Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Ethiopia Bids to Plant Four Billion Trees in Green Push

The African country claims to have broken a world record by planting 350 million trees in a day, as part of a collective effort to restore lost forests

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Image Credit: Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia) Click to Enlarge.
These days whenever Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appears in public, he removes his jacket, rolls up his sleeves, grabs a shovel and gets to planting a tree.

Abiy is leading by example as Ethiopia plans to plant a mind-boggling four billion trees by October, as part of a global movement to restore forests to help fight climate change and protect resources.

The country says it has planted nearly three billion trees already since May.

On Monday, state employees were given the day off as Abiy sought to get the rest of the country involved, and the government claimed a “record-breaking” 350 million trees were planted in only one day.

“I think we demonstrated the capacity for people to come together collectively and deliver on a shared vision,” Billene Seyoum, Abiy’s press secretary, told AFP.

Read more at Ethiopia Bids to Plant Four Billion Trees in Green Push

Only a Climate Revolution Can Cool the World

An academic book on fossil fuel consumption reaches a startling conclusion:  only a climate revolution can force governments to act to stop the planet overheating.

Fossil fuels make the world’s wheels go round – for much longer? (Image Credit: By Ratapan Anantawat on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
Governments have completely failed to make progress in tackling the planetary emergency, and a climate revolution is the sole hope that they will do so.

This sounds like a sound bite from Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who is inspiring schoolchildren worldwide to go on strike, or a slogan from Extinction Rebellion, which has been disrupting city life in the UK and elsewhere to secure an urgent government response to the climate emergency.

Both campaigns might agree with the statement, but it is in fact from a scholarly book, Burning Up, A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption, a detailed study into the burning of fossil fuels since 1950.  It looks at fuel contion in individual countries but also at the political forces that have driven and still drive the ever-growing inferno of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and gas, across the world.

The book illustrates the reasons behind the rather frightening fact that since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, despite many promises and warnings, governments have failed to take decisive action on climate change and in fact have made it decidedly worse by continuing to subsidize fossil fuels more than renewables.

Simon Pirani, a senior research fellow at the UK’s Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, takes the reader through an exhaustive examination of fossil fuel consumption and the driving forces behind it.  One point he makes is that governments, particularly in the US, have contrived to kill off the use of buses and trains and instead promoted private cars.

Read more at Only a Climate Revolution Can Cool the World

Siberian Wildfires Prompt Russia to Declare a State of Emergency

Temperatures that have been soaring with climate change combined with lightning and winds to burn vast areas of forest and send smoke hundreds of miles into cities.

Volunteers fought a wildfire near a summer camp for children in Siberia in late May. With rising temperatures, wildfires have also broken out in Alaska and across the northern boreal forests this year. (Credit: Kirill Shipitsin\TASS via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Russia has declared a state of emergency in five Siberian regions after wildfires engulfed an area of forest almost the size of Belgium amid record high temperatures as a result of climate change.

Officials said 2.7 million hectares of forest (about 10,400 square miles) were ablaze on Tuesday as soaring temperatures, lightning storms and strong winds combined, sending smoke hundreds of miles to reach some of Russia's biggest regional cities.

The fires, which began earlier this month, and the Russian government's lacklustre response have raised concerns over Moscow's commitment to addressing climate change.  The country relies heavily on the oil and gas industry and has a poor record of enforcing green initiatives.

Read more at Siberian Wildfires Prompt Russia to Declare a State of Emergency

Think the Heatwave Was Bad?  Climate Already Hitting Key Tipping Points.

People cool off in the Trocadero fountains across from the Eiffel Tower in Paris as a new heatwave broke temperature records in France, July 25. (Credit: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol) Click to Enlarge.
That foretaste of a radically hotter world underscored what is at stake in a decisive phase of talks to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, a collective shot at avoiding climate breakdown.

With study-after-study showing climate impacts from extreme weather to polar melt and sea level rise outstripping initial forecasts, negotiators have a fast-closing window to try to turn the aspirations agreed in Paris into meaningful outcomes.

“There’s so much on the line in the next 18 months or so,” said Sue Reid, vice-president of climate and energy at Ceres, a U.S. non-profit group that works to steer companies and investors onto a more sustainable path.

