Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday 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.

Natural Gas Swings, Misses Inexorable March to the All-Electric Future

Benefits of Electrification (Credit: US Department of Energy) Click to Enlarge.
Earlier this month, mere days before a series of horrific natural gas-fueled fires and explosions torched dozens of homes, injured 25 people, killed one person, and displaced thousands in the Merrimack Valley region in Massachusetts, the American Gas Association issued a new report that makes the case against transitioning US homes out of natural gas and into electricity.

Did you miss it?  So did we!  It’s little wonder that the AGA report got steamrolled by the news cycle.  The somewhat less than interesting title, “Implications of Policy-Driven Residential Electrification,” probably didn’t help much in terms of publicity, either.

Nevertheless, the report was prepared with the top notch consulting firm ICF, so it’s well worth a close look.

It’s Hard To Argue With Natural Gas Explosions!
Actually, before we get into the AGA report, let’s catch up with that unfortunate natural gas episode in Massachusetts.

Earlier this week Boston University’s BU Today published an interview with Nathan Phillips, a professor in the school’s College of Arts & Sciences who has done extensive research on natural gas distribution systems — and their tendency to leak.

According to Phillips, somewhat ironically the episodes appears to be related to work intended to upgrade an “aging, leaking pipeline system.”

Although the probability of similar incidents is extremely low, Phillips warns:
…What happened in the Merrimack Valley can happen in any gas system, as they are centralized, often single point-of-failure network systems with little redundancy…
Notably, Phillips gives full credit to the local gas utility for its apparent commitment to cover the cost of converting water heaters in the affected homes from gas heat to electricity:
This is a remarkable offer by a gas utility, essentially offering people to quit being customers and paying them to do it…it’s a green light to a wider commencement of an immediate energy transition.
(Note: as of this writing that commitment is unconfirmed, though the utility is distributing electric space heaters and hot plates)

Natural Gas Vs. Electricity
If you caught that thing about “immediate energy transition,” that’s the key to the whole issue.

Natural gas used to be considered a cleaner, more sustainable alternative to coal and petroleum, but evidence is building that methane leakage from the supply chain — drilling sites, pipelines, storage facilities and distribution networks — contributes to global warming.  That’s on top of local impacts related to drilling and wastewater disposal including air pollution, water contamination, and other water resource issues, and yes, earthquakes.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at that new AGA report.  Actually, let’s turn to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which picked apart the report in a recent blog post titled, “Why AGA Gets Electrification Wrong.”

NRDC zeroes in on the report’s “extreme” policy-driven scenario, in which the rush to electrification leads to national legislation banning the sale of new non-electric space heaters and water heaters by 2023.

That’s actually not so far-fetched, at least not in concept.  The federal government has a hand in all kinds of requirements and standards for energy use in various products, from automobiles to light bulbs.

NRDC, though, argues that a ban on non-electric heaters is highly unlikely.  No such proposal is winding its way through Congress, and state or local policies are not heading in that direction, either.

Instead, NRDC argues, the policy winds are blowing more at the carrot than the stick.  The organization cites its own decarbonization study, which focuses on “updates to building codes and energy efficiency program designs that would remove regulatory barriers to smart, beneficial electrification.”

Read more at Natural Gas Swings, Misses Inexorable March to the All-Electric Future

Report:  90 Percent of World’s Largest 200 Industrial Firms Are Using Trade Associations to Oppose Climate Policy

Tree on globe (Credit: desmogblog.com) Click to Enlarge.
Nearly all of the world’s largest 200 industrial companies have directly or indirectly opposed climate policy since the landmark Paris Agreement was signed three years ago, according to new research.  

Analysis by InfluenceMap, a UK-based think tank, examined the lobbying activities of 200 of the world’s biggest companies and 75 of the most powerful trade groups and the links between them since December 2015.

It found that 30 percent of all companies analysed have directly lobbied against climate policy in the last three years and that 90 percent of them retain membership to trade associations which have actively opposed climate policy around the world.  

While the findings have come as no surprise to campaigners calling out corporate lobbying on climate policy, the research highlights the key role trade associations continue to play in influencing policy-makers and watering down climate policy.

Edward Collins, project manager at InfluenceMap, told DeSmog UK that trade associations are doing the “dirty work” and lobby for much stronger positions than their members support in public.

