Saturday, September 30, 2017

  Saturday, Sept 30

Global surface temperature relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP analysis (mostly NOAA data sources, as described by Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004.  We suggest in an upcoming paper that the temperature in 1940-45 is exaggerated because of data inhomogeneity in WW II. Linear-fit to temperature since 1970 yields present temperature of 1.06°C, which is perhaps our best estimate of warming since the preindustrial period.

Vulture Capitalists Circle Above Puerto Rico Prey

As people in Puerto Rico are dying and President Trump lashes out at San Juan's mayor, Bill Moyers talks with social anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla about the challenges Puerto Ricans face in the wake of the storm.

(Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Puerto Rico is devastated.  Two hurricanes plunged the island into darkness and despair. Crops perish in the fields.  The landscape of ruined buildings and towns resemble Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped on it.  Over three million people are desperate for food, water, electricity, and shelter. 

After a slow start, the Trump Administration is now speeding up the flow of supplies to the island.  A top US general has been given command of the relief efforts.  And, like so many others, Yarimar Bonilla watches with a broken heart as her native Puerto Rico struggles.  This noted social anthropologist – a scholar on Caribbean societies — says the hurricanes have made an already bad fiscal and economic crisis worse, and she sees darker times ahead unless major changes are made in the structure of power and in Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States. 

Thursday night on NBC, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz made a spontaneous statement expressing her frustration with insufficient relief efforts that went viral.  Before you read my interview with Yarimar Bonilla please take two minutes to watch this video.  You will understand even more clearly Ms. Bonilla’s explainer of what is happening in Puerto Rico.

Read more at Vulture Capitalists Circle Above Puerto Rico Prey

Intelligent Battery Tech Firm Wins 2017 New Energy Challenge

(Image credit: New Energy Challenge) Click to Enlarge.
Technology that increases the lifetime and reliability of battery packs won first place this week in the New Energy Challenge 2017 in Amsterdam.

Start-up U.K. company Brill Power received a 100,000-euro (US$118,000) convertible loan for its submission of an innovative solution that enables individual control of each lithium-ion cell in a battery pack.

In a recent video about the company, Brill Power CEO Christoph Birkl said that what happens inside a battery is really important, noting that over time, batteries lose their ability to store energy not only because of their material properties, but also because all the cells are slightly different.  They lose their ability to store energy at different rates, and current batteries can’t handle that difference.  Therefore, the performance of the entire battery is limited by the weakest cell.

To make batteries smarter, Birkl said, Brill Power has created a smarter battery design.

“Through intelligent cell management, Brill Power technology extends the lifetime and improves the performance of multi-cell batteries,” he said.

The company plans to sell microchips to battery makers who can integrate the chips with their battery designs.

Birkl said the company expects the intelligent controls will provide a 60 percent longer lifetime for batteries.  Among Brill Power’s target markets is grid-scale energy storage, he said.

Shell Technology Ventures, Rockstart and YES!Delft presented the New Energy Challenge initiative, which offered a competitive environment for Europe’s start-ups engaged in the energy transition.

Runner-ups for the challenge were Solaris Offgrid of Spain and HySiLabs from France.

Solaris Offgrid provides affordable access to energy through modular pay-as-you-go solar energy platforms.  HySiLabs developed a hydrogen-based liquid fuel that is readily available, stable, non-toxic, non-explosive, generates no emissions, and is easy to transport and store.

Read more at Intelligent Battery Tech Firm Wins 2017 New Energy Challenge

What Does Revised Methane Data Mean for the Paris Agreement?

A study released [Friday] finds that global methane emissions from agriculture are much larger than previous estimates have suggested.

Revised calculations find that methane emissions from livestock in 2011 were 11% higher than modeled estimates based on data produced in 2006 by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC).

In response, media outlets including the BBC Radio 4 Today program and Agence France-Presse (AFP) released reports suggesting that the findings could mean that it will be harder for countries to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Carbon Brief spoke to the authors of the new study, as well as scientists from the Priestley International Center for Climate at the University of Leeds, and asked them to analyse these claims.