“This is a crucial period of time both for public officials and the private sector to really reverse the curve on emissions,” Reid told Reuters.

Read more at Think the Heatwave Was Bad?  Climate Already Hitting Key Tipping Points.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Tuesday 30

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

World’s Largest Nuclear Fusion Experiment Clears Milestone

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor is set to launch operations in 2025.

A multination project to build a fusion reactor cleared a milestone yesterday and is now 6 ½ years away from “First Plasma,” officials announced.

Read more at World’s Largest Nuclear Fusion Experiment Clears Milestone

Tesla Launches Megapack

Tesla  battery / Click to Enlarge.
Tesla has introduced a utility-scale energy storage system dubbed Megapack, with up to 3 MWh of storage capacity and 1.5 MW of inverter capacity, the company said in a blog post.

According to Tesla, the Megapack sports 60 percent higher energy density than the Powerpack—Tesla’s household energy storage system—and is easy to install and connect.  In fact, Tesla says, using the Megapack, it could build a 250-MW/1GWh power plant that is emissions-free within three months.

Megapack installations can also be used as an alternative to gas peaker plants, and Tesla is already working on a project with PG&E in California where it will deploy the new storage systems.  The project involves the construction of a 182.5 MW lithium-ion battery storage system at PG&E’s Moss Landing substation.

“Peaker power plants fire up whenever the local utility grid can’t provide enough power to meet peak demand,” the company said.  “They cost millions of dollars per day to operate and are some of the least efficient and dirtiest plants on the grid.  Instead, a Megapack installation can use stored excess solar or wind energy to support the grid’s peak loads.”

Read more at Tesla Launches Megapack

Global Warming Is Pushing Pacific Salmon to the Brink, Federal Scientists Warn

The fish, critical to local economies and the food chain, were already under pressure from human infrastructure like dams.  Climate change is turning up the heat.

Sockeye salmon that swim the long journey up the Columbia River and into the Snake River in Idaho to spawn are among those most at risk. (Credit: Mark Conlin/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Pacific salmon that spawn in Western streams and rivers have been struggling for decades to survive water diversions, dams and logging.  Now, global warming is pushing four important populations in California, Oregon, and Idaho toward extinction, federal scientists warn in a new study.

The new research shows that several of the region's salmon populations are now bumping into temperature limits, with those that spawn far inland after lengthy summer stream migrations and those that spend a lot of time in coastal habitats like river estuaries among the most at risk.

That includes Chinook salmon in California's Central Valley and in the Columbia and Willamette River basins in Oregon; coho salmon in parts of Northern California and Oregon; and sockeye salmon that reach the Snake River Basin in Idaho, all of which are already on the federal endangered species list.

Read more at Global Warming Is Pushing Pacific Salmon to the Brink, Federal Scientists Warn

Greta Thunberg to Sail to New York Climate Summit in Racing Yacht

Swedish teen activist will cross the Atlantic in hurricane season by boat for a four-month tour of the Americas, rather than take a high-carbon flight.

Greta Thunberg outside Swedish Parliament in 2018 (Picture Credit: Anders Hellberg/Wikimedia) Click to Enlarge.
The 16-year-old Swedish activist, who has galvanized Europe’s youth to rise for the climate, will cross the pond from the UK to New York on a racing yacht to attend the climate action summit convened by UN chief António Guterres on 23 September.

The high-level meeting is a critical moment for governments to show increased ambition on climate action.  Youth are to play a prominent role, with Guterres calling on young people to “revolutionize the world”.

After New York, where she will join climate demonstrations, Thunberg is expected to tour the US, Canada and Mexico before traveling to the UN climate talks in Santiago, Chile, which start on 2 December – taking a sabbatical year from school to dedicate herself to activism.

Read more at Greta Thunberg to Sail to New York Climate Summit in Racing Yacht

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Amazon Deforestation Accelerating Towards Unrecoverable 'Tipping Point'

Data confirms fears that Jair Bolsonaro’s policy encourages illegal logging in Brazil.

(Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has surged above three football fields a minute, according to the latest government data, pushing the world’s biggest rainforest closer to a tipping point beyond which it cannot recover.

The sharp rise – following year-on-year increases in May and June – confirms fears that president Jair Bolsonaro has given a green light to illegal land invasion, logging and burning.

Clearance so far in July has hit 1,345 sq km, a third higher than the previous monthly record under the current monitoring system by the Deter B satellite system, which started in 2015.

With five days remaining, this is on course to be the first month for several years in which Brazil loses an area of forest bigger than Greater London.

The steady erosion of tree cover weakens the role of the rainforest in stabilizing the global climate.  Scientists warn that the forest is in growing danger of degrading into a savannah, after which its capacity to absorb carbon will be severely diminished, with consequences for the rest of the planet.

Read more at Amazon Deforestation Accelerating Towards Unrecoverable 'Tipping Point'

Indonesia and Thorcon Will Build a Mass Production Next-generation Molten Salt Reactor

Indonesia 3.5 GW Thorcon power plant project (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Indonesia’s state company PT PAL Indonesia signed an agreement with next-generation molten salt nuclear energy company Thorcon International Pte Ltd for a development study and construction of a 500-megawatt reactor.

Thorcon still needs to raise more funds to build the reactor and the Indonesian government has not officially approved the reactor project.  PAL Indonesia is a state-backed ship building company that is willing to work with Thorcon.

The Thorcon reactor can be mass-produced at 100 Gigawatts of nuclear power per year.  This would be the entire US supply of nuclear reactors that currently exist.  Every 5 years, the entire current world supply of nuclear reactors could be equaled.  Within 14 years the entire US electricity production could be converted to nuclear power.  All of the coal and natural gas in the US could be replaced in ten years (5 years for the first and completing 100-gigawatts per year.

The molten salt nuclear reactor will be built onto a floating ship.  The 174×66 meters floating facility is expected to be built by Daewoo Shipyard & Marine Engineering in South Korea.

PAL Indonesia, which makes naval warships and commercial vessels, will build the reactor and supporting components designed by Thorcon.

ThorCon is a graphite-moderated thermal spectrum molten salt reactor that will produce 250 MWe power.  It will be cheaper than coal energy.  Coal is 5 cents per kilowatt hour and Thorcon will be 3 cents per kilowatt-hour.  The basic concept is similar to the MSRE (Molten Salt Reactor Experiment) in ORNL which was built and operated in the 1960s.

Thorcon is working with Indonesia and could have its first 1 GW commercial unit in 4-6 years.

ThorCon is a liquid-fuel fission power plant, under development in the US, to be built in a far-east shipyard, then floated to Indonesia, with testing starting in 2023-2025.  It generates emission-free electric power, cheaper even than from a coal-fired plant.  Its full-time electric power will improve developing nations’ economies and lifestyles, while also dissuading them from burning fossil fuels which emit CO2.

New energy is being mainly built in Asia (China, India, South and South East Asia) and the developing world.  There is very little net new power being built in the USA, Europe, and Japan.  Thorcon logically will focus on certification for markets where power is actually being built.

ThorCon’s genesis is in ship production.  Eight oil supertanker ships were built by ThorCon’s predecessor company.  This ship is the largest double hull tanker ever built.  She can carry 440,000 tons of oil.  Her steel weight is 67,000 tons.  She required 700,000 man-hours of direct labor, a little more than 10 man-hours per ton of ship steel.  About 40% of this was expended on hull steel; the rest on outfitting.  She was built in less than 12 months and cost 89 million dollars in 2002.

