Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday 18

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Closing Nuclear Plants Risks Rise in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Report Warns

Fresh division among environmentalists over nuclear energy, the single largest source of low-carbon electricity.


Indian Point nuclear power plant’s containment silos rise along the Hudson river in Buchanan, New York. (Photograph Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP Click to Enlarge.
Looming climate breakdown is opening fresh divisions among environmentalists over nuclear energy, with a major advocacy group calling for struggling nuclear plants to be propped up to avoid losing their low-carbon power.

Nuclear is the single largest source of low-carbon electricity in the US.  But a third of nuclear plants are unprofitable or scheduled to close, risking a rise in greenhouse gas emissions if they are replaced by coal or natural gas, a major Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report has found.

US emissions could increase by as much as 6% if struggling plants are shuttered early, the report warns.  This scenario has put pressure on many environmental groups to re-evaluate their intrinsic opposition to nuclear energy as a dangerous blight that must be eradicated.

Read more at Closing Nuclear Plants Risks Rise in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Report Warns

Likely New House Science Chair Seeks to Move Away from “Suspicion” of Science

If elected, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson will, among other things, bring a different attitude toward climate science.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. (Credit: Chris Maddaloni Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) has never had a conversation with former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt—but she’d like to question him soon about his handling of science at the agency.

It’s been a week since Democrats won enough seats in midterm elections to take control of the House, and Johnson is starting to discuss preliminary ideas for the Science, Space and Technology Committee if she becomes chairwoman, which is expected.

She’s “hoping” Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) will become ranking member of the committee, and thinks Energy Secretary Rick Perry has surprised people.

Johnson has outlined a three-part agenda, including restoring the committee as “a place where science is respected and recognized,” ensuring that the “United States remains the global leader in innovation,” and addressing the “challenge of climate change, starting with acknowledging it is real.”

The committee got “off course” in the past six years under Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), she says.

If she becomes chair, Johnson would be the first African-American woman to lead the Science Committee.  She also was the first registered nurse elected to Congress.

“I think that the fact that [Johnson] has a background in nursing will bring a different perspective ... which will be based on facts and evidence rather than antipathy toward climate change,” said Shaughnessy Naughton, founder of 314 Action, a political action committee aiming to elect scientists to public office.

Read more at Likely New House Science Chair Seeks to Move Away from “Suspicion” of Science

Policies of China, Russia, and Canada Threaten 5C Climate Change, Study Finds

Ranking of countries’ goals shows even EU on course for more than double safe level of warming.

 Vendors near a state-owned coal-fired power plant in China. (Photograph Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
China, Russia, and Canada’s current climate policies would drive the world above a catastrophic 5C of warming by the end of the century, according to a study that ranks the climate goals of different countries.

The US and Australia are only slightly behind with both pushing the global temperature rise dangerously over 4C above pre-industrial levels says the paper, while even the EU, which is usually seen as a climate leader, is on course to more than double the 1.5C that scientists say is a moderately safe level of heating.

The study, published on Friday in the journal Nature Communications, assesses the relationship between each nation’s ambition to cut emissions and the temperature rise that would result if the world followed their example.

The aim of the paper is to inform climate negotiators as they begin a two-year process of ratcheting up climate commitments, which currently fall far short of the 1.5-to-2C goal set in France three years ago.

Read more at Policies of China, Russia, and Canada Threaten 5C Climate Change, Study Finds

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Saturday 17

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Big Tech Companies Are Driving Demand for Renewable Energy

Inside a Google data center. (Credit: Google) Click to Enlarge.
It takes a lot of electricity to keep the digital universe humming.  Some of it powers the actual servers and data storage drives, but the  majority of the electrons used by data centers at Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and other tech companies are needed to power the fans and air conditioning units needed to keep all that hardware cool.

Being Good Stewards Of The Earth
Publicly traded companies are under pressure from investors today to obtain the electricity they use from renewable sources.  There’s something just not right about creating carbon emissions to operate the internet.  According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the tech industry has contracted for more renewable energy — 2,581 megawatts — than any other sector of the global economy.  It has signed deals for 10.4 gigawatts more just this year.

Google is the largest consumer of green energy in the world at more than 3 gigawatts, followed by Facebook at 2 gigawatts, and Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon at around 1 gigawatt each.  A typical nuclear power plant generates about 1 gigawatt of electricity.

