Friday, August 30, 2019

A Southern Governor's Climate and Clean Energy Plan Aims for Zero Emissions

The state’s Republican-controlled legislature remains an obstacle to big changes, so the administration is looking for work-arounds and short-term wins.

In the past three years, North Carolina has been through two major hurricanes and the remnants of a third and seen devastating flooding. Gov. Roy Cooper is proposing a clean energy plan for the state to reduce its climate impact. (Credit: Office of the Governor) Click to Enlarge.
What a difference three years can make in the politics of climate change in North Carolina, a state that not long ago took a sharp lurch to the right.

After replacing a Republican who questioned whether climate change was caused by human activities, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has testified before Congress on North Carolina's sizable climate challenges and unveiled a draft clean energy plan designed to put the state on a path toward eliminating carbon emissions from the power sector by mid-century.

His effort to grapple with global warming faces the cold reality of needing support in North Carolina's Republican legislature, however.  It's a significant challenge that has clean-energy advocates and state officials looking for work-arounds and short-term wins.  This week, for example, state regulators put pressure on North Carolina's largest utility to weigh the governor's greenhouse gas reduction goals in its future energy plans.

Read more at A Southern Governor's Climate and Clean Energy Plan Aims for Zero Emissions

Paris Climate Accord Awaits Russian Backing

Reports from Moscow suggest that Russia will announce its support for the Paris climate accord before the end of 2019.

Russia’s record on emissions cuts is  not brilliant – but few countries’ are. (Image Credit: Michael Parulava on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
Officials in Moscow say the Russian government plans, after several years’ hesitation, to ratify the global agreement, the Paris climate accord, within the next few months.

Enough countries had completed the ratification process for the Agreement to enter into force in 2016, so Russia’s long-awaited move will make little practical difference to efforts to strengthen progress through the Paris Agreement towards a net zero economy.

But Russia is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases to have failed so far to ratify the Agreement, signed by 195 countries in December 2015, so its move may have some effect in spurring on other laggards.  Ratification defines the international act by which a country agrees to be bound by an accord like the Paris Agreement.

Angelina Davydova, a Russian journalist who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, told the Clean Energy Wire (CLEW) journalism network that a Russian announcement is expected before the end of 2019.

Read more at Paris Climate Accord Awaits Russian Backing

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Thursday 29

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Sanders Explains His Plan for a Climate Revolution in a Wildfire-Devastated Town

Sanders  Visits Paradise, CA (Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Image) Click to Enlarge.
Bernie Sanders wants the United States to combat climate change like a nation at war.  The Democratic presidential candidate detailed his new climate platform on Thursday in Paradise, California, while surrounded by devastation that wouldn’t look out of place on a battlefield.  Today, Paradise is a ghost of itself after last year’s deadly Camp Fire; thousands of homes and buildings were lost, triggering an exodus that took almost the entire town’s population.

Sanders chose Paradise to launch his climate agenda for the same reason he thinks the public has woken up to the threat.  Climate change is visceral, and in Paradise and elsewhere, voters are seeing its damage firsthand.  There’s a difference between telling voters climate change is an existential crisis at an indoor rally and describing it while surrounded by the hazardous ash, rubble, and charred trees that once made up the Holly Hills mobile home community.

“People learn with their own eyes,” Sanders said in an exclusive interview with the Weather Channel and Mother Jones, conducted as part of the Climate Desk partnership.  “So you come to a beautiful place like this, Paradise, California, and you see the horrible, horrible damage that’s done.  You turn on the television, in a community of 26,000 people, 86 dead, some 18,000 structures burned down to the ground, $16 billion in damage.  People are saying, ‘What is going on?’”

In announcing his $16.3 trillion proposal, Sanders joined a handful of candidates who have toured Paradise, as well as the pack of front runners who had already released their own climate change plans.  His robust plan would “launch a decade of the Green New Deal,” promising 10 years filled with an unfathomable and polarizing amount of change:  essentially eliminating unemployment with 20 million jobs, new job protections, and a social safety net to go with it.  The plan includes funding for displaced fossil fuel workers to find new livelihoods or take early retirement.  He envisions a fully clean transportation sector by 2030, by electrifying fleets and launching a $2 trillion car buyback program.  He promises a $40 billion climate justice fund, new infrastructure, and a more sustainable agriculture sector.  And he says he can do it all while modernizing the power grid, retiring nuclear plants, and halting fracking.  Altogether, the Sanders camp says the changes could cut U.S. pollution 71 percent over the next decade, putting the nation on a path to go completely carbon-free by 2050.

