late 1800s geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell first described a clear boundary running longitudinally through North America along the 100th meridian west that visibly separated the humid eastern part of the continent from the more arid western plains.  Now, 140 years later, scientists have confirmed that such a sharp climatic boundary exists and that it is slowly shifting east due to climate change — a change that scientists say could have significant implications on farming in the region.

The new research, published in a pair of studies in the journal Earth Interactions late last month, found the divide is created by three factors:  the Rocky Mountains stopping moisture from the Pacific Ocean reaching farther inland, Atlantic winter storms bringing moisture to the eastern half of the U.S., and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico moving north and curving eastward during the summer months.  The only other clear, straight divide between humid and arid areas on the globe is the one separating the Sahara Desert from the rest of Africa, climate scientist Richard Seager of Columbia University, lead author of the new papers, said in a statement.

Seager and his colleagues wanted to study the boundary as an example of “psychogeography” — how environmental conditions affect human decisions.  “Powell talked eloquently about the 100th meridian, and this concept of a boundary line has stayed with us down to the current day,” said Seager.  “We wanted to ask whether there really is such a divide, and whether it’s influenced human settlement.” 

The divide cuts through eastern Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and the Canadian province of Manitoba. West of the 100th meridian, population density declines and development is sparse, and farms are larger and primarily depend on arid-resistant crops like wheat.  To the more humid east, more people and infrastructure exist. Farms are smaller and 70 percent of the harvested crop is moisture-loving corn.

Studying rainfall and temperature data since 1980, Seager and his colleagues found this climatic boundary has already shifted east about 140 miles so that it now sits closer to the 98th meridian.  And it will continue to move east as warming global temperatures increase evaporation from the soil and change precipitation patterns, they concluded.
According to a press release by Columbia University’s Earth Institute, “Seager predicts that as drying progresses, farms further and further east will have to consolidate and become larger in order to remain viable.  Unless farmers turn to irrigation or otherwise adapt, they will have to turn from corn to wheat or some other more suitable crop.  Large expanses of cropland may fail altogether, and have to be converted to western-style grazing range.  Water supplies could become a problem for urban areas.”

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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Climate Change or Global Warming? Three Reasons Not to Be Distracted by the Name Game - by Dr. Marshall Shepherd

2018 February Global Temperature Anomalies (Credit: NASA GISS) Click to Enlarge.
Social media is an interesting landscape of opinions, confirmation bias (consuming information that supports your beliefs), and expressions of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, a psychological term published in the literature that argues that people think they know more about topics than they actually do.  This week two very worrisome but important climate change (or global warming) related studies were highlighted in the media.  One study suggested an eastward shift in the well-known climate boundary near the 100-degree longitude line in the United States.  This could have major implications for U.S. agriculture; productivity.  The other study, actually two of them, revealed a slow down in a major ocean circulation that affects weather-climate patterns.  In discussing both on Twitter, a few inevitable "Didn't they change the name to climate change because global warming wasn't happening" tweets appeared.  While this is an oft-stated zombie theory, one that lives on though refuted by scientists, it is worth noting three reasons why you should not be distracted by this tactic.

Global warming is just one part of climate change. Before I go further, let's get this out of the way.  Yes, climate changes naturally and it always has.  Virtually every climate scientist knows this.  Milankovitch cycles (changes in the Earth's orbit, tilt, and wobble), solar variations, and other natural processes have affected and will continue to affect our climate system.  However, the science clearly shows that we now have a "human steroid" on top of the naturally-varying climate system.  It is important to remember that it is not "either/or" it is "and."  For example, grass grows naturally and "fertilized" soil will change how it grows.  Global warming is one aspect of climate change in the same way that a fever is one aspect of the flu.  A USGS website notes,
Although people tend to use these terms interchangeably, global warming is just one aspect of climate change.  “Global warming” refers to the rise in global temperatures due mainly to the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  “Climate change” refers to the increasing changes in the measures of climate over a long period of time – including precipitation, temperature, and wind patterns.
The terminology shift has political ties.  It is well-known by those that have done the research that President George W. Bush's administration preferred the term "climate change" over "global warming."  I was an Earth system scientist at NASA during this administration so I am very familiar with how things were unfolding at the time.  A political strategist wrote a memo in 2002 urging Republicans to use the term "climate change" because it was less scary than "global warming."
Public, media, and scientific usage varies.  As Jason Samenow, in his excellent treatment of this topic in response to statements by President Trump, recently wrote in the Washington Post Capital Weather Gang, the National Academies of Sciences noted a preference for the term "climate change" because it was more scientifically-accurate.  It has nothing to do with any "warming pauses" or lack of evidence of warming.
There are some that have argued for the use of the term "climate disruption."   Whatever it is called, do not fall for the attempt to discredit the science because of name... It is just a name game (and a deflection).

