Thursday, January 31, 2019

Thursday 31

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

U.S. Intelligence Officials Warn Climate Change Is a Worldwide Threat

Their annual assessment says climate hazards such as extreme weather, droughts, floods, wildfires, and sea level rise threaten infrastructure, health and security.

National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and directors of the FBI, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency testify on the Worldwide Threat Assessment before a Senate committee. (Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty) Click to Enlarge.
The nation's intelligence community warned in its annual assessment of worldwide threats that climate change and other kinds of environmental degradation pose risks to global stability because they are "likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond."

Released Tuesday, the Worldwide Threat Assessment prepared by the Director of National Intelligence added to a swelling chorus of scientific and national security voices in pointing out the ways climate change fuels widespread insecurity and erodes America's ability to respond to it.

"Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security," said the report, which represents the consensus view among top intelligence officials.  "Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution."

Read more at U.S. Intelligence Officials Warn Climate Change Is a Worldwide Threat

Extreme Weather Is Already Breaking Records Around the World in 2019

Temperatures dipped to -38 degrees in Minnesota as Australia battled a heat wave that topped 115 degrees.

Lake Michigan’s shoreline is frozen as temperatures dropped to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday in Chicago. (Joshua Lott via Getty ImagesCredit: ) Click to Enlarge.
In just a few weeks’ time, extreme temperatures have smashed records around the world this year, with parts of the Midwestern U.S. seeing the mercury drop as low as minus 38 degrees Fahrenheit as Australia endures triple-digit high temperatures, reigniting concerns about a changing planet.

At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, temperatures dipped to minus 23 degrees on Wednesday morning, breaking that day’s previous record low of minus 15, set in 1966.  The lowest wind chill recorded Wednesday in Chicago was 52 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service.

Thursday’s forecast is not expected to be any better, with meteorologists forecasting a low of 27 degrees below zero, which would match the Chicago’s all-time record low.

The arctic blast has canceled hundreds of flights, closed major Chicago attractions and schools, and triggered states of emergencies by governors in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.  The U.S. Postal Service also suspended mail service on Wednesday for parts or all of several Midwestern states, including North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois.

Parts of Minnesota woke to some of the country’s coldest temperatures, with minus 38 degrees recorded in Melrose, Minnesota, on Wednesday morning.  The nation’s coldest wind chill factor, minus 70, was reported in Ely, Minnesota.

The National Weather Service office near Minneapolis and St. Paul has urged residents to stay indoors if at all possible.

Read more at Extreme Weather Is Already Breaking Records Around the World in 2019

Bill Nye:  Climate Change Is Here, and It’s Coming for Our Assets

Bill Nye (Credit: Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
The polar vortex is chilling the Midwest, and cable news is using the occasion to talk at length about climate change.  CNN’s Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo had a field day tearing down President Trump’s tweet saying the Midwest could use some “Global Waming” — yes, that’s warming with no R — right about now.  (F- on science, F+ on spelling.)   MSNBC’s Ali Velshi busted out some snazzy graphics to illustrate the rise in CO2 levels in our atmosphere over the long haul, noting the sharp increase in global temperatures as industrialization took off.

Then, Chris Matthews of Hardball brought on a special guest — the Science Guy himself.  Bill Nye told him what many of us already  know.  Climate change is real, and it’s coming for our assets.

Rural, conservative voters are in fact more vulnerable to economic losses from climate change than city dwellers, Nye pointed out.  He called out a few agricultural costs of climate change:  Food prices will likely go up as farmers struggle to keep up with seasonal pest management, and some U.S. agricultural production may need to shift north “into what would nominally be Canada.”  (Well, oops.  As Canadians have been quick to point out, Canada is, in fact, Canada.)

The Science Guy definitely got one thing right, though:  “The longer we mess around and not address this problem, the more difficult it’s going to be.”

Read original at Bill Nye:  Climate Change Is Here, and It’s Coming for Our Assets

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Washington County Passes Moratorium on New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

Climate activists at a rally in Washington in 2016. (Credit: Alex Garland / Backbone Campaign) Click to Enlarge.
The county that encompasses Seattle, Washington has approved a six-month moratorium on any new major fossil fuel infrastructure — the first such county-wide ban in the United States.  The moratorium passed the King County Council by a 6-3 vote.