What did the new study find?
Livestock produce large amounts of methane as part of their normal digestive process, largely through passing wind.  Also, when the animal manure is stored or managed in lagoons or holding tanks, more methane is released into the atmosphere.

The extent to which methane emissions from agriculture could contribute to future global warming has been examined by international scientific bodies including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The new study, published in the journal Carbon Balance and Management, has now generated revised estimates of methane emissions for the years between 1990 and 2011.  Its estimates suggest that global methane emissions from livestock in 2011 were around 11% higher than the estimates that were made by the IPCC in 2006.

To come up with new estimates, the research team used the same formulae as the IPCC, but used more recent data on global agricultural practices, explains Dr Ghassem Asrar, a study author and director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.  He tells Carbon Brief:
“Our revised estimates of global livestock methane emissions are larger than ones made using IPCC 2006 default information, but with significant variation among global regions.  Global atmospheric concentrations of CH4 have been increasing steadily since 2007.  Our revisions suggest that global methane emissions by livestock explain about one-half to three-fourths of this increase.”
 Percentage change in global methane emissions from livestock in 2011 when revised estimates are compared to those made by the IPCC in 2006. Blue shows areas where methane emissions were less than previously estimated, while red shows areas where emissions were higher than previously estimated. [Source: Wolf et al. (2017)] Click to Enlarge.
The map at left shows the percentage change in global methane emissions from livestock in 2011 when revised estimates are compared to those made by the IPCC in 2006.
The revised methane emissions exceed previous estimates in many parts of the world, including in North and South America.
The discrepancy between the previous and revised estimates is largely due to differences in the data used, Asrar says.  While the data used in IPCC estimates was recorded in the 1980s and 1990s, data used in the new study was recorded in the past two decades and so accounts for recent changes in global agricultural practices, Asrar explains:
In general, livestock body size, growth rates and productivity have increased [in recent decades].  This change tends to be associated with larger feed intake and larger quantities of methane produced.
On top of this, many countries, including the US and Canada, have changed the way that they manage animal manure in recent decades.  Manure is increasingly being stored in centralised lagoons, which has a larger methane footprint than more traditional types of manure management.

What does this mean for Paris?
The finding that livestock populations have released more methane into the atmosphere than once estimated could have important implications for tackling future global warming.

Media coverage of the research has focussed on what it could mean for countries striving to limit future global warming to between 1.5C and 2C, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement. Earlier today, BBC Radio 4’s flagship current affairs breakfast show, the Today Program, reported on the new study, saying:
News reader:  A study has found that Paris climate goals could be harder to achieve because global emissions of methane from agriculture have been underestimated.  Methane is released by livestock as part of their digestive process. Our correspondent Claire Marshall reports.

Claire Marshall:  Up until now, efforts to limit the increase of the Earth’s temperature have focused on reducing carbon dioxide emissions.  However, methane emitted by livestock, such as dairy cows, in their wind and manure is a much more potent greenhouse gas.  This research indicates that the targets set in Paris were based on old data.  Methane is playing a considerably larger role in climate change than previously thought.  However, scientists say there are solutions.  For example, improving manure treatment, using different cattle feeds and avoiding food waste.
However, the new study did not strictly evaluate the effect that revised methane emission estimates could have on the Paris targets, says Prof Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds.  He was not involved with the new study.  He tells Carbon Brief:
“Paris targets do not need to be revised in light of these studies and they do not make the treaty out of date, as the emission goal set out in Article 4 of the Paris Agreement already covers all greenhouse gases including methane.  Ambition will need to increase across the board on both CO2 and short-lived pollutants if Paris targets will be met.”
Forster and Chris Smith, a research scientist at the University of Leeds, have analyzed for Carbon Brief how the revised methane emissions could affect the remaining carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5C.  The carbon budget is the total amount of CO2 emissions that we can still emit whilst limiting global average warming to 1.5C.

