Sunday, October 21, 2018

By 2035 the ‘Great Fuel Switch’ Will Mark the End of the Age of Oil and Gas, Analysts Expect

Solar and wind energy will meet 20 percent of global power needs sooner than previously forecast.

A wind farm near Freiwalde, Germany. (Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Close to 20 percent of global power needs will be met by solar or wind energy by 2035, marking a shift from the age of oil and gas to the age of renewables, according to a new report from researchers at the consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

The growing focus on sustainability in many parts of the world, the report says, “is almost akin to a gravitational force, pulling things in one direction and driving the ‘great fuel switch,’ leaving little possibility for a reversal.”

Energy transitions, similar to the ongoing shift to renewables, are nothing new, Wood Mackenzie researchers write in the report released Wednesday, entitled “Thinking Global Energy Transitions:  The What, If, How and When.” 

The current hydrocarbon-based economy has itself evolved out of many previous energy transitions, from the age of biomass to the age of coal, and, ultimately, to that of oil and gas.  Each of these was different, but all took at least 30 to 50 years to unfold, the report says.

Technological advancements in the renewable energy industry, coupled with the growth of energy storage and the growth of electric vehicles, are driving the “large-scale commodity switch” away from fossil fuels, Prajit Ghosh, Wood Mackenzie’s head of global strategy, power and renewables, said Wednesday in a statement.

“The result is that the energy transition seems less the plot of a sci-fi movie and more of a feasible, albeit ambitious, plan,” Ghosh said.

The transition to solar and wind energy will replace the equivalent of about 100 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas demand in the global power sector, the report says.  For comparison, demand for natural gas in the United States — the world’s largest consumer of natural gas — averaged about 74 billion cubic per day for all purposes, or about 20 percent of global natural gas consumption, in 2017.

Read more at By 2035 the ‘Great Fuel Switch’ Will Mark the End of the Age of Oil and Gas, Analysts Expect

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Saturday 20

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

'Dire' IPCC Report Ignites Headlines, Media Coverage

Whether report, and media coverage of it, will budge public opinion remains unclear.

Flooding in Philadelphia (Photo Credit: Bud Ward, Copyright protected) Click to Enlarge.
News of the short-term climate catastrophe scientists say the world now faces first came over the weekend of October 6-7.  That’s just as many across the U.S. were already consumed by “breaking news” of an entirely different sort – the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh.
Major broadcast networks and cable news stations, and what remains of serious daily newspapers soon were giving earnest play to the latest IPCC report, and expressing substantial levels of concern.

For those who somehow missed it, a quick catch-up:  The news from IPCC scientists gathered from across the world was indeed serious, and troubling to all but those wanting to still play the “hoax” card.  A few samplings from the report:
  • “Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
  • Limiting the warming to 1.5 rather than to 2 degrees C will provide “clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems…, ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.”  That is, there’s a big difference in that one-half degree C in terms of adverse impacts.
  • “We are already seeing the consequences of 1-degree C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing arctic sea ice, among other changes.”
  • “By 2100, global sea-level rise would be 10 cm [nearly four inches] lower with global warming of 1.5 C compared with 2 C.”
  • “Likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5 C, compared with at least once per decade with 2 C.”
  • “Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5 C whereas virtually all (>99 percent) would be lost with 2C.”
‘Rapid-far reaching transitions’ needed …

It’s that very important distinction – between the stated goal of limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees C and the “aspirational” goal of capping warmth at 1.5 degrees C – that strikes many as a particularly valuable contribution of the new report.  It ends up there’s a B I G difference indeed in term of the severity of impacts between 1.5 and 2 degrees C.

But there’s more too.
Achieving that 1.5-degree C maximum warming threshold means “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities,” with global net human-caused emissions of CO2 falling by roughly 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 … to “net zero” around 2050.

Read more at 'Dire' IPCC Report Ignites Headlines, Media Coverage

New Materials Could Make Concentrated Solar Power Cheaper than Battery Storage

Heat exchanger material for CSP (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Sunlight can do lots of useful things.  It can make plants grow.  It can allow solar panels to make electricity.  And it can be used to heat stuff up to extremely high temperatures.  That last one is what makes concentrated solar power possible.  According to a report in Science Daily, “Concentrated solar power plants convert solar energy into electricity by using mirrors or lenses to concentrate a lot of light onto a small area, which generates heat that is transferred to a molten salt.  Heat from the molten salt is then transferred to a “working” fluid, supercritical carbon dioxide, that expands and works to spin a turbine for generating electricity.”