“A lot of the worst lobbying activities are being increasingly outsourced to trade groups as companies are more weary to take it on themselves to directly lobby government and put their names to it,” he said.

Read more at Report:  90 Percent of World’s Largest 200 Industrial Firms Are Using Trade Associations to Oppose Climate Policy

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Saturday 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.

Kavanaugh Confirmation Fight Has Consequences for Climate Law

The Supreme Court could hear cases related to the EPA’s climate obligations and other environmental issues.


Kavanaugh (Credit: Alex Wong Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
If Senate Republicans plow ahead and confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the longtime jurist could have near-term impact on a slew of environmental cases.

Among the disputes the high court has agreed to hear this fall:  a case that pits villagers from India against the World Bank in a fight over a coal plant.  If the villagers prevail, it could have worldwide economic and political repercussions.

Several other climate-related issues have a decent shot, too, of getting a future date with the Supreme Court, including one closely watched fight—the “kids’ climate case”—that makes the far-reaching argument that the government must take action on global warming so as not to imperil future generations.

Kavanaugh—currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit—would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in July after three decades of service and dozens of landmark decisions.

Kennedy was often a swing vote on the ideologically divided court, and he played a key role in several major environmental cases.

In 2007, for example, he sided with the court’s liberal wing in the case Massachusetts v. EPA, which granted EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases.  A year later, he joined with the court’s conservatives to limit the financial damages against Exxon Mobil Corp. for its role in the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, which coated miles of Alaska coastline with oil. 

Kavanaugh, nominated to the high court by President Trump in July, likely would shift the court further to the right.  But a rightward shift would occur regardless of whether Kavanaugh weathers the sexual assault allegations that multiple women have raised.  If the Kavanaugh nomination is derailed, Trump would likely tap an equally conservative replacement.

There’s a lot at stake for domestic and international efforts to address climate change.  Here are five brewing legal fights in which the future justice could play a role.

Read more at Kavanaugh Confirmation Fight Has Consequences for Climate Law

How the Sahara Could Power the Entire World

Saharan desert (Credit: oilprice.com) Click to Enlarge.
Solar and wind farms, stretched across North Africa's Saharan desert and relying solely on existing technologies, could produce enough electricity to power the entire world.  (That amount of electricity approximates over 21 terawatt hours.)  As an added benefit these combined wind and solar arrays would also increase rain fail in the arid Sahel region thereby slowing the steady southern encroachment of the desert.

This was the conclusion arrived at by academic researchers using supercomputers.  Teams at the University of Maryland and University of Illinois modeled their results in a study financed in part by a Chinese government agency.  Their results were published in the prestigious journal Science (September 7).

Yes, we know it sounds far fetched.  And even perhaps too ridiculous consider.  But is it any crazier or more uneconomic than the two biggest nuclear construction projects currently underway in the U.S. and Europe?  Spending $25 billion or more to erect bespoke nuclear power generating stations (when a comparable gas fired facility could be built at a relatively small fraction of the cost) shows that regardless of economics, for those that the politicians favor, funds can often be found.

And it is not just new nuclear technologies that should be singled out for economic excesses.  Southern Company's recent attempt at building a truly clean coal electric power generating station resulted in the $4 billion Kemper County project in Mississippi.  That facility now only burns natural gas rendering large parts of the investment economically irrelevant.

But for sheer scale it is typically nuclear construction that provides the biggest numbers.  In this regard consider the proposed $20-$30 billion ITER nuclear fusion project.  The point?  We already spend huge sums to experiment with and develop increasingly carbon free power sources.  From a technological perspective the Sahara wind/solar project is practically "old school".  It relies exclusively on so called off the shelf, existing technologies.

The challenge as we see it, apart from financing, would come from the actual construction.  Giant construction projects in relatively inhospitable climates almost always pose a challenge.  This would be akin to building the Alaska pipeline or putting huge oil rigs in the North Sea or in Arctic waters.

Read more at How the Sahara Could Power the Entire World

Forbes:  Seven Reasons Why the Internal Combustion Engine Is a Dead Man Walking [Updated]

Tesla Charging (Photo Credit: Tesla) Click to Enlarge.
The age of the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) is over.  Electric cars are the future.  The transition has just begun, but the move from ICE vehicles to Electric will happen sooner and more quickly than most people suspect.

What are the factors that lead me to say this with such confidence?