They find that, when the revised methane emissions are included in their analysis, methane plays an increasing role in future global warming and could make the Paris targets marginally more difficult to achieve.

Read more at Analysis: What Does Revised Methane Data Mean for the Paris Agreement?

Study Finds Tropical Forests Are No Longer Carbon Sinks

An area of recently cut Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil.  (Credit: Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace) Click to Enlarge.
Tropical forests have long been considered one of the world’s most important tools in combating climate change, their fast-growing trees and rich soils sucking millions of tons of carbon out of the atmosphere every year.  But a new study says these forests have switched from being carbon sinks to sources of carbon, releasing an estimated 425 million tons of CO2 each year, more than the annual emissions from U.S. cars and trucks combined.

The reversal, the study says, is the result of worsening deforestation and a reduction in the density, or a thinning, of tropical forests.

The research was led by ecologists at the Woods Hole Research Center and Boston University.  It combined 12 years of satellite data with on-the-ground biomass measurements from forests in 22 countries across three continents.

The scientists did note, however, that nations could rapidly restore these forests as carbon sinks by reducing logging, slowing development, and better managing the ecosystems to curb disturbance and degradation.

Read more at Study Finds Tropical Forests Are No Longer Carbon Sinks

Friday, September 29, 2017

  Friday, Sept 29

Global surface temperature relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP analysis (mostly NOAA data sources, as described by Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004.  We suggest in an upcoming paper that the temperature in 1940-45 is exaggerated because of data inhomogeneity in WW II. Linear-fit to temperature since 1970 yields present temperature of 1.06°C, which is perhaps our best estimate of warming since the preindustrial period.

'Opportunity' Seen in Puerto Rico's 'Totally Shot' Grid

Hurricane Maria toppled power posts and lines around Puerto Rico, including here in the municipality of Humacao. (Credit: Carlos Giusti/Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Despite the tragedy U.S. territories are experiencing from Hurricane Maria, top lawmakers said yesterday the unprecedented destruction will provide a rare opportunity to completely rebuild a modern electric grid from the ground up.

House Democrats singled out Puerto Rico's electric grid as a top priority they say should be addressed in an upcoming disaster relief package they want Republican leaders to assemble as quickly as possible.

"Puerto Rico's electrical grid was basically destroyed," said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), a Puerto Rico native who visited the island last weekend.  "We will need federal resources for energy repair."

GOP leaders have said Congress will address Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands sometime in mid-October, when another tranche of disaster relief is expected to materialize to help the Gulf Coast and Caribbean territories recover from the trio of hurricanes that slammed the United States this month.

Appearing with Democratic leaders and colleagues with roots in Puerto Rico, Velázquez said that timeline is too slow.

"This needs to be an immediate priority for Speaker [Paul] Ryan [R-Wis.] and the Republican leadership," she said.  "We need to see action as early as next week."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said rebuilding should focus on a new electric grid employing modern technologies.

"As sad as the situation is, it does provide an opportunity for the islands to redo their grids so they will be leaders in the future as to how people receive their electricity," she said.

President Trump acknowledged on Twitter yesterday that Puerto Rico's electric grid is "totally shot."  "Large numbers of generators are now on island," he tweeted.  "Food and water on site."

Bishop, Murkowski weigh options
House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) has already scheduled a member forum Wednesday to discuss legislative options for recovery in the territories.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said yesterday that she's tasked committee staff with studying avenues for recovery ahead of a hearing she's planning.
For starters, she noted that federal disaster spending administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency comes with constraints that make little sense.
Murkowski also acknowledged that the lack of power is an immediate risk that must be addressed even as plans are made to rebuild the grid.

"In the short term, you've got people who are without power now," she said.  "So how do you make sure that you're not throwing good money after bad?   You've gotta shore it up.   We've got to make sure we get power to these people."