The critical elements in that process are the heat exchangers used to transfer the heat stored in the molten salt to the carbon dioxide working fluid.  If the whole process could be made to operate at even higher temperatures, CSP systems could make more electricity from a given amount of sunlight.

“Storing solar energy as heat can already be cheaper than storing energy via batteries, so the next step is reducing the cost of generating electricity from the sun’s heat with the added benefit of zero greenhouse gas emissions,” says Kenneth Sandhage, a professor of materials engineering at Purdue University.

At the present time, those heat exchangers are made of stainless steel or nickel based alloys, but they get too soft at the desired higher temperatures and at the elevated pressure of supercritical carbon dioxide.  Professor Sandhage has been collaborating with researchers at  the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop new materials that can be used in heat exchangers that operate at those higher temperatures.  The results of their research have been published recently in the journal Nature.

The scientists looked at the materials used to make nozzles for solid fuel rocket engines and created new heat exchangers made from zirconium carbide and tungsten that can withstand the high temperature, high pressure supercritical carbon dioxide needed for generating electricity more efficiently.  An economic analysis by Georgia Tech and Purdue researchers also showed that the scaled up manufacturing of these heat exchangers could be conducted at comparable or lower cost than for stainless steel or nickel alloy-based ones.

“Ultimately, with continued development, this technology would allow for large scale penetration of renewable solar energy into the electricity grid,” Sandhage says.  “This would mean dramatic reductions in human-made carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production.”  What a delicious irony that carbon dioxide — the molecule responsible for most global warming — could be used to help reduce carbon emissions from the energy generation sector.  Check out the video below for more on this breakthrough research.

Read more at New Materials Could Make Concentrated Solar Power Cheaper than Battery Storage

Warming Raises Threat of Global Famine Repeat

Global warming is increasing the chances of worldwide harvest failure on the scale of the tragic 19th-century drought and famine that claimed 50 million lives.

Climate change driven by human-induced global warming could recreate the conditions for a re-run of one of the most tragic episodes in human history, the Great Drought and Global Famine of 1875 to 1878.

Those years were marked by widespread and prolonged droughts in Asia, Brazil, and Africa, triggered by a coincidence of unusual conditions in the Pacific, Indian, and North Atlantic Oceans.

The famine – made more lethal by the political constraints linked to 19th-century colonial domination of three continents – is now thought to have claimed up to 50 million lives.

And the message contained in new research published in the Journal of Climate is stark:  what happened before could happen again.

One of the triggers was a cyclic blister of Pacific warming called El Niño, known to reverse global weather patterns, scorch rainforests and destabilize societies.

Another factor was a set of record warm temperatures in the North Atlantic that have been linked to drought in North Africa.

Linked to famine
A third was an unusually strong Indian Ocean dipole, a natural cyclic temperature change that has recently been linked to famine in the Horn of Africa.

The 1875-78 drought and famine began with the failure of the monsoon in India and China, leading to the most intense drought in the last 800 years.  So many died in Shanxi province, China, that the population was restored to 1875 levels only in 1953.

The combination of record ocean temperatures and a very strong El Niño also intensified and prolonged droughts in Brazil and Australia.  One million people are thought to have perished in the Nordeste province of Brazil.

Read more at Warming Raises Threat of Global Famine Repeat

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thursday 18

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

Bill Gates Throws New Weight and Cash into Climate Fight

In back-to-back events this week, the billionaire launched projects to slow global warming and limit the damage it causes.

The answer to climate change? "Definitely innovation," said Bill Gates (Photo Credit: Kjetil Ree/Wikipedia) Click to Enlarge.
The billionaire philanthropist known for his work on global health and development threw new weight and money behind efforts to limit global warming this week.

In back-to-back events on Tuesday and Wednesday, Bill Gates launched a global commission to develop climate change adaptation measures and a European investment fund for clean energy innovation.

Both initiatives are aimed at supporting investment in nascent and risky technologies.

The Global Commission on Adaptation will focus on managing the effects already linked to climate change, for example by developing a seed for subsistence farmers that can withstand more frequent droughts.  Gates will lead the commission with former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and World Bank chief executive Kristalina Georgieva.

The Breakthrough Energy Europe initiative, creates an initial €100m joint investment fund for technologies such as battery storage and zero-emission manufacturing processes.  Gates, who is chairman of the $1bn Breakthrough Energy Ventures, launched the fund with the European Commission on Wednesday.

Together, they address the two-pronged challenge posed by climate change – mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the changes, even if the global temperature rise is limited, Gates told reporters in Brussels.