ThorCon reactor is in a Can, which is simple and safe
  • Safety is intrinsic from physics, not add-on safety systems; overheating stops chain reaction.
  • Any break will drain reactor fuel to cold shutdown fuel salt drain tank.
  • Decay heat is removed by silo cooling wall continuous passive water circulation, even in power blackout.
  • Radioactive fuel salt at low, garden-hose pressure can’t disperse in catastrophe.
  • Fluoride salt chemically locks up hazardous fission products iodine-131, cesium-137, strontium-90.
  • Can operates for four years, then cools down for four years, and then is changed out.
  • Each power module has two Cans housed in silos.
  • Liquid fission plant comprises 1 to 4 power modules of 557 MW (thermal) generating 250 MW (electric).
  • Four freeze valves will be used to ensure the passive shutdown in case of overheating

Read more at Indonesia and Thorcon Will Build a Mass Production Next-generation Molten Salt Reactor

Friday, July 26, 2019

Global Solar Installations to Reach Record High this Year

(Credit: Nina Chestney) Click to Enlarge.
New solar photovoltaic (PV) installations are set to reach a record high this year, driven by improving markets in Europe and the United States and fast growth in India and Vietnam, consultancy Wood Mackenzie said on Thursday.

Low auction prices are also expected to help boost new solar PV capacity by the end of this year to 114.5 gigawatts (GW), 17.5% higher than 2018 and the first time new installations have exceeded 100 GW.
A separate study earlier this year by the International Renewable Energy Agency said electricity generated by onshore wind and solar PV will in the next year be consistently cheaper than from any fossil fuel source.

Read more at Global Solar Installations to Reach Record High this Year:  Research

Europe's Record Heatwave Threatens Greenland Ice Sheet

The Greenland ice sheet (Photo: Credit: AP) Click to Enlarge.
The hot air that smashed European weather records this week looks set to move towards Greenland and could cause record melting of the world’s second largest ice sheet, the United Nations said on Friday.

Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, said the hot air moving up from North Africa had not merely broken European temperature records on Thursday but surpassed them by 2, 3 or 4 degrees Celsius, which she described as “absolutely incredible”.

Read more at Europe's Record Heatwave Threatens Greenland Ice Sheet

Why Cities Suing over Climate Change Want the Fight in State Court, Not Federal

Oil companies think they’ll win in federal court, and they’ve been trying to get each city, county and state climate lawsuit moved there.

A street in Baltimore, one of the cities suing Big Oil over climate change, partially collapsed in 2014 in heavy rainfall during one of the city's wettest Aprils on record. Scientific studies warn to expect more extreme precipitation as the planet warms. (Credit: Jonathan Newton/Washington Post via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
A wave of lawsuits brought by local and state governments that are trying to hold oil companies accountable for climate change got a boost when federal judges in Rhode Island and Maryland sent two of the cases back to state court.

While the rulings this week and in June decided only where the cases will be heard, they may prove critical: Experts say the lawsuits stand a chance in state courts, however remote, but are essentially dead if they enter federal court.

"It's not just a minor technical question.  It's really the whole kit and caboodle," said Ann Carlson, an environmental law expert at UCLA School of Law who has provided pro-bono consulting for some of the plaintiffs.

Read more at Why Cities Suing Over Climate Change Want the Fight in State Court, Not Federal

Oceans Are Melting Glaciers from Below Much Faster than Predicted, Study Finds

Tidewater glaciers are being ‘eaten away on both ends’ as global warming worsens, suggesting faster sea level rise and ice melt that can alter ocean ecosystems.

Tidewater glaciers, like those seen by millions of tourists in Alaska's Glacier Bay, terminate at the ocean, where warming water and air temperatures can expedite melting, leading to more sea level rise. (Credit: Eric E. Castro/CC-BY0-3.0) Click to Enlarge.
Beneath the ocean's surface, glaciers may be melting 10 to 100 times faster than previously believed, new research shows. 

Until now, scientists had a limited understanding of what happens under the water at the point where ice meets sea.  Using a combination of radar, sonar and time-lapse photography, a team of researchers has now provided the first detailed measurements of the underwater changes over time.  Their findings suggest that the theories currently used to gauge glacier change are underestimating glaciers' ice loss.

"The overall trend of glacier retreat around the world is due to both warming air and warming oceans," said David Sutherland, an oceanographer at the University of Oregon and lead author of the new study, published July 25 in the journal Science.

"They're getting eaten away on both ends," he said.

Read more at Oceans Are Melting Glaciers from Below Much Faster than Predicted, Study Finds

Four Automakers Strike Emissions Deal with California, Defying Trump Admin.

Ford Motor Co, BMW AG, Volkswagen AG and Honda Motor Co said they will voluntarily recognize the state’s authority to set vehicle rules.