Read more at Sanders Explains His Plan for a Climate Revolution in a Wildfire-Devastated Town

Europe Is Warming Faster Than Even Climate Models Projected

Land surface temperatures during a heat wave in Europe on July 25. (Credit: Copernicus Sentinel Data/ESA) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change is raising temperatures in Europe even faster than climate models projected, according to new research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.  The number of summer days with extreme heat in Europe has tripled since the 1950s, while the number of days with extreme cold more than halved.

Extremely hot days in Europe have become hotter by an average of 4.14 degrees Fahrenheit, the study found, while extremely cold days have warmed by 5.4 degrees F.  The research examined data from weather stations across Europe from 1950 to 2018, with more than 90 percent of stations showing that the climate was warming.

“Even at this regional scale over Europe, we can see that these trends are much larger than what we would expect from natural variability,” Ruth Lorenz, a climate scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and lead author of the new study, said in a statement.  “That’s really a signal from climate change.”

Read more at Europe Is Warming Faster Than Even Climate Models Projected

It’s the Economics, Stupid!  The Case for Carbon Fees

Money (Image Credit: Carolyn Fortuna) Click to Enlarge.
Researchers at the Carnegie Institute For Science and the University of Waterloo were curious how placing a price on carbon emissions would impact the effort to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2º C above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.  Surprise, surprise!  They found putting a price on carbon would lead to greater innovation and energy efficiency.  The results of their research have now been published in the scientific journal Joule.

Read more at It’s the Economics, Stupid!  The Case for Carbon Fees

Pacific Leaders Set New Bar by Collectively Declaring Climate Crisis

When regional giants Australia and NZ joined small islands at a recent leaders’ forum they produced the Pacific’s strongest-ever call to act on climate change.

Leaders of Pacific nations gather in Tuvalu in August (Photo Credit: Pacific Islands Forum) Click to Enlarge.
It was indeed an emotional moment when Pacific leaders and delegates were greeted by small children of Tuvalu – submerged in water surrounding a model of their sinking islands with their call to “Save Tuvalu, save the world”, upon their arrival to the 50th Pacific Islands Forum held in Funafuti, Tuvalu, from 13 to 16 August.

Tuvalu’s message could not be clearer or more important – climate change is real and the future of their children and all the children of our blue Pacific is uncertain – unless urgent, ambitious action is taken to limit global warming to below 1.5C.

Last year, Pacific Islands Forum leaders reaffirmed, through the Boe Declaration on Regional Security, that climate change is the single greatest threat facing the region.  At their 50th meeting in Tuvalu, leaders discussed this threat and resolved, by consensus, to take urgent action.

Following their meeting, leaders issued the Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now.

Read more at Pacific Leaders Set New Bar by Collectively Declaring Climate Crisis

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wednesday 28

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Why It's Premature to Declare Coal Dead

(Credit: Yale Climate Connections) Click to Enlarge.
Coal’s story across the world is a study in contrasts:  up sharply in some places and down in others.  From a climate perspective, there is no simple characterization of the global status of coal, other than to say that overall, the world is still burning far too much of it.  A few indicators point to a global slowdown in coal, but it’s unclear whether that can happen fast enough to meet global climate change emissions targets.
A recent post at this site covered the downturn of the American coal market as a result of cheaper and cleaner alternatives.  Although the U.S. is a major player in global energy, trends in American coal do not necessarily dictate or match what’s happening elsewhere in the world.  It’s premature to say, as some do, that coal is dead.

Read on for highlights, distilled into eight data-rich graphics.  Some of them may be surprising.

Read more at Why It's Premature to Declare Coal Dead

What Does '12 Years to Act on Climate Change' (Now 11 Years) Really Mean?

It doesn't mean the world can wait until 2030 to cut greenhouse gas emissions, or that chaos will erupt in 2030.  Here's what the science shows.

In some ways, the “12 years” narrative may set up a scenario that’s too lenient, because some key part of the climate system may already be at or past tipping points. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
We've been hearing variations of the phrase "the world only has 12 years to deal with climate change" a lot lately.

Sen. Bernie Sanders put a version of it front and center of his presidential campaign last week, saying we now have "less than 11 years left to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, if we are going to leave this planet healthy and habitable."