“Reducing the pollution that causes climate change is quite possibly the greatest moral imperative facing my generation,” Council member Dave Upthegrove, who introduced the ordinance, told The Seattle Times.  “Our action makes it clear, here in King County, our future is not fossil fuels but a clean-energy future.”

King County, home to nearly 2.2 million people, has several major ports.  The moratorium will prevent the construction or approval of any new fossil fuel infrastructure within the county limits, such as pipelines, large-scale storage facilities, refineries, or export terminals.  It does not, however, apply to new gasoline stations or fuel storage for airports, marine servicing facilities, or railyards.  The new ordinance is similar to more local bans passed in recent years in Portland, Tacoma, Vancouver, and several other cities.  Whatcom County, Washington, which includes the city of Bellingham, is considering a similar ordinance, which is slated to be introduced next month.

“The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] has made it clear - we have just 12 years to radically transform our energy systems if we’re to have any hope of a healthy climate future,” Jess Wallach, an organizer with the Fossil Free King County campaign — a coalition of 40 local, state, and national organizations that supported the ordinance — said in a statement.  “That starts with saying no to new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Read original at Washington County Passes Moratorium on New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

Wednesday 30

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Food Shocks Becoming More Frequent Due to Extreme Weather, Conflict

Corn shows the affect of drought in Texas in August 2013. (Credit: USDA/Bob Nichols) Click to Enlarge.
“Food shocks” — sudden disruptions of food production — have become more frequent over the last half-century, driven by an increase in extreme weather events and geopolitical instability, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

Led by researchers at the University of Tasmania, the study examined 226 food production shocks across 134 countries between 1961 and 2013.  The scientists considered major disruptions to crops, livestock, fisheries, and aquaculture caused by droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events, as well as by outbreaks of violent conflict.

“In recent decades, we have become increasingly familiar with images in the media of disasters such as drought and famine around the world,” Richard Cottrell, a socioecologist who studies food security at the University of Tasmania and lead author of the new study, said in a statement.  “Our study confirms that… shocks have become more frequent, posing a growing danger to global food production.

Cottrell and his colleagues found that crops and livestock are more shock-prone than fisheries and aquaculture.  They also identified shock hotspots for each sector:  South Asia for crops, the Caribbean for livestock, Eastern Europe for fisheries, and South America for aquaculture.

Read more at Food Shocks Becoming More Frequent Due to Extreme Weather, Conflict

Monday, January 28, 2019

Teenage Activist Takes School Strikes 4 Climate Action to Davos

Protest by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg snowballs to last day of World Economic Forum

Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg at the World Economic Forum in Davos, eastern Switzerland. (Photograph Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)  Click to Enlarge.
The 16-year-old activist behind the fast-growing School Strikes 4 Climate Action has taken her campaign to the streets of Davos, to confront world leaders and business chiefs about the global emissions crisis.

Greta Thunberg, whose solo protest outside Sweden’s parliament has snowballed across the globe, joined a strike by Swiss schoolchildren in the ski resort on Friday – the final day of the World Economic Forum.

Thunberg traveled by train for 32 hours to reach Davos, and spent Wednesday night camped with climate scientists on the mountain slopes – where temperatures plunged to -18C [0F].

Having already addressed the UN Climate Change COP 24 conference, Thunberg is rapidly becoming the voice for a generation who are demanding urgent action to slow the rise in global temperatures.

As she traveled down Davos’s funicular railway from the Arctic Base Camp – while more than 30,000 students were striking in Belgium - Thunberg said the rapid growth of her movement was “incredible”.

“There have been climate strikes, involving students and also adults, on every continent except Antarctica.  It has involved tens of thousands of children.”

Thunberg started her protest by striking for three weeks outside the Swedish parliament, lobbying MPs to comply with the Paris Agreement.  After the Swedish election, she continued to strike every Friday, where she is now joined by hundreds of people.

“This Friday I can’t be there,” she told the Guardian.  “So I will have to do it here in Davos, and send a message that this is the only thing that matters.”

Students around the world have been inspired by Thunberg, with thousands skipping school in Australia in November.  Last Friday there were strikes in Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland, where more than 20,000 students skipped school.

Missing gym class, geography, and religion each Friday is something of a sacrifice for Thunberg, who says she loves school and can’t pick a favorite subject.

