Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Bill McKibben Fears Parts Of California Are Now Uninhabitable

As with so many things, Californians are going first where the rest of us will follow.

The San Francisco skyline is shrouded in smoke from wildfires in the north part of the state. (Photograph Credit: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Three years in a row feels like – well, it starts to feel like the new, and impossible, normal.  That’s what the local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, implied this morning when, in the middle of its account of the inferno, it included the following sentence:  the fires had “intensified fears that parts of California had become almost too dangerous to inhabit”.  Read that again: the local paper is on record stating that part of the state is now so risky that its citizens might have to leave.

On the one hand, this comes as no real surprise.  My most recent book, Falter, centered on the notion that the climate crisis was making large swaths of the world increasingly off-limits to humans.  Cities in Asia and the Middle East where the temperature now reaches the upper 120s – levels so high that the human body can’t really cool itself; island nations (and Florida beaches) where each high tide washes through the living room or the streets; Arctic villages relocating because, with sea ice vanished, the ocean erodes the shore.

But California?  California was always the world’s idea of paradise (until perhaps the city of that name burned last summer).  Hollywood shaped our fantasies of the last century, and many of its movies were set in the Golden state.  It’s where the Okies trudged when their climate turned vicious during the Dust Bowl years – “pastures of plenty”, Woody Guthrie called the green agricultural valleys.  John Muir invented our grammar and rhetoric of wildness in the high Sierra (and modern environmentalism was born with the club he founded).

Read more at Bill McKibben Fears Parts Of California Are Now Uninhabitable

Demand for SUVs a Major Contributor to the Increase in Global CO2 Emissions

(Credit: Justin S. Campbell/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Growing demand for SUVs was the second largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions from 2010 to 2018, an analysis has found.  In that period, SUVs doubled their global market share from 17 percent to 39 percent and their annual emissions rose to more than 700 megatons of CO2, more than the yearly total emissions of the UK and the Netherlands combined.

No energy sector except power drove a larger increase in carbon emissions, putting SUVs ahead of heavy industry (including iron, steel, cement and aluminum), aviation, and shipping.  “We were quite surprised by this result ourselves,” said Laura Cozzi, the chief energy modeler of the International Energy Agency, which produced the report.

The recent dramatic shift towards heavier SUVs has offset both efficiency improvements in smaller cars and carbon savings from electric vehicles.  As the global fleet of SUVs has grown, emissions from the vehicles have increased more than four-fold in eight years.  If SUV drivers were a nation, they would rank seventh in the world for carbon emissions.

“An SUV is bigger, it’s heavier, the aerodynamics are poor, so as a result you get more CO2,” said Florent Grelier from the campaign group Transport & Environment.

Read more at Demand for SUVs a Major Contributor to the Increase in Global CO2 Emissions

15 Canadian Kids Sue Their Government for Failing to Address Climate Change

The young plaintiffs are already dealing with effects of wildfires, flooding, and thawing permafrost. They say the government is contributing to the climate crisis.

"We want our voices to be heard, and we want our climate to be protected for us in the future,” said Sierra Robinson, 17, one of the plaintiffs in the children's climate lawsuit filed Oct. 25, 2019, in Canada. (Credit: Robin Loznak) Click to Enlarge.
Fifteen children and teenagers from across Canada sued their government on Friday for supporting fossil fuels that drive climate change, which they say is jeopardizing their rights as Canadian citizens.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Vancouver, is the latest from young climate advocates around the globe who are increasingly leading public protests and filing legal challenges to make their concerns about their future in a warming world heard.

"The federal government is knowingly contributing to the climate crisis by continuing to support and promote fossil fuels and through that they are violating our charter rights," said Sierra Robinson, 17, a youth climate activist and plaintiff in the case from Vancouver Island, Canada.  

"Our natural resources are at risk because of climate change, and as a young person my rights are being violated disproportionately compared to older generations," she said.  "Since we can't vote, we have to seek protection from the courts."

Read more at 15 Canadian Kids Sue Their Government for Failing to Address Climate Change

Nigerian Damilola Ogunbiyi Gets Top UN Sustainable Energy Job

The first woman to lead the charge for electrification in rural Nigeria said access to power would ‘unlock’ the sustainable development goals.

Damilola Ogunbiyi, managing director of the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency, has been appointed as a UN special representative for sustainable energy and CEO of SEforAll. (Photo Credit: Rural Electrification Agency) Click to Enlarge.
Damilola Ogunbiyi, the first woman head of the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency, has been appointed to lead the UN’s efforts to bring clean energy to the world’s poorest.

Ogunbiyi is due to take on her new role as UN special representative for sustainable energy and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll) in early next year.