But where does the idea of having 11 or 12 years come from, and what does it actually mean? 

The number began drawing attention in 2018, when the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report describing what it would take to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, a goal of the Paris climate agreement.  The report explained that countries would have to cut their anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, such as from power plants and vehicles, to net zero by around 2050.  To reach that goal, it said, CO2 emissions would have to start dropping "well before 2030" and be on a path to fall by about 45 percent by around 2030 (12 years away at that time).

Mid-century is actually the more significant target date in the report, but acting now is crucial to being able to meet that goal, said Duke University climate researcher Drew Shindell, a lead author on the mitigation chapter of the IPCC report.

"We need to get the world on a path to net zero CO2 emissions by mid-century," Shindell said.  "That's a huge transformation, so that if we don't make a good start on it during the 2020s, we won't be able to get there at a reasonable cost."

Read more at What Does '12 Years to Act on Climate Change' (Now 11 Years) Really Mean?

IPCC's Land Report Showed We're Entering an Era of Damage Control

The IPCC has published a new report on climate and land.  The report includes chapters on land-climate interactions (land use changes are accelerating global warming, which is causing more extreme weather), desertification (deserts are expanding), land degradation (declining quality of soil, for example), and food security.  The latter is a particularly critical topic, given our dependence on food and water supplies for survival.

Potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from changing diets by 2050, per the research cited in the IPCC report (Credit: Click to Enlarge.The report notes that humans struggle to efficiently manage our food supply. Between 25 and 30 percent of the food we produce worldwide is wasted.  This waste happens for different reasons in different regions – in developed countries, consumers throw out excess food, while in developing countries much of the waste is due to a lack of refrigeration as products go bad between producers and consumers.  And of course refrigeration requires energy, meaning that mitigating the latter problem will generate more greenhouse gas emissions.  The report estimates that food waste costs about $1 trillion per year and accounts for about 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from food systems.  Meanwhile, 2 billion humans are overweight or obese while nearly 1 billion are undernourished, highlighting the inefficiencies and inequities in our food distribution.

Overall, 23 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry, and other land use.  Much of this is due to emissions of the more potent greenhouse gases methane (from cattle and rice farming, for example) and nitrous oxide (from nitrogen-fertilized agricultural soils).  The figure is comparable to the transportation sector (approximately 15 percent of total human greenhouse gas emissions) and electricity and heat (approximately 30 percent).  The report notes that diets heavier in meat and particularly beef adversely impact both greenhouse gas emissions and health outcomes.

Read more at IPCC's Land Report Showed We're Entering an Era of Damage Control

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Tuesday 27

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

G7 Can’t Turn a Blind Eye to Ecocide in the Amazon

Leaders must ask themselves if Jair Bolsonaro’s destructive attitude to the forest and its peoples should be considered a crime.

The fires in the world’s largest rainforest have triggered a global outcry and are dominating the G70 meeting in Biarritz in southern France. (Photograph Credit: Victor Moriyama/Getty) Click to Enlarge.
When G7 leaders sit in judgment on Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro this weekend, the question they should ask themselves is whether the rape of the natural world should finally be treated as a crime.  The language of sexual violence will be familiar to the former army captain, who publicly admires the sadistic torturers of the dictatorship era and once said to a congresswoman, “I would never rape you because you are not worth it.”  Last month, after Pope Francis and European leaders expressed concern about the Amazon, Bolsonaro lashed back by claiming: “Brazil is a virgin that every foreign pervert desires.”

As a nationalist, the president sees the Amazon in terms of ownership and sovereignty.  As a chauvinist, he sees the region as a possession to be exploited and opened up, rather than cherished and nurtured.

Since taking power eight months ago, Bolsonaro has, layer by layer, stripped the rainforest of protections.  First, he weakened the environment ministry and put it in the hands of a minister convicted of environmental fraud.  Second, he undermined the agency responsible for monitoring the forest, Ibama.  Third, he alienated Norway and Germany, the main donors to forest-protection causes.  Fourth, he tried to hide what was happening by sacking the head of the space agency responsible for satellite data on destruction.  Fifth, he accused environmental charities of starting fires and working for foreign interests.  And sixth, he verbally attacked Amazon dwellers – the indigenous and Quilombola communities who depend on a healthy forest.