Murkowski indicated she'll also look at the damaged grid in the U.S. Virgin Islands, "although theirs is not quite as dire, I understand."

"There's a lot to yet be determined in terms of who pays what and how we work to rebuild," said Murkowski.

Read more at 'Opportunity' Seen in Puerto Rico's 'Totally Shot' Grid

Tesla Is Sending Battery Packs to Puerto Rico for Recovery Efforts

 image: A damaged solar panel plant in Humacao, eastern Puerto Rico, on Sept. 27. (Image Credit: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Tesla Inc. is sending to Puerto Rico hundreds of its Powerwall battery systems that can be paired with solar panels in an effort to help the battered island territory restore electric power, the company said Thursday.  Some of the systems are already there and others are en route.

The equipment is sorely needed, since the island remains largely without electricity more than a week after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20.  The company has employees on the ground to install them and is working with local organizations to identify locations.

“The electric power grid in Puerto Rico is totally shot,” President Donald Trump said in a tweet Thursday morning.

Read more at Tesla Is Sending Battery Packs to Puerto Rico for Recovery Efforts

U.S. Appoints General to Oversee Military Response to Puerto Rico Disaster

Woman collects water pouring from pipe (Credit: © Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The Pentagon named a senior general to command military relief operations in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Thursday, and the Trump administration sent a Cabinet emissary to the island as U.S. lawmakers called for a more robust response to the crisis.

The U.S. territory of 3.4 million people struggled through a ninth day with virtually no electricity, patchy communications, and shortages of fuel, clean water, and other essentials in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years.

The storm struck on Sept. 20 with lethal, roof-ripping force and torrential rains that caused widespread flooding and heavily damaged homes, roads, and other infrastructure.

The storm killed more than 30 people across the Caribbean, including at least 16 in Puerto Rico.  Governor Ricardo Rossello has called the island’s devastation unprecedented.

The U.S. military, which has poured thousands of troops into the relief effort, named Lieutenant General Jeffrey Buchanan on Thursday to oversee its response on the island.

Buchanan, Army chief for the military’s U.S. Northern Command, was expected to arrive in Puerto Rico later on Thursday.  He will be the Pentagon’s main liaison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. government’s lead agency on the island, and focus on aid distribution, the Pentagon said in a statement.

FEMA has already placed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in charge of rebuilding the island’s crippled power grid, which has posed one of the island’s biggest challenges after the storm.

In yet another move raising the administration’s profile in the crisis, acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, whose department includes FEMA, will visit Puerto Rico on Friday with other senior government officials to meet the governor, Puerto Rican authorities and federal relief workers, her office announced.

Read more at U.S. Appoints General to Oversee Military Response to Puerto Rico Disaster

Costs of Climate Change:  Early Estimate for Hurricanes, Fires Reaches $300 Billion

A new report starts adding up the damage from the past few weeks of western wildfires and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  It sees climate costs rising.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria hit U.S. communities and farms as powerful storms within weeks of one another, causing extensive damage to public and private property. (Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty) Click to Enlarge.
The devastation from hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria—plus dozens of wildfires that raged across the West in early August—could result in the costliest string of weather events in U.S. history, according to a new report.

Over the course of a few weeks, the hurricanes and wildfires left a trail of damage that could add up to nearly $300 billion, according to early estimates from the authors of The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States, a report released on Wednesday by the nonprofit Universal Ecological Fund.  If they're right, the cost of the damage would be equivalent to nearly half the president's proposed 2018 budget for the Department of Defense.

"The evidence in undeniable.  These recent extreme weather events are a continuation of a three-decades trend of increasing numbers, intensities and costs of severe storms, hurricanes, flooding, droughts, and wildfires," said report co-author Robert Watson, a former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  "Simply, the more fossil fuels we burn, the faster the climate continues to change and cost.  Thus, transitioning to a low-carbon economy is essential for economic growth and is cheaper than the gigantic costs of inaction."

