Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Despite Trump, Wall Street Is Breaking Up with Fossil Fuels - By Bill McKibben

If you’re looking for good news on the climate front, don’t look to the Antarctic.  Last week’s spate of studies documenting that its melt rates had tripled is precisely the kind of data that underscores the almost impossible urgency of the moment.

And don’t look to Washington, D.C., where the unlikely survival of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt continues to prove the political power of the fossil fuel industry.  It’s as if he’s on a reality show where the premise is to see how much petty corruption one man can get away with.

But from somewhat less likely quarters, there’s been reason this month for hope — reason, at least, to think that the basic trajectory of the world away from coal and gas and oil is firmly underway.

At the Vatican, the Pope faced down a conference full of oil industry executives — the basic argument that fossil fuel reserves must be kept underground has apparently percolated to the top of the world’s biggest organization.

And from Wall Street came welcome word that market perceptions haven’t really changed:  Even in the age of Trump, the fossil fuel industry has gone from the world’s surest bet to an increasingly challenged enterprise.  Researchers at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis minced no words:  “In the past several years, oil industry financial statements have revealed significant signs of strain:  Profits have dropped, cash flow is down, balance sheets are deteriorating, and capital spending is falling.  The stock market has recognized the sector’s overall weakness, punishing oil and gas shares over the past five years even as the market as a whole has soared.”

The IEEFA report labeled the industry “weaker than it has been in decades” and laid out its basic frailties, the first of which is paradoxical.  Fracking has produced a sudden surge of gas and oil into the market, lowering prices — which means many older investments (Canada’s tar sands, for instance) no longer make economic sense.  Fossil fuel has been transformed into a pure commodity business, and since the margins on fracking are narrow at best, its financial performance has been woeful.  The IEEFA describes investors as “shell-shocked” by poor returns.

The second weakness is more obvious:  the sudden rise of a competitor that seems able to deliver the same product — energy — with cheaper, cleaner, better technologies.  Tesla, sure—but Volkswagen, having come clean about the dirtiness of diesel, is going to spend $84 billion on electric drivetrains.  China seems bent on converting its entire bus fleet to electric power.  Every week seems to bring a new record-low price for clean energy:  the most recent being a Nevada solar plant clocking in at 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, even with Trump’s tariffs on Chinese panels.

And the third problem for the fossil fuel industry?  According to IEEFA, that would be the climate movement — a material financial risk to oil and gas companies. “In addition to traditional lobbying and direct-action campaigns, climate activists have joined with an increasingly diverse set of allies — particularly the indigenous-rights movement — to put financial pressure on oil and gas companies through divestment campaigns, corporate accountability efforts, and targeting of banks and financial institutions. These campaigns threaten not only to undercut financing for particular projects, but also to raise financing costs for oil and gas companies across the board.”

Read more at Despite Trump, Wall Street Is Breaking Up with Fossil Fuels

Hydro-Quebec, Central Maine Power Agree to 20-Year Cross-Border Transmission Terms

The successful negotiation of contracts this week move Hydro-Quebec's plan to export surplus hydroelectric power into the New England region of the United States one step closer to fruition.

The Canadian utility and the Central Maine Power Co. announced Monday they had struck a deal with the Massachusetts electric distribution companies (EDCs) for the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), which would allow Hydro-Quebec to send about 9.45 TWh of power via high-voltage transmission line into the U.S. annually for 20 years.
...
The Massachusetts EDCs will next file agreements with the state's Department of Public Utilities, per terms of its 83D Clean Energy Request for Proposals.

"In the coming months we'll be working closely with Central Maine Power to complete this important new interconnection project, which will not only reduce carbon emissions, but will also bring price stability and supply reliability to the region," said Eric Martel, president and CEO of Hydro-Quebec.

The New England Clean Energy Connect is being developed by a partnership that includes utility Central Maine Power, energy holding company Avangrid, and renewables developer Iberdrola.

The project is an alternative to the Northern Pass line, which failed to gain support from Massachusetts earlier this year.

Developers say the NECEC has several significant advantages over the Northern Pass, beginning with its smaller $950 million price tag.  The line would also run entirely on land owned by Central Maine Power, with about two-thirds using existing transmission corridors.

Like the Northern Pass, however, NECEC faces opposition from groups fearful that the line and its associated infrastructure would be a detriment to the region's scenery.

Opponents also claim the NECEC, Northern Pass and other proposed cross-border transmission projects are quick-fix for utilities looking to meet Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's call for them to increase the mix of renewables in their portfolios.