She will be building on the work of Rachel Kyte, who led SEforAll for nearly four years before becoming the first female dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, US, at the end of September.

Ogunbiyi will join the organisation in the critical period to 2030 – the deadline to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and bridge the energy demand gap with affordable, reliable and clean energy.

The task ahead is immense, especially in the region Ogunbiyi has spent her life and career. Across Africa, nearly 600 million people are estimated to lack access to electricity.

SEforAll’s latest tracking report showed the world was off the pace to meet the 2030 goal and roll out clean electricity and cooking everywhere.

As rich countries slow walk green finance, Putin offers Africa an alternative

Last week, another SEforAll report found that current investments levels were insufficient to meet the SDG goal with less than 1% of the estimated finance required to ensure clean cooking facilities for all by 2030.

Sub-Sharan Africa is “at risk of getting left further behind” in the energy transition, the report warned, as population growth outstripped the increase of energy access, “putting the continent’s status as an upcoming powerhouse on hold”.

Ogunbiyi successfully negotiated the Nigerian Electrification Project, enabling the construction of solar mini-grids and home systems across Nigeria.

She served as the general manager of the Lagos State Electricity Board, responsible for energy development in the Lagos state of southwestern Nigeria.  Lagos is Africa’s most populated city.

She previously consulted the UK’s department for international development and is also one of the commissioners for the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty.

Ogunbiyi said she was proud to join SEforAll and work to show “a clean energy transition is possible”.

“Access to energy is the key that will help unlock the Sustainable Development Goals,” she said “With 2030 growing ever closer, smart use of data, new partnerships, and scaled involvement of the private sector will be paramount for SEforAll’s work.”

Kyte said she was “delighted to hand the baton” to Ogunbiyi.

“There is no one better to shine a light on the critical path to success and the transformative effect of access to reliable, affordable and clean energy,” she tweeted.

Read more at Nigerian Damilola Ogunbiyi Gets Top UN Sustainable Energy Job

Saudi Arabia Plans to Launch Carbon Trading Scheme

Saudi Energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman speaks during a news conference in Jeddah (Credit: © Reuters/Waleed ali file photo) Click to Enlarge.
Saudi Arabia plans to launch a carbon trading scheme as the G20 member aims to diversify its energy supplies and reduce carbon emissions, the energy minister of the world’s top oil producer said on Wednesday.

Carbon trading schemes are emerging all over the world as governments try to meet targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the fight against global warming.

The impact of climate change has shot up the list of Saudi Arabia’s priorities as the kingdom gets ready to host the Group of 20 (G20) leading economies in 2020 and as state oil company Aramco plans to go public amid a rising tide of environmental activism and a shift away from fossil fuels.

“We will come soon with a suggestion on carbon trading that would be a fair carbon trading system ... And I think it will work,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh.

“Carbon is a resource.  It is not something that we should just throw and just emit it.  Actually, capturing it makes us make money out of it.”

He said the kingdom currently operates the largest carbon capture and utilization plant in the world, turning half a million tons of CO2 annually into products such as fertilizers and methanol.

“We also operate one of the regions most advanced CO2 enhanced oil recovery plants that captures and stores 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually,” he said, adding Riyadh planned to deploy more carbon capture, utilization and storage infrastructure around the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s energy price reforms and efficiency program will help reduce local demand by as much as two million barrels per day of oil equivalent by 2030 compared with previous projections, Prince Abdulaziz said.

Read more at Saudi Arabia Plans to Launch Carbon Trading Scheme

Friday, October 25, 2019

Massachusetts Sues Exxon Over Climate Change, Accusing the Oil Giant of Fraud

Exxon is facing allegations of deceptive advertising, misleading investors and actions that threaten the world economy.  It's already on trial in New York.

After a four-year investigation, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed suit against Exxon on Oct. 24, 2019, accusing the oil giant of misleading investors with its disclosures and the public through its advertising. (Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Oil giant ExxonMobil, already fighting a climate-related investor fraud case in New York, has been hit with a second lawsuit:  The Massachusetts Attorney General is accusing the company of defrauding investors and threatening the world economy.

This newest legal blow landed Thursday in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston in a complaint alleging Exxon repeatedly violated the state's consumer and investor protection law and related regulations. 

The lawsuit accuses Exxon of a broad sweep of misconduct that includes using deceptive advertising to mislead consumers in the state about the central role its fossil fuel products play in causing climate change, and intentionally misleading Massachusetts investors about material climate-driven risks to its business.

Beyond the fraud allegations, Attorney General Maura Healey also upbraids Exxon in the lawsuit for an on-going "green washing" marketing campaign that she says falsely touts the company as a leader in clean energy research and climate action.

