Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tuesday 31

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.

America Spends Over $20bn Per Year on Fossil Fuel Subsidies.  Abolish Them - by dana1981

Developed fossil fuel reserves vs. remaining carbon budget to meet 2°C and 1.5°C Paris climate targets. (Illustration Credit: Oil Change International) Click to Enlarge.
Imagine that instead of taxing cigarettes, America subsidized the tobacco industry in order to make each pack of smokes cheaper.

A report from Oil Change International (OCI) investigated American energy industry subsidies and found that in 2015–2016, the federal government provided $14.7bn per year to the oil, gas, and coal industries, on top of $5.8bn of state-level incentives (globally, the figure is around $500bn).  And the report only accounted for production subsides, excluding consumption subsidies (support to consumers to lower the cost of fossil fuel use – another $14.5bn annually) as well as the costs of carbon and other fossil fuel pollutants.

At a time when we need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, the federal and state governments are giving the industry tens of billions of dollars to make the production of their dirty, dangerous products more profitable.

We already have to leave tapped fossil fuels in the ground
Crucially, the OCI report noted that if we want to meet the Paris target of limiting global warming to less than 2°C (and we do!), not only does the fossil fuel industry have stop developing new reserves, but “some already-tapped reserves must be retired early.”

Read more at America Spends Over $20bn Per Year on Fossil Fuel Subsidies.  Abolish Them

Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday 30

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.

7 States Urge Pipeline Regulators to Pay Attention to Climate Change

FERC is considering revising how it approves natural gas pipeline projects. These states want it to focus more on costs to the environment and consumers.


“For too long, FERC has disregarded the perspective of state and local governments, ratepayers, and other stakeholders, and approved new gas pipelines without a full evaluation of regional needs and advances in energy policy,” one attorney general said. (Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
New natural gas pipelines may not be needed and may not justify damage to the environment, the attorneys general of seven states and the District of Columbia argue in comments filed Wednesday with federal regulators in charge of pipeline approvals.

The comments came in response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's request in April for comments on whether the commission should revise its current policy for pipeline approvals, set in 1999.

Since 1999, FERC has approved approximately 400 natural gas pipeline projects while rejecting only two.  Pipelines built over that time have added 180 billion cubic feet per day of pipeline capacity—nearly twice the average daily consumption of natural gas in the U.S. in January 2017 and greater than the peak of 137 billion cubic feet per day during the 2014 "Polar Vortex" cold snap, according to a 2017 report by the economic consulting firm Analysis Group.

The state officials wrote to FERC that greater consideration needs to be given to environmental costs, including climate change, as well as to the increased costs to consumers who typically pay higher rates to cover the capital costs of pipeline projects, which can exceed $1 billion.  

"For too long, FERC has disregarded the perspective of state and local governments, ratepayers, and other stakeholders, and approved new gas pipelines without a full evaluation of regional needs and advances in energy policy," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement. 

Read more at 7 States Urge Pipeline Regulators to Pay Attention to Climate Change

As Economics Improve, Solar Shines in Rural America

Declining costs have helped some of the country's smallest electricity providers expand their use of solar in highly innovative ways.


Sheep provided by a local 4-H club help with vegetation management at a solar array owned by the Eau Claire Electric Co-op in Wisconsin. (Photo Credit: NRECA) Click to Enlarge.
A five-year effort by electric cooperatives to expand the use of solar energy in rural parts of the United States is coming to a successful conclusion.

Under the Solar Utility Network Deployment Acceleration (SUNDA) program, which was run by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) under a cost share arrangement with the U.S. Energy Department, rural electric co-ops are on track to own or buy 1 gigawatt of solar power generation capacity by 2019.

As of April, more than 120 co-ops had at least one solar project on line. Of those, half said they have plans to add more solar generating capacity.

The accomplishment is no small feat.  The consumer-owned structure of co-ops means that they can’t make direct use of federal tax credits, which have helped to spur solar adoption among investor-owned utilities.  Co-ops often have had to come up with innovative financing arrangements to make the numbers work.  In particular, solar adoption has benefited from big drops in the cost of solar PV cells in recent years.