The Internet Of Things
The internet of things is growing exponentially.  There are 27 billion devices connected to the internet today, according to IHS Markit, but that number is expected to explode to 138 billion by 2030, reports Bloomberg, as everything from thermostats to doorbells to self-driving cars begin sharing data with tech companies and with each other.  That means utility companies are starting to view tech companies as important new customers for the electricity they produce.  IHS Markit estimates data centers are responsible for 2 to 3% of all electricity consumed in developed countries.

Many data centers are being located in Scandinavia, where abundant hydro power is available.  Those countries also tend to have lower average temperatures, which reduces the cooling loads on the centers.  Andreas Regnell, head of strategy at Vattenfall AB, Sweden’s largest utility, tells BNEF, “In the near term, I think we will probably see data centers as the biggest driver of power demand, at least in the Nordics.”

Advances in technology may make computers and servers more efficient in the future.   Jonathan Koomey, a lecturer at the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences at Stanford, tells BNEF, “On one hand you have a rapid increase in computation, data transfers and number of computations.  But on the other hand you have improvements in the efficiency of these computations.  Operators are figuring out ways to deliver more computing using the same or less energy.”

Read more at Big Tech Companies Are Driving Demand for Renewable Energy

Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday 16

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Climate Solutions:  Is It Feasible to Remove Enough CO2 from the Air? - by Elizabeth Kolbert

A U.S. scientific panel reports that technologies that take CO2 out of the atmosphere could be a significant part of a strategy to mitigate global warming.  In an e360 interview, Stephen Pacala, the panel’s chairman, discusses how these fast-developing technologies are becoming increasingly viable.

 Stephen Pacala. (Credit: Isometric Studios) Click to Enlarge.
Is there still time to avoid runaway climate change?  To a large degree, the answer depends on the feasibility of “negative emissions” — techniques or technologies that suck CO2 out of the air.  In the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), all scenarios for limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius depend on negative emissions technologies, or NETs.  Most 2-degree scenarios also rely on negative emissions; many call for removing billions of tons of CO2 per year by mid-century.

Yet most NETs remain either untested or unproved.  To help bridge this gap, the National Academies convened a panel of scientists and asked it to propose a research agenda.  The panel considered several possible techniques, ranging from the low-tech — planting more trees — to the high-tech — developing machines to scrub CO2 from the sky.  It also looked at a hybrid technology that has become known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS.  The panel recommended several billion dollars be directed to research on NETs.  Such technologies, it suggested, ought to be viewed as a “component of the mitigation portfolio,” rather than as a futuristic, last-ditch effort to reduce atmospheric CO2.

Read more at Climate Solutions:  Is It Feasible to Remove Enough CO2 from the Air?

Brazil’s Presidential Election Could Mean Billions of Tons of Additional Greenhouse Gases

Policies leading to more destruction of the Amazon and Cerrado would have a huge impact on climate change.


 Farmers burn underbrush in a deforested section of the Amazon basin. (Credit: Mario Tama | Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Environmentalists and scientists fear that Brazil’s newly elected president, the far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro, will accelerate the destruction of the nation’s Amazon rainforest and Cerrado savanna, which rank among the world’s largest storehouses of carbon.

Both absorb massive amounts of greenhouse gas from the air, stocking it away in trees, grasses, roots, and soil.  Bolsonaro’s campaign rhetoric and ties to agribusiness have led observers to fear he’ll push to loosen environmental rules and monitoring, says Tica Minami, coordinator of Greenpeace Brazil’s Amazon campaign.  That could embolden farmers to burn down or otherwise clear more land for soybeans, sugarcane, and cattle, releasing vast quantities of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

Already, as much as 15% of global climate emissions come from “deforestation and degradation of tropical forests,” studies have found.

Read more at Brazil’s Presidential Election Could Mean Billions of Tons of Additional Greenhouse Gases

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thursday 15

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Natural Climate Solutions Could Cancel Out a Fifth of U.S. Emissions, Study Finds

Low-tech, time-tested forest, farm and land management techniques are effective, cheap and carry benefits well beyond tackling climate change.


A new study assesses the potential of U.S. forests, farms and other landscapes to store carbon and help offset a large part of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. (Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Conserving and restoring American forest, farm and natural lands could cut a substantial chunk of the country's emissions, helping meet greenhouse gas reduction goals without relying on undeveloped technologies, a new report finds.