Toon of the Week - Global Policy makers at Davos :  Climate Change

1Toon of the Week - Global Policy makers at Davos : Climate Change / Steps taken to c0ut Carbon emissions ... (Credit: Hat tip to Stop Climate Denial Facebook Page) Click to Enlarge.

2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #4

Poster of the Week - No Planet / No Profit / Any Questions?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Monday 28

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

The Way We Eat Could Doom Us as a Species.  Here’s a New Diet Designed to Save Us.

The EAT-Lancet Commission’s “planetary health diet” is bold and controversial.

Eating more plant-based burgers could help us avoid environmental catastrophe, according to a new report. (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
The way we eat and produce food has become so destructive to the environment and our health that it now threatens the long-term survival of the human species, an international commission of 37 scientists write in a sprawling new Lancet report.

We now have so many interconnected food-related crises — climate change, pollution, and food waste, not to mention malnutrition and obesity — that it will be impossible to feed the 10 billion people expected by 2050 unless we make dramatic changes to our diets and farming practices, the researchers argue.

What’s needed, according to the peer-reviewed report, titled Food in the Anthropocene:  The EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, is a new philosophy for how to eat on planet Earth.  Though there are huge variations around the world in what and how much we consume, we are all in this existential crisis together.

Which brings us to what seems to be the most controversial aspect of this report:  its specific dietary advice for ensuring that everyone’s nutritional needs are met without exceeding “planetary boundaries.”  To survive as a species, it says, everyone — including you! — is advised to eat mostly vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts, and limit red meat consumption to just one serving per week.

Read more at The Way We Eat Could Doom Us as a Species.  Here’s a New Diet Designed to Save Us.

The World Just Experienced the Four Hottest Years on Record

2018 was hotter than any year in the 19th century.  It was hotter than any year in the 20th century.  It was hotter than any year in the first decade of this century.  In fact, with only three exceptions, it was the hottest year on Earth since 1850.

Those three exceptions:  2018 was slightly cooler than 2015, 2016, and 2017.  The past four years, in other words, have been the four hottest years ever reliably measured.

That’s according to Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit research group that published its annual temperature analysis on Thursday.  The new finding “remains consistent with a long-term trend toward global warming,” the report says.

Berkeley Earth is a respected scientific organization, but it’s unusual that this news should come from it alone.  Normally, Americans hear about these milestones from their own government.  NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were both due to publish their version of this analysis last week, on January 17.  The United Kingdom’s Met Office and Berkeley Earth also planned to release their own findings that day.

Read more at The World Just Experienced the Four Hottest Years on Record

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Saturday 26

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

We Could Still Prevent 1.5 ˚C of Warming—but We Almost Certainly Won’t

New research finds we’d need to immediately stop building fossil-fuel-burning vehicles, planes, and factories.

Smoke and steam rises from the Laziska coal-fired power plant near Katowice, Poland. (Credit: Monika Skolimowska/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP Images) Click to Enlarge.
A new study finds the world could still avoid 1.5 ˚C of warming, achieving the aim of the landmark Paris climate accord.  The bad news is we almost certainly won’t.

If we immediately began phasing out fossil-fuel infrastructure at the end of its lifetime—retiring all coal plants, cars, planes, and factories—we’d have a 64% chance of holding peak global warming below 1.5 ˚C, according to a paper by researchers at Oxford, the University of Leeds, and other institutions published January 15 in Nature Communications.  In that scenario, the world would replace all those facilities and machines with zero-carbon alternatives, like solar plants and electric vehicles.

In effect, the study highlights the consequences of our societal choices from this point forward, by taking into account the useful life of our fossil-fuel-burning assets.  If we wait until 2030 to stop adding more, our odds of exceeding 1.5 ˚C significantly increase, even if we then start forcing vehicles and plants into early retirement.

The paper sidesteps the question of whether it’s practically feasible to halt all new development of fossil-fuel infrastructure, though it almost certainly is not.  Instead, there’s every indication the world is going to continue building carbon-spewing power stations, vehicles and other machines for many years to come.

Chinese companies are planning or constructing hundreds of coal plants around the world, according to the New York Times.  India continues to invest billions in new coal-fired facilities.  And electric vehicles represent only a tiny fraction of automobile sales in the United States, where the real demand is still for gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks.