“We want economies to grow.  The amount of steel, cement, food, meat that gets produced globally – that is going to increase.  But at the same time, we need to slash emissions,” he said.  “But even if we achieve the 1.5C or 2C scenario, we still have subsistence farmers in Africa and a lot of people who live near the water, people who live on islands, and there will be suffering induced by climate.”

Read 0more at Bill Gates Throws New Weight and Cash into Climate Fight

Designers Are Reinventing Hurricane Maps for an Era of Extreme Weather

As climate dangers rise, researchers are testing new ways of communicating clearly about uncertainty.

Here’s an ... implementation from the New York Times (Credit: NY Times) Click to Enlarge.
Over the years, various researchers and media organizations have tested out new ways of visualizing the potential path of a hurricane.  One method that has gained a lot of traction is to visualize each possible path as a separate line in what’s called a “spaghetti graph.”
Among the redesigns he’s seen, Alberto Cairo, a data visualization expert who has been conducting research with his colleagues at the University of Miami to improve hurricane maps, thinks this is one of the most promising.  He intends to study it more with his colleagues as part of their research.

“We will try to test as many alternatives as possible to see which one or what combination of maps works better for people,” he says.  Ultimately, the solution may not even involve showing the hurricane’s trajectory if their research finds that people don’t need that information to make a decision.

“Because that’s the whole purpose,” he says, “Giving people the information that they need to make a sound decision as to how they need to protect themselves and their families.”

Read more at Designers Are Reinventing Hurricane Maps for an Era of Extreme Weather

EU Lawmakers to Back 35 Percent Co2 Cut for Trucks by 2030

Cars and trucks are stuck in a traffic jam near Irschenberg, Germany, March 29, 2018. (Credit: Reuters/Michael Dalder/File Photo) Click to Enlarge.
EU lawmakers are expected to back a 35 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from new trucks by 2030, EU sources said ahead of a vote on Thursday over new rules that seek to fight global warming without harming industry.

The target will be the first CO2 standard for trucks in the EU, which currently has no limits on what accounts for almost one quarter of the bloc’s transport-related emissions.

The vote in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee would set tougher climate targets than those proposed by the EU executive in May.  It had called for a 30 percent CO2 cut by 2030.

The sources said the 35 percent target is backed by a majority of lawmakers in the committee, which tends to push for more ambitious climate legislation than the assembly as a whole.

However, lawmakers remained divided over how tough an interim 2025 target should be ahead of Thursday’s vote.

In a clash between worries over climate and competitiveness, left-leaning parties have banded together to push a more ambitious target of a 20 percent reduction by 2025 than what has been proposed by the bloc’s executive.

But the European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest party in the chamber, favors the European Commission’s original proposal of 15 percent by 2025.

“The big battle will be between what is going to be adopted for 2025,” said Bas Eickhout, the Green lawmaker in charge of seeing the proposal through Parliament.

The parliament groups will also face off over whether to require manufacturers to produce a certain amount of zero and low-emission vehicles, or to stick with a credit system as proposed by the EPP and Commission proposals.

Read more at EU Lawmakers to Back 35 Percent Co2 Cut for Trucks by 2030:  Sources

Arctic Greening Thaws Permafrost, Boosts Runoff

Study finds shrubs trap snow, creating permanently thawed zones that destroy permafrost and create pathways for increased water and carbon flow.

NGEE-Arctic researchers from Los Alamos, University of Alaska Fairbanks and Oak Ridge National Laboratory dig deep snow pits in tall shrub patches to understand the warming effect of snow-shrub interactions on underlying permafrost. (Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory) Click to Enlarge.
A new collaborative study has investigated Arctic shrub-snow interactions to obtain a better understanding of the far north's tundra and vast permafrost system.  Incorporating extensive in situ observations, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists tested their theories with a novel 3D computer model and confirmed that shrubs can lead to significant degradation of the permafrost layer that has remained frozen for tens of thousands of years.  These interactions are driving increases in discharges of fresh water into rivers, lakes, and oceans.

"The Arctic is actively greening, and shrubs are flourishing across the tundra.  As insulating snow accumulates atop tall shrubs, it boosts significant ground warming," said Cathy Wilson, Los Alamos scientist on the project.  "If the trend of increasing vegetation across the Arctic continues, we're likely to see a strong increase in permafrost degradation."

Read more at Arctic Greening Thaws Permafrost, Boosts Runoff

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wednesday 17

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

Walmart Procures 233-MW Wind-Energy PPA from EDP Renewables

Walmart branded wind tower (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Retail giant Walmart signed a deal for 233 MW of utility-scale wind power from EDP Renewables, the companies announced Tuesday.