With these defences down, the president has encouraged outsiders from the mining, logging and farming industries to take advantage of economic opportunities.  The results have been brutal. Last month, deforestation surged by 278%.  This month is almost certain to be a record for August under the current monitoring system.  The wounds are impossible to cover up.  The Amazon’s fires are now burning on front pages, news broadcasts and social networks across the world.

Read more at G7 Can’t Turn a Blind Eye to Ecocide in the Amazon

Toon of the Week - Why?!

Toon of the Week - Why?!  Click to Enlarge.

Poster of the Week - We Need Climate Action Now. Denial Is Not an Option.

Poster of the Week - We Need Climate Action Now.  Denial Is Not an Option.  Click to Enlarge.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Saturday 24

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Way to Dump All the Good News About Wind Power on a Friday Afternoon, DOE

2018 Wind Technologies Market Report (Credit: screenshot via US DOE Wind power in the USA.) Click to Enlarge.
The US Department of Energy buried some good news about the US wind industry earlier this month, and now all of a sudden the floodgates are open.  On Friday afternoon the agency promoted three new annual reports recapping the state of US wind power in 2018, including utility scale onshore and offshore wind, and distributed wind.  Together, they track the rise of wind power — and the fall of coal.

Dumping All The Good News About US Wind Power
So what’s with the Friday news dump?  After all, releasing major news on a Friday afternoon is a classic PR strategy for burying bad news, and the three new reports are ripe with good news.  Well, unless you are someone who promised to save the US coal industry.

Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes dropped a hint in that direction in Friday’s press release announcing the three reports, stating that “this Administration has proven that we can pursue renewable energy advancements and deployment, particularly wind energy resources.”

In his next breath Menezes hammered home the point with this comment:  “U.S. offshore wind is poised to be a significant part of our comprehensive energy portfolio in the coming years.”

Read more at Way to Dump All the Good News About Wind Power on a Friday Afternoon, DOE

Study Shows Burning Fossil Fuels Is Killing Us — Are You OK with That?

An aerial view of the California Coast (Image Credit: Zach Shahan | Click to Enlarge.
Researchers at the University of Washington, Columbia University, and the University of Buffalo recently completed a study designed to determine the long term effects on human health of four atmospheric pollutants that result from burning fossil fuels — fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, black carbon, and ozone.  The results of their study have now been published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study spanned 18 years and involved more than 7,000 people.  It included a detailed examination of the air pollution encountered between 2000 and 2018 in six metropolitan regions across the U.S. — Chicago, Winston-Salem, N.C., Baltimore, Los Angeles, St. Paul, Minnesota, and New York.  The participants were drawn from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Air and Lung studies, according to a University of Washington blog post.

“To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study to assess the association between long-term exposure to air pollutants and progression of percent emphysema in a large, community-based, multi-ethnic cohort,” said first author Meng Wang, an assistant professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo who conducted the research as a postdoctoral researcher at UW.

“This is a big study with state-of-the-art analysis of more than 15,000 CT scans repeated on thousands of people over as long as 18 years.  These findings matter since ground-level ozone levels are rising, and the amount of emphysema on CT scans predicts hospitalization from and deaths due to chronic lung disease,” said Dr. R. Graham Barr, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University who led the MESA Lung study and is a senior author of the paper.

“As temperatures rise with climate change,” Barr explained, “ground-level ozone will continue to increase unless steps are taken to reduce this pollutant.  But it’s not clear what level of the air pollutants, if any, is safe for human health.”

Read more at Study Shows Burning Fossil Fuels Is Killing Us — Are You OK with That?

How Teen Greta Thunberg Shifted World's Gaze to Climate Change

“Instead of worrying about how that future might turn out, I’m going to try to change that future while I still can,” the teen told NBC News.

Greta Thunberg is the driving force behind a movement that has seen more than 2 million teens around the world take part in school strikes against climate change. (Credit: Eleanor Taylor / for NBC News) Click to Enlarge.
Staring through a swarm of photographers and television crews, self-described introvert Greta Thunberg took the stage at a Swiss university last week to pointedly reiterate a message that has captured the attention of leaders and like-minded young women around the globe:  The world must take drastic action now to avert ecological and civilizational collapse.

“We know that our future is at risk,” the small, soft-spoken 16-year-old Swede tells journalists at the start of a weeklong youth summit at the University of Lausanne.  “We would love to go back to school and continue with our everyday lives, but as crucial as this situation is, as serious as this situation is, we feel like we must do something about this now.”