An added challenge is that there are big greenhouse-gas-emitting sectors of the economy where we don’t have readily available clean alternatives, including aviation, agriculture, cement, and steel.

So while the study finds that the world could, theoretically, avoid 1.5 ˚C of warming, what it really underscores is the growing likelihood that we’re going to sail past it.  The scenario it describes would be difficult if not impossible to achieve under our current political, economic, and technical realities.  (Notably, other researchers have found that existing energy infrastructure alone may already commit the world to catastrophic levels of warming.)

Read more at We Could Still Prevent 1.5 ˚C of Warming—but We Almost Certainly Won’t

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday 25

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Massachusetts Wind-Power Project to Move Forward Despite Shutdown

(Photo Illustration Credit: Edmon de Haro) Click to Enlarge.
The U.S. Interior Department will press forward with a wind power project during the partial government shutdown using money already granted by Congress, its acting head announced Thursday.

The move could assuage Democrats’ concerns about the Trump administration pushing for oil drilling in the Arctic during the shutdown, which has lasted 34 days.

Avangrid Renewables wants to build an 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts near Martha’s Vineyard.  Public meetings on the project were canceled during the shutdown and will be rescheduled, according to acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

Read more at Massachusetts Wind-Power Project to Move Forward Despite Shutdown

Volkswagen to Manufacture Mobile Electric Car Recharging Stations

Volkswagen cars charging at mobile station (Credit: Volkswagen) Click to Enlarge.
Volkswagen will manufacture electric car batteries and charging stations in its home region in Germany, as it prepares to mass produce electric vehicles and overhaul its components division, which makes engines and steering parts.

Read more at Volkswagen to Manufacture Mobile Electric Car Recharging Stations

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Thursday 24

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Children's Educational TV Falls Short on Climate Change

Climate change touches every part of American lives.  Why aren't educational TV shows addressing it more?

Children Watch TV (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Are children too young to talk to about climate change?  Some environmental educators say yes.

But children are hearing about it from the media, from parents and siblings, and from friends at school and elsewhere.  And data suggest many are growing increasingly concerned.

In their 2015 review of the literature on young people and climate change, Corner et al. report that climate change is a major cause of concern and in some cases is “associated with feelings of anxiety, stress, and despair.”  The American Psychological Association warns that children can be overwhelmed by its implications.

As a parent of two young children, I find these kinds of conclusions disturbing.  And as an educational consultant on television programs, I’m interested in how television can be a catalyst for helping children navigate this issue.  After all, television remains a leading source of informal education.  It’s also a promising vehicle for climate change communication as it can place the issue in an entertaining and informal context, while leveraging the power of visuals.  Applying the broadcast industry’s best practices in combination with a growing understanding of how to communicate climate change with young people can help foster appropriate communications that help children understand what climate change is; encourage them to share their questions and concerns; and leave them feeling empowered and hopeful about the future.

Read more at Children's Educational TV Falls Short on Climate Change

How Driverless Cars Could Work for Good Instead of Evil

Auto Bus (Credit: EasyMile) Click to Enlarge.
Our gas-guzzling car culture is about to change forever, but not necessarily for good.

The shift from gasoline-power to electric, the rise of ridesharing, and the invention of self-driving vehicles will soon overhaul transportation.  A new report, just published by the Greenlining Institute, a racial equity nonprofit, says these three revolutions will speed us into a gridlocked and polluted future unless we put the right policies in place.

Leave the future of transportation to the free market, and we’d find ourselves in a world where current problems just get worse, said Hana Creger, a program manager at Greenlining.  Under this scenario, the roads jam with cars serving as mobile offices to oligarchs and their lackeys typing away on smartphones.

“Meanwhile, the less well-off struggle to get around in cities that are more congested and polluted than ever with deteriorating public transit that is defunded due to ridership loss,” Creger said. “Millions of transportation workers lose their jobs while companies double their profits.”

It’s a grim vision.  But if governments take action, advances in technology could help the poor, elderly and disabled get around.  There are roughly 700,000 households in America without a car or access to public transit, and some 500,000 people with disabilities who never leave their homes.  The status quo isn’t exactly great for those who can afford their own car:  As the report points out, “the average commuter in America spends 42 hours a year stuck in traffic, and spends 17 hours a year looking for parking.”