1 China says so!
China is now the world's largest car market (of the 86m cars sold in 2017, 30% (25.8m) were sold in China, compared to 20% (17.2m) in the US, and 18% (15.6m) in the EU).

Unsurprisingly, car manufacturers want to have access to this market.  However, China has passed a law which requires any vehicle maker to obtain a new energy vehicle score of at least 10% by 2019, which rises to 12% by 2020, and on up to 20% of sales by 2025.

As a result of this announcement, all the major OEM's have suddenly found EV religion.  A slew of announcements has followed about the 10's of billions of dollars or Euros they are investing in their EV development programs and the partnerships or huge investments they are creating to secure their battery supply chain.  The CEO of Porsche has even gone on record as saying that after 2030 all Porsche cars will be 100% electric.

So, China has spoken, and the car manufacturers have listened.  In the next 18 months, expect the number of electric vehicle models available to purchase, to increase significantly.

Read more at Seven Reasons Why the Internal Combustion Engine Is a Dead Man Walking [Updated]

Fewer Biofuels, More Green Space:  Climate Action Researcher Calls for Urgent Shift

This is a field of miscanthus -- a tall grass used by BECCS power stations. (Credit: Anna Harper) Click to Enlarge.
Growing and harvesting bioenergy crops -- corn for ethanol or trees to fuel power plants, for example -- is a poor use of land, which is a precious resource in the fight against climate change, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Untampered green areas like forests and grasslands naturally sequester carbon dioxide, and they are one of society's best hopes for quickly reducing the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, says John DeCicco, research professor at the U-M Energy Institute.

DeCicco and William Schlesinger, president emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies have authored an opinion piece in the current edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers call for policymakers, funding agencies, fellow academics and industry leaders to urgently shift their focus from bioenergy to what they call "terrestrial carbon management," or TCM.  That strategy emphasizes planting more trees and conserving more wild areas that feed on carbon dioxide.

Read more at Fewer Biofuels, More Green Space:  Climate Action Researcher Calls for Urgent Shift

Massachusetts Regulators Approve New ‘SMART’ Solar, Storage Program

REW_MassSMartsmart (Credit: renewableenergyworld.com) Click to Enlarge.
More than a year after it was first announced, this week the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved the state’s newest solar incentive program, Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART), which provides declining incentives for up to 1600 MW of solar.  The incentives are a fixed amount and vary by “block” and also decline over time.  The program includes added incentives for systems that include features like energy storage, community solar, and other location-based solar installations, such as brownfield developments.

By issuing the order, the DPU gave a green light for the launch of the program, which it says will save ratepayers $4.7 billion over current programs that include net-metering and solar renewable energy credits (SRECS), because the compensation amounts are lower with SMART.

Notably, under the order DPU rejected the distribution companies’ proposal for a cap that would have limited the amount of bill credits that individual customers could receive under community solar projects.  DPU also rejected the distribution companies’ proposal to allow costs to be recovered through a fixed charge, instead requiring all ratepayers to contribute to costs through a volumetric charge as requested by many stakeholders and lowering the cost of the program for residential ratepayers. 

Industry Stakeholders Optimistic
“The release of the SMART Order from the DPU, and the program’s implementation, will help get the Massachusetts solar market moving again,” said David Gahl, Director of State Affairs, Northeast for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

“Although we are still reviewing the Order details, we are pleased to begin this new chapter.  We look forward to working with the Baker-Polito Administration to help Massachusetts reclaim its place as one of America’s leading solar states.”

“While historically a national leader on solar, the Massachusetts solar industry has slowed over the past two years.  The issuance of the SMART Order is the critical step needed for solar to ramp up in the Commonwealth again,” said Janet Gail Besser, NECEC Executive Vice President.

"Today’s decision allows community solar to move forward and expand access to the 75 percent of residents in the Commonwealth who can’t place solar on their roofs,” said Brandon Smithwood, policy director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access.

"Solar projects have been stalled across the Commonwealth for more than a year now awaiting the launch of the SMART program, which will still be weeks from now.  These projects will mean local investment, new jobs, and property taxes, as well as a cleaner and more resilient energy system,” said Sean Garren, Senior Director, Northeast for Vote Solar.  “We are still examining the details of this order, but are happy to see it moving forward and hope the SMART program will be implemented as quickly as possible." 