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Biologically Inspired Membrane Purges Coal-Fired Smoke of Greenhouse Gases

Imaginative method saves money and the environment.

A biologically inspired membrane intended to cleanse carbon dioxide almost completely from the smoke of coal-fired power plants has been developed by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico.

The patented work, reported recently in Nature Communications , has interested power and energy companies that would like to significantly and inexpensively reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the most widespread greenhouse gases, and explore other possible uses of the invention.

The memzyme meets the Department of Energy's standards by capturing 90 percent of power plant carbon dioxide production at a relatively low cost of $40 per ton.

Researchers term the membrane a "memzyme" because it acts like a filter but is near-saturated with an enzyme, carbonic anhydrase, developed by living cells over millions of years to help rid themselves of carbon dioxide efficiently and rapidly.

"To date, stripping carbon dioxide from smoke has been prohibitively expensive using the thick, solid, polymer membranes currently available," says Jeff Brinker, a Sandia fellow, University of New Mexico regents' professor and the paper's lead author.

"Our inexpensive method follows nature's lead in our use of a water-based membrane only 18 nanometers thick that incorporates natural enzymes to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide released.  (A nanometer is about 1/700 of the diameter of a human hair.)  This is almost 70 percent better than current commercial methods, and it's done at a fraction of the cost."

Coal power plants are one of the United States' largest energy producers, but they have been criticized by some for sending more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other form of electrical power generation.  Still, coal burning in China, India, and other countries means that U.S. abstinence alone is not likely to solve the world's climate problems.  But, says Brinker, "maybe technology will."

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Cutting Carbon Emissions Sooner Could Save 153 Million Lives

Smokestacks (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
As many as 153 million premature deaths linked to air pollution could be avoided worldwide this century if governments speed up their timetable for reducing fossil fuel emissions, a new Duke University-led study finds.

The study is the first to project the number of lives that could be saved, city by city, in 154 of the world's largest urban areas if nations agree to reduce carbon emissions and limit global temperature rise to 1.5oC in the near future rather than postponing the biggest emissions cuts until later, as some governments have proposed.

Premature deaths would drop in cities on every inhabited continent, the study shows, with the greatest gains in saved lives occurring in Asia and Africa.

Kolkata and Delhi, India, lead the list of cities benefitting from accelerated emissions cuts with up to 4.4 million projected saved lives and up to 4 million projected saved lives, respectively.  Thirteen other Asian or African cities could each avoid more than 1 million premature deaths and around 80 additional cities could each avoid at least 100,000 deaths.

Nearly 50 urban areas on other continents could also see significant gains in numbers of saved lives, with six cities -- Moscow, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Los Angeles, Puebla, and New York -- each potentially avoiding between 320,000 and 120,000 premature deaths.

The new projections underscore the grave shortcomings of taking the lowest-cost approach to emissions reductions, which permits emissions of carbon dioxide and associated air pollutants to remain higher in the short-term in hopes they can be offset by negative emissions in the far distant future, said Drew Shindell, Nicholas Professor of Earth Sciences at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

"The lowest-cost approach only looks at how much it will cost to transform the energy sector.  It ignores the human cost of more than 150 million lost lives, or the fact that slashing emissions in the near term will reduce long-term climate risk and avoid the need to rely on future carbon dioxide removal," he said.  "That's a very risky strategy, like buying something on credit and assuming you'll someday have a big enough income to pay it all back."

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This Battery Advance Could Make Electric Vehicles far Cheaper

Sila Nanotechnologies has pulled off double-digit performance gains for lithium-ion batteries, promising to lower costs or add capabilities for cars and phones.

Sila Nano’s prototype cells boosted energy density by around 20 percent, promising longer-lasting batteries. (Credit: Sila Nanotechnologies) Click to Enlarge.
For the last seven years, a startup based in Alameda, California, has quietly worked on a novel anode material that promises to significantly boost the performance of lithium-ion batteries.

Sila Nanotechnologies emerged from stealth mode last month, partnering with BMW to put the company's silicon-based anode materials in at least some of the German automaker’s electric vehicles by 2023.  A BMW spokesman told the Wall Street Journal the company expects that the deal will lead to a 10 to 15 percent increase in the amount of energy you can pack into a battery cell of a given volume.  Sila’s CEO Gene Berdichevsky says the materials could eventually produce as much as a 40 percent improvement.

For EVs, an increase in so-called energy density either significantly extends the mileage range possible on a single charge or decreases the cost of the batteries needed to reach standard ranges.  For consumer gadgets, it could alleviate the frustration of cell phones that can’t make it through the day, or it might enable power-hungry next-generation features like bigger cameras or ultrafast 5G networks.

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