A team of 38 researchers spent more than two years looking at "natural climate solutions"—a range of strategies that includes planting trees in cities, preventing the conversion of natural grassland to farmland and shifting to fertilizers that produce less greenhouse gas emissions.  

In a study published Wednesday in Science Advances, they report that these solutions, if deployed across agricultural lands, forests, grasslands and wetlands, could mitigate 21 percent of the country's net annual greenhouse gas emissions, getting the U.S. closer to meetings its goals under the Paris climate agreement.

"It's the same as if every car and truck in the country stopped polluting the climate," said Joseph Fargione, the study's lead author and, the science director for  The Nature Conservancy North America region.  "There's much bigger potential than most people realize."

Read more at Natural Climate Solutions Could Cancel Out a Fifth of U.S. Emissions, Study Finds

US Could Meet Paris Emissions Pledge With ‘Natural Climate Solutions’, Study Says

Reforestation, workers planting Ponderosa Pine seedlings (Credit: inga spence/Alamy Stock Photo) Click to Enlarge.
The US could meet its pledge to cut emissions under the Paris Agreement through “natural climate solutions” (NCS), a new study suggests.

NCS comprise a group of techniques – such as reforestation, seagrass restoration and fire management – that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or boost carbon uptake from land and wetlands through changes to the way they are managed.

While the US has already made progress towards its Paris pledge, NCS has the potential to provide the remaining emissions reductions needed by 2025, the researchers say.

However, this would require a carbon price of around $100 per tonne to incentivise the use of NCS, the researchers estimate.  And the measures would only be enough to meet the US’s pledge whereas global commitments need to be “roughly tripled” in order to meet the terms of the Paris Agreement, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

The research, which involves 38 researchers from 22 institutions, was led by scientists at the Nature Conservancy, an environmental NGO.

Natural climate solutions
As the special report on 1.5C from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledges, meeting the 1.5C limit without overshooting will require “negative emissions” – techniques that remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it on land, underground or in the oceans.

To achieve this, the integrated assessment models (IAMs) that generate emission pathways for 1.5C generally rely on large amounts of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).  This technique involves burning biomass – such as trees and crops – to generate energy and then capturing the resulting CO2 emissions.

Read more at US Could Meet Paris Emissions Pledge With ‘Natural Climate Solutions’, Study Says

Electricity Is the ‘New Fuel of Choice’ Says IEA

(Credit: renewableenergyworld.com) Click to Enlarge.
According to the International Energy Agency, “2018 is the year of electricity” and global electricity supply “is being transformed by the rise of renewables”.

“Electricity has been the fastest growing element of final demand and is set to grow much faster than energy consumption as a whole over the next 25 years,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.

Speaking yesterday at the launch in London of the IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook (WEO), Birol noted that the power sector now attracts more investment than oil and gas combined – a major shift for the energy market.  And it also marks a similar shift for the IEA itself – for the first time, it devotes several chapters in the weighty WEO to electric power.IEA launches WEO and says “2018 is the year of electricity” 

The WEO states that global electricity supply “is being transformed by the rise of renewables, putting electricity at the centre of the response to a range of environmental challenges”.

It stresses that “increasing digitalization of the global economy is going hand-in-hand with electrification, making the need for electricity for daily living more essential than ever.  Electricity is increasingly the ‘fuel’ of choice for meeting the energy needs of households and companies.”

In what it calls its New Policies Scenario, the IEA forecasts that between now and 2040, nearly 90 per cent of electricity demand growth will be in developing countries, while demand in advanced economies will come on the back of policies promoting the electrification of mobility and heat.

In this scenario, it adds that by 2040, electricity demand in China will be more than twice that of the US, “with India a not-too-distant third”.

And the IEA notes that the potential for further electrification from today “is huge”:  65 per cent of final energy use could technically be met by electricity – today’s figure is 19 per cent.

Birol also confirmed that for the first time, the total number of people with no access to electricity has fallen below 1 billion, driven in large part by the rural electrification efforts of the India government.

And this kind of government intervention will increase, predicts the IEA.  It advises that governments will have a critical influence in the direction of the future energy system, far more so than in recent years.

“Over 70 per cent of global energy investments will be government-driven and as such the message is clear – the world’s energy destiny lies with government decisions,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.