Read more at Hydro-Quebec, Central Maine Power Agree to 20-Year Cross-Border Transmission Terms

Climate Change to Become ‘Greatest Pressure on Biodiversity’ by 2070

Australian frog (Credit: pinterest.com.au) Click to Enlarge.
The combined effects of global warming and land-use change could cause the world’s ecosystems to lose more than a third of their animal species by 2070, a new study finds.

Climate change is expected to become the largest driver of biodiversity loss by the second half of the century, the research finds, surpassing the effects of deforestation and agriculture.

The local loss of species could greatly impair the ability of ecosystems to function as normal, the lead author tells Carbon Brief, which could, in turn, threaten natural services, such as pollination.

Read more at Climate Change to Become ‘Greatest Pressure on Biodiversity’ by 2070

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday 19

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.

Coastal Real Estate Worth Billions at Risk of Chronic Flooding as Sea Level Rises

More than 150,000 homes and businesses could face frequent high-tide flooding within 15 years.  That could double by 2045, a new report says.


During this winter's nor'easters, high tides flooded the streets of Scituate, Massachusetts. The town and property owners, like others along the U.S. coasts, face rising costs to keep the ocean at bay. (Credit: Scott Eisen/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Most people check out Zillow, a popular online real estate app, for information on how many beds and baths a house includes, or the quality of local schools, or how long a home has been on the market.

But climate experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) saw Zillow as just the kind of big data needed to better inform assessments of the risks of flooding to properties around the nation's rim.  And looking at the app through that screen, they have turned up some troubling visions.

Property losses in the United States could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars unless rapid action is taken to bring climate change under control, they warned in a study released Monday.

The owners of more than 150,000 existing homes and commercial properties, worth $63 billion, could find their assets at risk from repeated flooding in the coming 15 years.  That risk could double by 2045.

Read more at Coastal Real Estate Worth Billions at Risk of Chronic Flooding as Sea Level Rises

White House Called Pruitt's Climate Plans 'Out Of Control'

EPA boss Scott Pruitt's idea for a climate science debate met resistance in the Trump White House. (Credit: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Last summer, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was publicly talking up his plans to launch a debate aimed at poking holes in mainstream climate science.

His policy chief, Samantha Dravis, got an email from President Trump's energy adviser Mike Catanzaro asking for an urgent meeting to talk about Pruitt's "red team" climate science review.

"There are a lot of reports about EPA's planning on this," Catanzaro wrote July 25.  "None of it is being run by us.  This seems to be getting out of control."
...
'Push and pull'
With the red-team approach, Pruitt's intention "was to really attack the science behind the endangerment finding," a former administration official told E&E News last week.

The endangerment finding on greenhouse gases is a scientific determination that underpins EPA's climate regulations, and many conservatives hope a red-team exercise will be used to unravel that finding.  "Pruitt really believed that a red-team, blue-team exercise would go to the heart of challenging the science behind all this," the former official said.

First he'd have to get past the White House.

There was a constant "push and pull" between EPA and the White House last year over the red team, the former official said.  The White House was "just trying to stall it."

After Pruitt's aides circulated the draft release on Nov. 4 last year, Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, sent it in the body of an email saying, "I think we are set.  Good?"

But the next day, Jackson received an email from sooners7@epa.gov — an address reportedly used by Pruitt.  "Let's discuss.  Needs revision," the email said.

The New York Times reported that Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, learned about the planned news release and demanded that the red-team debate be delayed until top officials could discuss the issue.

"White House officials saw the draft press release from EPA and shut it down," someone familiar with the red-team process told E&E News last week.

In early December, EPA officials were still discussing the red-team effort behind the scenes.  "We have two ways ahead to announce this and get this underway," Jackson wrote to several agency officials, including EPA air chief Bill Wehrum, on Dec. 5.  President Trump had privately told Pruitt he supported the approach.

It appears as though there was a plan for Wehrum to announce the effort in December.

Mandy Gunasekara, principal deputy assistant administrator in the air office, circulated a "draft charge statement for RTBT" — an apparent reference to red team, blue team — on Dec. 8.

"Ideally we will get [Pruitt's] final edits and okay on this before he leaves for Morocco so Bill can make the official RTBT announcement on Tuesday," she wrote.

But the next week, Wehrum and other EPA aides were summoned to the White House, where they were told by Catanzaro, deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn and others that the red team was "on hold".  Catanzaro and Dearborn have since left the administration.

Read more at White House Called Pruitt's Climate Plans 'Out Of Control'

EPA / Inside the Grants Review:  'This Is Not Going to Be Funded'

EPA headquarters in Washington. (Credit: @EPAScottPruitt/Twitter) Click to Enlarge.
Recently disclosed records shed more light on EPA's review of agency grants, which number in the billions of dollars.