Read more at Massachusetts Sues Exxon Over Climate Change, Accusing the Oil Giant of Fraud

UN Scientists Say There Is a Way to Delay Climate Change for 20 Years for Pocket Change

The Desert (Image credit: Stefan Botha via YouTube) Click to Enlarge.
$300 billion is pocket change?  It is if you think on a global scale.  It’s what the governments of the world spend on the military defense every 2 months.  Barron J. Orr, lead scientist for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, says that paltry sum of money would be enough to delay the worst effects of an overheating planet for up to 20 years — time that could be used to find more permanent solutions to global heating so we and our heirs can continue to enjoy living on Earth.

“We have lost the biological function of soils.  We have got to reverse that,” Orr tells Bloomberg News.  “If we do it, we are turning the land into the big part of the solution for climate change.” Rene Castro Salazar, an assistant director general at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, tells Time that almost half of the 5 billion acres of land around the world that have been degraded by misuse, overgrazing, deforestation, and other human factors could be restored at a cost of $300 billion.  At least a third of the world’s land has been degraded to some extent, directly affecting the lives of 2 billion people, says Eduardo Mansur, director of the land and water division at the FAO.

Assuming that happened, the restored soil could capture enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to keep average global temperatures from spiraling out of control.  It’s not a permanent cure — more like a surgical dressing that protects the body and gives a wound time to heal.

Read more at UN Scientists Say There Is a Way to Delay Climate Change for 20 Years for Pocket Change

Friday 25

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

The Development of Global Carbon Taxes: Monthly Update

State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2019 (Image credit: State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2019, World Bank) Click to Enlarge.
According to a yearly in-depth report from the World Bank in June 2019, 57 countries have committed to implementing or scheduling carbon pricing initiatives, including a carbon tax.  So far, 46 national and 28 subnational jurisdictions have adopted carbon pricing to help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and keep in line with their 2030 objectives and the Paris Agreement.  And since last year’s report, 11 more countries have committed to scheduling carbon pricing for implementation.

“This consists of 28 emission trading systems (ETSs) in regional, national and subnational jurisdictions, and 29 carbon taxes, primarily applied on a national level. In total, these carbon pricing initiatives cover 11 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e), or about 20 percent of global GHG emissions, similar as compared to last year.”

The trend towards applying a carbon tax in order to help the move toward renewable energy has grown in popularity in the past decade.  Starting in 1990, Finland was the first country to introduce a carbon tax, with it currently resting at €62/tCO2e (for transport fuels).  Its Scandinavian neighbors followed suit in 1991 and 1992.  However it wasn’t until the 2000s that more countries began to view carbon pricing as a viable option in their campaigns for reduced GHG emissions.

While many of the new initiatives are at a subnational level, predominantly in the Americas, some new taxes have been introduced at a national level.

Read more at The Development of Global Carbon Taxes:  Monthly Update

South Dakota Agrees to Back Off Harsh New Protest Law, ‘Riot-Boosting’ Penalties

South Dakota officials on Thursday agreed to walk back parts of the state's new anti-protest laws that opponents say were meant to target Native American and environmental advocates who speak out against the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline.

Gov. Kristi Noem and state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg agreed in a settlement with Native American and environmental advocates that the state would never enforce portions of the recently passed laws that criminalize "riot boosting"—which it applied, not just to protesters, but to supporters who encourage but never take part in acts of "force or violence" themselves.

The settlement, which makes permanent a temporary ruling issued by a federal judge in September, has immediate implications for opponents of the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota and could challenge the validity of similar laws targeting pipeline and environmental protestors in other states.

Read more at South Dakota Agrees to Back Off Harsh New Protest Law, ‘Riot-Boosting’ Penalties

Google Spends Millions on Climate Denial

Google has devoured petabytes of data, knows where everyone is all the time, who they talk to, and what they spend their money on.  It dominates advertising and is raking in profits at a record pace.  And now we find out the company that once wanted to do only good is a major contributor to organizations like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has aggressively pursued the rollback of Obama-era environmental protections and helped convince Donald Trump to abandon the Paris Agreement.

And who is behind the CEI?  DeSmogBlog has the details.  “The Competitive Enterprise Institute was founded in 1984 and describes itself as ‘a non-profit public policy organization dedicated to advancing the principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty.’”  Do those words sound familiar to you?  They should.  They are the guiding principles of Charles Koch, who has profited handsomely from government regulation while steadfastly campaigning — in secret — to destroy all government regulations.

It is headed by Myron Ebell, notorious for his vituperative attacks on anyone who dares suggest an overheating planet is the result of human activity.  Called “one of America’s most prominent climate-change skeptics” by the Financial Times, he served as the head of the alleged president’s transition team in charge of selecting people to run the EPA.  America can thank Ebell for the loathsome Scott Pruitt and his equally loathsome successor, Andrew Wheeler.