Ford Motor Co, BMW AG, Volkswagen AG and Honda Motor Co said on Thursday they have reached a voluntary agreement with the state of California to adopt compromise vehicle emissions rules. (Credit: Mohamed ABD el Ghany / Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
Mary Nichols, who chairs the California Air Resources Board, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that the four automakers sought regulatory certainty and had agreed not to legally challenge the state’s vehicle regulatory authority.

“They didn’t want to face the expense, distraction, and the bad publicity that comes from being part of a big rollback on clean cars,” she said.

The Trump administration in August 2018 proposed revoking California’s legal right to impose its own state emissions standards or require a rising number of electric vehicles.  The Trump administration argues that federal law should preempt California from setting its own emissions rules.
Under the compromise struck with the four automakers, the stringency of the requirements would increase at a nationwide average annual rate of 3.7% annually starting in the 2022 model year through 2026, and 1% of that annual improvement could be covered by credits awarded for building electrified vehicles.

Read more at Four Automakers Strike Emissions Deal with California, Defying Trump Admin. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

UN Warned Corporate Courts Could Thwart Climate Efforts

Campaigners are urging reform of an obscure system that allows coal, oil and gas companies to sue governments if climate policies hit their profits.

(Photo Credit: : Flickr/James Cridland) Click to Enlarge.
Little known but ubiquitous corporate courts will increasingly hamstring climate efforts unless governments take urgent action to reform them, campaigners warn.

The EU is locking horns with a bloc of countries led by the US and Japan over a mechanism included in more than 3,000 trade deals, ahead of UN talks in Vienna in October.

Investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) is a system of private courts that allows foreign investors to bypass domestic courts and sue governments in cases where national policies hurt their profits. It raises the prospect of fossil fuel corporations claiming billions of dollars in compensation for climate legislation enacted under the Paris Agreement, including carbon taxes or initiatives to phase out fossil fuels.
“The ISDS system has given rise to an alarming number of claims against environmental measures, which are already the fastest growing trigger for dispute,” said Amandine Van Den Berghe, a lawyer with Client Earth.

“Amid this climate emergency, we call on governments to respect their international commitments, and push for a deep and systemic reform of ISDS, so that these mechanisms are not able to undermine efforts to save the planet.”

Read more at UN Warned Corporate Courts Could Thwart Climate Efforts

Global Extent of Climate Change Is ‘Unparalleled’ in Past 2,000 Years

(Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The “globally coherent” rise in temperatures seen since the start of the industrial revolution is “unparalleled” in at least the past 2,000 years, a new study says.

Over the past two millennia, the planet has experienced several episodes of extreme warming and cooling as a result of natural changes to the climate.

The new research confirms, however, that these climate events were patchy – impacting different parts of the world at different times. By comparison, human-caused climate change affected 98% of the globe simultaneously through the 20th century, the research says.

Read more at Global Extent of Climate Change Is ‘Unparalleled’ in Past 2,000 Years

Monday, July 22, 2019

Guterres Asks All Countries to Plan for Carbon Neutrality by 2050

In a letter to heads of state, the UN chief set net zero emissions as the benchmark for ambition, ahead of a landmark summit in September. 

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres (Photo Credit: UN) Click to Enlarge.
UN chief António Guterres wrote to every head of state over the weekend, demanding they set out plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Guterres is championing ambitious climate action ahead of a critical UN summit on 23 September in New York, when countries are due to present concrete proposals to accelerate the pace of decarbonisation.

In excerpts of the letter seen by Climate Home News, Guterres invited governments to send “a brief summary or an indication of the plans” they are expecting to bring to the summit by 7 August.  Countries are expected to compete for the spotlight during the high-level meeting, with only the most ambitious and meaningful strategies being showcased on stage.

After a preparatory meeting for the summit in Abu Dhabi last month, sources said some confusion remained over the benchmark for participation.