Internal EPA emails, released to the Natural Resources Defense Council under the Freedom of Information Act, offer more details on a grants review managed by John Konkus, a deputy public affairs chief and one of President Trump's political appointees.  The documents show the review involved several appointees at times and often flagged EPA funds that were flowing to the Obama administration's allies and priorities, like combating climate change.

Career officials at EPA also pushed back on decisions to pull funding from certain organizations.  They also tried to make the case that agency money could be worked into the agenda of President Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt.
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Memo now rescinded
The grants review attracted scrutiny after E&E News reported last August that Konkus, a political appointee, was overseeing the process, which had been typically managed by career officials.  An EPA spokesman told E&E News that the Trump administration wanted to be "good stewards" of taxpayer money.

"EPA awards about $4 billion in grants annually, and the Trump EPA is committed to being good stewards of the taxpayers' huge investment in our agency by reviewing every grant award and solicitation," said the spokesman.

EPA issued a memo on Aug. 8 last year directing its Office of Public Affairs to review and approve all grant solicitations.

EPA's grants process, however, has changed again.

The agency shared with E&E News an email sent last month, which rescinded the Aug. 8 memo.  Instead, regional administrators and assistant administrators at EPA now have to approve "solicitation issuance" for grants.

"Now that all of our Regional Administrators and most of our program AAs are in place, we have shifted the responsibility to these leaders to review and manage the grants that flow through their respective offices," said the EPA spokesman.

Read more at EPA / Inside the Grants Review:  'This Is Not Going to Be Funded'

Local Interventions Boost Coral's Resilience to Bleaching

Corals fared better after researchers picked off some snails.


Caption Side by side images compare a healthy brain coral at left, and one that has experienced 100 percent bleaching from the combined stresses of warm water and predators. (Credit: Duke University) Click to Enlarge.
Local conservation actions can significantly boost coral's resilience to, and recovery from, climate-induced thermal bleaching by reducing other energy-sapping stresses the coral faces, a new study finds.  Scientists found they could reduce the extent of bleaching by half if they removed or reduced populations of coral-eating snails from affected reefs.  The coral's recovery from bleaching was also enhanced.

Read more at Local Interventions Boost Coral's Resilience to Bleaching

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday 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.

Clean Energy Investment ‘Must Be 50% Higher’ to Limit Warming to 1.5C

Burgos wind farm, Burgos, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. (palpalokada-december-2012-6-M2KM0FCredit: 500px / Alamy Stock Photo) Click to Enlarge.
An extra $460bn per year needs to be invested on the low-carbon economy globally over the next 12 years to limit global warming to 1.5C, a new paper says.

This is 50% higher than the additional investment needed to meet a 2C limit, the paper says.  It is the first to assess the difference in investments and monetary flows between the two temperature goals of the Paris Agreement, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

The paper also finds a far faster increase in low-carbon energy and energy efficiency investment would be needed to limit warming to 1.5C.  Meanwhile, coal investment would not change substantially between a 1.5C and 2C scenario, the lead author says, since a dramatic downscaling of coal investments is already required to meet the 2C goal.

Financial flows
The Paris Agreement says countries should scale up finance to the low-carbon economy.  Article 2.1(c) of the deal commits signatories to:
“Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”
The new paper, published today in Nature Energy, aims to quantify the scale of financial flows that may be required to meet the overarching temperature goals of the Paris deal.  It assesses how much would be needed for four scenarios.

In the first, countries meet the targets laid out in their current individual climate pledges (“nationally determined contributions”, or NDCs).  The second looks at meeting the Paris goal of limiting global warming to “well below 2C”.  The third scenario considers a world where the aspirational Paris target of limiting warming to 1.5C is met.  These are compared to a business-as-usual scenario with no further tightening of current climate and energy policies.

The study combines the results from six different integrated assessment models (IAMs) to make its findings more robust.  Each model represents the global energy system and the various mitigation options for the future in a slightly different way.  All scenarios are in line with a “middle-of-the-road” future where social, economic, and technological trends broadly follow their historical patterns (SSP2).

The findings show an extra $132bn investment in low-carbon technology and energy efficiency is needed between 2016 and 2030 to meet the NDC targets, compared to a business-as-usual scenario.

The additional investments needed to meet climate pledges amounts to less then a tenth of the $1,700bn invested in the global energy system in 2016, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

It is also comparable in scale to $100bn per year in climate finance that rich countries have promised developing countries to help fund their climate efforts.

