Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday 30

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020
Evidence and warnings in the National Climate Assessment are a high-stakes problem for Trump's fossil fuel-friendly agenda, both in politics and in court.


 "I don't believe it," President Donald Trump told reporters on Nov. 26 when asked about the National Climate Assessment's finding that global warming is causing ongoing and lasting economic damage. (Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
President Donald Trump's administration and its allies in the climate denial community have mounted a campaign to try to discredit the Fourth National Climate Assessment, an effort that has escalated in intensity since the report's release during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Trump could not halt the peer-reviewed assessment by the U.S. government's climate scientists.  The report—the most comprehensive and authoritative report on climate change and its impacts in the United States—is mandated by a law Congress passed in 1990.

But after an attempt to minimize the attention it received, by slipping it out to the public on the afternoon of the Black Friday shopping holiday, Trump flatly rejected its central finding that global warming is causing ongoing and lasting economic damage.  "I don't believe it," he said.

Since then, cabinet members like Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have picked up the extraordinary assault, while some of the most prominent stalwarts of science denial have chimed in with arguments seeking to portray the report as "alarmist" and extreme.

Some of the more than 300 experts inside and outside the government who authored or otherwise took part in the assessment have staunchly defended the report, pointing out that it considered a broad range of scenarios and was based on thousands of climate studies and the work of 13 federal agencies.

"Climate science isn't a religion:  it's real, whether we believe in it or not," Texas Tech University atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe wrote on Twitter in a lengthy thread seeking to set the record straight.  "If our decisions are not based in reality, we are the ones who will suffer the consequences."

But the chorus of doubts could help obscure the significance of a report that poses a significant threat to the Trump administration's fossil fuel-friendly agenda.  It would be an echo of a similar campaign at a pivotal moment, the so-called "Climategate" scandal in 2009, in which unsubstantiated attacks on climate scientists based on their stolen emails undercut the credibility of their work on the eve of the Copenhagen climate talks.

Now, the new assessment on the growing threat global warming poses to human life, property and ecosystems across the country, and the potential for vast economic damage, is sure to be highlighted in the renewed discussion of climate change expected on Capitol Hill when the Democrats take control of the House in January, and in the growing movement in the states for strong action to reduce carbon emissions.

Read more at Unable to Bury Climate Report, Trump & Deniers Launch Assault on the Science

Volkswagen Plans EV Factory in U.S.

Volkswagen charging (Credit: ) Click to Enlarge.
Volkswagen plans to build a factory for affordable electric vehicles in the United States, the company’s new head of North American operations, Scott Keogh told media at an industry event, as quoted by Reuters.

The plan is part of the German automaker’s ambitious foray in to EVs that seeks to establish it as a leader in the space currently dominated by Tesla and Chinese car makers who rule the local market, which is the biggest car market globally.

“We are 100 percent deep in the process of ‘We will need an electric car plant in North America,’ and we’re holding those conversations now,” Keogh said.

The executive’s announcement comes a few days after Volkswagen said it will convert two factories in Germany to EV production to meet its deadlines for commercial production.  This will make a total of three German factories the major will use for making EVs only.

Volkswagen earlier in November announced a budget of US$50 billion (44 billion euro) for the development and production of electric cars, autonomous vehicles, and so-called new mobility services, over the next five years.

Chief executive Herbert Diess last month told German weekly Automobilwoche that the company had struck battery production deals that would allow it to churn out 50 million electric vehicles, but a company spokesman later clarified Diess had meant the 50 million cars as a theoretical, long-term production target.

Read more at Volkswagen Plans EV Factory in U.S.

Global Temperatures on Track for 3-5 Degree Rise by 2100:  U.N.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas attends a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (Credit: reuters.com) Click to Enlarge.
“Greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues we may see temperature increases 3-5 degrees C by the end of the century,” Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in the WMO’s annual statement on the state of the climate.

“If we exploit all known fossil fuel resources, the temperature rise will be considerably higher.”

Scientists say that it is vital to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 Celsius to avert more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss of plant and animal species, although limiting the rise to 1.5C would have a far greater benefit.

At the 2015 Paris climate conference, the countries of the world pledged to work to limit the rise to 2C, a step that will require a radical reduction in the use of the fossil fuels that are the primary cause of global warming.

On Sunday, the most important U.N. climate conference since Paris opens in Katowice, Poland, in one of the most polluted coal-mining regions in Europe.