The deal with Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart includes three wind farms—all developed, owned and operated by EDP Renewables—in the states of Illinois and Indiana. The PPA details are as follows:
  • 123 MW from the Bright Stalk Wind Farm (a 205 MW project in McLean County, Illinois, with start of operations expected in 2019;
  • 60 MW from the Headwaters II Wind Farm (a 200 MW project in Randolph County, Indiana, with start of operations expected in 2020;
  • 50 MW from the Harvest Ridge Wind Farm, formerly Broadlands Wind Farm (a 200 MW project in Douglas County, Illinois, with start of operations expected in 2019.
“Walmart has a goal to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy and sourcing energy from wind farms developed by partners like EDP Renewables is a core component in the mix,” said Mark Vanderhelm, vice president of energy for Walmart.  “Wind energy is an important part of our energy portfolio, and Walmart plans to continue our efforts to pursue renewable energy projects that are right for our customers, our business, and the environment.”     

“The declining cost of renewable power has led to an increase in clean energy procurement from companies like Walmart in recent years.  The continued commitment from corporate entities in procuring renewable energy speaks volumes about the importance and value of securing fixed, competitive pricing over the long-term,” said Miguel Prado, EDP Renewables North America CEO.  “EDP Renewables appreciates its partnership with Walmart and commends the company in its efforts to source all of its energy from renewable sources.”
A recent report by the Wind-Solar Alliance indicated that large companies procured nearly four GW of utility-scale wind and solar in the U.S. through August of this year, breaking the previous high mark by 750 MW.

Read more at Walmart Procures 233-MW Wind-Energy PPA from EDP Renewables

Monday, October 15, 2018

Monday 15

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

U.S. Automakers Double Down on Trucks & SUVs, Despite Talk of a Cleaner Future

The automakers say they’re headed for an all-electric future and they want fuel economy standards, but their assembly lines tell a different story.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra, along with the chief executives of Ford and Fiat Chrysler, met with President Trump at the White House in January 2017 to discuss U.S. auto emissions standards. (Credit: Saul Loeb/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
A year ago, General Motors laid out a bold vision for a transition to a zero-emissions future.  It announced plans for 20 new electric vehicle models by 2023, and CEO Mary Barra wrote:  "Our generation has the ambition, the talent and the technology to realize the safer, better and more sustainable world we want."

But in the U.S. market, GM was aggressively transforming its product line for something else—it was scaling back on cars and doubling down on higher-emissions pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.

SUVs and other light trucks now make up more than three-quarters of GM's passenger vehicle sales in the U.S., up from less than 60 percent five years ago.  The majority of the 20 planned electric car models are destined for China, where the government has new EV mandates.  The company has announced no plans for electric versions of any of the big vehicles that are its best sellers in the U.S.

"We have ... successfully transitioned to a crossover- and truck-focused business," Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of Sales Operations said in a statement to investors early this year.

GM is not alone.  All of the Big Three automakers—GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler—have shifted toward big, heavy vehicles that drink more fuel per mile.  In fact, they were in last place for fuel economy among the 13 automakers selling in the U.S. market, according to the EPA's most recent annual fuel economy trends report.

It's an ominous development for climate change, since gasoline is the largest contributor to carbon emissions in transportation—the nation's biggest source of planet-warming greenhouse gases.

It also helps explains why automakers sought President Donald Trump's help in easing the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards that they had agreed to as part of the 2009 economic bailout.  Trump went farther than the automakers had in mind, however, and he now plans to freeze the standards and abandon the goal of a more than 50 mpg average for the U.S. vehicle fleet, undoing what would be one of the largest steps any nation has taken on climate change.

Relatively low gas prices have helped drive the trend, as consumers are less concerned about the cost of gas guzzlers when fuel prices are low.

But automakers, who make higher profits on pickup trucks and SUVs, have also stoked those sales with marketing muscle and retooled line-ups.  The manufacturers' all-important quarterly earnings have been bolstered as a result.

Advocates of tougher fuel economy standards argue that U.S. automakers are careening down the same risky road they have driven in the past—relying too heavily on vehicles that will be less attractive to consumers when gas prices are high again.

"The American manufacturers haven't figured out how to make money on cars," said Daniel Becker, executive director of the Safe Climate Campaign.  "They only make money on pickup trucks and SUVs.  So they are seizing on temporarily low gas prices and ... politicians like Trump to shift production to the most profitable vehicles they make."