Thunberg — whose central point is that humanity must immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions that have unrelentingly increased since the start of the industrial revolution, resulting in global warming — is the driving force behind a movement that has seen more than 2 million teens around the world take part in Fridays for Future school strikes against climate change.

On Wednesday she set off from Britain’s shores on a months long journey — she is sailing to avoid flying — that will take her to a U.N. summit on climate change in New York in September, and the COP25 conference in Santiago, Chile, in December.
While she has accumulated opponents, she’s also earned a long list of supporters from Pope Francis, to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

“We are, in a way, changing the political debate,” Thunberg said, “and how people see the climate and ecological emergency.”

For Thunberg, however, the debate will not be over until global greenhouse gas emissions actually decline.

“I can't be proud of something until that has been achieved,” she said.

Read more at How Teen Greta Thunberg Shifted World's Gaze to Climate Change

Merkel Calls for EU-Wide Climate Neutrality by 2050

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a joint news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague, Netherlands, August 22, 2019. (Photo Credit: Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Thursday for the European Union to support ambitious targets for the entire 28-nation bloc to become climate neutral.

The working lunch came as Germany is set to miss its own emissions goals for 2020 by a wide margin, even as Merkel’s government acknowledges that it has to further ramp up its ambition by next year as part of its commitment under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Merkel said Germany aims to become climate neutral by 2050.  While she acknowledged the challenge of winning support from all EU countries, she said “it would be very important” to make that the goal for the entire bloc.

Merkel said Germany, as it grapples with how to reduce emissions, could learn from Dutch transport infrastructure.  The Netherlands has an efficient public transport system, bicycle tracks throughout the country, and giant bike parking garages at major railway stations for commuters.  For drivers, there is a broad network of electric vehicle charging stations.

Germany needs “a very thorough expansion of infrastructure if we want people to shift on mobility,” Merkel said.

Read more at Merkel Calls for EU-Wide Climate Neutrality by 2050

Friday, August 23, 2019

Friday 23

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Voters Back Liability for Companies that Mislead About Climate Change: Poll

Support Level for Holding ... Liable for Misleading the Public on Climate Change (Credit: Data for Progress) Click to Enlarge.
A majority of registered voters support holding energy companies liable for funding misinformation on the climate crisis, according to a new poll.

Nearly 62% of voters said they’d support legal liability for energy companies or utilities “if it could be proven that they misled the public about the consequences of climate change” in a survey by the progressive pollster YouGov Blue.  Of that figure, more than 47% said they “strongly support” such a policy.

Read more at Voters Back Liability for Companies that Mislead About Climate Change: Poll

Bernie Sanders Takes Aim at Fossil Fuel Industry in $16T Plan

Bernie Sanders (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Hours after the most prominent climate activist among Democratic presidential hopefuls, Jay Inslee, quit the Democratic primary race, Bernie Sanders unveiled a US$16.3-trillion plan to tackle climate change and bring America to 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030.

The Green New Deal unveiled by Sanders on Thursday pledges direct investments of a “historic $16.3 trillion public investment toward these efforts” and takes aim at fossil fuel companies.

As president, Sanders vows to launch the decade of the Green New Deal, aimed at reaching 100 percent renewable energy and complete decarbonization by at least 2050.  Sanders pledges to end unemployment by “creating 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis.”

“Republicans who oppose our #GreenNewDeal should explain why they don't support creating 20 million jobs and averting climate catastrophe, yet will give billions in corporate welfare to fossil fuel companies,” Sanders tweeted.  

Read more at Bernie Sanders Takes Aim at Fossil Fuel Industry in $16T Plan

Poor and Rich Face Economic Loss as World Warms

Yet another study predicts economic loss as the world gets hotter.  And the richer nations will also feel the pain.

Canada is likely to be hard-hit if the world presses on with business as usual. (Image Credit: Michelle Spollen on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
By the close of the century, the United States could be more than 10% poorer, thanks to the economic loss that climate change will impose.

There is bad news too for Japan, India, and New Zealand, which will also be 10% worse off in a world that could be 3°C hotter than any temperatures experienced since humans began to build cities, civilizations and complex economies.

And the news is even worse for Canada, a northern and Arctic nation that could reasonably have expected some things to improve as the thermometer rose:  under a “business as usual” scenario in which nations go on burning fossil fuels at ever increasing rates, the Canadian economy could shrink by 13%.