Creger imagines fleets of autonomous electric vehicles opening the roads to everyone, especially those poorly served by the current private-car system.  Small, driverless buses running on electricity would help knock fossil-fueled cars off the road.  With transportation the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, that would go along way toward ushering in a clean-energy future,

Previous analyses (like this 2014 report from RAND), have argued that the merits of autonomous vehicles hinge on putting good regulations in place.  Greenlining’s report take it a step further by looking at the way that changes in the transportation system could affect people of color and disadvantaged communities.

Greenlining suggests that cities and states pass regulations to discourage single-occupancy driverless cars, and employ driverless shuttles to cut pollution and expand the mobility of those who often struggle to get around.

Read more at How Driverless Cars Could Work for Good Instead of Evil

A Cooler Cloud:  A Clever Conduit Cuts Data Centers’ Cooling Needs by 90 Percent

The company that created it, Forced Physics, plans to install the technology in a pilot plant in February.

Cool Chips: Tiny aluminum “fins” inside this metal box whisk away the heat generated by computer-server electronics. (Photo Credit: Forced Physics) Click to Enlarge.
Data centers are hungry, hot, and thirsty.  The approximately 3 million data centers in the United States consume billions of liters of water and about 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, or nearly 2 percent of the nation’s total electricity use.   About 40 percent of that energy runs air conditioners, chillers, server fans, and other equipment to keep computer chips cool.

Now, Forced Physics, a company based in Scottsdale, Ariz., has developed a low-power system that it says could slash a data center’s energy requirements for cooling by 90 percent.  The company’s JouleForce conductor is a passive system that uses ambient, filtered, nonrefrigerated air to whisk heat away from computer chips.  In February, Forced Physics plans to launch its first on-site pilot test at a commercial facility in Chandler, Ariz., owned by H5 Data Centers.  There, a rack of 30 conductors will cool IT equipment consuming 36 kilowatts, as sensors track airflow, temperature, power usage, and air pressure.  Information gleaned from the one-year test will be used to demonstrate performance to potential customers.

The computer equipment in a typical data center runs at about 15 megawatts, devoting 1 MW of that power to server fans.  But such a data center would require an additional 7 MW (for a total load of 22 MW) to power other cooling equipment, and it would need 500 million liters of water per year.  At a time when data-center traffic is expected to double every two years, the industry’s appetite for electricity and water could soon reach unsustainable levels.

According to Forced Physics’ chief technology officer, David Binger, the company’s conductor can help a typical data center eliminate its need for water or refrigerants and shrink its 22-MW load by 7.72 MW, which translates to an annual reduction of 67.6 million kWh.  That data center could also save a total of US $45 million a year on infrastructure, operating, and energy costs with the new system, according to Binger.  “We are solving the problem that electrons create,” he said.

Read more at A Cooler Cloud:  A Clever Conduit Cuts Data Centers’ Cooling Needs by 90 Percent

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wednesday 23

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

This Could Be the Biggest Scandal of the Climate Change Era

The world is headed for up to 5 degrees Celsius (9 F) of global warming above pre-industrial levels by 2100, which would lead to devastating consequences for billions of people. (Credit: Anton Petrus via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Governments and businesses habitually set out emergency response plans to protect their economies, jobs, cities, and other crucial assets from potential disaster.  Yet when it comes to climate change ― the biggest, most urgent threat the world faces ― there is no emergency plan.

On the issue of our lifetime, countries can agree very little.  The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2019 published last Tuesday found that increasing divisions between the world’s major powers is the most urgent global risk we face because it stymies vital collective action on climate change.

Instead of action, we see delays, rejections and avoidance, as December’s United Nations climate summit in Katowice, Poland, so acutely reminded us. The event, which brought together world leaders, scientists, campaigners and the private sector, settled most of the rules needed to ensure countries follow the climate pledges they have made to date. What it failed to do is push countries to step up their targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions ― currently the only viable way to prevent climate breakdown. The Middle East, the U.S. and Russia refused to even welcome landmark scientific predictions on climate change, signaling their intention to continue blocking progress.

Amid all this wrangling, climate change marches on. It now appears virtually impossible to limit the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) ― the threshold beyond which scientists say risks irreversible climate change. The world is now headed for 3-5 C (5.4-9 F) of warming above pre-industrial levels by 2100, according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, which would lead to devastating consequences for billions of people.