"The number one problem with that is climate," he said.  "But it also will result in the downfall of the American auto industry in a few years when gas prices go back up and they will have gotten out of the business of making cars."

Read more at U.S. Automakers Double Down on Trucks & SUVs, Despite Talk of a Cleaner Future

Hurricanes Like Michael Show Why We Can’t Ignore Climate Change

The deadly storm came just days after a report on global warming.

 People walk through rubble after Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., on Saturday. ((Credit: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Click to Enlarge.
This past week was a grim one in climate history, by any measure.

First, an international group of scientists released a long-anticipated report detailing in excruciating detail the extra damages we can expect unless we slam our foot on the fossil fuel brakes right now.  Then, just a few days later, record-breaking Hurricane Michael came barreling out of the Gulf of Mexico with a late-breaking intensification that transformed the Florida Panhandle into a landscape straight out of a horror movie.

The fact that both events occurred within a few days of each other is pure coincidence, of course.  But it does leave the feeling that Nature just put one or more planetary-scale exclamation marks on the main takeaway from the IPCC report:  Act now to reduce emissions, or suffer the consequences!

The real exclamation point from Michael, though, is the same one that came with its close relatives Katrina, Sandy, Harvey, Maria, and Florence — all supercharged by man-made climate change to some degree:  We are exceptionally ill-prepared for the climate threats that are unfolding today, let alone those of the next decades.  Rising seas caused by warming and rising oceans and melting ice are already bringing low-lying coastlines under threat from so-called “blue sky flooding.”  And studies now show that there are plenty of reasons to think that hurricanes will get stronger, and wetter, under continued climate change, as the ocean and the overlying atmosphere warm.

As hurricane after hurricane illustrates in a deafening drumbeat of destruction, the most vulnerable populations pay the highest costs during these disasters — sometimes with their lives.  Residents of poor neighborhoods, often members of ethnic and racial minorities, frequently cannot afford flood insurance, even if they live in low-lying, flood-prone areas.  Evacuation requires transportation and lodging expenses, while recovery requires access to savings to pay upfront costs.  Taxpayers are on the hook for rebuilding in flood-prone areas, even as private insurance companies continually increase premiums for many coastal properties in recognition of the shifting statistics of risk.

[We already knew how to reduce damage from floods.  We just didn't do it.]

Unfortunately, as the climate report indicates, we need to be preparing for things to get worse.  The full costs of relying on outdated estimates of coastal flooding risk can already be measured in the currency of lost lives, ruined local economies, and deep, multigenerational scars gouged into our country’s social fabric.  Scientists can provide decision-makers with estimates of the rates of sea-level rise over the next decades, including some worst-case scenarios.  But a more complete understanding of the physical risks of coastal flooding is only the first step.  We’ll also need to consider how the natural and built environments may compound or mitigate flood risks to communities.  And policymakers must decide how to allocate finite public resources to protecting lives and property across communities marked by huge disparities in economic capacity and inherent resilience.

There is no doubt that we will be playing catch-up with our new climate reality for decades to come, even as it shifts under our feet, in a vicious and unforgiving game of cat and mouse.  The new climate report outlines a path for an aggressive drawdown of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that would avoid some of the worst damages associated with climate change, and we must get started in earnest on a host of no-regrets actions toward this end.  We have some promising success stories from many American cities and states, but federal action is long overdue.  Hurricane Michael pointedly reminds us that reducing emissions is only part of the climate change solution.

The real lesson from the recent spate of record-breaking heat waves, hurricanes, and wildfires is that the highly polarizing political debates around emissions reductions have sidelined important conversations about protecting American lives, property, and livelihoods from natural disasters fueled by climate change.  Here’s hoping we can find common purpose in uniting to protect our front-line communities, including the vulnerable urban and rural poor, from the ravages of ongoing climate change.

Read more at Hurricanes Like Michael Show Why We Can’t Ignore Climate Change

Mary Robinson on Climate Change: ‘Feeling “This Is Too Big for Me” Is No Use to Anybody’

The former president of Ireland has a new raison d’être: saving the planet. Yet, despite the dire warnings of this week’s IPCC report, she is surprisingly upbeat.