The talks are intended to produce a “rule book” on how to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, which the United States, at the behest of President Donald Trump, has announced it will quit.

Success, according to the conference’s Polish host, will need a miracle.

Taalas said that the lower end of the range, a 3C rise in temperatures, came from a model assuming that countries acted on their pledges to meet the Paris targets.

“If all the countries were able to meet their pledges, we would be able to reach 3 degrees, which would mean a growing amount of disasters and difficulties with agriculture,” he said.

But he added that the economic and technological means already existed to limit the rise to 1.5C.

Read original at Global Temperatures on Track for 3-5 Degree Rise by 2100:  U.N.

Climate Change Is Making Soils Saltier, Forcing Many Farmers to Find New Livelihoods

(Image Credit: UN Photo/Zach Krahmer) Click to Enlarge.
Today it would be very expensive and logistically challenging to gather enough salt to render large swaths of land infertile.  But that is precisely what climate change is doing in many parts of the world.

As sea levels rise, low-lying coastal areas are increasingly being inundated with saltwater, gradually contaminating the soil.  These salts can be dissipated by rainfall, but climate change is also increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, including droughts and heat waves.  This leads to more intensive use of groundwater for drinking and irrigation, which further depletes the water table and allows even more salt to leach into soil.

We have documented this process in Bangladesh, but its impacts are much broader.  Our findings show that rising soil salinity is already influencing agricultural production and internal migration in some locations, and could affect many other coastal areas where farming takes place, from Asia to the U.S. Pacific and Gulf coasts.

Read more at Climate Change Is Making Soils Saltier, Forcing Many Farmers to Find New Livelihoods

Very Hot and Very Dry Conditions Have Doubled Worldwide, Study Finds

A drought-affected corn field in Texas in 2013. (Credit: Bob Nichols / USDA) Click to Enlarge.
The chance of having years that are both extremely warm and extremely dry — conditions that pose a serious threat to agricultural systems — has doubled around the globe since 1931, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.  The research attributes this change almost entirely to human-driven climate change.

The study, conducted by scientists at Stanford University and Charles III University of Madrid, also found an uptick in dry and severely warm conditions in multiple key agricultural regions in the same year, which reduces the possibility that surpluses in one location can make up for low yields in another.

“When we look in the historical data at the key crop and pasture regions, we find that before anthropogenic climate change, there were very low odds that any two regions would experience those really severe conditions simultaneously,” Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh, lead author of the new study, said in a statement.  “The global marketplace provides a hedge against localized extremes, but we’re already seeing an erosion of that climate buffer as extremes have increased in response to global warming.”

Diffenbaugh and his colleagues also found that the frequency of these simultaneous hot-dry conditions will continue to increase, by about 20 percent, over the next three decades if nations don’t drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, E&E News reported.

Read original at Very Hot and Very Dry Conditions Have Doubled Worldwide, Study Finds

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Propose Landmark Carbon Tax

Carbon emissions (Credit: Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is introducing a landmark bill that would charge fossil fuel companies a tax for their carbon dioxide emissions.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, announced by two Republicans and three Democratic members of the House on Tuesday, would charge $15 for each ton of carbon emitted into the air and would increase that fee by $10 every year afterward, in an effort to fight climate change.  Other than administrative costs, all of the money would go back to taxpayers.

Supporters say the bill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent in 10 years, and 91 percent by 2050.  That’s a bigger cut than former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan or the United States’ commitment under the Paris climate agreement — a pact President Trump has promised to exit.

Introduced weeks before Congress ends for the year, the legislation is unlikely to get serious House consideration in this session.  But with Democrats ready to take control of the House in January, the bill is poised for potential future consideration and will likely be a major marker of where lawmakers from both parties can agree on tackling climate change.

The bill is the first bipartisan piece of legislation to be introduced to put a price on carbon in a decade.  Its sponsors are Reps. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), John Delaney (D-Md.) and Charlie Crist (D-Fla.).

“If we don’t act now, we are nearing a point of no return when it comes to the environment, when it comes to our health and when it comes to our economy,” Deutch, the lead Democratic sponsor, told reporters Tuesday.

He said the proposal “is the product of rigorous negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, liberal groups and conservative groups, environmentalists and business interests.”

Crist told reporters at a press conference Wednesday that the measure was imperative.