A huge barrier to solving this problem is the failure of conventional economics to acknowledge the severity of climate change. Take William Nordhaus, one of 2018’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winners. While Nordhaus agrees that climate change is a serious problem, he weighs up the costs of mitigation against the predicted damages that will be inflicted by a warming planet and concludes that our objective should be to limit temperature rises to 3.5 C (6.3 F) because to be more ambitious would be too expensive.

But a decision based on this kind of cost calculation is highly questionable.  How do you put a cost on the destruction of coral reefs?  Or on millions of people being pushed out of their homes, or killed by rising sea levels?  And how do you account for the consequences of possible “tipping points” ― such as the melting of the permafrost?

Read more at This Could Be the Biggest Scandal of the Climate Change Era

Americans Increasingly Say Climate Change Is Happening Now

A national survey that has been asking the same question for a decade shows nearly half of respondents now say climate change is already impacting U.S. residents.

Hurricane Harvey (Photo Credit: David J. Phillip) Click to Enlarge.
Nearly half of Americans think people in the United States are being harmed by global warming "right now"—the highest point ever in a decade-long national survey called Climate Change in the American Mind.

The climate communications researchers who conducted the survey believe the results released Tuesday mark a shift in perceptions on the urgency of the climate crisis, with far-reaching implications for the politics of what should be done to address the issue.

"For the longest time, we have been saying that while most Americans understand that the climate is changing, most systematically misunderstand it and misperceive it as being a distant threat," said Edward Maibach, a professor at George Mason University.  He is one of the principal investigators of the survey, conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

"This survey really was, I think, the inflection point where that has changed," he said.

Read more at Americans Increasingly Say Climate Change Is Happening Now

Energy Transition Will Upend Geopolitics

Earth (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The rapid adoption of renewable energy will “redraw the geopolitical map of the 21st century,” according to a new report that surveys the geopolitical implications of the clean energy transition.

The rise of renewable energy can dramatically enhance the degree of energy independence, according to the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, which authored a report at the request of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Because energy can be generated by technologies, using the sun and wind, rather than concentrated natural resources in the form of oil and gas, which is not ubiquitous in geographic terms, many countries will be able to reduce their vulnerabilities to price spikes and outright supply disruptions by pivoting to renewable energy.  Moreover, the strategic importance of chokepoints – the Straits of Hormuz, or the Straits of Malacca for instance – will diminish as fossil fuels lose their grip on the global energy system.

Another important point is that renewable energy can be scaled up to almost any degree, and installations can also be decentralized.  The IRENA report argues that the decentralized nature of renewable energy will be a force for democratization.  “Renewables will also be a powerful vehicle of democratization because they make it possible to decentralize the energy supply, empowering citizens, local communities, and cities,” the IRENA report said.

A key difference between renewable energy and fossil fuels is one of cost.  As a technology, rather than a finite natural resource, costs decline the more clean technologies are manufacture and deployed.  “Renewable energy sources have nearly zero marginal costs, and some of them, like solar and wind, enjoy cost reductions of nearly 20% for every doubling of capacity,” the IRENA report argues.  That is radically different from natural resources, where higher demand drives up prices due to scarcity.

So, there is a lot to like about the coming energy transition.  Fewer chokepoints, less price volatility, reduced power concentrated in a relatively few places.

Read more at Energy Transition Will Upend Geopolitics

New Study Establishes Causal Link Between Climate, Conflict, and Migration

Between 1.5°C and 2°C – the big impacts of half a degree (Credit: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) Click to Enlarge.
IIASA-led research has established a causal link between climate, conflict, and migration for the first time, something which has been widely suggested in the media but for which scientific evidence is scarce.

There are numerous examples in recent decades in which climatic conditions have been blamed for creating political unrest, civil war, and subsequently, waves of migration. One major example is the ongoing conflict in Syria, which began in 2011. Many coastal Mediterranean countries in Europe are also inundated with refugees arriving by sea fleeing conflict in Africa.

IIASA researchers Guy Abel (also affiliated to Shanghai University), Jesus Crespo Cuaresma (also Vienna University of Economics and Business), Raya Muttarak (also University of East Anglia), and Michael Brottrager (Johannes Kepler University Linz) sought to find out whether there is a causal link between climate change and migration, and the nature of it. They found that in specific circumstances, the climate conditions do lead to increased migration, but indirectly, through causing conflict.