‘Human rights has always been a struggle’ ... Mary Robinson in her office in Dublin. (Photograph Credit: Johnny Savage/Guardian) Click to Enlarge.
On the morning that the world’s leading climate scientists warn that the planet has until 2030 to avert a global warming catastrophe, Mary Robinson appears suitably sombre.  She wears black shoes, black trousers, and a black sweater and perches at the end of a long table at her climate justice foundation, headquartered in an austere, imposing Georgian building opposite Trinity College Dublin.
“Governments are not responding at all adequately to the stark reality that the IPCC is pointing to:  that we have about 11 years to make really significant change,” says Robinson, sitting ramrod straight, all business.  “This report is extraordinarily important, because it’s telling us that 2 degrees is not safe.  It’s beyond safe.  Therefore, we have to work much, much harder to stay at 1.5 degrees.  I’ve seen what 1 degree is doing in more vulnerable countries ... villages are having to move, there’s slippage, there’s seawater incursion.”

Robinson sips a glass of water and sighs.  “We’re in a bumpy time.  We’re in a bad political cycle, particularly because the United States is not only not giving leadership, but is being disruptive of multilateralism and is encouraging populism in other countries.”

This could be the start of a depressing interview that concludes we should hitch a ride on Virgin Galactic’s first trip to space and try to stay there.  But it turns out to be surprisingly upbeat.  Despite the headlines, Robinson, who served as the UN secretary general’s special envoy on climate change after serving as the president of Ireland and the UN high commission for human rights, is hopeful. 

She has anticipated the IPCC report by writing a book-cum-manifesto, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, published this week.  It tells stories of farmers and activists, mostly women, who tackle climate change in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.  They are examples of positive change that Robinson thinks can help turn the tide.

“I don’t think as a human race that we can be so stupid that we can’t face an existential threat together and find a common humanity and solidarity to respond to it.  Because we do have the capacity and the means to do it – if we have the political will.”

Read more at Mary Robinson on Climate Change:  ‘Feeling “This Is Too Big for Me” Is No Use to Anybody’

Toon of the Week - Trump lights cigar with burning copy of UN Climate Report

Read more here.

Poster of the Week - Toto, I Think the Climate Has Changed!

Read original here

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Flash Flood Risks Grow as Downpours Get More Intense

Pouring rain (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
If you’ve noticed that torrential rain storms are getting more common, you’re right.

Andreas Prein of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says the amount of rain that falls during the most intense storms is increasing all over the country.  The change is most extreme in northeastern states …

Prein:  “… where we have up to seventy percent higher intensities of rainfall than we had fifty years ago.”

One of the reasons is that warmer air can hold more evaporated water.  So as temperatures increase, clouds can hold more moisture, which means more water can fall in a single storm.

And with more intense storms comes an increased risk of flash floods, which can threaten lives and damage property.

Prein says the risks are particularly great in urban areas.  That’s because, with more paved surfaces and less vegetation, cities have fewer areas that can absorb stormwater.  So flooding is more likely.

Prein:  “Therefore urbanized areas have to update their infrastructure to be more prepared for flash flooding, and we have to try to limit global warming to a certain extent that the consequences don’t get unmanageable.”

Read original at Flash Flood Risks Grow as Downpours Get More Intense

How a Carbon Tax Would Be Implemented

Offshore oil exploration (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
There are no solutions to complex problems – except when the problem becomes so complex it must have a simple solution.

That is the paradox thrown up by global warming and the shattering report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The report cries out for dramatic, simple remediation of the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere every day by industrial society.

The complex solution is a case-by-case, country-by-country, industry-by-industry, polluter-by-polluter remediation: power plants, automobiles, trucks, trains, ships, aircraft, and manufacturers.

The simple solution to this complex problem is to tax carbon emissions:  a carbon tax.  Make no mistake, it would be tough.  Some industries would bear the brunt and their customers would carry the burden -- initially a light burden growing to a heavier one.

The obvious place to start is with electric utilities.  Those burning coal would get the heaviest penalty.  Those burning natural gas – the fuel favored by its low price and abundance in the nation -- some penalty, but not as heavy.

Nuclear, which is having a hard time in the marketplace at present, would be the big winner of the central station technologies, and solar and wind would continue to be favored. 

When it comes to transportation and farming, the pain of carbon taxation rises.  The automobile user has choices like a smaller car, an electric car or simply less driving.  But heavy transportation, using diesel or kerosene, is where the pain will be felt:  buses, trucks, tractors, trains, aircraft, and ships.  The burden here is direct and would push up prices to consumers quickly.

Jets are a particularly vexing problem.  Although they represent about 3.5 percent of pollution, it is the altitude at which they operate (above 30,000 feet) that makes them particularly lethal greenhouse gas emitters.

A carbon tax must be introduced gradually but firmly so that technology and alternatives have a chance of coming to the rescue.  Some things, like airline tickets, will just cost more before manufacturers improve engines and work on new propulsion.  Farming will he hard hit, and farmers may have to get rebates.