Read more at Massachusetts Regulators Approve New ‘SMART’ Solar, Storage Program

California Moves to Protect Auto Emissions Rules From Trump Rollback

Highway traffic travels into Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 29, 2017. (Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake/File Photo) Click to Enlarge.
California regulators on Friday voted to require that automakers stick with Obama-era federal vehicle emissions standards for cars sold in the state regardless of Trump administration efforts to weaken the standards.

The move was the latest in running political clashes between the most populous U.S. state and President Donald Trump’s administration over issues running from climate change to immigration.

The California Air Resources Board, the state’s air quality regulator, affirmed a provision in its greenhouse gas vehicle regulation that establishes that only cars meeting current federal standards for model years 2017 through 2025 comply with the state’s standards and can be sold there.

The vote took place at the board’s monthly meeting in Sacramento.

The Trump administration proposed last month to freeze federal fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels through 2026.  In that proposal, the administration said stricter emissions standards make vehicles more expensive and less safe.

California’s position is nationally significant because the state is the largest U.S. auto market and boasts the nation’s most aggressive policies to address climate change.

Also, a dozen states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s emissions rules, accounting for more than a third of all U.S. vehicle sales.

California has long been allowed under a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waiver to set its own, stricter vehicle emissions rules to fight heavy smog in Los Angeles and other urban areas.  The Trump administration has proposed revoking that authority, something that could cast doubt on the state’s powers to sidestep federal standards.

In a statement, CARB Chair Mary Nichols said the state would “continue to work to keep a single national program,” but that the vote “ensures that California and 12 other states will not fall victim to the Trump administration’s rollback of vehicle standards should its proposal be finalized.”

Read more at California Moves to Protect Auto Emissions Rules From Trump Rollback

Volvo Aims to Sell Electric Trucks in North America by 2020

The logo of Volvo is seen on the front grill of a Volvo truck in a customer showroom at the company's headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, September 23, 2008. (photo credit: Reuters/Bob Strong/File Photo) Click to Enlarge.
Volvo, the world’s second-biggest truck maker, plans to begin selling electric trucks in North America by 2020, it said on Thursday, as it signed a partnership with California that will allow it to show-off the vehicles.

Under the deal, Sweden’s Volvo will deploy eight multi-configuration battery Class 8 electric demonstration units and 15 pre-commercial and commercial units throughout California’s South Coast Air Basin next year, it said.

Truckmakers are driving full speed to secure a corner of the electric and autonomous drive markets, with other contenders in North America including Tesla’s electric semi truck, Ford and Daimler.

This year, Volvo began producing its first fully-electric truck for commercial use - the Volvo FL Electric - which is expected to be sold next year for urban distribution operations in Europe.

The company said on Thursday the North American truck would be based on the same drivetrain technology, but a spokesman said it was too early to say how similar the two trucks would be in the end.

Read more at Volvo Aims to Sell Electric Trucks in North America by 2020

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday 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.

Trump Administration Sees a 7-Degree Rise in Global Temperatures by 2100

Firefighters try to control a back burn as the Carr fire continues to spread towards the towns of Douglas City and Lewiston near Redding, California on July 31, 2018.  (Credit: Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption:  On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by the end of this century.

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists.  Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans.  Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses.  Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change.  Just the opposite:  The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020.  While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket.

“The amazing thing they’re saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society.  And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it,” said Michael MacCracken, who served as a senior scientist at the U.S. Global Change Research Program from 1993 to 2002.

The document projects that global temperature will rise by nearly 3.5 degrees Celsius above the average temperature between 1986 and 2005 regardless of whether Obama-era tailpipe standards take effect or are frozen for six years, as the Trump administration has proposed.  The global average temperature rose more than 0.5 degrees Celsius between 1880, the start of industrialization, and 1986, so the analysis assumes a roughly 4 degree Celsius or 7 degree Fahrenheit increase from preindustrial levels.

The world would have to make deep cuts in carbon emissions to avoid this drastic warming,the analysis states.  And that “would require substantial increases in technology innovation and adoption compared to today’s levels and would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible.”

Read more at Trump Administration Sees a 7-Degree Rise in Global Temperatures by 2100

19 Countries Team Up to Go Carbon Neutral

The UK, Canada, Denmark, and Spain joined a coalition to slash emissions to net zero on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York.