Read more at Electricity Is the ‘New Fuel of Choice’ Says IEA

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday 12

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Fast-Rising Demand for Air Conditioning Is Adding to Global Warming.  The Numbers Are Striking.

With window units set to more than triple by 2050, home air conditioning is on pace to add half a degree Celsius to global warming this century, a new report says.


 Air conditioning units, like these lining a street in New Delhi, India, contribute to global warming through the energy they use and their use of HFCs as a coolant. New efforts are underway to increase energy efficiency and phase down HFCs, but it may not be enough. (Credit: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Increasing demand for home air conditioning driven by global warming, population growth and rising incomes in developing countries could increase the planet's temperatures an additional half a degree Celsius by the end of the century, according to a new report by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The demand is growing so fast that a "radical change" in home-cooling technology will be necessary to neutralize its impact, writes RMI, an energy innovation and sustainability organization.

Fast-Rising Demand for Air Conditioning Is Adding to Global Warming.  The Numbers Are Striking.

VW Could Build Up to 50 Million Electric Cars:  Automotive News

Herbert Diess, Volkswagen's new CEO, poses during the Volkswagen Group's annual general meeting in Berlin, Germany, May 3, 2018. (Photo Credit: Reuters ) Click to Enlarge.
Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) could build up to 50 million electric cars on its new electric vehicle platform and is looking at expanding its manufacturing footprint in the United States, Chief Executive Herbert Diess told Automotive News.

“We set up the plant in Chattanooga always with the idea to be able to grow it, to mirror it,” Diess was quoted as saying.

“The plant is still too small, and we are considering different options - it might be electric cars, it might be a different derivative of the Atlas (SUV) - it’s still open.”

Volkswagen (VW) and Ford are looking at expanding cooperation, mainly in commercial vehicles, Diess added.

Read more at VW Could Build Up to 50 Million Electric Cars:  Automotive News

Sunday, November 11, 2018

California Faces Its Most Destructive Wildfire in State History

President Trump, meanwhile, is blaming poor “forest management” and threatening to cut federal funding.


Fierce wildfires are burning through Northern and Southern California - destroying buildings and forcing more than 250,000 residents to flee.  (Credit: Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
California continues to reckon with the most destructive wildfire it has ever seen as thousands of structures topple and the death toll rises to 11.

The Camp fire, centered on the Northern California town of Paradise, has incinerated 100,000 acres and nearly 7,000 structures, the San Francisco Chronicle and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reported.  On Friday, authorities announced five people had died in the fire attempting to escape in their vehicles.  By Saturday morning, that number had jumped to nine.  Three victims were found outside their homes, and one was found inside a home. 

Two more fatalities were reported later Saturday.

“Due to the burn injuries, identification could not be immediately made,” the Butte County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Read more at California Faces Its Most Destructive Wildfire in State History

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saturday 10

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Landmark Children’s Climate Lawsuit Hits New Roadblock

The plaintiffs in 2016. (Credit: Clayton Aldern / Grist) Click to Enlarge.
A high-profile lawsuit aiming to hold the federal government accountable for not curbing climate change has encountered yet another roadblock.  After the Supreme Court permitted the case to proceed last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals delayed the case again on Thursday.

The case, Juliana v. United States, has its roots in a lawsuit filed against the Obama administration in August 2015 by 21 plaintiffs—all between the ages of 11 and 21.  The teenage activists claimed that the federal government had violated their constitutional rights by not curbing climate change and asked the court to “develop a national plan to restore Earth’s energy balance, and implement that national plan so as to stabilize the climate system.”

The trial had been scheduled to begin in federal district court in Eugene, Oregon, on October 29, but several interventions by higher courts kept the case in limbo.

“What these young plaintiffs are being put through just to have their day in court is disgraceful,” Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said in a statement to Mother Jones.  “This trial would finally hold the Trump administration accountable for its climate denial and destructive agenda.  The court shouldn’t let the Trump administration use absurd legal claims to weasel out of it.”

Read more at Landmark Children’s Climate Lawsuit Hits New Roadblock

Judge Blocks Keystone XL Pipeline, Says Climate Impact Can't Be Ignored

A federal judge ruled the Trump administration failed to follow U.S. environment law when it approved the tar sands pipeline.  TransCanada can't start construction.