Read more at How a Carbon Tax Would Be Implemented

'Vast Blind Spot':  IPCC Accused of Ignoring 'Decades Long' Fossil Fuel Misinformation Campaign on Climate

Charles Koch (Credit: Fortune Brainstorm TECH, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Click to Enlarge.
The United Nations (UN) climate science panel is being accused of ignoring research into fossil fuel-funded misinformation campaigns that have been key to holding back action on global warming.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — an assessment of more than 6,000 research papers — found global warming caused largely by fossil fuel burning would have severe impacts even if limited to 1.5°C (2.7°F).

Described by the IPCC as “one of the most important climate change reports ever published,” the report is designed to inform policy makers and the public around the world.

But several researchers are angry the report did not take account of academic research into the “decades-long misinformation campaign” funded and promoted by fossil fuel interests and so-called “free market” conservative think tanks that has been a major brake on progress.

Several researchers say the lack of consideration of academic research into misinformation campaigns was a vital but missed opportunity to educate the public and policy makers. The groups that have colluded with the fossil fuel industry have been credited with pushing President Donald Trump to pledge to pull the U.S. from the UN's Paris Agreement.

A Vast Blind Spot
“This is an important barrier to climate action, but it is never addressed,” said Professor Robert Brulle of Drexel University, who has published research on the funding and influence of climate science denial efforts. 

“A large existing literature on this was ignored by the IPCC,” he added.

The IPCC special report showed that keeping global warming to 1.5°C would require a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use between now and the middle of the century.

As well as assessing the impacts of global warming at 1.5°C compared to 2°C (3.4°F) on people and the environment, the report’s chapter four detailed factors that influence policy makers and the public’s response to climate change.
Professor Justin Farrell of Yale University has published a detailed analysis of the work of a network of more than 150 organizations that form a “climate counter movement.”  Farrell found those groups had been key to polarizing the public on climate change. 

He said:  “We cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand about the real reasons why climate change science is ignored and solutions are continually subverted.”

He said social science research had revealed “how and why climate science continues to be purposefully undermined at large scales by powerful industry and political actors.”

Farrell added:  “The public — and the planet — deserve to hear this evidence and know the truth, and any report on climate change can and should integrate these well-researched facts.”

Funders of groups that have pushed misinformation on climate science and the impacts of policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions include petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch, energy companies including ExxonMobil and hedge fund billionaire and Donald Trump backer Robert Mercer.  Many millions more have flowed through so-called “dark money” routes, including Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.

Read more at 'Vast Blind Spot':  IPCC Accused of Ignoring 'Decades Long' Fossil Fuel Misinformation Campaign on Climate

The Giant Corporations Behind Your Burgers and Milk Have a Terrifying Climate Secret

Together, five companies have a climate footprint bigger than Exxon, Shell, or BP, but we don’t talk about it.

Cheese Burger (Credit: Lauri Patterson) Click to Enlarge.
Beef burgers, ham sandwiches, cheese slices, yogurt, bread.  A good amount of the food you might eat on a daily basis is likely to have come from just three U.S companies:  Tyson, Cargill, and Dairy Farmers of America. 

Minnesota-based Cargill is the world’s biggest food trader, selling everything from grains and beef to eggs and palm oil.  Meat giant Tyson processes 35 million chickens, 424,000 pigs and 130,000 cattle every week in the U.S.  And Dairy Farmers of America accounts for 30 percent of all the milk produced in the country.

And in addition to providing your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they are some of the world’s most-polluting companies. 

The climate footprint of oil and gas giants such as Exxon Mobil, Shell, and BP are well-known, but food companies have faced far less scrutiny.  The world’s five largest meat and dairy companies combined, including Tyson, Cargill, and Dairy Farmers of America, are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions every year than any of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies.

And in a week when international climate scientists have warned that the world is rapidly running out of time to reduce emissions and keep global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius, this matters more than ever.

So where does this mega climate footprint come from?  The emissions cover everything from the production of crops to feed chickens, pigs, and cows to the methane emissions released by burping cattle.  Some less obvious emissions include those associated with farm machinery fuel and the production of chemicals and other inputs needed to grow grain, palm oil, and other food crops.

The food sector as a whole is estimated to be responsible for as much as 29 percent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions.  But meat and dairy account for the vast majority of those emissions.  A major study published this week says U.K. and U.S. citizens need to cut consumption of beef by 90 percent and consumption of milk by 60 percent to keep global warming at or below 2 degrees Celsius.