UN headquarters in New York (Picture Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias)UN Photo/Manuel Elias) Click to Enlarge.
A group of 19 countries officially launched the Carbon Neutrality Coalition in New York on Thursday (27 September), just weeks before the European Commission is expected to publish a document outlining policy scenarios to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Europe dominates the coalition, with 12 EU member states pledging to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality “in the second half of the century”.

Four new countries – Canada, Denmark, Spain, and the United Kingdom – joined the initial 15 members, meaning Europe is strongly represented, with 12 of 19 members.

“Today, we announce we will develop long-term low-greenhouse gases emission climate resilient development strategies, in line with the agreed long-term temperature increase limit.  We will do so well ahead of 2020, and if possible by 2018,” reads the declaration of the Carbon Neutrality Coalition.

Read more at 19 Countries Team Up to Go Carbon Neutral

New Research Shows the World’s Ice Is Doing Something Not Seen Before

Melt water on the Greenland ice sheet near camp Victor north of Ilulissat. (Photograph Credit: SpecialistStoc/REX/Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
In this warming world, some parts of the planet are warming much faster than others.  The warming is causing large ice bodies to start to melt and move rapidly, in some cases sliding into the ocean. 

This movement is the topic of a very new scientific study that was just published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.  The Arctic is warming much faster than other parts of the planet and the ice there is showing the signs of rapid warming.  This fact has serious consequences.  First, melting ice can cause sea levels to rise and inundate coastal areas – it also makes storms like hurricanes and typhoons more destructive.  Melting ice also causes a feedback loop, which can cause more future warming and then more ice loss.

It should be noted that there are different types of ice.  Some ice floats on water and is called sea ice.  When it melts, the ocean water level hardly budges because the ice is already in the sea displacing liquid water.  But, sea ice is really important for this feedback loop I mentioned above.

Other ice is on land and may be a large ice sheet or a smaller glacier.  These ice bodies sit atop the land and “rest” there.  In some cases, they extend out off the land and into the ocean where they partly float on liquid water.  When this land ice melts, the liquid flows into the oceans and can cause significant ocean level rising.

So, the importance of ice depends on what type it is, where it is located, and how fast it is melting.  And this brings us to the new paper.

Read more at New Research Shows the World’s Ice Is Doing Something Not Seen Before

Canada and EU Add Climate Clause to Trade Pact

In a move that underscored Donald Trump’s isolation on trade and climate change, the two major economies inserted a reference to the Paris Agreement into Ceta.

The EU is making trade deals contingent on support for the Paris Agreement (Photo Credit: Deposit Photos) Click to Enlarge.
Canada and the EU added a climate clause to their trade deal at a high-level meeting in Montreal on Wednesday.

As EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström visited Canadian minister Jim Carr, they adopted an update to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta), which entered into force last year.

The two economies agreed to “promote the mutual supportiveness of trade and climate policies”, with reference to their commitment to the Paris Agreement.

The statement fleshed out Ceta’s provisions for environmental cooperation and underscored US president Donald Trump’s isolation on trade and climate change.

Read more at Canada and EU Add Climate Clause to Trade Pact

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Thursday 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.

UN Recruits Mike Bloomberg to Lead Green Finance Push

Antonio Guterres appointed the billionaire businessman to spur private sector investment into clean energy and resilience to climate change.


Mike Bloomberg with Antonio Guterres and UN deputy chief Amina Mohamed in the background (Picture Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe) Click to Enlarge.
The UN named Mike Bloomberg to lead a year-long green investment drive in New York on Wednesday.

The billionaire businessman and former New York mayor is charged with steering private finance towards clean energy and climate resilience projects around the world.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement this would contribute to the global target of raising $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries by 2020.  It is set to be a key theme of a climate summit at UN HQ next September.

Read more at UN Recruits Mike Bloomberg to Lead Green Finance Push

Global Warming Is Destabilizing Mountains, Creating Landslide Risks

As more permafrost thaws and water seeps deeper into mountains crags, extreme storms can trigger dangerous landslides and rockfalls.


Storms have triggered landslides in the Alps that have sent mud and debris pouring into villages. Bondo, in the Swiss Alps, has been hit more than once in recent years. The video below shows the destruction from 2017. (Credit: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
It's not just the atmosphere and the oceans that are heating up.  An ever-denser blanket of greenhouse gases is also sending warmer air and water deeper into the planet's rocky bones.