Adding up the economic losses from extreme weather events, more frequent weather events and the health impacts from air pollution, the report found that over the last decade, the United States has lost an average of $240 billion each year.  And that's projected to go up.

In the decade ahead, those economic losses and health costs could reach $360 billion annually, the report says.

The study echoes recent work by economists who sought to quantify the steep costs associated with climate change.  A study published in the journal Science in June found that every degree Celsius that the planet warms could be associated with a loss of roughly 1.2 percent of the United States' GDP.  The authors found that those impacts were not distributed evenly and could result in widening inequality.

Read more at Costs of Climate Change:  Early Estimate for Hurricanes, Fires Reaches $300 Billion

Evacuees Leave Puerto Rico by Cruise Ship, Some Doubting They Will Return

Thousands of people evacuating Puerto Rico line up to get on a cruise ship in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory’s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island. (Photo Credit: AP/Gerald Herbert) Click to Enlarge.
Thousands of people lined up at San Juan harbor on Thursday to board a cruise ship that will take them from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland in one of the largest evacuations since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico more than a week ago.

Maria, which came ashore as the strongest storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years, has created a humanitarian crisis.  The powerful storm knocked out the nation’s electric grid and has crippled communications networks, transport, and the water supply for the territory’s 3.4 million people.

The devastation is likely to feed an exodus that has driven tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans from the economically struggling island in recent years in search of opportunity on the mainland.

“I‘m sorry to be leaving Puerto Rico, but I have to.  I prefer home, but it’s impossible with these conditions,” said Ada Reyes, 85.  She was in a wheelchair and traveling on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship bound for Florida with her granddaughter, Maria Fernanda, 19.

Fernanda planned to drop her grandmother in Florida, then head to Boston to look into colleges.  A second-year student at the University of Puerto Rico, the teenager did not know when classes there would resume.

Royal Caribbean International (RCL.N) said its Adventure of the Seas cruise ship will carry 3,800 passengers from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  A company spokesman said the cruise line is providing the passages free of charge and that travelers were registered with the help of local officials.

The ship will make humanitarian calls in the hurricane-hit U.S. Virgin Islands, where it will drop off supplies.  It will then head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with a planned arrival of October 3.

The cruise line said it will work with airlines to make travel arrangements for passengers looking to meet up with friends and family on the mainland.

“This is a humanitarian mission on behalf of Royal Caribbean,” company spokesman Owen Torres said.

At San Juan’s main airport, flights are slowly returning.  Major carriers including Southwest (LUV.N) and JetBlue (JBLU.O) are still operating at reduced schedules as the airport works to restore power and return to full staffing levels.

JetBlue typically has about 40 flights a day to Puerto Rico but on Thursday it had only seven, which it said was still more than any other airline flying to the U.S. territory.

Read more at Evacuees Leave Puerto Rico by Cruise Ship, Some Doubting They Will Return

World Bank Approves $150 Million Disaster Fund for Dominican Republic

People ride on the back of a truck on an expressway flooded by the overflow from the Yuna River, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Arenoso, Dominican Republic, September 24, 2017. (Credit: Reuters/Ricardo Rojas) Click to Enlarge.
The World Bank on Thursday approved $150 million in disaster financing for the Dominican Republic to help it better prepare for natural disasters, weeks after the country was pummeled by two major hurricanes.

The loan was the first contingency line of credit approved by the World Bank for a Caribbean country under the so-called Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option.

The facility provides countries with financing to prepare them for natural disasters without taking government resources away from social or development programs, the World Bank said.

The Dominican Republic was battered by Hurricane Irma on Sept. 7 and drenched days later by Hurricane Maria, forcing evacuations and damaging infrastructure and homes.

“This financing will help us mitigate risks from climate shocks, natural disasters, as well as pandemics,” Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina said in a statement.

Tahseen Sayed, World Bank director for the Caribbean, said the financing would help the Dominican Republic strengthen and speed up its response to disasters.