Read more at Google Spends Millions on Climate Denial

3 Banks Funding Fossil Fuels the Most Are Tesla [TSLA] Bear

Tesla-analysts-TSLA-price-target-(Credit: JPMorgan-Chase) Click to Enlarge.
Thanks to some work by Rainforest Action Network and The Guardian, as well as a post from a member of a Tesla forum, I recently wrote an article highlighting that the #1 fossil fuel development financier happens to also be an extreme Tesla [TSLA] bear.

A certain tweeter looked a little deeper than that and noted in a tweet tagging me that it’s not just the #1 fossil fuel financier that has analysts who are very critical of Tesla and pessimistic about its future — it’s the top 3.  Each of the 3 financial firms that lay out the most money for fossil fuel developers have a relatively low Tesla [TSLA] price target.

Directly behind JPMorgan Chase, which I previously noted provided the most money (by far) for fossil fuel development, there are Citi and Bank of America.

Read more at 3 Banks Funding Fossil Fuels the Most Are Tesla [TSLA] Bear

Former Exxon Scientists Tell Congress of Oil Giant's Climate Research Before Exxon Turned to Denial

Exxon’s research warned of the risks of climate change from human-cause greenhouse gas emissions 40 years ago.  Then came the ‘sea change’ at the energy company.

In the late 1970s and early `80s, Ed Garvey (left) and other scientists, including Richard Werthamer (right), conducted research aboard an Exxon supertanker into the risks posed by carbon dioxide emissions. Garvey testified before a congressional committee on Oct. 23, 2019, about that research and Exxon's shift to denial. (Credit: Richard Werthamer) Click to Enlarge.
Telling their story before a Congressional committee for the first time, two former ExxonMobil scientists on Wednesday detailed how the oil giant turned its back on the research they did for the company 40 years ago on the looming threat of climate change.

They gave their testimony in Washington, D.C., just as Exxon went on trial in New York on allegations that it misled investors about climate change risks, underscoring how political and legal risks have dovetailed for a corporate giant that for years tried to sow doubt about the risks of carbon emissions.

Geochemist Ed Garvey described how Exxon shut down the carbon dioxide research program he worked on for the company from 1978 to 1983.

After the collapse of world oil prices in 1982, Garvey said, "they began to sell off things like lithium battery research and other divisions of Exxon research as they retrenched and focused solely on oil."  One of the programs that was jettisoned was his project to monitor carbon dioxide concentrations in the air and ocean surface from a dedicated station aboard one of the company's supertankers.

"There was really a sea change ... where they had gone from this very broad-based, very future-looking energy company to becoming an oil company," Garvey told the hearing, held by the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

After deepening the company's understanding of an environmental problem it suspected could harm its business, Exxon put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming.

Read more at Former Exxon Scientists Tell Congress of Oil Giant's Climate Research Before Exxon Turned to Denial

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Thursday 24

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

Justin Trudeau’s Narrow Victory Lays Path for Net Zero Carbon Canada

After losing majority, Liberals may seek support of progressive parties, opening door for Canada to leap ahead. But some provinces look set to fight back.

Despite losing the popular vote and losing his majority, Justin Trudeau was re-elected Canada's prime minister on Monday with a minority government. (Photo Credit: lex Guibord/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Justin Trudeau scraped a second term in office on Monday, with likely support from progressive parties meaning Canada may set a carbon neutral goal for 2050.

Despite losing the popular vote and its majority, prime minister Trudeau’s Liberal party came out on top in Monday’s election, winning 157 electoral districts but falling short of the 170 seats required to form a majority government.

Hit by racism and corruption scandals, Trudeau put climate policy at the heart of his re-election campaign, pledging to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and establishing legally-binding five-year targets.  He yet gave little details about how his administration would achieve the target.

He defeated Conservative challenger Andrew Scheer, who had pledged to dismantle the country’s climate policies and scrap its carbon tax.  Despite winning 34.4% of the vote, the largest share of the ballots, the Conservatives only secured 121 seats, failing to convince voters beyond the party’s strongholds.

Addressing his supporters on election night, Trudeau said he was returning to Ottawa with “a clear mandate”.  “Canadians have voted in favor of a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change,” he said.

Read more at Justin Trudeau’s Narrow Victory Lays Path for Net Zero Carbon Canada

A Small Electric Plane Demonstrates Promise, Obstacles of Climate-Friendly Air Travel

The four-seat eFlyer - with a maximum fly time of four hours - could take to the skies by 2021.