In the mountains of Switzerland, scientists have measured startling temperature increases, with jumps of as much as half a degree Celsius in just a decade 20 feet deep into the rocks.  On Svalbard, an Arctic island north of Norway, similar warming has been measured more than 100 feet deep in the permafrost.

Tracking these changes is critical to assessing growing threats to people, said Bjørn Samset, research director at the CICERO climate research center in Oslo.

The warming, combined with other climate effects like extreme rainfall, is speeding up some basic geological processes.  Softer rocks and soils that used to stay frozen most of the year, like permafrost, are thawing and eroding faster.  Seemingly monolithic slabs of solid granite are peeling off mountainsides like the layers of an onion.  And powerful rock glaciers—wide swaths of slow-moving ice and rock rubble that can pulverize granite—are speeding up, in one case from 40 feet per year to 226 feet per year.

Read more at Global Warming Is Destabilizing Mountains, Creating Landslide Risks

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Coal Plant that Navajo Community Doesn’t Want Is Dropped

Navajo Generating Station flue gas stacks and scrubber absorber (Credit: EPA) Click to Enlarge.
Middle River Power is reportedly backing away from efforts to purchase Navajo Generating Station.  In response, local Navajo community leaders issued the following statement:

“Based on economics alone, this plant was never going to make it past 2019.  The time and money spent over the last year to find someone to buy the costly coal plant distracted from a clean energy transition that our people desperately need,” said Nadine Narindrankura of Tó Nizhóni Ání.  “Navajo leadership needs to seize this moment.  The opportunity has presented itself once more to prepare for a successful transition away from coal.  The future is in renewables, not in a dead coal market.  There is much to be done — the Navajo Nation should focus its efforts on building the 500MW of renewable energy using the transmission lines negotiated on the current lease agreement on NGS.”

“Now that Middle River Power has withdrawn its intention to purchase the Navajo Generating Station, all attention should now be directed toward developing new economic opportunities that will support the plant workers, the mine workers, and the Tribes that had grown overly dependent on coal revenue,” said Percy Deal, local Navajo Nation resident.  “The Navajo and Hopi lands are ideal for new solar power development, and building new clean energy infrastructure can support new jobs and revenue opportunities.  Local families have never taken our eyes off of what we have been praying for — for our livelihoods to be on a path to recovery after all this is said and done.”

Read more at Coal Plant that Navajo Community Doesn’t Want Is Dropped

Tuesday 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.

Research Forecasts US Among Top Nations to Suffer Economic Damage from Climate Change

Flooded street in Houston after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 (Credit: © Irina K. / Fotolia) Click to Enlarge.
For the first time, researchers have developed a data set quantifying what the social cost of carbon -- the measure of the economic harm from carbon dioxide emissions -- will be for the globe's nearly 200 countries, and the results are surprising.  Although much previous research has focused on how rich countries benefit from the fossil fuel economy, while damages accrue primarily to the developing world, the top three counties with the most to lose from climate change are the United States, India, and Saudi Arabia -- three major world powers.  The world's largest CO2 emitter, China, also places in the top five countries with the highest losses.

The findings, which appear in Nature Climate Change, estimate country-level contributions to the social cost of carbon (SCC) using recent climate model projections, empirical climate-driven economic damage estimations and socioeconomic forecasts.  In addition to revealing that some counties are expected to suffer more than others from carbon emissions, they also show the global social cost of carbon is significantly higher than the one standardly used by the U.S. government to inform policy decisions.

Among the most-trusted contemporary estimates of SCC are those calculated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The latest figures for global costs range from $12 to $62 per metric ton of CO2 emitted by 2020; however, the new data show ... SCC to be approximately $180 -- 800 per ton of carbon emissions.  What's more, the country-level SCC for the U.S. alone is estimated to be about $50 per ton -- higher than the global value used in most regulatory impact analyses.  This means that the nearly five billion metric tons of CO2 the U.S. emits each year is costing the U.S. economy about $250 billion.