Read more at As Economics Improve, Solar Shines in Rural America

To Keep More Carbon on the Ground, Halting Farmland Expansion Is Key

This image shows a high-yield palm oil farm in Ghana. (Credit: Ben Phalan) Click to Enlarge.
The conversion of forests to farmland is recognized as a major contributor to rising levels of greenhouse gases.  And yet it hasn't been clear how to best minimize the loss of sequestered carbon into the atmosphere.  Is it better to maximize farm yields so as to use less land area over all?  Or should farms be operated so as to retain more carbon on site, even at the expense of crop yields?  Researchers reporting in Current Biology on July 26 say that, based on their extensive studies of agricultural operations in the humid tropics of Ghana, the dry tropical forest in Mexico, and temperate wetlands and forests in Poland, the best course in all cases is to limit the conversion of natural habitat to farmland, a strategy known as land sparing.  That means maximizing yields on existing agricultural lands.

"At one extreme, farmers can try to produce all their food from as small an area of farmland as possible, by having very high yields," says David Williams from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  "This will probably reduce the amount of carbon stored on their farmland, but allows policy makers and farmers to free up more space to conserve natural habitats, where there is likely to be a lot of carbon stored.  At the other extreme, farmers can try to use lower yield farming practices to increase the carbon stored on farmland, which will reduce the area of natural habitats available for conservation.  And then there are all the in-between strategies that use a mix of high and low yield farmland.

"We found that the first strategy -- what we call 'land sparing' -- resulted in a greater amount of carbon being stored than any other.  So, slightly counter-intuitively, trying to conserve carbon on farmland resulted in less carbon being stored across the landscape as a whole.  This was because it resulted in lower yields and so required larger areas to produce the same amount of food, and therefore meant less land could be spared for natural habitats."

Read more at To Keep More Carbon on the Ground, Halting Farmland Expansion Is Key

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday 29

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.

Small Modular Reactors Have Little Appeal

The last hope of the nuclear industry for competing with renewables is small modular reactors, but despite political support their future looks bleak.


Nuclear submarines (here in San Diego Bay) use SMRs. [Image Credit: Jon Sullivan (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons] Click to Enlarge.
On both sides of the Atlantic billions of dollars are being poured into developing small modular reactors.  But it seems increasingly unlikely that they will ever be commercially viable.

The idea is to build dozens of the reactors (SMRs) in factories in kit form, to be assembled on site, thereby reducing their costs, a bit like the mass production of cars.  The problem is finding a market big enough to justify the building of a factory to build nuclear power station kits.

For the last 60 years the trend has been to build ever-larger nuclear reactors, hoping that they would pump out so much power that their output would be cheaper per unit than power from smaller stations.  However, the cost of large stations has escalated so much that without massive government subsidies they will never be built, because they are not commercially viable.

To get costs down, small factory-built reactors seemed the answer.  It is not new technology, and efforts to introduce it are nothing new either, with UK hopes high just a few years ago.  Small reactors have been built for decades for nuclear submarine propulsion and for ships like icebreakers, but for civilian use they have to produce electricity more cheaply than their renewable competitors, wind and solar power.

One of the problems for nuclear weapons states is that they need a workforce of highly skilled engineers and scientists, both to maintain their submarine fleets and constantly to update the nuclear warheads, which degrade over time.  So maintaining a civil nuclear industry means there is always a large pool of people with the required training.

Although in the past the UK and US governments have both claimed there is no link between civil and military nuclear industries, it is clear that a skills shortage is now a problem.

It seems that both the industry and the two governments have believed SMRs would be able to solve the shortage and also provide electricity at competitive rates, benefitting from the mass production of components in controlled environments and assembling reactors much like flat-pack furniture.

This is now the official blueprint for success – even though there are no prototypes yet to prove the technology works reliably.  But even before that happens, there are serious doubts about whether there is a market for these reactors.

Read more at Small Modular Reactors Have Little Appeal

Climate Change Made 2018 European Heatwave Up To ‘Five Times’ More Likely

The current UK heat wave has dried out some reservoirs (Credit: Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
A rapid assessment by scientists of the ongoing heatwave across northern Europe this summer has found that human-caused climate change made it as much as five times more likely to have occurred.

The preliminary analysis, by a team of scientists at the World Weather Attribution network, uses data from seven weather stations in Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.  The team were not able to get sufficient data at short notice to include a UK station.