(Photo Credit:  Bye Aerospace.) Click to Enlarge.
When the pilot guides the electric airplane from its hangar, there is only a light whirring of propellers instead of the roar of an engine.  And it leaves no exhaust in its wake as it takes off from a small air strip south of Denver.  The small plane, the eFlyer, is the first all-electric plane to seek FAA certification and its builders hope it will revolutionize the aviation industry as the first commercial electric airplane.

“Electric motors are not new,” said George Bye, President of Bye Aerospace and the airplane’s creator.  “But the application to airplanes is remarkable, and until recently most people thought it was impossible.”

Bye, who started working to develop the plane 12 years ago, said it took a transformation in battery and engine technology to make the eFlyer possible.  While cars have long been able to carry heavy batteries and engines, airplanes must be aerodynamic and light.  Bye completed his design once batteries and electric engines became small enough.  The eFlyer is the first all-electric airplane to enter an FAA certification program, and the first eFlyers could take to the skies as early as 2021.

Training pilots, draining carbon
Bye initially designed the electric plane after learning of a growing commercial airline pilot shortage.  He thought the eFlyer could cut down on expensive fuel costs for flight school training.  But in addition to breaking down barriers to entry for new pilots, electric planes could one day make the aviation industry much friendlier to the environment.

Electric airplanes ‘not only possible, but it’s revolutionary.’ – Bye Aerospace creator

Personal cars drive the conversation about transportation’s impact on climate change, but some estimate that an airplane flight could be 50 times worse for the climate than a car driven the same distance.  Airplanes, like cars, release carbon dioxide, but each flight also releases nitrogen oxides, water vapor, and particulates that can contribute to global warming.  When released at high altitude these other emissions usually amount to more than half of a plane trip’s contribution to climate change.

Despite the environmental impacts of aviation, the industry has been largely left out of the conversation about electric vehicles, primarily because of technological limitations.  The FAA would not even consider electric airplanes for airworthiness until 2017.  The eFlyer, though only a small plane for flight training, could start to change that conversation.

“We are showing that this is not only possible, but it’s revolutionary,” said Bye.

Read more at  A Small Electric Plane Demonstrates Promise, Obstacles of Climate-Friendly Air Travel

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Antarctic Ice Cliffs May Not Contribute to Sea-Level Rise as Much as Predicted

The Getz Ice Shelf in West Antarctica.
Study finds even the tallest ice cliffs should support their own weight rather than collapsing catastrophically

.Antarctica’s ice sheet spans close to twice the area of the contiguous United States, and its land boundary is buttressed by massive, floating ice shelves extending hundreds of miles out over the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean.
When these ice shelves collapse into the ocean, they expose towering cliffs of ice along Antarctica’s edge.

Scientists have assumed that ice cliffs taller than 90 meters (about the height of the Statue of Liberty) would rapidly collapse under their own weight, contributing to more than 6 feet of sea-level rise by the end of the century — enough to completely flood Boston and other coastal cities.  But now MIT researchers have found that this particular prediction may be overestimated.

In a paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters, the team reports that in order for a 90-meter ice cliff to collapse entirely, the ice shelves supporting the cliff would have to break apart  extremely quickly, within a matter of hours — a rate of ice loss that has not been observed in the modern record.

“Ice shelves are about a kilometer thick, and some are the size of Texas,” says MIT graduate student Fiona Clerc.  “To get into catastrophic failures of really tall ice cliffs, you would have to remove these ice shelves within hours, which seems unlikely no matter what the climate-change scenario.”

If a supporting ice shelf were to melt away over a longer period of days or weeks, rather than hours, the researchers found that the remaining ice cliff wouldn’t suddenly crack and collapse under its own weight, but instead would slowly flow out, like a mountain of cold honey that’s been released from a dam.

“The current worst-case scenario of sea-level rise from Antarctica is based on the idea that cliffs higher than 90 meters would fail catastrophically,” Brent Minchew, assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “We’re saying that scenario, based on cliff failure, is probably not going to play out. That’s something of a silver lining.  That said, we have to be careful about breathing a sigh of relief.  There are plenty of other ways to get rapid sea-level rise.” 

Read more at Antarctic Ice Cliffs May Not Contribute to Sea-Level Rise as Much as Predicted

Breaking!  Tesla Model Y Production to Start ~Q1 2020 (Unofficial Leak)

Tesla-Model-Y-White (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
This information is going to cause some controversy, because everything we knew, or thought we knew, about Tesla’s Model Y timeline is about to change.  Originally, the Model Y was supposed to start shipping in “late 2020.”  Currently, Tesla’s website says new orders will ship in Q1 2021.  However, according to an anonymous source with a proven and reliable track record, Tesla is about to accelerate its plans and start production sometime around Q1 2020 at its Fremont factory.  (We’ve also received the same information independently through a second-hand source.)