Read more at Clean Energy Investment ‘Must Be 50% Higher’ to Limit Warming to 1.5C

Freshwater Fish More Critical to Global Food Security Than Previously Thought

A woman carrying small fish, locally named "sambaza," atop her head near Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Credit: Monusco /Abel Kavanagh) Click to Enlarge.
Freshwater fish play an important role in global food security, particularly in low-income nations.  But scientists and policymakers have never had a good grasp on exactly how much freshwater fish people eat.  Now, a new survey of 548,000 households in 42 low-income countries finds families eat 9.26 million metric tons of wild-caught freshwater fish annually — 65 percent more than previously estimated.

That quantity of fish is enough to cover the total annual animal protein consumption of 36.9 million people, according to an analysis of the surveys published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The findings, which include surveys conducted from 1997 to 2014, indicate that one-third of the global inland fish harvest goes unreported. The surveys also suggest that more care should be given to protecting freshwater fish stocks and that aquaculture production alone will likely not be adequate to replace lost food sources if these stocks drastically decline.  The research was done by ecologists and food scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Read more at Freshwater Fish More Critical to Global Food Security Than Previously Thought

Norway Tests Tiny Electric Plane, Sees Passenger Flights by 2025

A two-seat electric plane made by Slovenian firm Pipistrel stands outside a hangar before a test flight at Oslo Airport, Norway June 18, 2018. (Credit: Reuters/Alister Doyle) Click to Enlarge.
Norway tested a two-seater electric plane on Monday and predicted a start to passenger flights by 2025 if new aviation technologies match a green shift that has made Norwegians the world’s top buyers of electric cars.

Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen and Dag Falk-Petersen, head of state-run Avinor which runs most of Norway’s airports, took a few minutes’ flight around Oslo airport in an Alpha Electro G2 plane, built by Pipistrel in Slovenia.

“This is ... a first example that we are moving fast forward” toward greener aviation, Solvik-Olsen told Reuters. “We do have to make sure it is safe - people won’t fly if they don’t trust it.”

He said plane makers such as Boeing and Airbus were developing electric aircraft and that battery prices were tumbling, making it feasible to reach a government goal of making all domestic flights in Norway electric by 2040.

Asked when passenger flights in electric planes could start, Falk-Petersen, the pilot, said:  “My best guess is before 2025 ... It should all be electrified by 2040.”

The two said the plane, with a takeoff weight of 570 kg (1255 lb), was cramped and buffeted by winds but far quieter than a conventional plane run on fossil fuels.

Norway tops the world league for per capita sales of electric cars such as Teslas, Nissan Leafs, or Volkswagen Golfs, backed by incentives such as big tax breaks, free parking and exemptions from road tolls.

In May 2018, 56 percent of all cars sold in Norway were either pure electric or hybrids against 46 percent in the same month of 2017, according to official statistics.

Norway, a mountainous country of five million people where fjords and remote islands mean many short-hop routes of less than 200 kms, would be ideal for electric planes, Solvik-Olsen said. Also, 98 percent of electricity in Norway is generated from clean hydro power.

Read more at Norway Tests Tiny Electric Plane, Sees Passenger Flights by 2025

The Wall Street Journal Keeps Peddling Big Oil Propaganda - by Dana Nuccitelli

Dana Nuccitelli (Credit: twitter.com) Click to Enlarge.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Opinion page has long had a conservative skew, and unfortunately that has extended to politicizing climate change with biased and factually inaccurate editorials.

Over the past several weeks, the WSJ’s attacks on climate science have gone into overdrive.  On May 15th, the Opinion page published a self-contradictory editorial from the lifelong contrarian and fossil fuel-funded Fred Singer that so badly rejected basic physics, it prompted one researcher to remark, “If this were an essay in one of my undergraduate classes, he would fail.”

The WSJ did publish a letter to the editor (LTE) from real climate scientists Andrea Dutton and Michael Mann rebutting Singer’s editorial.  However, it gave the last word to science deniers in an LTE response rejecting the well-established facts that sea level rise is accelerating and Antarctic is loss is contributing to it.

A few days later, the WSJ opinion page was at it again, publishing an editorial by Stephen F. Hayward, who describes himself as having “spent most of my adult life in conservative think tanks in Washington, D.C.,” and it shows.  Hayward has a long history as a climate naysayer, spanning over a decade back to his days with the fossil fuel-funded American Enterprise Institute.

Playing Whack-a-Mole with Hayward’s Gish Gallop
Hayward’s arguments of course deserve to be judged on their own merits.  I devoted my first-ever Tweetstorm to doing just that:
Dana Nuccitelli✔@dana1981
Ok, let's do a Whack-a-Mole Twitter thread debunking all the nonsense in @stevenfhayward's @WSJ editorial (1/n)

10:03 AM - Jun 6, 2018
Hayward falls into the category some describe as “Lukewarmers.”  This group consists of people who think that – contrary to the body of available evidence– global warming will be slow and we don’t have to worry much about it.  I prefer the term “Luckwarmer,” since they’re betting that Earth’s climate sensitivity is at the very low end or lower than the range of values supported by scientific evidence. In that sense, they’re gambling we’ll be very lucky that the climate dice will come up snake eyes.