The findings suggest that rising global temperatures have increased the likelihood of such hot temperatures by five times in Denmark, three times in the Netherlands and two times in Ireland.

The sizeable year-to-year fluctuations in summer weather in Scandinavia makes it harder to pin down a specific change in likelihood for the heatwaves in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, the researchers say.  However, “we can state that, yes, heatwaves have increased – and are increasing – in Scandinavia as in the rest of Europe”, says one of the scientists involved.

Climate change link
From the UK to Canada through to Oman and Japan, the northern hemisphere has seen a pattern of prolonged heatwaves in recent weeks.  The record-breaking temperatures have been linked to wildfires in Sweden, Greece, and California and heatwave deaths in several countries.

Read more at limate Change Made 2018 European Heatwave Up To ‘Five Times’ More Likely

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Saturday 28

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 Southeastern U.S. Is Losing Trees Fast

One expert calls it a 'highly degraded ecosystem.'

1Danna Smith (Image credit: “U.S. Forests and the Climate Emergency” TEDxAsheville video screenshot.) Click to Enlarge.
The southeastern United States is losing trees fast.  Between 2000 and 2012, trees in the region were cut up to four times faster than in South American rainforests.

Smith:  “In the southeastern U.S., what’s driving the loss of forest cover is industrial-scale logging.”

That’s Danna Smith of the Dogwood Alliance, a nonprofit organization.  She says that rainforests are often clear-cut for agriculture, whereas trees cut down in the Southeast are usually replanted.

But it can take a sapling decades to grow large enough to absorb and store as much carbon as the tree it replaced.

Smith: “Absolutely, older standing trees have more benefit for the climate.”

Read more at  The Southeastern U.S. Is Losing Trees Fast

Friday, July 27, 2018

Friday 27

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

The Southeastern U.S. Is Losing Trees Fast

One expert calls it a 'highly degraded ecosystem.'

The southeastern United States is losing trees fast.  Between 2000 and 2012, trees in the region were cut up to four times faster than in South American rainforests.

Smith: “In the southeastern U.S., what’s driving the loss of forest cover is industrial-scale logging.”

That’s Danna Smith of the Dogwood Alliance, a nonprofit organization.  She says that rainforests are often clear-cut for agriculture, whereas trees cut down in the Southeast are usually replanted.

But it can take a sapling decades to grow large enough to absorb and store as much carbon as the tree it replaced.

Smith: “Absolutely, older standing trees have more benefit for the climate.”

Read more at The Southeastern U.S. Is Losing Trees Fast

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thursday 26

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

Rice with Fewer Stomata Requires Less Water and Is Better Suited for Climate Change

Rice crops (Credit: sheffield.ac.uk) Click to Enlarge.
Rice plants engineered to have fewer stomata -- tiny openings used for gas exchange -- are more tolerant to drought and resilient to future climate change, a new study has revealed.

Scientists from the University of Sheffield have discovered that engineering a high-yielding rice cultivar to have reduced stomatal density, helps the crop to conserve water and to survive high temperatures and drought.

Much of humanity relies on rice as a food source, but rice cultivation is particularly water intensive -- using an estimated 2,500 litres of water per kilogram of rice produced.

However, almost half of the global rice crop derives from rain-fed agricultural systems where drought and high temperatures are predicted to become more frequent and damaging under climate change.

Read more at Rice with Fewer Stomata Requires Less Water and Is Better Suited for Climate Change

Media Reaction:  the 2018 Summer Heatwaves and Climate Change

Climate change and extreme weather (Credit: EPA)  Click to Enlarge.
Interviewed by CNN, Dr Katharine Hayhoe from Texas Tech University pointed out that the catalogue of extreme weather events recorded over the northern hemisphere in recent weeks shows that climate change is already here “and this is what it looks like”:
“Cold and hot, wet and dry – we experience natural weather conditions all the time – but today, climate change is loading the dice against us, making certain types of extremes, such as heatwaves and heavy rain events, much more frequent and more intense than they used to be.”
...
Missing link
... not all media outlets made the connection to climate change.