"This research touches upon the topic widely covered in the media. We contribute to the debate on climate-induced migration by providing new scientific evidence," says Muttarak.

Read more at New Study Establishes Causal Link Between Climate, Conflict, and Migration

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tuesday 22

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Davos Elite Looks to ‘Globalization 4.0’ to Stem Climate Change

Business leaders say the next wave of globalization must create social benefits as well as provide technical solutions to climate change.

The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils, in November 2018 (Photo Credit: World Economic Forum) Click to Enlarge.
For business leaders gathering in the Swiss Alps this week, ‘Globalisation 4.0’ holds the answers to one of the world’s biggest problems:  climate change.

The buzzword that will dominate the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos this week is a call to resist the urge to withdraw behind national barriers and create a world of public-private partnerships that guide the free market to create economic growth, sustainability, and social benefits, according to WEF’s founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab.

However, green groups and academics counter that government regulation remains vital for protecting citizens and the environment from the failures of the market.  The same technological changes driving this new phase – automation and clean technology, among others – are destabilizing society and politics, raising serious challenges for the response to climate change. 

Read more at Davos Elite Looks to ‘Globalisation 4.0’ to Stem Climate Change

Greenland Ice Melting Four Times Faster than in 2003, Study Finds

Southwest part of the island could be major contributor to sea level rise.

Iceberg in Greenland. (Credit: © mikhail79spb / Fotolia) Click to Enlarge.
Greenland is melting faster than scientists previously thought--and will likely lead to faster sea level rise--thanks to the continued, accelerating warming of the Earth's atmosphere, a new study has found.

Scientists concerned about sea level rise have long focused on Greenland's southeast and northwest regions, where large glaciers stream iceberg-sized chunks of ice into the Atlantic Ocean.  Those chunks float away, eventually melting.  But a new study published Jan. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the largest sustained ice loss from early 2003 to mid-2013 came from Greenland's southwest region, which is mostly devoid of large glaciers.

"Whatever this was, it couldn't be explained by glaciers, because there aren't many there," said Michael Bevis, lead author of the paper, Ohio Eminent Scholar and a professor of geodynamics at The Ohio State University.  "It had to be the surface mass--the ice was melting inland from the coastline."

That melting, which Bevis and his co-authors believe is largely caused by global warming, means that in the southwestern part of Greenland, growing rivers of water are streaming into the ocean during summer.  The key finding from their study:  Southwest Greenland, which previously had not been considered a serious threat, will likely become a major future contributor to sea level rise.

"We knew we had one big problem with increasing rates of ice discharge by some large outlet glaciers," he said.  "But now we recognize a second serious problem:  Increasingly, large amounts of ice mass are going to leave as meltwater, as rivers that flow into the sea."

The findings could have serious implications for coastal U.S. cities, including New York and Miami, as well as island nations that are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

And there is no turning back, Bevis said.

"The only thing we can do is adapt and mitigate further global warming--it's too late for there to be no effect," he said.  "This is going to cause additional sea level rise.  We are watching the ice sheet hit a tipping point."

Read more at Greenland Ice Melting Four Times Faster than in 2003, Study Finds

Global Warming Might Be Making Waves Stronger

Heavy Waves (Credit: Erik K Veland on Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
A new study published in the journal Nature Communications has revealed an as-yet-unseen consequence of climate change, wherein the energy of ocean waves have been increasing around the world caused by widespread ocean warming, which could potentially create further repercussions from coastal change and flooding, and the larger threat of sea level rise.

Published on January 14 in Nature Communications, the new study — A recent increase in global wave power as a consequence of oceanic warming — shows that global wave power (the transport of energy transferred from the wind into sea-surface motion) has increased around the world by 0.4% per year since 1948.  The study also showed long-term correlations and statistical dependency with sea surface temperatures — both globally and by ocean sub-basins — and particularly between the tropical Atlantic temperatures and the wave power in high-south latitudes, already the most energetic region globally.

The results of the study show that upper-ocean warming — warming which is a direct consequence of anthropogenic global warming, as man’s excess warming is sunk into the ocean — is making waves stronger and identifies wave power as a potentially valuable, albeit unknown until now, climate change indicator.