“The most important lesson from our experience in disaster response across the world is to invest in prevention and preparedness to be able to respond speedily when disaster strikes,” said Sayed.

Read more at World Bank Approves $150 Million Disaster Fund for Dominican Republic

Summer Could Be One Long Heatwave If Planet Hits 2 Degrees Celsius

How heatwaves will change around the world for every 1°C increase in global average temperatures.

Heatwaves will become a daily occurrence over summer in some regions even if global warming is kept to 2°C. (Credit: © worawut2524 / Fotolia) Click to Enlarge.
Summer in some regions of the world will become one long heatwave even if global average temperatures rise only 2°C above pre-industrial levels and certain regions may become close to unliveable if temperatures increase by 5°C.

Even with just a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures there are significant changes to the length, intensity, and frequency of heat waves in every part of the world.

That's the finding of new research by Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick from the ARC Center of Excellence for Climate system Science published Thursday in Scientific Reports that divides the globe into 26 regions and looks at how heatwaves will change with every 1°C rise in global temperatures.

Read more at Summer Could Be One Long Heatwave If Planet Hits 2 Degrees Celsius

Thursday, September 28, 2017

  Thursday, Sept 28

Global surface temperature relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP analysis (mostly NOAA data sources, as described by Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004.  We suggest in an upcoming paper that the temperature in 1940-45 is exaggerated because of data inhomogeneity in WW II. Linear-fit to temperature since 1970 yields present temperature of 1.06°C, which is perhaps our best estimate of warming since the preindustrial period.

Art of the Self-Deal: How Regulatory Failure Lets Gas Pipeline Companies Fabricate Need and Fleece Ratepayers

 Pipeline Ratepayer Report (Credit: Oil Change International, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club) Click to View.
A new report released by Oil Change International, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club examines how a new wave of gas pipeline construction threatens to shunt serious risks and costs on to utility ratepayers.

Utilities and gas companies are increasingly engaged in self-dealing practices to support a dangerous gas pipeline buildout in the Appalachian Basin.  Lax oversight from regulators – particularly the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – is enabling companies to manufacture ‘need’ for projects while shifting financial risks from shareholders to ratepayers.

Absent effective oversight, ratepayers could end up shouldering long-term costs for pipeline capacity they don’t need, while losing out on opportunities to take advantage of increasingly cheaper, cleaner choices.

Read more at Art of the Self-Deal: How Regulatory Failure Lets Gas Pipeline Companies Fabricate Need and Fleece Ratepayers

NYC's Tall Order for Greener Buildings

Making existing buildings more energy-efficient can cost millions of dollars.  But under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new mandate, owners must either upgrade or pay a hefty fine.

Heating buildings accounts for some 40 percent of New York City's carbon emissions. (Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
New York City’s building owners are facing a tall order:  Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this month that the city will become the first to mandate that existing buildings—from municipal offices to private businesses, hospitals, and apartments—must drastically curb their carbon emissions.  Those who don’t comply will face hefty penalties amounting to as much as $2 million a year for a 1 million-square-foot building.

The mandate, which will target 14,500 buildings above 25,000 square feet, will also set a “fossil fuel cap.”  The cap will require buildings to be upgraded or retrofitted with things like more energy-efficient heaters and boilers, as well as solar panels and windows that reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.

All this will have to be in place by 2030, though the city has yet to give many concrete details, such as what, exactly, the cap will be.  The mayor’s office hasn’t responded to an interview request from CityLab, and has generally been mum on specifics.  A recent New York Times article noted that the plan could could entail limiting market-rate apartments—one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters—to just 50,000 B.T.Us (the measure of fossil fuel usage) per square foot per year.  According to the Times, that would be roughly a 25 to 30 percent reduction from current usage.

It’s an aggressive step from de Blasio—for good reasons.  Heating buildings is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 42 percent of CO2 produced in the Big Apple.  (Worldwide, that number jumps to 70 percent.)  In 2014 the city released its sustainability plan, One City Built to Last, which set a goal of lowering emissions from buildings by nearly 3.4 million tons by 2025.  If all goes as planned, the new mandate could cut 7 percent of the city’s carbon emissions by 2035, which the mayor’s office says is equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road.