The Model Y is expected to launch with the Long Range all-wheel drive (AWD) trim, according to this source, and Tesla will release the Standard Range Plus (SR+) version once production has been ramped up and the Model Y SR+ has a large enough gross margin.  That is how Tesla has done it previously.

Tesla has learned a lot since it started manufacturing the Model 3, and it’s possible that the ramp up will be much quicker than with the Model 3, but we don’t have a firm estimate of when the SR+ would start rolling off the line.

One other bit of important speculation here is that GF1 is still supply constrained.  In that case, Tesla would want to focus customers as much as possible on the Model Y Performance and Long Range variants to ensure overall profitability.  (Just as a quick side note, for any critic reading this article, this doesn’t mean that Tesla is unprofitable — it simply means the company is being logical and responsible in order to maximize profitability while expanding its lineup.)

Another fun little tidbit of technical information we have been told is that the Model Y will indeed use the new revolutionary flex-cable circuitry that reduces the length of wires needed throughout the car and also gives every component a redundant connection to the battery and the computer.  This makes it possible for robots to install more of the “guts and veins” of the car and cut down on the manual labor involved in installing cables.  As Elon Musk has said multiple times, robots suck at placing normal cables into the vehicle. 

Many Model Y components will be similar to those in the Model 3, but not identical, including the battery packs.

Read more at Breaking!  Tesla Model Y Production to Start ~Q1 2020 (Unofficial Leak)

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Bank Regulators Present a Dire Warning of Financial Risks From Climate Change

Home values could fall significantly.

Banks could stop lending to flood-prone communities.

Towns could lose the tax money they need to build sea walls and other protections.

These are a few of the warnings published on Thursday by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco regarding the financial risks of climate change.  The collection of 18 papers by outside experts amounts to one of the most specific and dire accountings of the dangers posed to businesses and communities in the United States — a threat so significant that the nation’s central bank seems increasingly compelled to address it.

The Federal Reserve has been slow to talk about climate risks compared with central banks in other countries.  That could be partly because the topic is more politically polarized in the United States than many other places, so talking about it exposes the Fed — which is meant to be politically independent — to accusations that it is straying into partisan territory.  Already, the central bank is a frequent target of President Trump, who has criticized its interest-rate decisions for hindering economic growth.

Yet the Fed has recently started speaking up on global warming and the dangers it poses to the financial system.

Read more at Bank Regulators Present a Dire Warning of Financial Risks From Climate Change

Scientists Find Way to Fully Recycle Plastics Without Losing Quality

Discarded plastic (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
A team of Swedish scientists have found a new way to break down plastic so that it can be recycled into material the same quality as the original — a process they say could help shift the focus of the plastics industry to recycling and drastically reduce the amount of pollution that ends up in the world’s oceans.

The technique involves heating discarded plastic to around 850 degrees Celsius until it turns into a gas mixture.  That mixture “can then be recycled at the molecular level to become new plastic material of virgin quality,” Henrik Thunman, an environmental scientist at Chalmers University of Technology who led the new research, said in a statement.  “Circular use would help give used plastics a true value, and thus an economic impetus for collecting it anywhere on earth.”

Of the 350 million tons of plastic waste generated in 2015, 60 percent was sent to landfills and nearly 25 percent was incinerated for energy production or volume reduction.  Just 14 percent was collected to be recycled and remade into new material.  Of that, 8 percent was made into plastic of lower quality and just 2 percent was recycled into material of similar quality as the original.  The rest was lost in the recycling process.

“We should not forget that plastic is a fantastic material,” Thunman said.  “It gives us products that we could otherwise only dream of.  The problem is that it is manufactured at such low cost, that it has been cheaper to produce new plastics from oil and fossil gas than from reusing plastic waste.”

Thunman and his colleagues argue their new process for breaking down plastic enables “real circularity.” Their findings were published recently in the journal Sustainable Materials and Technologies.

Read more at Scientists Find Way to Fully Recycle Plastics Without Losing Quality

New Study Pinpoints the Places Most at Risk on a Warming Planet

A bumblebee lands on the Flowers of a Phacelia Plant (Credit: Jens Büttner / Picture Alliance via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
As many as five billion people will face hunger and a lack of clean water by 2050 as the warming climate disrupts pollination, freshwater, and coastal habitats, according to new research published last week in Science.  People living in South Asia and Africa will bear the worst of it.

Climate activists have been telling us for a while now that global warming isn’t just about the polar bears, so it’s hardly breaking news that humans are going to suffer because nature is suffering.  But what is new about this model is the degree of geographic specificity.  It pinpoints the places where projected environmental losses overlap with human populations who depend on those resources and maps them with a nifty interactive viewer.