Despite the court ruling and backlash from land owners and Native American tribes, TransCanada says it is committed to building the Keystone XL pipeline. (Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
A federal judge in Montana on Thursday blocked all further work on the Keystone XL pipeline, saying the Trump administration had failed to justify its decision to reverse a prior decision by the Obama administration and to approve the tar sands oil delivery project.

It was a striking victory for environmental advocates who have spent over a decade fighting the project to carry tar sands oil from Canada to markets in the United States and had turned the KXL line into a litmus test for climate action.

Environmental advocates, landowners along the pipeline's route and indigenous rights groups hailed the ruling.  They called it a major setback—if not a permanent defeat—for the long-contested crude oil pipeline.  The Obama administration had determined that the pipeline was not in the national interest, and President Barack Obama had cited its potential climate impact in rejecting it.

Read more at Judge Blocks Keystone XL Pipeline, Says Climate Impact Can't Be Ignored

China’s Giant Transmission Grid Could Be the Key to Cutting Climate Emissions

But are the country’s next-generation power lines a clean-power play or a global power move?


China's Giant Ionosphere-Zapping Radar Is a Defense System Masquerading as Science (Credit: University of Alaska) Click to Enlarge.
In early February, Chinese workers began assembling a soaring red-and-white transmission tower on the eastern edge of the nation's Anhui province.  The men straddled metal tubes as they tightened together latticed sections suspended high above the south bank of the Yangtze River.

The workers were erecting a critical component of the world’s first 1.1-million volt transmission line, at a time when US companies are struggling to build anything above 500,000 volts.  Once the government-owned utility, State Grid of China, completes the project next year, the line will stretch from the Xinjiang region in the northwest to Anhui in the east, connecting power plants deep in the interior of the country to cities near the coast.

Read more at China’s Giant Transmission Grid Could Be the Key to Cutting Climate Emissions

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Thursday 8

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

With Democratic Majority, Climate Change Is Back on U.S. House Agenda

Nancy Pelosi, currently the House minority leader, is in line to regain the speakership and has promised to revive the select committee on climate change that the GOP eliminated when it seized control of the House in 2010. Credit: Zach Gibson/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Fossil fuel supporters will still control the Senate, but the House will soon be able to turn a spotlight on climate change and Trump's retreat from responsibility.

With their win of control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats will now have the numbers to put climate change issues back on the Congressional agenda.

But the Republicans reinforced their firewall against any legislative efforts in the Senate by gaining at least two new members with poor records on confronting the climate crisis.  That bolsters the power of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to block any measures unfavorable to the fossil fuel industries.

In the states, a pair of ballot initiatives that would have cut climate pollution—in Colorado and Washington—appeared to be headed for defeat after heavy spending by fossil fuel interests that opposed them.  But some incoming governors have pledged more aggressive support for clean energy.

And in one House race after another, Republicans who have been out of step with the prevailing scientific consensus on climate change were replaced by Democrats committed to taking action.

Read more at With Democratic Majority, Climate Change Is Back on U.S. House Agenda

Proterra & Daimler Team Up to Manufacture Electric School Buses

If any part of the transportation sector deserves to be electrified it is school buses.  Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes Benz, is the owner of Thomas Built Buses, one of the largest school bus manufacturers in North America.  In 2017 it unveiled Jouley, an electrified school bus with zero tailpipe emissions.

Recently Daimler was the lead investor in a $155 million funding round for Proterra, the American electric bus company headquartered in California.  Proterra has established itself as a leading supplier of batteries and battery management systems for heavy duty vehicles.  It made more sense for Daimler to partner with a recognized leader in the field than develop its own batteries and ancillary systems.

Last week at the 44th annual National Association of Pupil Transportation Conference, the two companies introduced the latest Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner eC2 electric school bus powered by Proterra.  Recharging takes about 3 hours using a  J1772 Combo plug drawing 60 kW of power.  That suggests the battery capacity is about 180 kWh, according to Inside EVs.

In a press release about the new buses, Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra said, “School buses provide critical community infrastructure and are an excellent application for vehicle electrification.  We’re pleased to work with an industry leader like Thomas Built Buses to unveil a high performance electric school bus that reduces our children’s exposure to diesel emissions.”