So far, de Blasio has garnered support from environmentalist groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund, whose members joined him in a press conference announcing the mandate.  “[The mandate is] practical because it’s combining a clear deadline with financing and engineering help in a way that makes it as easy as possible to meet the climate target we need to meet,” says Andy Darrell, the New York regional director of EDF who also serves on New York City’s Sustainability Advisory Board.

The de Blasio administration—which has long pledged to reduce 80 percent of the city’s carbon emissions by 2050—is departing from the more common approach of giving developers and building owners incentives like tax breaks and financial grants for pivoting to clean energy.  “We gave people a very fair amount of time in the private sector to come forward and really agree to voluntary goals that will be sufficient,” the mayor told the press last week.  “But time was up. … It was time to move to mandates.”

Read more at NYC's Tall Order for Greener Buildings

Washington State Deals Blow to Plan for Coal Export Terminal

This May 12, 2005, file photo, shows the port of Longview on the Columbia River at Longview, Wash. The Department of Ecology said Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, it rejected a water quality permit that Millennium Bulk Terminals wanted because the proposed facility near Longview in southwest Washington state would have caused "significant and unavoidable harm" to the environment. (Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson, AP) Click to Enlarge.
A company that wants to build and operate a large terminal to export coal from the western U.S. to Asia was denied a key permit by Washington state on Tuesday because of environmental concerns.

The Department of Ecology rejected a water quality permit that Millennium Bulk Terminals sought because the proposed facility near the city of Longview would have caused "significant and unavoidable harm" to the environment.  The department cited effects to air quality, noise pollution and tribal resources, among others.

"There are simply too many unavoidable and negative environmental effects for the project to move forward," Ecology Director Maia Bellon said in a statement.

Millennium Bulk Terminals has long hoped to build a facility along the Columbia River to handle up to 44 million tons of coal a year.  Trains would carry the coal from Montana, Wyoming and other states, which would be loaded onto ships headed to Asia.

William Chapman, the president and CEO of Millennium, said the company will appeal the decision and expects "a fairer and more consistent interpretation of the law."

Read more at Washington State Deals Blow to Plan for Coal Export Terminal

France to Invest 20 Billion Euros in Energy Transition

1996 Peugeot 306 to be phased out (Credit: Peugeot) Click to Enlarge.
The French government plans to invest 20 billion euros in an energy transition plan, including 9 billion euros towards improved energy efficiency, 7 billion for renewables, and 4 billion to precipitate the switch to cleaner vehicles.

The environment-related investments, drafted by economist Jean Pisani-Ferry and presented by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Monday, are part of a 57 billion-euro investment plan to run from 2018 to 2022.

Buildings are responsible for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, so the government plans a 9 billion-euro thermal insulation program that will focus on low-income housing and government buildings, the government said in a statement.

“The number of badly insulated low-income housing and social housing will be divided by two, and a quarter of government buildings will be renovated in line with environmental norms,” it said.

The program aims at financing the renovation of 75,000 dwellings per year, or 375,000 over the government’s five-year term.

The government will also invest 7 billion euros ($8.31 billion) to boost the growth of French renewable energies by 70 percent over the next five years.

Investments will include research and innovation to combat climate change, and will speed up France’s transition to low carbon and greater energy efficiency.

While efficiency investments will be a boon to the housing sector, the resulting lower power demand will hurt utilities, although the industry should also benefit from more support for renewable power.

The plan will also invest 4 billion euros in the switch to less polluting vehicles, with the transport industry responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions.

Further elements will focus on the road and railway network, boost local transport networks and will help low-income households to exchange old, polluting vehicles for newer, more environmentally friendly models.

The plan will target the phasing out of 10 million old vehicles and focus on cars with petrol engines registered before 1997 or diesel vehicles registered before 2001.