Read more at Research Forecasts US Among Top Nations to Suffer Economic Damage from Climate Change

Funded by New Tax Credits, US Carbon-Capture Network Could Double Global CO2 Headed Underground

Princeton University researchers have proposed a US pipeline network that would capture, transport and store underground up to 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year -- an amount equal to removing 6.5 million cars from the road. The network (thick blue line at center) would transfer carbon dioxide waste from ethanol refineries in the American Midwest (green dots) to oilfields in West Texas. Midwestern ethanol refineries, which emit 43 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, are currently located far from existing carbon dioxide pipelines (orange lines) and largely don't sit atop geological formations suitable for storing CO2 (beige areas). (Image Credit: Ryan Edwards, Princeton University) Click to Enlarge.
With the right public infrastructure investment, the United States could as much as double the amount of carbon dioxide emissions currently captured and stored worldwide within the next six years, according to an analysis by Princeton University researchers.

The authors propose in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences a pipeline network that would transfer carbon dioxide waste from ethanol refineries in the American Midwest -- where grains are fermented to produce the alcohol-based fuel -- to oilfields in West Texas.  The captured carbon would then be pumped into near-depleted oil fields through a technique known as enhanced oil recovery, where the carbon dioxide helps recover residual oil while ultimately being trapped underground.

The researchers found that this capture-and-storage network could prevent up to 30 million metric tons of human-made carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year -- an amount equal to removing 6.5 million cars from the road.  Currently, about 31 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually are captured and stored worldwide.

The authors were motivated by a tax credit passed by Congress in the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act to encourage investment in carbon capture and storage.  Their analysis showed that this large-scale capture-and-storage network would only be possible -- and profitable for the companies using it -- if the tax credits are coupled with low-interest government loans to fund the necessary pipeline infrastructure.  If governments provided low-cost loans for only half of the pipelines, the resulting smaller-scale network would still sequester 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

"The new tax credits are the most significant policy incentivizing carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) in the world today," said first author Ryan Edwards, a AAAS Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow in Washington, D.C. who earned his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Princeton in 2018.  Edwards worked on the analysis as a graduate student under co-author Michael Celia, director of the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) and the Theodora Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering.

"This is the first time we've had a policy in front of us that lets us seriously consider deployment on a large scale," Edwards said.  "There's a lot of interest in CCUS at different levels, and bipartisan support.  What there hasn't been is a plan for how this could happen and what it would look like."

Read more at Funded by New Tax Credits, US Carbon-Capture Network Could Double Global CO2 Headed Underground

National Parks Hit Harder by Climate Change than Rest of the U.S.

 Of the 150 glaciers that existed in Glacier National Park in the late 19th century, just 25 remain, including the Jackson Glacier, seen here in 1911 (top) and 2009 (bottom). (Credit: M. Elrod, University of Montana. USGS/Lisa Mckeon) Click to Enlarge.
America’s national parks are warming up and drying out much faster than the rest of the United States, according to a new study on the impacts of climate change on U.S. parks published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The changing conditions are threatening protected ecosystems from the Everglades in Florida to Denali National Park in Alaska.

The study found that the 417 protected areas in the U.S. national parks system warmed an average 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) between 1885 and 2010 — twice the average U.S. rate — with the most significant temperature increases happening in Alaska.  Annual precipitation in parks, which cover a combined 85 million acres, declined 12 percent over the same period, compared to a 3 percent average drop across the U.S.

If nations fail to curb greenhouse gas emissions, known as the “business as usual” scenario, temperatures in U.S. national parks would increase 3 to 9 degrees Celsius by 2100, the study concluded.  But the study’s authors stress that drastic reductions in emissions could reduce warming in national parks by as much as two-thirds.

“That’s the hopeful message here,” Patrick Gonzalez, a forest ecologist at University of California, Berkeley and lead author of the new study, told the Miami Herald.  “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions can save our parks from the most extreme heat.”

Read original at National Parks Hit Harder by Climate Change than Rest of the U.S.

Iberdrola Plans to Boost U.S. Renewable Power by About 50 Percent:  CEO

The company expects to spend about $15 billion in the United States on its transmission and distribution system and increase its renewable generation to around 10,000 megawatts (MW) by the end of 2022.

 Ignacio Galan (Credit: gettyimages.com) Click to Enlarge.
Iberdrola SA, the world’s biggest wind power producer, plans to expand its renewable capacity in the United States by about 50 percent over four years as part of the Spanish electric utility’s global plan to reduce carbon emissions, its chief executive told Reuters on Monday.