Read more at Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Propose Landmark Carbon Tax

UNEP:  Limiting Warming to 1.5C Requires ‘Fivefold’ Increase in Climate Commitments0

Soalr farm construction (Credit: Avalon/Construction Photography / Alamy Stock Photo) Click to Enlarge.
The world is far from being on track to meet its climate targets unless emission-reduction commitments are dramatically expanded, according to the latest UN Environment Programme (UNEP) emissions gap report.

The report suggests that existing nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement are not sufficient.  It adds that emission reductions from climate pledges need “to be roughly tripled” to limit warming to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels in 2100.  Holding warming below 1.5C would require existing commitments to be “increased around fivefold”.

UNEP suggests that it is still possible to “bridge the emissions gap” to keep global warming well below 2C, but the opportunity to limit warming to 1.5C “is quickly dwindling”.  UNEP states that if countries do not make additional commitments before 2030 warming above 1.5C “can no longer be avoided” and even the 2C target would be very difficult to achieve.

The latest edition of UNEP’s annual “emissions gap report” provides a significant update to its 1.5C scenario, in light of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the topic.  It now suggests that much steeper emission reductions would be needed before 2030 to put the world on a path to keeping warming below 1.5C.

UNEP warns that “now more than ever, unprecedented and urgent action is required by all nations”.  It highlights that global emissions continued to increase in 2017 – and will likely increase in 2018.

Additionally, UNEP assesses the role that subnational actors, such as cities, regions, and companies, can play in helping fill the emissions gap, stressing the important role for governments in supporting the innovation in and deployment of low-carbon technologies.

Read more at UNEP:  Limiting Warming to 1.5C Requires ‘Fivefold’ Increase in Climate Commitments

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tuesday 27

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

RIP:  GM Will Close 5 Assembly Plants in North America, Eliminate 15,000 Jobs, & Cease Production of Chevy Volt

Chevrolet boltev (Credit: Road & Track) Click to Enlarge.
The mournful cry from Detroit that “Nobody wants to buy an electric car” is partially correct.  Relatively few consumers want to buy a passenger car, period.  As the market moves strongly toward SUVs, crossovers, and light trucks, General Motors is finding it needs to cut way back on passenger car manufacturing in North America.  Today, November 26, GM announced it will cease production at 5 North American assembly plants — three of them build cars, and the other two make driveline components for passenger cars.

The plan will mean the loss of 14,700 manufacturing jobs — 6,000 in Canada and 8,700 in the US — together with a 15% reduction in its 54,000 person white collar workforce.  GM started asking some 18,000 employees to consider an early retirement offer in October as the company struggled to adjust to new market realities, according to The Guardian.

According to a GM press release, the factories scheduled to be closed are:
  • Oshawa Assembly in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.
  • Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Detroit, Michigan.
  • Lordstown Assembly in Warren, Ohio.
The powertrain facilities affected are
  • Baltimore Operations in White Marsh, Maryland.
  • Warren Transmission Operations in Warren, Michigan.
The company has also confirmed to Inside EVs that production of the Chevy Volt will end March 1, 2019.  Is that the end of The General’s foray into building electric cars?  No.  The press release goes on to say, “GM has recently invested in newer, highly efficient vehicle architectures, especially in trucks, crossovers and SUVs.  GM now intends to prioritize future vehicle investments in its next-generation battery-electric architectures.  As the current vehicle portfolio is optimized, it is expected that more than 75 percent of GM’s global sales volume will come from five vehicle architectures by early next decade.”
...
Can GM Survive?
GM has been experiencing declining sales in China and the US of late as customers have been finding the offerings from other companies more to their liking.  It ran away from the European market last year, preferring to sell its operations there for the best obtainable price rather than deal with tightening EU emissions standards.  It seems to have more interest in operating a fleet of autonomous vehicles in world cities than actually selling automobiles any more.

Is GM in a downward spiral?  It’s too early to tell, but it seems mildly shell shocked by the tectonic shifts in the market that have taken place over the past few years.  It went bankrupt in 2008 and got bailed out by the taxpayers.  There will likely be little appetite for doing that again any time soon.

All three legacy US automakers — GM, Ford, and Chrysler — will be severely tested in coming years as they face increasing competition not only from Tesla but Chinese manufacturers as well.  There is every reason to believe only one of the so-called Big Three will still be around a decade from now.