Read more at Proterra & Daimler Team Up to Manufacture Electric School Buses

Aerogel from Plastic Bottles Offers Superior Fire Protection & Carbon Dioxide Absorption

Researchers at the National University of Singapore (Credit: cleantechnica.com) Click to Enlarge.
A group of researchers at the National University of Singapore, none of whom would be welcome in Donald Trump’s America, have created an inexpensive way to convert plastic bottles into a lightweight aerogel that has some extraordinary properties.

Plastic waste is a scourge that is burdening landfills and polluting the world’s oceans.  Most plastic bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate — commonly known as PET — which is non-biodegradable.  The problem is that the single use bottles have virtually no commercial value after the products inside are consumed, so they are simply discarded.

The researchers have found a way to take those unwanted and unloved bottles and convert them into aerogels.  They are still discovering some of the things the aerogels can be used for, but already know that when treated with fire retardants, they can be used to protect firefighters from flames and intense heat.

In fact, the aerogels can withstand temperatures of up to 620 degrees Celsius.  That is seven times higher than the thermal lining used in conventional coats for firefighters.  It also weighs 90% less than the material used today.  Because it is soft and flexible, the improved coats are also more comfortable to wear.

Each recycled bottle can produce a sheet of aerogel about the size of a normal piece of paper.  Cut that sheet and insert it into a normal respirator or protective mask and it not only does a better job of cleaning pollutants from the air we breath, it removes carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide as well.

“Masks lined with amine-reinforced PET aerogels can also benefit people living in countries such as China, where air pollution and carbon emission are major concerns.  Such masks can be easily produced, and can also potentially be made reusable,” says associate professor Hai Minh Duong.  The researchers make no grandiose claims about using the material for large scale carbon capture, but the implications are intriguing.

“Plastic bottle waste is one of the most common type of plastic waste and has detrimental effects on the environment.  Our team has developed a simple, cost-effective and green method to convert plastic bottle waste into PET aerogels for many exciting uses.  One plastic bottle can be recycled to produce an A4-sized PET aerogel sheet.  The fabrication technology is also easily scalable for mass production.  In this way, we can help cut down the harmful environmental damage caused by plastic waste,” says Duong.

The aerogel also has superior sound and thermal insulation properties.  Using it in the walls of buildings could dramatically reduce the energy needed for heating and cooling while making the space inside more pleasant to live and work in.

Another potential use is soaking up oil and chemical spills.  “Our PET aerogels are very versatile.  We can give them different surface treatments to customize them for different applications.  For instance, when incorporated with various methyl groups, the PET aerogels can absorb large amounts of oil very quickly.  Based on our experiments, they perform up to seven times better than existing commercial sorbents, and are highly suitable for oil spill cleaning,” says professor Nhan Phan-Thien.

Read more at Aerogel from Plastic Bottles Offers Superior Fire Protection & Carbon Dioxide Absorption

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Wednesday 7

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Oak Ridge Inches Closer to 15-⁠Minute Wireless EV Charging

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory produced a magnetic field from these coils to wirelessly recharge an electric car. (Photo Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory/U.S. Department of Energy) Click to Enlarge.
But the team must further scale their 120-kilowatt wireless charging system for electric vehicles in order to meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal.

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed wireless charging technology that they say could fill up a typical electric car today in under an hour.  This represents a six-fold improvement over a similar wireless charging system they announced in 2016.  That plugless EV charging technology, they report, is now being modified for commercial applications including delivery trucks.

And the team isn’t done, says Burak Ozpineci, leader of Oak Ridge’s Power Electronics and Electric Machinery group.  They are, he says, working toward the larger goal set by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) to build a portfolio of rapid, safe, and easy electric vehicle-charging systems—which would, as the DoE’s 2016 mandate put it, “accelerate electric vehicle adoption in the United States.”

The idea is to increase the power throughput of their present system by another factor of three—bringing the total charge time for an empty electric vehicle (EV) battery to under 15 minutes.  All without needing to plug anything in to the car or really do anything other than drive the EV over a wireless charging plate embedded in the concrete.

Read more at Oak Ridge Inches Closer to 15-⁠Minute Wireless EV Charging

With Democratic Majority, Climate Change Is Back on U.S. House Agenda

Fossil fuel supporters will still control the Senate, but the House will soon be able to turn a spotlight on climate change and Trump's retreat from responsibility.