Clarifying his demands, Guterres said he had “asked all leaders to come to the Summit ready to announce the plans that they will set next year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”

Read more at Guterres Asks All Countries to Plan for Carbon Neutrality by 2050

Poster of the Week - See No Climate Change

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Monday 22

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

The World Can’t Let Nuclear Energy Die

Renewables like wind and solar are poised to generate more electricity globally than nuclear power either this year or next year.  While we can celebrate the fact that renewables are growing, it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t growing rapidly enough to stop the growth of power produced from fossil fuels.  Further, these sources don’t represent firm power that can be called upon on demand.

Last year global consumption of coal, oil, and natural gas was nearly four times the growth in renewables.  As a result, global carbon dioxide emissions set a new all-time high in 2018.  Those trends are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.  The world will experience a rapid growth rate for renewables, but even greater overall growth from fossil fuels.

Nuclear power could help solve that problem, because it is the only large-scale firm power source that doesn’t generate carbon emissions during its operation.  But the general public has a fear of nuclear power.  We must address and overcome this collective fear if nuclear power is to help displace fossil fuels.  That can only be achieved by convincing the public that accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima are no longer possible.

As I have written before, nuclear power plants must be designed to be fail-safe, if not fail-proof.  To be fail-safe means that if an accident takes place, the system fails to a safe state.  A simple example of this is an electrical fuse. If too much current tries to flow across the fuse, the fuse melts and stops the flow of electricity.  Future nuclear plants must be designed in a way that provides the public with an absolute degree of confidence that they can’t have catastrophic accidents.

Public expectations may be that nuclear designs need to be fail-proof, but there are many reasons why that metric will never be achieved.  The most fundamental reason is that we simply can’t guard against every possible outcome.  Thus, we try to mitigate possible consequences, and implement fail-safe designs.

There are those who will still reject the idea of nuclear power under any circumstances.  But there are consequences from such a stance.  Some will idealistically believe that renewables will fill the world’s growing power demands, but in reality that’s just not happening.

Thus, whether you like it or not, absolute rejection of nuclear power almost certainly means higher global carbon dioxide emissions.  That’s a high price to pay if you are concerned about the impacts of climate change.

Read more at The World Can’t Let Nuclear Energy Die

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Thursday 19

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

June 2019 Was the Hottest June on Record Across the Globe - NOAA

Beating the heat, tubers float the Guadalupe River, in New Braunfels, Texas, on July 18. (Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
June 2019 was the hottest in 140 years, setting a global record, according to the latest monthly global climate report released on Thursday by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The report said that the average global temperature in June was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average of 59.9 degrees F (15.5 degrees Celsius) and marks the 414th consecutive month in which temperatures were above the 20th-century average.  Nine of the 10 hottest Junes over the last 140 years have occurred since 2010, NOAA said.
Heat Wave To Scorch Midwest And East Coast, Create Dangerous Conditions For Residents.

More than 100 local heat records are expected to fall Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Read more at June 2019 Was the Hottest June on Record Across the Globe - NOAA

Study Bolsters Case that Climate Change Is Driving Many California Wildfires

Earth’s Future (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Link seen to fivefold jump in area burned.

Against a backdrop of long-term rises in temperature in recent decades, California has seen ever higher spikes in seasonal wildfires, and, in the last two years, a string of disastrous, record-setting blazes.  This has led scientists, politicians and media to ponder: what role might warming climate be playing here?  A new study combs through the many factors that can promote wildfire, and concludes that in many, though not all, cases, warming climate is the decisive driver.  The study finds in particular that the huge summer forest fires that have raked the North Coast and Sierra Nevada regions recently have a strong connection to arid ground conditions brought on by increasing heat.  It suggests that wildfires could grow exponentially in the next 40 years, as temperatures continue to rise.

Read more at Study Bolsters Case that Climate Change Is Driving Many California Wildfires

Startup Aims to Tackle Grid Storage Problem with New Porous Silicon Battery

A Canadian company emerges from stealth mode to provide grid-scale energy storage with its high-density battery tech.

Christine Hallquist of Cross Border Power plans to commercialize a porous silicon battery design developed by Washington-based company XNRGI.(Photo Credit: Denial Documentary) Click to Enlarge.
A new Canadian company with roots in Vermont has emerged from stealth mode and has ambitious plans to roll out a new grid-scale battery in the year ahead. The longshot storage technology, targeted at utilities, offers four times the energy density and four times the lifetime of lithium-ion batteries, the company says, and will be available for half the price.