Read more at RIP:  GM Will Close 5 Assembly Plants in North America, Eliminate 15,000 Jobs, & Cease Production of Chevy Volt

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday 25

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

What’s New in the Latest U.S. Climate Assessment

2A volunteer helping flood victims in Wilmington, N.C., in September. (Credit: Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times) Click to Enlarge.
Global warming is now affecting the United States more than ever, and the risks of future disasters — from flooding along the coasts to crop failures in the Midwest — could pose a profound threat to Americans’ well-being.

That’s the gist of Volume Two of the latest National Climate Assessment, a 1,656-page report issued on Friday that explores both the current and future impacts of climate change. The scientific report, which comes out every four years as mandated by Congress, was produced by 13 federal agencies and released by the Trump administration.

This year’s report contains many of the same findings cited in the previous National Climate Assessment, published in 2014.  Temperatures are still going up, and the odds of dangers such as wildfires in the West continue to increase.  But reflecting some of the impacts that have been felt across the country in the past four years, some of the report’s emphasis has changed.

Predicted impacts have materialized
More and more of the predicted impacts of global warming are now becoming a reality.

For instance, the 2014 assessment forecast that coastal cities would see more flooding in the coming years as sea levels rose.  That’s no longer theoretical:  Scientists have now documented a record number of “nuisance flooding” events during high tides in cities like Miami and Charleston, S.C.

“High tide flooding is now posing daily risks to businesses, neighborhoods, infrastructure, transportation, and ecosystems in the Southeast,” the report says.

As the oceans have warmed, disruptions in United States fisheries, long predicted, are now underway.  In 2012 record ocean temperatures caused lobster catches in Maine to peak a month earlier than usual, and the distribution chain was unprepared.

Read more at What’s New in the Latest U.S. Climate Assessment

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Saturday 24

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Clashing with Trump, U.S. Government Report Says Climate Change Will Batter Economy

California's wildfires have killed at least 84 people and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes. (Photo Credit: AP: Noah Berger) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, hitting everything from health to infrastructure, according to a government report issued on Friday that the White House called inaccurate.

The congressionally mandated report, written with the help of more than a dozen U.S. government agencies and departments, outlined the projected impact of global warming on every corner of American society in a dire warning that is at odds with the Trump administration’s pro-fossil-fuels agenda.

“With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century - more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states,” the report, the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II, said.

Read more at Clashing with Trump, U.S. Government Report Says Climate Change Will Batter Economy

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday 23

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

NY State Launches Series of Initiatives to Encourage Adoption of EVs

Cars Charging (Credit: utilitydive.com) Click to Enlarge.
New York State announced a series of broad-scale initiatives to encourage the purchase and to increase the convenience and accessibility of electric vehicles (EV).

EVolve NY to Install Charging Stations along Major Corridors and JFK Airport.  In the initial roll-out of its $250-million EVolve NY initiative, NYPA will deploy up to 200 150kW direct current (DC) fast chargers, enabling drivers to charge in as little as 20 minutes, to more than two dozen locations along major traffic corridors, John F. Kennedy International Airport, and five major cities.  EVolve NY is a key pillar of Governor Cuomo’s Charge NY 2.0 initiative, which encourages electric car adoption as it brings the state closer to its goal of installing at least 10,000 charging stations by the end of 2021.

NYPA has identified the first 32 locations and is finalizing specific site details with the vendors that will provide and install the charging equipment.  EVolve NY will target four 150 kW chargers per location at average intervals of less than 75 miles along New York’s major corridors.

Target corridor locations include Plattsburgh, Watertown, and North Hudson in the North Country; Rochester in the Finger Lakes region; Buffalo and Niagara in Western New York; Middletown in Mid-Hudson; Corning and Binghamton in the Southern Tier; and Islip and Freeport in Long Island.  The first fast chargers to be installed through the EVolve NY program are targeted to begin construction in spring 2019 along priority travel corridors with high traffic volumes from Buffalo to Montauk, and from Long Island to Canada.

The cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and Yonkers have been identified as sites for urban hubs, and high-speed chargers are expected to be installed at approximately 15 service areas along the New York State Thruway.  JFK Airport will get its first high-speed charging hub, consisting of ten 150 kW fast chargers conveniently located to cater to both private and rideshare drivers.