Nancy Pelosi, currently the House minority leader, is in line to regain the speakership and has promised to revive the select committee on climate change that the GOP eliminated when it seized control of the House in 2010. Credit: Zach Gibson/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
With their win of control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats will now have the numbers to put climate change issues back on the Congressional agenda.

But the Republicans reinforced their firewall against any legislative efforts in the Senate by gaining at least two new members with poor records on confronting the climate crisis.  That bolsters the power of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to block any measures unfavorable to the fossil fuel industries.

In the states, a pair of ballot initiatives that would have cut climate pollution—in Colorado and Washington—appeared to be headed for defeat after heavy spending by fossil fuel interests that opposed them.  But some incoming governors have pledged more aggressive support for clean energy.

And in one House race after another, Republicans who have been out of step with the prevailing scientific consensus on climate change were replaced by Democrats committed to taking action.

Read more at With Democratic Majority, Climate Change Is Back on U.S. House Agenda

Negative Emissions:  Scientists Meet in Australia to Discuss Removing CO2 from Air

The Shine Dome (Credit: Australian Academy of Science) Click to Enlarge.
An international group of researchers and policymakers met in Australia’s capital this week for the country’s first major conference dedicated to the topic of “negative emissions”.

The two-day event, held at the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome in Canberra, played host to a range of ideas for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it on land, underground or in the oceans.

The topics discussed ranged from “natural” solutions, such as boosting the carbon stores of soils and giant kelp forests, to the more experimental, including “fertilizing” the world’s oceans.

Carbon Brief was at the conference, which was organised by researchers from Australian National University and the University of Tasmania, to take in the presentations, talks and discussions.

Read more at Negative Emissions:  Scientists Meet in Australia to Discuss Removing CO2 from Air

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Ford, VW Consider Self-Driving Car JV to Compete with Tesla, Waymo

 Waymo AV (Credit: oilprice.com) Click to Enlarge.
Two of the world’s biggest carmakers, Ford Motor Company and Germany’s Volkswagen AG, are in discussion to set up a joint venture to develop self-driving cars, and could announce a deal as early as this month, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, quoting people familiar with the issue.

As the legacy automakers clamor for a piece of the future autonomous vehicle market, a potential Ford-VW self-driving car joint venture could rival Silicon Valley car developers such as Tesla and Alphabet’s Waymo.

In June this year, Ford and Volkswagen—whose combined sales account for around a fifth of all new passenger cars sold in the world—said that they are exploring a strategic alliance, including developing a range of commercial vehicles together.  The potential alliance would not involve equity arrangements, including cross ownership stakes, the carmakers said in June.

A month later, Ford created in July a separate company, Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, to encompass all aspects of its self-driving vehicle business operations and to accelerate its autonomous vehicles (AV) business.

Now Ford and VW are planning a much wider cooperation than just working together on light commercial vehicles, as they said in June.  The two carmakers now want to team up to enter into the electric vehicles (EVs) and self-driving car markets, according to German business daily Handelsblatt, which first reported about the potential Ford-VW venture on Thursday.

According to The Journal’s sources, one option for the new venture could be Volkswagen taking up to 50 percent in Ford’s self-driving cars unit, while another could be setting up a new company that could join the autonomous cars units of the two carmakers.  The creation of a new company could make it easier for Ford and VW to share the intellectual property and ownership, as well as to open the newly created firm to more partners, the people familiar with the discussions told The Journal.

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Seven States to Double Their Wind Power in Near Term, AWEA Says

 Wind Tower (Credit: renewableenergyworld.com) Click to Enlarge.
Seven U.S. states will soon build enough wind turbines to more than double their wind capacity, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) newly released U.S. Wind Industry Third Quarter 2018 Market Report.

Nationally, the low cost and reliability of wind power continued to drive strong industry growth in the third quarter.  The seven states with enough wind projects under construction or in advanced stages of development to more than double their capacity are:
Land-based:  Arkansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming
Offshore:  Maryland and Massachusetts
“The wind is always blowing in the U.S. and the latest wind turbine technology helps affordably and reliably put more of that natural resource to work,” said Tom Kiernan, chief executive officer of AWEA. “With projects under way in over 30 states, wind is rapidly expanding as a major source of American energy, good jobs and clean air.”