Read more at The Giant Corporations Behind Your Burgers and Milk Have a Terrifying Climate Secret

World Bank Abandons Last Coal Project

Workers in the control room of Kosovo A, a Tito-era coal plant the government wants to replace (Photo Credit: Karl Mathiesen) Click to Enlarge.
Kosovo C was the last exception to the World Bank’s no-coal rule.  But it could not escape the new market reality of cheap renewables.

Chief executive Jim Yong Kim ended speculation about a prospective loan guarantee to the power plant this week, at a civil society event in Bali.

“We are required by our by-laws to go with the lowest cost option and renewables have now come below the cost of coal.  So without question, we are not going to [support the plant],” he said.

That does not mean the project is dead.  The Kosovan government still backs it and developer Contour Global is seeking alternative sources of finance.  But it shows the World Bank’s pivot to clean energy is permeating through the organisation.

In perhaps even bigger news, the bank is increasing pressure on private sector partners to follow suit.  The head of its International Finance Corporation, which works with 2,000 clients across 125 countries, announced it would “proactively seek” those looking to exit coal and demand more transparency on any remaining coal projects.

Read more at World Bank Abandons Last Coal Project

Capturing CO2 from Air:  to Keep Global Warming Under 1.5°C, Emissions Must Go Negative, IPCC Says

Soil leads the solutions for negative emissions in a new climate change report.  Soil carbon sequestration was among the cheapest methods with the greatest potential.

Some of the most viable options identified by the IPCC for capturing and storing carbon are based in the natural world. (Credit: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The UN's latest global warming report made it clear that if the world is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, society urgently needs to move away from fossil fuels completely.

But to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report says, we'll also have to figure out how to undo some of the damage that's already been done.

"Given our current knowledge, we can't get to 1.5 degrees without removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it," said Kelly Levin, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute.

With 1.5°C of warming just around the corner, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considered several solutions for removing CO2 from the air—some as simple as planting more trees, others as complex as using technology to filter CO2 from the air.  Their practicality and their risks vary considerably.

Some of the most viable options identified by the IPCC are based in the natural world, as opposed to more costly technologies that aren't yet proven on large scales.

Of the options considered, the solution the IPCC found to have both the most potential for reducing CO2 and the lowest costs was what's known as soil carbon sequestration.

Read more at Capturing CO2 from Air:  to Keep Global Warming Under 1.5°C, Emissions Must Go Negative, IPCC Says

Volvo Trucks Prepares for 2020 Launch with Southern California Demo Project in 2019

Volvo Electric Truck (Credit: Volvo) Click to Enlarge.
Volvo Trucks has no plans to hand over its leadership role in heavy trucks to electrified newcomers and is gearing up for a push of its new fully-electric trucks into California next year, prior to a full launch across North America in 2020.

The new demonstration pilot will leverage $44.8 million of preliminary CARB funding to validate Volvo’s electrified truck platforms in California and required charging infrastructure prior to the full commercial launch of Volvo Trucks’ electrified vehicles in North America in 2020.  The project will kick off in 2019 as part of  the Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project that pulls together 16 partners working to transform operations at 2 high-volume freight locations to next generation solutions.

The core of the project revolves around implementing electric trucks and necessary charging at the logistics facilities of two unnamed freight partners.  In support of this primary mission, the project team will also attempt to integrate a variety of smart technologies.  Remote diagnostics, geofencing, and the company’s web-based service management platform — to monitor all truck performance aspects of the project, and maximize vehicle uptime.

In support of the pilot, Volvo will deploy eight multi-configuration fully-electric Class 8 electric demonstration units (GVW +15 tons), and an additional 15 pre-commercial and commercial units, throughout California’s South Coast Air Basin.  It’s important to note that these are demonstration units as these are the most common type of commercial electric vehicles being deployed.  Misunderstandings about the performance and reliability of BYD’s demonstration units resulted in a poorly researched LA Times article about their early transit buses operating in Los Angeles.

“This is an excellent opportunity to show the end-to-end potential of electrification,” said Peter Voorhoeve, President of Volvo Trucks North America.  “From solar energy harvesting at our customer locations, to electric vehicle uptime services, to potential second uses for batteries, this project will provide invaluable experience and data for the whole value chain.”

CARB funding for the project came through the California Climate Investment, which is the organization that doles out the billions of dollars through the state’s Cap and Trade program to initiatives aimed at driving reductions in GHG emissions across the state.

Read more at Volvo Trucks Prepares for 2020 Launch with Southern California Demo Project in 2019