The new company’s CEO, a former Democratic nominee for governor of Vermont, founded Cross Border Power in the wake of her electoral loss last November. Within days after the election, she was at her computer and writing a thesis (since posted on her campaign website) that she boldly calls “[The] North American Solution to Climate Change.”

Read more at Startup Aims to Tackle Grid Storage Problem with New Porous Silicon Battery

Scotland’s Wind Farms Generate Enough Electricity to Power Nearly 4.5 Million Homes

The town of Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Scotland, surrounded by an enormous wind farm. (Credit: Vincent Van Zeijst/Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
Wind turbines in Scotland produced enough electricity in the first half of 2019 to power every home in the country twice over, according to new data by the analytics group WeatherEnergy.  The wind farms generated 9,831,320 megawatt-hours between January and June — equal to the total electricity consumption of 4.47 million homes during that same period.

The electricity generated by wind in early 2019 is enough to power all of Scotland’s homes, as well as a large portion of northern England’s.

Read more at Scotland’s Wind Farms Generate Enough Electricity to Power Nearly 4.5 Million Homes

Leaked UN Science Report Warns of Clash Between Bioenergy and Food

Models suggest large areas of land are needed for forests and biofuel crops to halt climate change, but this risks worsening hunger, draft tells policymakers.

Bioenergy crops (Photo Credit: Claire Benjamin/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Blanketing the globe with monocultures of forests and bioenergy crops is no dream fix to the climate crisis, a leaked draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns.

Models suggest large areas of land are needed to draw carbon dioxide out of the air to limit global warming to 1.5C, the most ambitious target in the Paris Agreement.

This risks worsening hunger by competing with food production for space, according to the draft summary for policymakers obtained by Business Standard.

“Widespread use at the scale of several millions of km2 globally” of tree-planting and bioenergy crops could have “potentially irreversible consequences for food security and land degradation”, the report said.

Intensifying the production of bioenergy crops through the use of fertilizers, irrigation and monocultures could also erode soil and its capacity to soak up carbon in the long run.

Read more at Leaked UN Science Report Warns of Clash Between Bioenergy and Food

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wednesday 18

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

California Energy Commission Awards Nearly $70M to Replace Diesel School Buses with Electric School Buses Throughout State

Electric Bus (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The California Energy Commission approved nearly $70 million in funding to replace more than 200 old diesel school buses with all-electric buses that will reduce school children’s exposure to harmful emissions and help the state reach its climate and air quality goals.

School buses are by far the safest way for kids to get to school.  But diesel-powered buses are not safe for kids’ developing lungs, which are particularly vulnerable to harmful air pollution.  Making the transition to electric school buses that don’t emit pollution provides children and their communities with cleaner air and numerous public health benefits.

—Energy Commissioner Patty Monahan

The Energy Commission’s School Bus Replacement Program is providing more than $94 million to public school districts, county offices of education, and joint power authorities to help transition from diesel school buses to zero- or low-emissions vehicles.  Together with the newly approved funding, the Energy Commission has awarded $89.8 million of the program’s funds to schools in 26 California counties.

The electric buses approved today will eliminate nearly 57,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides and nearly 550 pounds of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions annually.

Diesel buses emit harmful pollutants, including fine particles that can lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream.  Because children’s lungs are still developing, and due to their faster breathing rate and other factors, children are more susceptible to the adverse health effects linked to air pollution including lung damage and asthma attacks.  Scientists have found that these fine particles can cause asthma in healthy children.

Read more at California Energy Commission Awards Nearly $70M to Replace Diesel School Buses with Electric School Buses Throughout State 

Days of Extreme Heat Will Become Weeks as Climate Warms, U.S. Study Warns

Even regions of the U.S. where extreme heat and humidity have been rare should expect significant increases in the number of hot days by mid-century.