Read more at Global Warming Might Be Making Waves Stronger

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday 20

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Consumers Don’t Know Jack About Electric Cars

Drivers overestimate the cost and underestimate the benefits of going electric.

Hybrid and electric cars tend to incur fewer costs over their lives than comparable gas-powered cars. (Source Credit: MIT Trancik Lab) Click to Enlarge.
“A lot of research has shown that American car buyers don’t know much about electric vehicles, and thus they regard them as a novel, unusual technology,” said David Greene, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Tennessee.  “It’s a well-known theory in market research that the majority of consumers are reluctant to purchase a novel technology.”

Surveys show that most Americans can’t name a model of electric car, much less explain how it works.  For now, the EV market is limited to early adopters — younger, wealthier drivers who want to own the latest tech.  The average buyer is still wary of plug-in vehicles.

Consumers cite the limited range of EVs as a reason for favoring gas-powered gars, but this concern is largely unfounded.  “You just develop slightly different habits,” Greene said.  “When you go home and you park your car in the garage, you say, ‘Where am I going tomorrow?  Oh, yeah.  Better plug it in.’”

Research shows that even lower-end EVs have enough range to meet about 90 percent of driving needs.  This holds true across cities as varied as New York and Houston.  “You’ve got EVs that have ranges of hundreds of miles, and people have a 30-mile commute,” said Nick Sifuentes, executive director at Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

“A lot of people will never use the full range of their electric vehicle.  They’re just not going to get anywhere close in their daily commute.”

Just as consumers underestimate the needed range of electric vehicles, they also overestimate the cost.  Electric cars are often cheaper than gas-powered cars when accounting for fuel, repairs, and other expenses.  Researchers evaluated the lifetime cost of various cars and found that electric vehicles are often cheaper than comparable gas-powered vehicles.

“The reason is that the lower fuel costs of EVs relative to gasoline-fueled cars compensate for the higher vehicle costs of EVs,” said Jessika Trancik, a professor of energy studies at MIT.  A battery-powered Ford Focus, for example, will prove less expensive over the course of its life than a gas-powered Ford Focus.

Read more at Consumers Don’t Know Jack About Electric Cars

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saturday 19

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Researchers Led by Georgia State Economist Find a Global Tax on Carbon May Be Feasible

Stefano Carattini, assistant professor in Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (Credit: Georgia State University) Click to Enlarge.
There is a consistently high level of public support across nations for a global carbon tax if the tax policy is carefully designed, according to a survey of people in the United States, India, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Australia.

The research was published in Nature.

"Imposing a cost on carbon is the most economically efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said economist and lead author Stefano Carattini, an assistant professor in Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.  "Our research shows that a system of harmonized carbon taxes, in which countries agree on the tax rate but maintain control over tax revenues, would be the easiest way to achieve a global carbon price."

In the survey, 5,000 respondents from the five countries were asked their opinions on different carbon tax designs and whether they would support a carbon tax to be implemented in their country in 2020, if this was also done in all other countries.

The majority of the respondents--from 60 percent in the United States to above 80 percent in India--supported carbon taxes in scenarios where revenues are given back to people or spent on climate projects.

"The high level of public support suggests a major rethinking of how we approach carbon taxes and international cooperation," said co-author Steffen Kallbekken, research director at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway.

Carattini, Kallbekken and co-author Anton Orlov, a senior researcher at CICERO, simulated the effects of the carbon tax in an economic model to capture the economic and environmental effects of a global carbon tax, simulating different levels of tax rates and uses of revenues.  They found a worldwide carbon tax would not disrupt the global economy.

"Our economic simulations show the economic impact would be modest in countries with a clean energy supply, but greater in countries that rely on fossil fuels, especially coal," said Carattini.  "We found this impact true even without taking into account the large benefits from avoided climate damages."

The most feasible option would be a global system of harmonized carbon taxes because countries do not have to agree on the use of the revenues and can choose the option that is most appropriate domestically, the study found.

"Understanding peoples' tax preferences is essential for designing policies to set a global carbon price.  Knowing this, researchers should continue to evaluate the best use of revenues and ways to distribute them," said Kallbekken.

Read more at Researchers Led by Georgia State Economist Find a Global Tax on Carbon May Be Feasible