On 5 July, for example, the UK’s Times newspaper reported that “meteorologists attribute the northern hemisphere heatwave to a weather pattern known as El Niño”.  Yet, as Carbon Brief’s US analyst Zeke Hausfather pointed out, the El Niño climate phenomenon has largely been in a “neutral” (or even negative) phase for most of the year – and only a modest positive phase is expected to emerge later in 2018.
...
This was in stark contrast to the Irish edition of the Times, which wrote in an editorial on 2 July that the increased frequency of extreme weather events “suggests that we are already experiencing the direct impact of global warming”.
...
In Canada’s Globe and Mail, Dr Blair Feltmate of the University of Waterloo pointed out that suggesting Canada’s heatwave and climate change are not linked “would be like arguing that no particular home run can be attributed to steroids when a baseball player on a hitting streak is caught doping”.

In BusinessGreen, its editor James Murray railed against the media’s tendency to “either exclude climate change from reporting on extreme heat altogether or its insistence on dowsing its coverage in a surfeit of caution about the potential relationship with climate change”.
“The simple fact is the mainstream media does not apply such high standards of precise attribution to any other phenomena that I can think of.”
...
Writing for Channel NewsAsia, Dr Kumuda Simpson, a lecturer in international relations at La Trobe University in Australia, commented that “climate change is only occasionally mentioned, and often just in passing” in media coverage of weather extremes.  The debate about whether a particular event “was directly and indisputably caused by the warming planet is counterproductive”, she argued:
“Instead, it is imperative that we shift the conversation away from a debate about climate change that all too often becomes politicized either though omission or oversimplification.  We must focus on what these events can teach us about the kinds of climate-related risks we face in the near future, and how unprepared we are for them.”
Read more at Media Reaction:  the 2018 Summer Heatwaves and Climate Change

Mountaintop Mining Is Destroying More Land for Less Coal, Study Finds

Using satellite images, researchers tracked the scars spreading across Appalachia.  They found 3 times more land being stripped per ton of coal than in the 1980s.

More blasting and mining for less coal also raises human health concerns. (Credit: Alan Gignoux/Appalachian Voices) Click to Enlarge.
Strip mining across the mountaintops of Appalachia is scarring as much as three times more land to get a ton of coal than just three decades ago, new research shows.

The data and a series of new maps that track the spread of surface mining across the region suggest that even as the industry has declined, what continues likely has an oversized impact on people and the environment.

If mining companies have to do more blasting and digging for the same amount of coal, that means more dust in the air and more pollution in streams, said Appalachian Voices Programs Director Matt Wasson, who worked on the study with researchers from Duke University, West Virginia University, Google and SkyTruth.
...
The study, published online in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed journal, also provided what Duke researcher Andrew Pericak described as the first year-by-year mapping showing the spread of mountaintop mining across the region.
...
Concerns About Human Health and Climate
Coal production across the United States slid in recent years as aging coal-fired plants were shut down and replaced by new ones burning cheaper natural gas and as state and federal policies promoted cleaner power sources.

The Trump administration, vowing to revive the coal industry, has repealed an Obama-era rule that sought to protect streams from damage due to mining, and it has been considering ways to increase coal burning, but there has been little change in production in Appalachia.

Read more at Mountaintop Mining Is Destroying More Land for Less Coal, Study Finds

Large Swath of North America Could Have Carbon-Free Electricity by 2050

The Road Map to Decarbonization - Pointing the Way to a Low Carbon Future (Credit: Great Plains Institute) Click to Enlarge.
Electricity generation in a significant portion of the North American heartland  — an area stretching from Canada’s prairie provinces south to Louisiana — could be carbon-free, using existing technology, as early as 2050, according to a new report by a group of utilities, state regulators, and environmental groups.  Currently, 77 percent of the electricity in the region is generated by coal and natural gas.

“Essentially that means more wind, more solar, more energy efficiency,” Franz Litz, a program consultant with the Great Plains Institute, who produced the report, told Minnesota Public Radio.  “It also means really thinking hard about those existing nuclear plants, which don’t have [CO2] emissions and could be an important part of the mix when we get out to 2050 and need to be generating our electricity without putting carbon into the air.”

The analysis also forecasts that natural gas-fired power plants with carbon capture systems will serve as an important backup source of electricity if renewable energy supplies temporarily falter because of intermittent generation in wind or solar energy.