A new study by the US National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, warns that overall the global economy will shrink by 7%, unless the world’s nations meet the target they set themselves at an historic meeting in Paris in 2015, when they agreed an ambition to keep global warming to no more than 2°C above the levels maintained until the Industrial Revolution.

Read more at Poor and Rich Face Economic Loss as World Warms

'100-year' Floods Will Happen Every 1 to 30 Years, According to New Flood Maps

Researchers at Princeton University calculated flood risks for 171 counties across four regions: New England (green), mid-Atlantic (orange), southeast Atlantic (blue), and Gulf of Mexico (red). They found that what used to be considered 100-year floods will occur far more often depending on the location. (Credit: Reza Marsooli et al) Click to Enlarge.
A 100-year flood is supposed to be just that: a flood that occurs once every 100 years, or a flood that has a one-percent chance of happening every year.

But Princeton researchers have developed new maps that predict coastal flooding for every county on the Eastern and Gulf Coasts and find 100-year floods could become annual occurrences in New England; and happen every one to 30 years along the southeast Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico shorelines.

"The historical 100-year floods may change to one-year floods in Northern coastal towns in the U.S.," said Ning Lin, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University.

In a new paper published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers combined storm surge, sea level rise, and the predicted increased occurrence and strength in tropical storms and hurricanes to create a map of flood hazard possibility along the U.S. East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.  Coastlines at northern latitudes, like those in New England, will face higher flood levels primarily because of sea level rise.  Those in more southern latitudes, especially along the Gulf of Mexico, will face higher flood levels because of both sea level rise and increasing storms into the late 21st century.

"For the Gulf of Mexico, we found the effect of storm change is compatible with or more significant than the effect of sea level rise for 40% of counties.  So, if we neglect the effects of storm climatology change, we would significantly underestimate the impact of climate change for these regions," said Lin.

Read more at '100-year' Floods Will Happen Every 1 to 30 Years, According to New Flood Maps

France's Macron Calls Amazon Fires an International Emergency

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that the fires raging in the Amazon rain forest are an international emergency and called for the situation to be discussed at the G7 summit.  “The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% of our plnet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency,” Macron wrote on Twitter.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that the fires raging in the Amazon rain forest are an international emergency and called for the situation to be discussed at the G7 summit.

“The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% of our planet's oxygen - is on fire.  It is an international crisis.  Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency,” Macron wrote on Twitter.

Read original at France's Macron Calls Amazon Fires an International Emergency

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Thursday 22

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Electric Vehicles Will Win Big in a Recession

Electric Vehicles (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The news on vehicle sales is indicative of the growing economic headwinds.  Data published by the China Association of Automotive Manufacturers showed auto production down 12.4% in the first half of the year in what is the world’s largest car market.  Chinese auto production in 2018 was down 4% to 27.8 million units, the first time since 1990 that the country’s car sales have contracted on an annual basis.

June sales for passenger cars were up, but this has been attributed to dealers offering big discounts to reduce inventories of vehicles that do not meet new exhaust emissions standards introduced from July in 17 Chinese cities and provinces.

In contrast, China’s New Energy Vehicles (NEV) fared far better.  NEV sales last year were up 79% at 1.1 million NEV passenger cars plus 60,000 light commercial vehicles.  According to data from EV-Volumes, this made up 4.2% of new sales in the light vehicle sector.  The first half of 2019 saw total sales of 633,000 NEVs and an average market share of 6.3%.

The depressed state of the conventional auto market, but sustained buoyancy in NEV sales means the latter’s market share is higher than it otherwise might have been.

NEV sales in China for the remainder of the year are expected to fall foul of much-reduced subsidies to manufacturers, particularly for models with smaller batteries and shorter ranges.  The subsidy reduction from July is also likely to have inflated first-half sales.

Nonetheless, taking the changes in support schemes into account, EV-Volumes forecasts growth of 55% over 2018 to this year for NEVs in China, representing a 6.7% share of the market.  The market for conventional passenger cars is likely to see a second year of contraction.

China is and remains the epicenter of NEV production and growth, particularly when the e-bus and the e-truck market is taken into account.  According to a recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), China’s e-bus fleet numbered 421,000 at the end of last year, about 98% of the world market.  The global market for this segment grew by 32% in 2018, according to BNEF, which forecasts that China’s municipal e-bus fleet will rise to 600,000 by 2025.