Outdoor laborers and the elderly are among those most at risk as global temperatures rise. (Credit: Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star News via Getty Images)  Click to Enlarge.
Nearly every part of the United States will face a significant increase in extremely hot days by mid-century, even if some action is taken to reduce greenhouse emissions, a new study says.  If nothing is done to rein in climate change, it warns, the impact will be worse.

Large parts of the Central and Eastern U.S. will get a taste of what that feels like over the coming days as a muggy heat wave settles in.

The study, published in a peer-reviewed journal and as a longer report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, used 18 climate models to predict changes in the heat index—the mix of heat and humidity that reflects how hot it feels—across the contiguous U.S. as global temperatures rise over the coming decades.

Read more at Days of Extreme Heat Will Become Weeks as Climate Warms, U.S. Study Warns

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Glacial Melting in Antarctica May Become Irreversible

Thwaites glacier is likely to thaw and trigger 50cm(1.6ft) sea level rise, US study suggests.

Antarctica (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
An aerial view of Thwaites glacier, which shows growth of gaps between the ice and bedrock.

Antarctica faces a tipping point where glacial melting will accelerate and become irreversible even if global heating eases, research suggests.

A NASA-funded study found instability in the Thwaites glacier meant there would probably come a point when it was impossible to stop it flowing into the sea and triggering a 50cm sea level rise.  Other Antarctic glaciers were likely to be similarly unstable.

Read more at Glacial Melting in Antarctica May Become Irreversible

Public Clean Energy R&D Is Overlooked and Underfunded.

The climate change policy with the most potential is the most neglected.

Funding innovation to develop cheaper clean energy technology will help all countries reduce their emissions. (Credit: Consumers Energy, via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The leading international body of climate change researchers released a major report [last] Sunday night on the impacts of global warming and what it would take to cap rising temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels — a goal that’s exceedingly difficult, but not impossible.

The report is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international consortium of hundreds of climate researchers convened by the United Nations.  Authors presented their findings in Incheon, South Korea after a week of discussion.

Why examine the prospects for limiting global warming to 1.5°C?  Because under the Paris agreement, countries agreed that the goal should be to limit warming to below 2°C by 2100, with a nice-to-have target of capping warming at 1.5°C.

The report finds that it would take a massive global effort, far more aggressive than any we’ve seen to date, to keep warming in line with 1.5°C.  Without such effort, we will continue at our current trajectory toward 3°C of warming.  What’s more, even if we hit the 1.5°C goal, the planet will still face massive, devastating changes.  So it’s pretty grim.

But the report is also a thunderous call to action, laying out what tools we have at our disposal (we have plenty) to mitigate global warming and to accelerate the turn toward cleaner energy.   Let’s walk through the basics.

Read more at Public Clean Energy R&D Is Overlooked and Underfunded.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saturday 13

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Flood Risks from All Sides:  Barry's Triple Whammy in Louisiana

With climate change loading the dice for disaster, a storm fueled by warmer-than-normal Gulf water is headed for a Mississippi River already swollen with floodwater.

The rain-swollen Mississippi River was already flooding walkways and steps near a New Orleans levee when Barry became the second named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season on July 11. (Credit: Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The Gulf Coast is about to be pummeled by a three-punch combo:  Flooding from heavy rains over the winter and spring has been sending record floodwaters coursing down the Mississippi River, pushing the river close to the top of its protective levees in Louisiana.  Now a cyclone fueled by warm offshore waters is threatening downpours in the same area and a storm surge up the bayous at the river's mouth.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned residents this week to be prepared for flooding from two sides—both the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River.

It's the kind of compounding of risks that scientists have been warning about as the climate changes.  Climate change has loaded the dice for this kind of coincidence, scientists say.

It was the water, rather than the wind, that was causing the most intense concern as Tropical Storm Barry gained strength and disaster declarations and evacuations began.

Like Hurricane Florence in North Carolina last year and the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, which sat over Houston for days in 2017, Barry was moving slowly, creating a threat of days of heavy rainfall and flooding on the coast and lower Mississippi Valley, the National Hurricane Center wrote on Friday.

In Louisiana's rivers, with water levels already high, Barry's expected storm surge of 3 feet or more would push the water even higher.

Read more at Flood Risks from All Sides:  Barry's Triple Whammy in Louisiana