Participants in the report include utilities such as DTE Energy, MidAmerican Energy, and Xcel Energy; state regulators including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; and environmental and clean energy groups such as the Clean Air Task Force and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Read more at Large Swath of North America Could Have Carbon-Free Electricity by 2050

Is Climate Change a “Ratings Killer,” or Is Something Wrong with For-Profit Media?

ALL IN with Chris Hayes (Credit: Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes retweeted Grist writer Eric Holthaus’ tweet about the deadly wildfires in Greece on Tuesday.  After freelance writer Elon Green commented that news networks often fail to highlight the connection between climate change and extreme weather, Hayes wrote a reply that sent Twitter into a frenzy.

Climate change, he said, is a “palpable ratings killer” for news shows.
Stagger Lee Shot First

@elongreen
· 24 Jul
Replying to @chrislhayes
Sure would be nice if our news networks--the only outlets that can force change in this country--would cover it with commensurate urgency.  Acting as if there's nothing to be done is not excusable.

Chris Hayes

@chrislhayes
almost without exception. every single time we've covered it's been a palpable ratings killer.  so the incentives are not great.

9:08 AM - Jul 24, 2018
431
359 people are talking about this
Environmental journalists came out in full force to set him straight.  The reason that newsrooms are failing to bring up climate change has a lot to do with the way major news outlets are structured (profits first, content second), they said, and less to do with people’s interest in climate change.

Hayes has a pretty good track record when it comes to reporting on climate, compared to his competitors across other channels.  He even did an All In with Chris Hayes special climate series in 2016.

But the point stands that the current for-profit media structure doesn’t jive well with compelling reporting on the environment.  Take Holthaus’ response, for example.
Eric Holthaus

@EricHolthaus
My @RollingStone article was the most-shared in its history.  I was a top-5 traffic earner for @slate.

The problem isnt truth-tellers like @chrislhayes.  It's producers/editors working against a broken for-profit journalistic model that rewards status quo.https://twitter.com/emorwee/status/1022141661789474816?s=19 …

Emily Atkin

@emorwee
I've covered climate change for five years. Trust me:  The topic itself is not a ratings/traffic killer.  The traffic killer is the boring, un-engaging way many reporters tell the story. https://twitter.com/charles_kinbote/status/1022132673555386369 …

12:06 PM - Jul 25, 2018
310
111 people are talking about this
Emily Atkin, staff writer at The New Republic, thinks it’s all about the way you present the piece.
Emily Atkin

@emorwee
I've covered climate change for five years.  Trust me:  The topic itself is not a ratings/traffic killer.  The traffic killer is the boring, un-engaging way many reporters tell the story.

nuanced opinion guy
@charles_kinbote
I actually respect that Chris Hayes said covering climate change is a ratings killer.  No offense to people dunking on him but I don’t think people understand that if you have a TV show you can’t just do whatever you want??

10:28 AM - Jul 25, 2018
557
162 people are talking about this
Erin Biba, who writes for the likes of BBC and Wired, agrees with Atkin.
Erin Biba

@erinbiba
💯💯👇👇 If climate change was such a ratings killer, why are people constantly clicking on my stories and reading them and thanking me for them and coming here to engage me about them?  IF PEOPLE AREN'T INTERESTED IN YOUR STORIES, IT'S YOUR FAULT NOT THEIRS.

Emily Atkin

@emorwee
I've covered climate change for five years.  Trust me:  The topic itself is not a ratings/traffic killer.  The traffic killer is the boring, un-engaging way many reporters tell the story. 
https://twitter.com/charles_kinbote/status/1022132673555386369 …
10:40 AM - Jul 25, 2018
11
See Erin Biba's other Tweets
And Huffington Post’s Alexander Kaufman threw Hayes a bone for bringing the subject up in the first place.
Alexander Kaufman

@AlexCKaufman
Props to Chris for this refreshingly honest admission.  This dynamic underscores the vital role meteorologists play in communicating climate change to the public — and why the GOP assault on funding for the leading program to educate weathercasters on climate science is shameful.

Chris Hayes

@chrislhayes
Replying to @elongreen
almost without exception. every single time we've covered it's been a palpable ratings killer. so the incentives are not great.