According to EV-Volumes, 2019 is likely to see 140,000 new heavy electric vehicle sales, predominantly in China, up from 120,000 in 2018.

European NEV growth at 34% last year was stunted by the introduction of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLPT), which required many EV models to undergo battery upgrades, leading to a lack of availability.

In contrast, US EV sales rose sharply, by 79%, largely as a result of increased availability of Tesla’s new Model 3.  The figures suggest that EV sales outside of China, far from suffering the downturn in the global car market, will rise quicker with increases in production capacity, supply-chain improvements and the roll-out of charging infrastructure.

Read more at Electric Vehicles Will Win Big in a Recession

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Tuesday 19

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

As Wildfires Get Worse, Insurers Pull Back from Riskiest Areas

A home destroyed by the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, Calif., in November. (Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Insurers are quietly reducing their exposure to fire-prone regions across the Western United States, putting new pressure on homeowners and raising concerns that climate change could eventually make insurance unaffordable in some areas.

Officials in California, Washington, Montana, and Colorado are getting more complaints from people whose insurance companies have refused to renew their coverage.  The complaints follow years of record-setting wildfires in both size and cost, a trend that scientists expect to continue as global warming accelerates.

“I think that we are not far away from a lot of weather-related events being too expensive for most people to purchase comprehensive coverage,” said Carolyn Kousky, executive director of the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania.  “What happens then is the big question.”

On Tuesday California’s Department of Insurance issued a report quantifying that pullback.  For the ZIP codes most affected by the wildfires in 2015 and 2017, the number of homeowners dropped by their insurance companies jumped 10 percent between 2017 and 2018.

In the 10 California counties with the most homes in high-risk areas, the number of homeowners’ policies written by major insurers, whose rate increases must be approved by state regulators, fell by 5 percent between 2015 and 2018, the department said.

Another way of measuring the growing reluctance of insurers is the increase in demand for the state’s FAIR plan, which is effectively prohibited from turning away customers but typically charges higher premiums as a result.  In those same 10 highest-risk counties, the number of homeowners getting coverage through that plan increased 177 percent while staying flat statewide.

Read more at As Wildfires Get Worse, Insurers Pull Back From Riskiest Areas

Cheap Renewables Will Price Out Oil on Roads

On the road to nowhere: Petrol and diesel fuel cannot survive much longer. (Image Credit: Mahkeo on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
The days of oil as a fuel for cars, whether petrol or diesel, are numbered − because the economies offered by wind and solar energy and other cheap renewables, combined with electric vehicles, are irresistible, a French bank says.

BNP Paribas Asset Management calculates that oil majors like Exxon, BP, and Shell will have to produce petrol from oil at $10 a barrel (the current price is $58) to compete with electricity on price, while for diesel, it says, oil can cost no more than $19 a barrel.

“The oil industry has never before in its history faced the kind of threat that renewable electricity in tandem with electric vehicles poses to its business model,” the bank says.  Electric vehicles (EVs) could easily replace 40% of the current market for crude oil.

The far lower cost of driving electric vehicles, plus the environmental benefits of cleaner air and the reduction in carbon emissions, will make it overwhelmingly attractive to governments to switch from fossil fuels to renewables for powering the world’s light vehicles.

Read more at Cheap Renewables Will Price Out Oil on Roads

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Extinction Rebellion

Chile to Account for Costs of Climate Change in Budget

Demonstrators take part in a protest against climate change in Santiago (Credit: © Reuters/Rodrigo Garrido) Click to Enlarge.
Chile will begin budgeting for the costs of fighting climate change,  Finance Minister Felipe Larraín announced on Tuesday, as receding glaciers and drought put a squeeze on water and natural resources in the world’s top copper producer.

The South American nation, which is due to host the COP25 global conference on climate change in December, said it would include a new line item for “climate expenditures” in its government budgets beginning in 2020.

“Currently, we don’t know how much we’re spending in the financing of climate action.  The lack of information makes it difficult to make good decisions,” Larraín told reporters.

Read more at Chile to Account for Costs of Climate Change in Budget

U.S. Fracking Boom Likely Culprit in Rapid Rise of Global Methane Emissions

Gas flaring at a natural gas production site in Balmorhea, Texas. (Credit: Ken Lund/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The boom in U.S. shale gas and oil production may have ignited a significant global spike in methane emissions blamed for accelerating the pace of the climate crisis, according to research.  Scientists at Cornell University have found that the “chemical fingerprints” of rising global methane levels point to shale oil and shale gas as the probable source.