Throughout his career, Hayward has spilled a lot of ink trolling those who are concerned about climate change.  In this latest opinion piece, he argues that “climate change has run its course” because nobody is doing anything serious to solve it, and nobody cares about climate change anymore.

Hayward’s evidence to support this thesis is flimsy, to put it charitably.  For example, when pressed on the fact that every country save America has agreed to implement policies to curb climate change, Hayward cited Japan as a counter-example that’s building more coal power plants since the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.  Indeed, Japan’s climate policies are highly insufficient to meet the Paris goals.  But Japan has nevertheless signed onto the Paris agreement, whose framework allows signatory countries to periodically strengthen their policies and commitments and thus eventually meet the targets.  And Japan’s per person carbon pollution is already about 40% lower than America’s.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal Keeps Peddling Big Oil Propaganda

How School Buses Could Help Run Air Conditioners During Peak Demand

Parked school buses (Credit: Image credit: Rupert Ganzer | Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Schools are letting out, and that means many yellow buses are headed to storage. 

But what if instead of sitting idle for much of the summer, school buses had a seasonal job helping to balance the electric grid?

The state of Illinois is about to test that potential with what environmental groups say could be the start of a transformational investment for both air quality and the electric grid.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to spend $10.8 million of its Volkswagen settlement money on electric school buses, a larger carve out than any other state.

The plan has been cheered by environmental advocates who say the money will benefit the state’s power grid and public health — especially for kids exposed to exhaust from diesel buses — even as critics in the natural gas industry say it would be more cost effective to invest in propane buses.

“The electric school bus component of (Illinois EPA’s) proposal is the element promising the most positive transformation,” said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, speaking at a public comment session hosted by state environmental official in Chicago last month.

She said the money could provide a shot in the arm for electric school buses in Illinois and be enough to bring the buses to several school districts.

Read more at How School Buses Could Help Run Air Conditioners During Peak Demand

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday 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.

Boston Has New Rules to Help Buildings Withstand Climate Change

A parking lot on Long Wharf was one of many stretches of downtown Boston that flooded during a storm in January. (Credit: Lane Turner/Globe Staff) Click to Enlarge.
Memories of the storm last winter that flooded parts of downtown Boston are still fresh at City Hall.  Now, the Walsh administration is pushing developers to make their buildings better able to withstand another watery apocalypse.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency on Thursday approved new rules to make big buildings more resilient to the effects of climate change.  City officials hope the measures will help minimize flooding, keep the lights on in more buildings during power outages, and make it easier to upgrade street lights and other public works.

“We think we’ve identified a way forward that appears to be the first of its kind in the nation,” said Brian Golden, the agency’s director.

The rules are initially being tested for a two-year period and differ for projects based on size.  For the largest developments — at least 1.5 million square feet — developers will need to assess installing an on-site power plant, and build one if it’s financially feasible.  They will also have to consolidate all wiring for cable, Internet, and other telecom services into one underground tube, so there is less disruption to streets and sidewalks during repairs.

Any new development above 100,000 square feet will have to retain more rainfall than currently required, to help prevent runoff during storms from contributing to floods in the surrounding area.  In 2017, the planning agency received applications for 39 projects over 100,000 square feet.

Read more at Boston Has New Rules to Help Buildings Withstand Climate Change

Get Out of Jail Free Card:  Carbon Capture - by James Hansen

Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration (Credit: National Research Council) Click to Enlarge.
David Keith has done some of the most credible work on direct air capture of CO2, so his recent paper in Joule reporting on the cost of carbon capture deserves attention.  Media reports emphasized that these reported costs were lower than costs estimated in a report by the American Physical Society (APS) in 2011.  This caused some people to believe that we may be on the way to a “get out of jail free” card, the hope of many that technology will come to the rescue, so we do not need to be so concerned about the mess we are leaving for young people.

Unfortunately, the new news on carbon capture costs provides no support for the notion that we can solve the climate problem without fossil fuel phase-out.  On the contrary, the Keith et al. study reinforces our concerns.

Many people failed to notice the matter of units.  Keith reports a cost of $113-232 per ton of CO2 for plant designs in which the resulting CO2 is ready for sequestration   The cost per ton of carbon (tC) is higher by the factor 44/12.  So the reported cost is $414-850/tC. 