Read more at NY State Launches Series of Initiatives to Encourage Adoption of EVs

Global Carbon Dioxide Levels Hit a New Record in 2017, U.N. Says

A woman wears a mask as Tiananmen Square is shrouded in haze after a yellow alert was issued for smog in Beijing, China, on Nov 14, 2018. (Photo Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a new record last year with emissions showing no sign of slowing down, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said on Thursday.

The annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin dashed hopes for a slowdown in emissions of CO2 - the byproduct of burning fossil fuels that scientists say is the main cause of the greenhouse effect causing global warming.

“The science is clear.  Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth.  The window of opportunity for action is almost closed,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

The report found CO2 levels of 405.5 parts per million in 2017, up from 403.3 ppm in 2016.

The rate of increase is in line with the average growth rate over the last decade, which was the fastest rate for 55 million years, the WMO said.  Carbon dioxide levels have risen 46 percent since the pre-industrial era, around 1750.

“The most alarming thing is that ... half of the increase from pre-industrial times comes within the last 30 years,” said Oksana Tarasova, head of WMO’s atmospheric environment research.

Read more at Global Carbon Dioxide Levels Hit a New Record in 2017, U.N. Says

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thursday 22

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Electric Vehicles Are Already Impacting Oil Demand

Tesla Model S (Credit: renewableenergyworld.com) Click to Enlarge.
The International Energy Agency published its World Energy Outlook this week, its annual effort at revising assessments of future demand for and supply of fuels and electricity.  There’s a familiar theme within it:  The IEA expects more renewable-energy use in the future than it did in last year’s outlook, which was more than it forecast in the 2016 outlook.  There’s also something noteworthy on transportation:  The IEA is calling the top on oil demand from cars.

According to the report:
Oil use for cars peaks in the mid-2020s, but petrochemicals, trucks, planes, and ships still keep overall oil demand on a rising trend.  Improvements in fuel efficiency in the conventional car fleet avoid three-times more in potential demand than the 3 million barrels per day (mb/d) displaced by 300 million electric cars on the road in 2040.

It’s noteworthy when a long-term projection calls the top on demand for something as fundamental as a component of global oil demand.  But demand for oil consumed for transportation is already waning in certain markets and segments.

One place is in buses.   Electric buses will displace about 233,000 barrels of oil demand a day by the end of the year.  Add in the much smal ler displacement from electric cars, and there’s 279,000 barrels a day displaced — about as much oil as Greece consumes per day.

Another is Europe.  As Bloomberg Intelligence’s Rob Barnett notes, the latest figures from Germany show demand for diesel fell 9 percent in the first half of the year.  The influence of Green Party lawmakers will dent demand further. 

Then there’s Italy, where demand for gasoline has fallen by nearly half since 2005.

Even if electric vehicles make up a very small part of the current displacement of oil demand, that will certainly grow.  Bloomberg NEF expects twice as many electric vehicles on the road as the IEA does, and those vehicles will displace more than twice as much oil demand as the IEA expects.

Automobiles are devices of culture and behavior, both of which can change quicker than a long-term energy-modeling exercise would suggest.  You can see the latter in Tesla Model 3 sales in the U.S. this year:  The Model 3 is now more popular than the entry-level luxury offerings of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz combined.

Read more at Electric Vehicles Are Already Impacting Oil Demand

Strong Rules for Paris Deal Can Spur Global Climate Action

If talks in Poland produce tough rules, it will build confidence that all countries are sticking to the climate bargain.


The stage is set for UN talks to begin in Poland on 3 December (Photo Credit: UNFCCC) Click to Enlarge.
Two major objectives for the upcoming UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland, are strengthening climate ambition and adopting the Paris “rulebook”.  What is too often overlooked is the intimate connection between the two.

The most obvious measure of climate ambition is the level of effort in countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.  It’s well understood that the first set of NDCs offered in Paris falls well short of the pathway needed to limit warming to 2C, let alone 1.5C.

The implicit aim of the Talanoa Dialogue culminating in Katowice is to inspire and cajole countries to deliver stronger NDCs when the next set is due in 2020.  Many delegations and advocates are working hard to ensure that the Talanoa’s concluding decision sets the right expectations by taking the recent grave findings by UN scientists fully on board and calling unequivocally for more rapid pollution cuts.

Read more at Strong Rules for Paris Deal Can Spur Global Climate Action

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