5:01 PM - Jul 24, 2018 · Queens, NY
15
See Alexander Kaufman's other Tweets
It’s actually pretty unusual for a cable news host to go anywhere near the topic of climate change.  An analysis from Media Matters for America shows that, of 127 TV broadcast segments on NBC, CBS, and ABC about the recent heat wave, only one mentioned climate change.  It’s not like sweltering temperatures caused all those hosts to develop climate amnesia.  The failure to link climate change to heat waves and downpours is a trend:  Those same networks all but ignored the issue in their 2017 coverage of extreme weather events, another Media Matters report found.

Is 2018 the year that editors, producers, and talk show hosts finally figure out how to talk about climate change?  For-profit newsrooms better start taking notes from environmental reporters soon; hurricane season is upon us once again.

Read more at Is Climate Change a “Ratings Killer,” or Is Something Wrong with For-Profit Media?

3 Reasons Why the U.S. Is Vulnerable to Big Disasters — and Getting More Vulnerable All the Time - By Morten Wendelbo, Texas A&M University

We’re heading in the wrong direction.

Hurricane Harvey approaching the Texas Gulf Coast in August 2017. (Credit: NOAA/Handout via Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
During the 2017 disaster season, three severe hurricanes devastated large parts of the U.S.

The quick succession of major disasters made it obvious that such large-scale emergencies can be a strain, even in one of the world’s richest countries.

As a complex emergency researcher, I investigate why some countries can better withstand and respond to disasters.  The factors are many and diverse, but three major ones stand out because they are within the grasp of the federal and local governments:  where and how cities grow; how easily households can access critical services during disaster; and the reliability of the supply chains for critical goods.

For all three of these factors, the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction.  In many ways, Americans are becoming more vulnerable by the day.
  1. Where Americans live
    Large shares of the U.S. population live in the parts of the country most vulnerable to major disasters, mainly coastal areas prone to hurricane damage.  Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, and Irma all hit heavily populated coasts.

    Seven of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. are on or near the coast, accounting for more than 60 million people.  In fact, the vast majority of counties with more than 500,000 inhabitants are concentrated on the coast.

    More than 5 million Americans also live on islands like Puerto Rico and Hawaii, where a hurricane, volcanic eruption, or tsunami can be devastating.
    ...
  2. Access to emergency funds
    In a disaster, people often need money to cover medical care, food, water, and other crucial needs.  In a frustrating catch-22, however, access to funds can be severely limited if power outages take out ATMs and credit card terminals.  That was the case in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

    A 2015 Federal Reserve survey found that even with access to bank accounts and ATMs, almost half of Americans would be unable to find $400 for an emergency without borrowing or using a credit card. 
    ...
  3. Supply Chains
    Even if Americans do have the funds necessary to pay for critical goods, those goods may not be available during a disaster.

    Without access to pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and fuels, many people would die.  Many of these critical goods are exclusively produced overseas; in fact, the 30 most critical pharmaceuticals, such as insulin for Type 1 diabetes and heparin for blood thinning, are all produced in whole or in part abroad.  Sometimes the goods are produced in a single geographic area or even by a single facility.
Read more at 3 Reasons Why the U.S. Is Vulnerable to Big Disasters — and Getting More Vulnerable All the Time

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday 25

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

Momentum Toward ZEV Adoption Takes a Village

Electric Zero Emission (ZEV) Challenge (Graphic Credit: WheelZine) Click to Enlarge.
States, regions, cities, international businesses groups, and other NGOs are urging the rapid adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) around the world to decarbonize the transport sector.  A new “Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Challenge” has been launched by The Climate Group and C40 Cities to gather momentum for electric and other clean vehicles.  The coalition says that “The scale of opportunity is bigger than we’ve ever seen before.” What’s different with this EV activism? They’re bringing together global purchasing power — hitting ’em in the wallet and playing the capitalism game on the offense.

As well as creating a fiscal gestalt from existing commitments, the ZEV Challenge leaders are urging the global auto industry to pledge to accelerate the manufacture of EVs and to step up production to satisfy the growing demand. They are urging other leaders in key groups as well to join the effort to signal “an endgame for fossil-fuel vehicles” and drive forward progress toward a clean future.