Furthermore, none of the four cases include the cost of carbon storage!  According to the 2015 National Academy of Sciences report on CO2 removal[2] the costs of geological sequestration are $37-73/tC.  So the total costs for capture plus storage would be $451-923/tC. 

Note that we used the cost range $113-232/tCO2 from the Keith paper.  They also give a cost range $94-232/tCO2, which is what the media picked up on.  However, the $94 case has the CO2 being used to make a liquid fuel that, when burned, puts the CO2 back in the air!  So there is no negative emission.  In fact, that total process would have positive emissions, at least to some degree. 

In Young People’s Burden we were aware that the cost estimates from the APS study were high.  Based on many studies referenced in our paper, we chose $150-350/tC as an optimistic estimate of the potential future cost.  The low end of the cost range $451-923/tC  based on Keith et al. is about 30% higher than the upper end of our range!

In Young People’s Burden we show that even our very optimistic cost of carbon capture results in an unbearable debt for young people, if high emissions continue unabated.  The new estimates only reaffirm that conclusion.  There is no prospect for a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.

One of the legal cases now underway is an effort to block the Trump government from opening up a huge new area of coal mining in Montana.  The total coal resources in the basin in question are twice the quantity produced in the entire U.S. since 1949!  Burning even a fraction of these resources would leave an astronomical cost for young people, as I show in the linked declaration I submitted to support the case against expanding that mining. It makes no sense to exploit these resources, serving only to enrich a handful of people.  Most of the coal would be shipped to the Far East, but, in the end, I do not believe that the United States can escape either the moral or legal obligations from such a willful disregard of the consequences for young people.  It makes no sense to approve such expansion of coal mining, and I believe that chances of blocking that expansion are good.

Read more at Get Out of Jail Free Card:  Carbon Capture

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Saturday 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.

In a Warming World, Deadly Bacteria Are More Resistant to Antibiotics

Scientists find that increasing temperatures, along with higher population densities and overprescribing antibiotics, play a role in drug-defiant bacteria.


E. coli bacteria. (Credit: NIAID) Click to Enlarge.
Tom Patterson became ill in 2015 while vacationing in Egypt.  He was felled by Acinetobacter baumannii, an often deadly bacterium resistant to every antibiotic his doctors tried.  Patterson, a University of California San Diego psychiatry professor, should have died, but didn’t.  (Experimental infusions of bacteria-killing viruses known as bacteriophages ultimately saved his life.)  But his near-death experience from a superbug he picked up in a warm country — an organism that also has afflicted many hospitalized wounded troops in Iraq and Kuwait — raises provocative questions about drug-resistant bacteria and their relationship to our increasingly hotter planet.

“Travelers returning from tropical and other warm areas where multi-drug resistant pathogens have become more widespread will increasingly challenge the antibiotics on our shelves,” said Robert T. Schooley, an infectious diseases specialist at UC San Diego, who treated Patterson.  “Turning up the temperature of the incubator in which we live will clearly speed the evolutionary clock of bacterial and other pathogens with which we must co-exist.”

Experts already know that climate change has become a significant threat to global public health, particularly as rising temperatures have produced greater populations of disease-transmitting insects, such as mosquitoes.  But warmth also encourages bacteria to grow, providing them a chance to mutate and elude drugs that once easily killed them.  While antibiotic resistance is believed largely due to the indiscriminate prescribing of antibiotics, experts now think that other environmental stresses — climate change among them — also may be at work.

The world is confronting a growing and frightening danger from multi-drug-resistant infections, with many now difficult or impossible to treat.  The World Health Organization has described this scenario as “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.”  There are more than 2 million cases and 23,000 deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A recent study published in Nature Climate Change suggests that a link between climate change and bacterial resistance exists right here in the United States, particularly in its southern regions. Epidemiologists from Boston Children’s Hospital and the University of Toronto found that higher local temperatures and population densities correlated to a greater level of antibiotic resistance among a number of common bacterial strains.

Read more at In a Warming World, Deadly Bacteria Are More Resistant to Antibiotics

Tripling the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries

Scientists have synthesized a new cathode material from iron fluoride that surpasses the capacity limits of traditional lithium-ion batteries.


Brookhaven scientists are shown at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials. Pictured from left to right are: (top row) Jianming Bai, Seongmin Bak, and Sooyeon Hwang; (bottom row) Dong Su and Enyuan Hu. (Credit: bnl.gov) Click to Enlarge.
As the demand for smartphones, electric vehicles, and renewable energy continues to rise, scientists are searching for ways to improve lithium-ion batteries—the most common type of battery found in home electronics and a promising solution for grid-scale energy storage.  Increasing the energy density of lithium-ion batteries could facilitate the development of advanced technologies with long-lasting batteries, as well as the widespread use of wind and solar energy.  Now, researchers have made significant progress toward achieving that goal.