This model identifies not just the general ways climate change harms the environment and how people will feel those changes, but also where these changes will likely occur, and how significant they’ll be.  

It’s an unprecedented degree of detail for a global biodiversity model.

Read more at New Study Pinpoints the Places Most at Risk on a Warming Planet

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thursday 17

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

Why Keeping Mature Forests Intact Is Key to the Climate Fight

Preserving mature forests can play a vital role in removing CO2 from the atmosphere, says policy scientist William Moomaw.  In an e360 interview, he talks about the importance of existing forests and why the push to cut them for fuel to generate electricity is misguided.

William Moomaw has had a distinguished career as a physical chemist and environmental scientist, helping found the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School and serving as lead author on five reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  In recent years, Moomaw has turned his attention to working on natural solutions to climate change and has become a leading proponent of what he calls “proforestation” — leaving older and middle-aged forests intact because of their superior carbon-sequestration abilities.

While Moomaw lauds intensifying efforts to plant billions of young trees, he says that preserving existing mature forests will have an even more profound effect on slowing global warming in the coming decades, since immature trees sequester far less CO2 than older ones.  In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Moomaw explains the benefits of proforestation, discusses the policy changes that would lead to the preservation of existing forests, and sharply criticizes the recent trend of converting forests in the Southeastern U.S. to wood pellets that can be burned to produce electricity in Europe and elsewhere.

“The most effective thing that we can do is to allow trees that are already planted, that are already growing, to continue growing to reach their full ecological potential, to store carbon, and develop a forest that has its full complement of environmental services,” said Moomaw.  “Cutting trees to burn them is not a way to get there.”

Read more at Why Keeping Mature Forests Intact Is Key to the Climate Fight

Extreme Heatwaves Pose Spreading Treat

Rising temperatures mean that heatwaves will become hotter, more frequent, last longer, and will cover much wider areas.

Air conditioners could put a massive strain on the electricity grid during more intense heatwaves. (Image Credit: Jan Tik via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Scientists in the US have added a new dimension to the growing hazard of extreme heat.  As global average temperatures rise, so do the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves.

And that’s not the only factor to worry about.  By mid-century, the area straddled by those bands of extreme heat could increase by 50% – if nations attempt seriously to contain climate change.

But if humans carry on burning fossil fuels in ever-greater quantities and felling more and more reaches of tropical forests, the most dangerous and extreme heatwaves in future could cover areas 80% bigger than at present.

“As the physical size of these regions increases, more people will be exposed to heat stress,” warns Bradfield Lyon, associate research professor in the Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate at the University of Maine, US.

Read more at Extreme Heatwaves Pose Spreading Treat
Flaring (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
When leaders from Exxon Mobil and BP gathered last month with other fossil-fuel executives to declare they were serious about climate change, they cited progress in curbing an energy-wasting practice called flaring — the intentional burning of natural gas as companies drill faster than pipelines can move the energy away.

But in recent years, some of these same companies have significantly increased their flaring, as well as the venting of natural gas and other potent greenhouse gases directly into the atmosphere, according to data from the three largest shale-oil fields in the United States.

The practice has consequence for climate change because natural gas is a potent contributor to global warming.  It also wastes vast amounts of energy:  Last year in Texas, venting and flaring in the Permian Basin oil field alone consumed more natural gas than states like Arizona and South Carolina use in a year.

Exxon’s venting and flaring has surged since 2017 to record highs, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of gas produced, the numbers show. Exxon flared or vented 70 percent more gas in 2018 than it did the previous year, according to the data, bringing an end to several years of improvements.

What on Earth Is Going On?
Flaring and venting are legal under state laws, and oil companies acknowledge the practices are wasteful.  Typically, venting or flaring occur because there aren’t pipelines close enough to a well to capture and transport the gas, or because gas prices are so low that it’s cheaper to discard the gas than to try to sell it.  Venting can also occur during equipment breakdowns.

Since 2011, the period for which reliable numbers are available, Exxon has flared or vented more gas overall than any other operator in the three oil fields, which include the Eagle Ford and Permian basins in the Southwest, and the Bakken straddling the Canadian border.  Companies often treat natural gas as a byproduct when drilling for oil, which is far more lucrative.

The data also shows that BP this year acquired some of the most polluting sites in the Permian and then allowed flaring and venting to increase.  BP burned off 17 percent of the gas it produced in the Permian between April and June of this year (the first full quarter after the acquisition) making it the worst performer in percentage terms among the top 50 producers.  In the year-earlier quarter, BP had burned only 10 percent.

When asked about its practices, Exxon Mobil said it was committed to a 25 percent reduction in flaring globally by 2020, compared to 2016 levels, to address environmental concerns.