The ZEV Challenge brings together existing climate change activist programs which up to now have been focused on separate sectors to amplify their collective purchasing power and influence on the transportation market. By providing an opportunity for key players in the auto sector to position themselves as leaders in the large-scale transition to EVs, the ZEV Challenge increases the likely speed to a Zero Emissions Future and plays a full role delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Climate Group has always sought the cessation of mass internal combustion engine (ICE) transportation, as these vehicles have emissions that pose health risks and are a significant contribution to climate change.

The ZEV Challenge announcement is designed to accelerate trends already underway in several nations, regions, states, and cities. Countries like France and the UK have already promoted end dates for the sale of vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel-fueled engines. Others like California have committed to putting 5 million zero-emission vehicles on their roads and highways by 2030.

Read more at Momentum Toward ZEV Adoption Takes a Village

How Much Can You Save with Your Next Car?

Easily compare your favorite car models based on fuel efficiency, available incentives and total cost of ownership.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq electric limited hatchback (Credit: cars.coned.com) Click to Enlarge.
Electric vehicles cost more than conventional cars. It’s a scientific fact, as Homer Simpson might say.  But is it true?  Consolidated Edison and National Grid have both enlisted the aid of Enervee, a Los Angeles company that invokes “data-science, behavioral science, and digital marketing” to help utilities steer their customers toward the purchase of energy-efficient appliances.  Now it has applied its skills to create a website for both utilities that compares the cost of purchasing an electric car directly to the cost of purchasing a similar vehicle with an internal combustion engine.

https://cars.coned.com

Read original at How Much Can You Save with Your Next Car?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tuesday 24

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

Move Over, Polar Bears:  Climate Change Has a New Symbol

X polar bear (Credit: Grist / Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images / Getty Image) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change has a new symbol, and it’s not melting ice floes or charismatic megafauna.  Last week, researchers at Yale University and the University of Westminster published an analysis showing that Americans increasingly connect climate change with real-life, actually-happening weather.  And, given the crazy heat waves, wild hurricanes, and downright bizarre disasters 2018 has already brought us, people are probably thinking about climate change a lot more.

Researchers asked survey respondents what their knee-jerk, top of mind associations were with the phrases “climate change” and “global warming.”  In 2003, when the survey began, many people pictured melting polar ice and glaciers.

That was all well and good, Anthony Leiserowitz, coauthor of the analysis and director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, tells Grist.  “But for all of the millions of Americans who have that image come to mind, none of them live on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, in Antarctica, or next to a glacier,” he says.  “It reinforces the sense that this is far away.”
Evading a wave in Houston after Hurricane Harvey hit on Aug. 25. (Credit: Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Imagesy) Click to Enlarge.

But that’s beginning to change. In the past decade, the analysis shows, the number of associations of climate change with weather has quadrupled. “It’s now one of the highest or most likely first associations that people have,” Leiserowitz says.

He attributes this change in part to the development of projects like Climate Matters, a program run by nonprofit Climate Central, which trains TV meteorologists to incorporate climate change data into their forecasts.  The program landed in the news recently when a group of Republican senators — including notorious climate denier James Inhofe — called it a form of “propagandizing” and tried to get the National Science Foundation to defund it.  Classic.

Denier complaints aside, research shows that the public trusts local TV personalities more than almost anyone when it comes to climate issues.  And, with a quarter of the country’s meteorologists enrolled in the program, they’re getting the word out about rising temperatures — sometimes through weird fashion statements.

There’s still a long way to go.  Major TV news broadcasts still barely ever bring up climate change, even when reporting on low-hanging fruit like heat waves and hurricanes.  But scientists are also jumping into the fray.

A decade or two ago, most scientists would say that “no individual weather event can be attributed to climate change.”  That’s still mostly true, but with a twist.  The science of extreme weather attribution allows researchers to establish how much more likely an event was due to human-induced climate change — by comparing modeled worlds with and without anthropogenic emissions.

Scientists have used this strategy on heat waves in Europe, the California drought, and recently, the record rains associated with Hurricane Harvey.

“Big extreme weather disasters are one of those times where Americans all collectively focus on an issue or set of events that have a direct connection to climate change,” Leiserowitz says.  “They’re teachable moments.”