A collaboration led by scientists at the University of Maryland (UMD), the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the U.S. Army Research Lab have developed and studied a new cathode material that could triple the energy density of lithium-ion battery electrodes.  Their research was published on June 13 in Nature Communications.
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Scientists at UMD synthesized a new cathode material, a modified and engineered form of iron trifluoride (FeF3), which is composed of cost-effective and environmentally benign elements—iron and fluorine.  Researchers have been interested in using chemical compounds like FeF3 in lithium-ion batteries because they offer inherently higher capacities than traditional cathode materials.

“The materials normally used in lithium-ion batteries are based on intercalation chemistry,” said Enyuan Hu, a chemist at Brookhaven and one of the lead authors of the paper.  “This type of chemical reaction is very efficient; however, it only transfers a single electron, so the cathode capacity is limited.  Some compounds like FeF3 are capable of transferring multiple electrons through a more complex reaction mechanism, called a conversion reaction.”

Despite FeF3’s potential to increase cathode capacity, the compound has not historically worked well in lithium-ion batteries due to three complications with its conversion reaction:  poor energy efficiency (hysteresis), a slow reaction rate, and side reactions that can cause poor cycling life.  To overcome these challenges, the scientists added cobalt and oxygen atoms to FeF3 nanorods through a process called chemical substitution.  This allowed the scientists to manipulate the reaction pathway and make it more “reversible.”

Read more at Tripling the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries

Slowing Tropical Cyclones Bring More Mayhem

Tropical cyclones are slowing down.  Hurricanes have lost their hurry.  Paradoxically, this is bad news:  they have more time to work their mischief.


Hurricane Harvey caused $126bn of danage. [Image Credit: Jill Carlson (jillcarlson.org), via Wikimedia Commons] Click to Enlarge.
Tropical cyclones are moving more slowly.  As temperatures rise, the pace at which a hurricane storms across a landscape has slowed perceptibly in the last 70 years.  But the slowdown means each hurricane has more time to do more damage and deliver more flooding.

“Tropical cyclones over land have slowed down 20% in the Atlantic, 30% in the northwestern Pacific and 19% in the Australian region,” said James Kossin, of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s national centers for environmental information.

“These trends are almost certainly increasing local rainfall totals and freshwater flooding, which is associated with a very high mortality risk.”

He reports in the journal Nature that thanks to atmospheric warming as a consequence of the profligate combustion of fossil fuels in the last century, the summer tropical circulation has slowed and, along with it, hurricane and typhoon speeds.  Overall, since 1940, cyclone movements have slowed by 10%; over some land areas, they have slowed much more.

But as the temperature goes up, the capacity of the atmosphere to hold moisture increases – by at least 7% with each degree Centigrade.  That means a tropical cyclone – a whirling system of terrifying winds bearing huge quantities of water – has both more water, and more time to drop it over land.

Read more at Slowing Tropical Cyclones Bring More Mayhem

Connecticut Approves 250 Megawatts of Clean Energy Including 200 Megawatt Revolution Offshore Wind Farm

The 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm, developed by Deepwater Wind, the United States’ first offshore wind farm (Credit: Deepwater Wind) Click to Enlarge.
The State of Connecticut has this week approved 250 megawatts (MW) worth of renewable energy projects submitted to a recent Request for Proposals, including what will be the state’s first offshore wind farm, the 200 MW Revolution Wind Project proposed by Deepwater Wind.

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy and the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Robert Klee announced on Wednesday the projects awarded out of DEEP’s recent Clean Energy Request for Proposals.
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Of particular interest from the awarded projects, however, was the 200 MW Revolution Wind Project, first announced by developer Deepwater Wind back in the middle of 2017 when it was a proposed 144 MW offshore wind farm with a 40 MW-hour (MWh) Tesla battery storage system.  Deepwater Wind proposed several variations for the Request for Proposals, and it has now been reimagined as a 200 MW project.

The 200 MW Revolution Wind Project is in addition to the 400 MW Revolution Wind project that was awarded capacity by the state of Rhode Island in late-May — meaning simply that Deepwater Wind will develop 600 MW worth of offshore wind power at its site located roughly halfway between Montauk, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  More specifically, the project is located within the same federal lease site as Deepwater Wind’s 90 MW South Fork Wind Farm which is currently in development.