Additionally, wind turbines are growing more powerful and efficient at delivering low-cost, clean energy, AWEA says. Longer blades are helping turbines capture more of the wind resource blowing past.  New wind farms also leverage big data and machine learning to improve power output and reduce downtime by anticipating maintenance problems before they arise.  These advances drive down costs and translate into major efficiency gains.

The average utility-scale wind turbine installed in 2017 was rated at 2.32 MW, enough to power over 750 American homes for a full year.  In the third quarter, new orders for wind turbines include land-based turbines above 4 MW for the first time, which are capable of powering 1,400 homes a year.  To put the significance of this technological advance in context, only two operating land-based wind farms currently use turbines rated above 3.5 MW.

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U.S. Top Court Rejects Trump Administration Bid to Halt Climate Trial

 The Supreme Court is shown in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2018. (Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts/File Photo) Click to Enlarge.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday rejected for now a bid by the President Donald Trump’s administration to block a trial in a lawsuit filed by young activists who have accused the U.S. government of ignoring the perils of climate change.

The loss for the administration means it now faces a high-profile examination of U.S. climate change policy during the trial that was due to begin on Oct. 29 in Eugene, Oregon but has since been postponed by the judge.

Chief Justice John Roberts on Oct. 19 had temporarily put the case on hold while the court as a whole decided how to proceed.

The Supreme Court’s three-page order noted that the administration may still have grounds to take its arguments to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Oceans Are Warming Up Much Faster than Previously Thought

Beach sunset (Credit: e360.yale.edu) Click to Enlarge.
The world’s oceans have soaked up much more excess heat in recent decades than scientists previously thought — as much as 60 percent more, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.  The new research suggests the global could warm even faster in the coming decades than researchers originally predicted, The Washington Post reported.

The researchers, led by geoscientist Laure Resplandy of Princeton University, found that oceans absorbed 13 zettajoules — a joule, the standard unit of energy, followed by 21 zeroes — of heat energy each year between 1991 and 2016.  Based on these findings, they argue, nations must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent more than previously estimated if they hope to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

“Imagine if the ocean was only 30 feet deep,” Resplandy said in a statement.  “Our data show that it would have warmed by 6.5 degrees C [11.7 degrees Fahrenheit] every decade since 1991. In comparison, the estimate of the last IPCC assessment report would correspond to a warming of only 4 degrees C [7.2 degrees F] every decade.”

Scientists have long struggled to quantify ocean warming before 2007 — the year that a network of robotic sensors known as Argo were deployed into the world’s oceans to track things like temperature and salinity.  For pre-2007 data, the new research examined the volume of oxygen and carbon dioxide released from the oceans as they heated up, providing scientists an indicator for ocean temperature change.

“We thought that we got away with not a lot of warming in both the ocean and the atmosphere for the amount of CO2 that we emitted,” Resplandy told The Washington Post.  “But we were wrong.  The planet warmed more than we thought. It was hidden from us just because we didn’t sample it right.  But it was there. 
It was in the ocean already.”

Read more at Oceans Are Warming Up Much Faster than Previously Thought

Thursday, November 01, 2018

World’s Vertebrate Populations Have Declined 60 Percent in Just Four Decades

Species living in areas with extreme climates - such as those in polar regions – are having to deal with dramatic changes to their habitats.  (Credit: e360.yale.edu) Click to Enlarge.
Populations of birds, fish, mammals, and amphibians have declined an average 60 percent since 1970, according to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund.  South and Central America experienced the highest loss of biodiversity, with vertebrate species declining 89 percent in 45 years.  Populations of freshwater vertebrates declined 83 percent.

The study, WWF’s biennial Living Planet Report, which surveyed data from 16,700 populations of more than 4,000 species, found that the global rate of species loss is 100 to 1,000 times higher than a few centuries ago.  About half of the world’s shallow corals have disappeared in the past 30 years; 20 percent of the Amazon has been lost in the past 50 years.

The biggest threats to biodiversity are directly linked to human activities, the report concluded, particularly agriculture, land conversion, and overexploitation of species, including by such activities as fishing.  Just 25 percent of land globally remains relatively untouched by human activities today, but this is expected to drop to just 10 percent by 2050.

“The situation is really bad, and it keeps getting worse,” Marco Lambertini, the director general of WWF International, told AFP.  “The only good news is that we know exactly what is happening.”

Read more at World’s Vertebrate Populations Have Declined 60 Percent in Just Four Decades