Methane, levels of which have been increasing sharply since 2008, is a potent greenhouse gas that heats the atmosphere quicker than carbon dioxide.

Researchers at Cornell said the carbon composition of atmospheric methane, or the “weight” of carbon within each methane molecule, was changing too.

Robert Howarth, the author of the paper published in the journal Biogeosciences, said the proportion of methane with a “carbon signature” linked to traditional fossil fuels was falling relative to the rise of methane with a slightly different carbon make-up.

Read more at U.S. Fracking Boom Likely Culprit in Rapid Rise of Global Methane Emissions

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Low Solar Panel Prices Spark Surge in Adoption

Solar Panels (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Time is running out. If the global community has any chance of meeting the climate change caps set by the Paris Agreement, fossil fuels will have to be phased out and renewable energies implemented at a much, much faster rate.  Toward the end of 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an alarming report which found that in order to limit global warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the entire world would have to transition to 100 percent clean energy by the middle of the century.

This is a tall order by any metric, but it is made all the more difficult by the fact that many renewable energy sources are still prohibitively expensive and not nearly as efficient as traditional fossil fuels, with many clean energy production processes still in their early phases of development.  One source of renewable energy, however, has come a long way over the past few years, and could soon be implemented in greater numbers than ever before, with the potential to completely transform the clean energy landscape.

That resource is solar energy.  “Today, we are riding a tremendous wave of advancements in both solar panel efficiency and novel methods of expanding surface area coverage,” reports tech and science news site Singularity Hub.  Solar panels were extremely costly and inefficient to manufacture and install just a few years ago, but solar prices have been falling rapidly in recent years as solar tech advances, and now solar energy costs just $3 per watt on average and solar panels average 18 percent efficiency, a huge improvement from where solar power technology was just a few years ago. 

While this already bears well for the future of solar energy, it’s just the beginning.  Solar energy is set to explode.  The Singularity Hub article tellingly titled “The Age of Solar Energy Abundance Is Coming in Hot“ goes on to say that “While the efficiency of current run-of-the-mill solar panels still hovers around 16-18 percent, traditional silicon solar panels have only reached half of their theoretical efficiency potential.  And new materials science breakthroughs are now on track to double this theoretical constraint, promising cheap, efficient, and abundant solar energy.”

Read more at Low Solar Panel Prices Spark Surge in Adoption

Architectural History Offers Clues to Low-Carbon Relief from the Heat

As demand for air conditioning grows in the developing world, nature-based design could provide climate-friendly alternatives.

Hawa Mahal. (Photo credit: Annie Spratt) Click to Enlarge.
The Hawa Mahal, a striking five-story palace in Jaipur, India, dates back to 1799, long before the invention of air conditioning.  Built for use during the hot summer months, when local temperatures can climb well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it features dozens of enclosed balconies whose diminutive window openings direct a cooling breeze into the building’s interiors – hence the building’s translated name, “Palace of the Winds.”   The balconies also minimize the amount of surface area directly exposed to the sun, preventing heat from building up indoors.

The Hawa Mahal is one of countless examples of naturally cooled spaces found in traditional Indian architecture.  Throughout history, buildings in India, as around the world, evolved to provide comfortable environments by harnessing forces like sunlight and wind – a strategy now referred to as passive design.

The invention of “active” building systems (e.g., air conditioning, artificial lighting) fundamentally changed the way buildings and neighborhoods are constructed.  Instead of prioritizing appropriateness for the local climate, builders began to rely on active systems to keep occupants comfortable.  Because these systems run mainly on fossil fuels, building operations became a major source of emissions.

This transition has happened faster in some parts of the world than in others.  Over the past century, climate-controlled buildings became the norm in wealthy nations.  In other regions, they remain largely aspirational:  In India, for example, fewer than 10% of households have air conditioning.  But things are changing, as the fast-growing middle class increasingly demands home A/C.

Given India’s massive population, experts fear that widespread A/C adoption will cause a dramatic spike in greenhouse gas emissions.  “There’s an old saying that when Paris sneezes, France catches a cold,” said Anjali Jaiswal, the director of the India Climate and Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco.  “If [cooling] is not solved in a climate-friendly way in India, the rest of the world, in addition to India, will suffer the consequences.”

Read more at  Architectural History Offers Clues to Low-Carbon Relief from the Heat