Read more at Move Over, Polar Bears:  Climate Change Has a New Symbol

States Boost Renewable Energy and Development when Utilities Adopt Renewable Standards

RPS Benefits (Credit: nrel.gov/analysis/rps.html) Click to Enlarge.
States that require utilities to increase renewable energy see expansion of renewable energy facilities and generation -- including wind and other renewable sources, but especially solar -- according to new research from Indiana University and two other institutions.

IU's Sanya Carley led a team of researchers including Nikolaos Zirogiannis, an assistant scientist at IU, and law professors Lincoln Davies of the University of Utah and David B. Spence of University of Texas at Austin.  The group closely examined the history and evolution of state renewable portfolio standards and interviewed more than 40 experts about renewable portfolio standards implementation.

Their findings are newly published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Energy, in an article titled "Empirical evaluation of the stringency and design of renewable portfolio standards."

The regulations, which require utilities to increase the percentage of energy they sell from renewable sources by a specified amount and date, have been adopted in varying forms by about 30 states. For example, New York requires 50 percent of all electricity sold in 2050 to come from solar.

"As the federal government moves away from climate mitigation policy, including abandoning the Paris Agreement, the role of state-level policy tools such as RPS take on increasing importance," said Carley, an associate professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Most states have adopted such standards, except those in the Southeast and parts of the Great Plains and Interior West, where fossil fuel prices are low. Nevada and Massachusetts were the first to adopt a renewable portfolio standard in the 1990s, and Hawaii's is considered the most stringent, a pivotal measuring stick.

Renewable mandates drive renewable energy development across the U.S., the researchers found.  The design of the policy, however, is of fundamental importance.  These are key findings:
  1. When designing a renewable mandate, stringency is critical.  The stronger the mandate, the more renewables a state develops.
  2. Other important design features include frequent planning processes and regulations that arei mandatory rather than voluntary.
  3. States that allow utilities to count non-renewable energy, such as "clean coal" or other fossil fuels, to satisfy renewable mandates will develop significantly less renewables, particularly less solar energy.
  4. In addition to the renewable portfolio standards, having a conducive economic climate and good resources (e.g., strong winds as in Iowa or abundant sun as in Arizona) is especially important.
Read more at States Boost Renewable Energy and Development when Utilities Adopt Renewable Standards

Volkswagen Group Canada Forms Electrify Canada to Install Network of Ultra-Fast Electric Vehicle Chargers

A snapshot of Canada's approximately 5,000 charging stations. Most are clustered in Canada's largest cities. (Credit: CAA) Click to Enlarge.
Volkswagen Group Canada has formed Electrify Canada, a new company that will build an ultra-fast electric vehicle (EV) direct current (DC) charging network across Canada.  Volkswagen expects the network to be operational starting in the second quarter of 2019.

The mission of Electrify Canada is similar to that of Electrify America, established by Volkswagen as part of the settlement over the diesel emissions cheating scandal to invest $2 billion over a ten-year period ending in 2027 in Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure and education programs in the United States.

The initial Electrify Canada plan includes the installation of 32 EV charging sites near major highways and in major metro areas in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.  Each charging site will have four chargers on average and use the non-proprietary DC fast charging technologies (CCS and CHAdeMO).

Charging power will range from 150kW to 350kW for the expected longer range, larger battery vehicles coming to market and will also deliver 50kW charging power to support today’s EVs from all automotive manufacturers.

Read more at Volkswagen Group Canada Forms Electrify Canada to Install Network of Ultra-Fast Electric Vehicle Chargers

Monday, July 23, 2018

Monday 23

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

Warming Climate Is Driving Species Loss

The steadily warming climate is driving species loss, a new study finds, with the pace of change critical to population declines.


Cheetas resting (Credit: climatenewsnetwork.net) Click to Enlarge.
Cheetas resting
The warming climate is driving species loss, say British  scientists who have researched how the heating of the planet and changes in land use are affecting wildlife.

Evidence abounds that the Earth’s climate is warming fast – faster than expected.  At the same time, the threat of extinction is coming closer to many species.  But establishing how the two are linked has so far been problematic.

Now, though, the rate at which the globe is warming has been found to be a critical factor in explaining the decline of birds and mammals, according to research by the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology published in the journal Global Change Biology.

Read more at Warming Climate Is Driving Species Loss