Read more at Connecticut Approves 250 Megawatts of Clean Energy Including 200 Megawatt Revolution Offshore Wind Farm

BP’s Global Data for 2017:  Global Primary Energy Consumption Grew Strongly in 2017, Led by Natural Gas and Renewables, with Coal’s Share of the Energy Mix Continuing to Decline

Renewable energy grew by the largest amount ever last year, while coal-fired electricity also reached a record high, according to new global data from oil giant BP.

However, set against continued rapid rises in energy demand fueled by oil and gas, renewables were not enough to prevent global CO2 emissions rising significantly for the first time in four years, the figures show.

This was partly because cyclical economic changes had flattered progress in previous years and, last year, canceled out some of the slow, continuing shift towards a lower-carbon energy, BP says.

Still, the goals of the Paris Agreement look as far away as ever in the wake of these latest figures, given emissions must, ultimately, reach net-zero by mid-century to avoid dangerous warming.

Carbon Brief runs through the 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, which, for the first time, covers all sources of electricity and the key materials needed for electric vehicles.

Another renewables record
Wind, solar and other non-hydro renewable energy sources grew by 69m tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2017.  This was their largest-ever increase, breaking last year’s record of 53Mtoe.  Renewables were also the fastest-growing source of energy last year, up 17%.

Nevertheless, all low-carbon sources together met just a third of the 253Mtoe (2.2%) increase in global energy demand in 2017.  Fossil fuels met the remaining two thirds, with gas (+83Mtoe, 3.0%) the single-largest source of new energy supply last year.

Read more at BP’s Global Data for 2017:  Global Primary Energy Consumption Grew Strongly in 2017, Led by Natural Gas and Renewables, with Coal’s Share of the Energy Mix Continuing to Decline

Renault Investing > €1B for Development and Production of EVs in France

Renault Zoe sets a new all-time EV sales record (Credit: Renault) Click to Enlarge.
Groupe Renault is accelerating the deployment of its Drive The Future strategic plan with an investment of more than €1 billion (US$1.2 billion) for the development and production of electric vehicles in France.
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Renault posted 38% growth in electric vehicle sales in Europe, with a 44% increase in ZOE registrations and a 23.8% market share in 2017.

Read more at Renault Investing > €1B for Development and Production of EVs in France

Pollinators, but No Pollen:  Spring Heat Left Europe's Plants, Insects Out of Sync

In Austria, butterflies hatched early with the heat, but their flowers hadn’t opened yet.  Bees are under pressure, too.  'You can see the climate change.'


The European Commission formally recognized the threats to bees and other pollinators in a proposal adopted June 1. Its website lists climate change as one driver of pollinators' decline. (Credit: Bob Berwyn) Click to Enlarge.
In a patch of scruffy prairie near Vienna, marbled white butterflies hover near clusters of unopened globe thistles.  They uncurl their long proboscises to probe the spiky buds—without success.  It'll be a couple more weeks before the flowers open, but some of the butterflies may not survive that long if they don't find something else to eat.

Two months of unusually high spring temperatures in Europe have thrown the ecosystem in this urban wilderness meadow out of whack, says butterfly expert Marion Jaros.  The warm temperatures accelerated the hatch of many butterflies and other pollinating species, but the flowers they depend on for nectar are not responding in sync.

"Here, too, you can see climate change," Jaros says, as a hot, dry wind rustles the tall grass, dried to golden straw a month sooner than usual. Important pollinator species are being affected across Europe, she adds.

Read more at Pollinators, but No Pollen:  Spring Heat Left Europe's Plants, Insects Out of Sync

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday 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.

Leading Antarctic Experts Offer Two Possible Views of Continent’s Future

Rob DeConto (Credit: umass.edu) Click to Enlarge.
The next 10 years will be critical for the future of Antarctica, and choices made will have long-lasting consequences, says an international group of award-winning Antarctic research scientists in a paper released Thursday.  It lays out two different plausible future scenarios for the continent and its Southern Ocean over the next 50 years.

Writing in Nature, the authors are all winners of the Tinker-Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica and experts in such disciplines as biology, oceanography, glaciology, geophysics, climate science and policy.

Recent work by Rob DeConto, the 2016 winner of the Tinker prize and professor of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, includes findings in a 2016 paper also in Nature that highlights the potential for Antarctica to contribute much more sea level rise to the world's oceans than previously considered.

That work also highlights how reduced greenhouse gas emission can reduce the exposure of low-lying coastlines and cities to rising seas, including Boston.

DeConto says, "Emerging science is pointing to more extreme worst-case scenarios with regards to sea level rise from Antarctica, but the good news is that a reduction in emissions, in line with the aspirations of the Paris Climate Agreement, dramatically reduces the risk of flooding our coastlines in future decades and centuries."

Read more at Leading Antarctic Experts Offer Two Possible Views of Continent’s Future