Ignacio Galan, who was in New York to speak at the United Nations’ Global Compact Leaders Summit, said the company expects to spend about $15 billion in the United States on its transmission and distribution system and increase its renewable generation to around 10,000 megawatts (MW) by the end of 2022.

“More and more investors are looking for companies with clean energy and sustainability goals,” Galan said, noting Iberdrola sells the energy that helps those companies meet those targets.

Read more at Iberdrola Plans to Boost U.S. Renewable Power by About 50 Percent:  CEO

New Study Reconciles a Dispute About How Fast Global Warming Will Happen

How Earth’s climate sensitivity evolves to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide over different timescales, starting at close to 2°C warming and then rising to about 3°C warming after a decade. (Illustration Credit: Goodwin (2018), Earth’s Future) Click to Enlarge.
We’re currently on pace to double the carbon dioxide-equivalent (including other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere by around mid-century.  Since the late 1800s scientists have been trying to answer the question, how much global warming will that cause?

In 1979 top climate scientists led by Jule Charney published a report estimating that if we double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm to 560 ppm, temperatures will warm by 3 ± 1.5°C.  Four decades later, ‘climate sensitivity’ estimates remain virtually unchanged, but some climate contrarians have argued that the number is at the low end of that range, around 2°C or less.

It’s an important question because if the contrarians are right, the 2°C resulting global warming would represent significantly less severe climate change consequences than if mainstream climate scientists are right and temperatures rise by 3°C.  It would also mean our remaining carbon budget for meeting the 2°C Paris target is about twice as large than if the mainstream consensus is right.  If the consensus is correct, we’re on pace to blow through the remaining Paris carbon budget by around 2030.

Read more at New Study Reconciles a Dispute About How Fast Global Warming Will Happen

Leaked:  Draft UN Declaration to ‘Ensure Decent Future’ for Fossil Fuel Workers

Proposal by Polish climate presidency calls for a program to monitor national efforts to protect communities impacted by climate action.


Katowice’s coal-miners: Piotr Luberta (left) and Skawomir Kukasiewicz (Photo Credit: Natalie Sauer) Click to Enlarge.
Workers in the fossil fuel industry must be assured a “decent future” even as mines and plants are forced to close, according to a leaked draft UN declaration.

The draft, prepared by the Polish UN climate presidency and posted below, calls for a program to monitor national progress on protecting workers and communities that rely on traditional industries.

The Polish government intends for heads of state to adopt the proposal at UN talks in December.

If it is accepted, countries will recognize “challenges for sectors, cities, and other subnational authorities highly dependent on fossil fuels and high emitting industries, and the need for national governments to ensure a decent future for workers impacted by the transition” to a sustainable, “low greenhouse gas emission” future.

The ‘Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration’ is named after the region of Poland where this year’s climate conference will take place.  On Monday Climate Home News reported coal workers in the host city of Katowice felt threatened by the pursuit of increasingly rapid cuts to coal use.

Read more at Leaked:  Draft UN Declaration to ‘Ensure Decent Future’ for Fossil Fuel Workers

Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday 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.

Volkswagen Plans 16 New Electric Car Assembly Plants, 1 in North America

 Volkswagen electric car prototype (Credit: Volkswagen) Click to Enlarge.
Volkswagen has officially introduced its new MEB modular platform, the electric car manufacturing template it says will form the basis for as many as 10 million electric cars in the coming years.  As part of that plan, the company expects to have 16 electric car assembly plants in operation by the year 2022, part of its $40 billion dollar EV investment strategy.

Many of those new facilities will be scattered across Europe.  The company has already begun converting its factory in the German city of Zwickau to be the first factory that will build electric cars exclusively.  The first ID-branded electric car from the company — a 5 door sedan that bears more than a passing resemblance to the popular Golf — will be built there.

The company is also planning two new electric car factories in China to go along with the manufacturing locations it already has there.  Building cars in China will allow Volkswagen’s locally produced automobiles to avoid import tariffs imposed by the government on imported cars.

Thomas Ulbrich, head of e-mobility for Volkswagen, announced this week that his company will build at least one new electric car factory in North America.  “There is no decision done so far,” told reporters in Germany.  “We think there’s a natural fit to Chattanooga, but there’s no planning done so far.”  According to The Drive, the new factory is expected to begin producing cars by 2022.

Read more at Volkswagen Plans 16 New Electric Car Assembly Plants, 1 in North America