BP said it was investing in upgrades at its Permian wells that would eliminate much of its flaring.  The company also said it was not putting new wells in the area unless they had access to a gas pipeline, reducing the need to burn off or vent excess natural gas.

The analysis provides one of the clearest pictures to date of the companies behind the vast emissions of natural gas that have resulted from America’s shale oil boom, fueled by the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to unlock fossil fuels from shale rock.

Last year, operators across the three basins together flared or vented a record 320 million cubic feet of gas, more than 40 percent above levels seen just five years ago.  The pace for the first two quarters of 2019 has been even higher.

Rystad Energy, an energy analytics company that compiles industry data from state-level corporate disclosures, provided the venting and flaring data to The New York Times, which performed an independent analysis.  Separately, an organization affiliated with Greenpeace, Unearthed, also did its own initial analysis of a similar set of data.

Read more at Flaring (Credit: Click to Enlarge.

Fast Track or Slo-Mo?  Public Support and Temporal Preferences for Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Cars in the United States

Ice Cars (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Policies to phase out fossil fuel cars are key to averting dangerous and irreversible changes to the earth’s climate.  Given the potential impacts of such policies on every-day routines and behaviors, the factors that might increase or decrease their public acceptance require investigation.  Here we study the role of specific policy design features in shaping Americans’ preferences for policy proposals to phase out fossil fuel cars.  In light of the urgency of action against climate change, we are specifically interested in citizens’ preferences with respect to the timing of phase-out policies.  Based on a demographically representative sample of 1,520 American residents rating 24,320 hypothetical policy scenarios in a conjoint experiment, we find that Americans prefer phase-out policies to be implemented no later than 2030.  Policy features other than timing are also important: higher policy costs significantly reduce public support; subsidies for alternative technologies are preferred over taxes and bans; and policy co-benefits in terms of pollution reduction increase public support only when they are substantial. The study also investigates the role of individual characteristics in shaping policy preferences, finding that perceived psychological distance of climate change and party identification influence policy preferences.  The results of this study have important implications for the political feasibility of rapid decarbonization initiatives like the ‘Green New Deal’ that are now being discussed in the US and beyond.  Among these is the insight that smart sequencing of policies (early implementation of subsidies for low-emission technologies, followed by tax increases and/or bans) might help ensure majority support for a fossil fuel car phase-out.

Read more at Fast Track or Slo -Mo?  Public Support and Temporal Preferences for Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Cars in the United States

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Hurricanes Wreak Greater Havoc as Temperatures Soar

Devastation caused by the most powerful hurricanes has increased by up to twentyfold, according to a newly-identified pattern in natural disasters.

Wrecked houses in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian struck.  (Image Credit: @NationalGeographic) Click to Enlarge.
he worst things that can happen could be about to get even worse.  While the economic cost of the average flood, drought, windstorm, landslide, or forest fire has crept up over the decades, the price exacted by the most extreme events – such as hurricanes Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and Dorian over the Bahamas this year – has increased drastically.

Weather-related disasters have been steadily increasing for decades, driven by rising atmospheric temperatures as a consequence of profligate use of fossil fuels and other human actions.

Although better information, advance warning systems and community preparedness have in many ways reduced or contained the loss of life, the economic costs have risen, on average.

The average count is not the only one that matters, though. According to European and US researchers, the top 5% of all disasters are proving radically more expensive.

Read more at Hurricanes Wreak Greater Havoc as Temperatures Soar

Billions Face Food, Water Shortages Over Next 30 Years as Nature Fails

A new model shows which areas of Earth will likely be hit the hardest by the changes caused by human activity, also revealing possible solutions.

A huge automated irrigation ma​chine moves slowly over a pota​to plantation on reclaimed des​ert land in Egypt. A new model shows which areas of the world will be hit hardest by the changes to nature that human-caused climate change have brought. (Credit:  Click to Enlarge.

As many as five billion people, particularly in Africa and South Asia, are likely to face shortages of food and clean water in the coming decades as nature declines.  Hundreds of millions more could be vulnerable to increased risks of severe coastal storms, according to the first-ever model examining how nature and humans can survive together.

“I hope no one is shocked that billions of people could be impacted by 2050,” says Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer a landscape ecologist at Stanford University.  “We know we are dependent on nature for many things,” says Chaplin-Kramer, lead author of the paper Global Modeling Of Nature’s Contributions To People published in Science.

That nature is in sharp decline was made clear in the first-ever global assessment of biodiversity released earlier this year. Human activity has resulted in the severe alteration of more than 75 percent of Earth’s land areas and 66 percent of the oceans, putting a million species at risk of extinction, according to the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Read more at Billions Face Food,  Water Shortages Over Next 30 Years as Nature Fails