Read more at France to Invest 20 Billion Euros in Energy Transition

9 Numbers that Put Puerto Rico’s Daunting Recovery into Perspective

“The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years,” an official said.

People wait in line to purchase gas in Arecibo, northwestern Puerto Rico, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 22, 2017. (Credit: Hector Retamal/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
It’s been seven days since Puerto Rico suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Maria, the strongest storm it’s seen in nearly 90 years. 

The rest of the world is only beginning to grasp the enormity of the devastation on the island, where it could take months, if not years, to recover.

“The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years,” Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González told The Associated Press on Sunday.  “I can’t deny that the Puerto Rico of now is different from that of a week ago.  The destruction of properties, of flattened structures, of families without homes, of debris everywhere.  The island’s greenery is gone.”

Here’s what the recovery looks like (so far), by the numbers:

7 Days
It’s been a full seven days since Hurricane Maria slammed into southeastern Puerto Rico as a strong Category 4 storm.

16 Dead
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Monday the official death count from the hurricane has edged up to 16.  That’s likely to increase as recovery efforts continue.

11,437 In Shelters
As of Tuesday, 11,437 people were still living in shelters on the island.  That’s a decrease of only about 1,000 people since last Wednesday, when 12,500 people crammed into shelters to ride out the storm itself, suggesting that only 8.5 percent of those who sought shelter now have a habitable home or other accommodations to return to.

80 Percent Loss
A banana plantation damaged by Hurricane Maria in Guayama, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 20, 2017. (Credit: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
Hurricane Maria destroyed 80 percent of the value of Puerto Rico’s agricultural industry at an estimated loss of $780 million, The New York Times reports.  Banana, plantain, and coffee crops were hit the hardest, with entire plantations completely razed. 

11 Hospitals
Of Puerto Rico’s 69 hospitals, only 11 currently have power or fuel.

12 Children
Twelve children at the San Jorge Children’s Hospital in San Juan depend on ventilators to survive.  CNN reports the hospital ran out of diesel for its generators on Monday, but secured another two days’ worth of fuel at the last minute thanks to the generosity of another hospital.

11 Billion Gallons
The Guajataca Dam in northwestern Puerto Rico is holding back approximately 11 billion gallons of water.  Authorities warned last Friday that the dam had developed a crack thanks to added pressure from the hurricane and said it is in “imminent” danger of failing.

44 Percent Without Water
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, an estimated 44 percent of Puerto Rico’s population is currently without drinking water.  Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority officials told Reuters on Tuesday that potable water won’t be available island-wide until power is restored, which could take months.

2,400 Miles
Hurricane Maria wiped out nearly all of Puerto Rico’s 2,400 miles of power transmission lines, leaving the island almost completely without power.  Now a week removed from the storm, 97 percent of the island is still dark.

Read more at 9 Numbers that Put Puerto Rico’s Daunting Recovery into Perspective

BHP:  2017 Year of ‘Electric Vehicle Revolution’

“2017 is the revolution year we have been speaking about.”

Car charging (Credit: Akila Via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
This year looks set to be the “tipping point” for electric cars, Arnoud Balhuizen, chief commercial officer at global miner BHP (BLT.L) said on Tuesday, with the impact for raw materials producers to be felt first in the metals market, and only later in oil.

“In September 2016 we published a blog and we set the question - could 2017 be the year of the electric vehicle revolution?” said Balhuizen, a company veteran who runs BHP’s commercial strategy, procurement and marketing from Singapore.

“The answer is yes...2017 is the revolution year we have been speaking about.  And copper is the metal of the future.”

Europe has begun a dramatic shift away from the internal combustion engine, although, globally, there are only roughly 1 million electric cars out of a global fleet of closer to 1.1 billion.

BHP forecasts that could rise to 140 million vehicles by 2035, a forecast it says is on ‘the greener’ end.

“The reality is a mid-sized electric vehicle still needs subsidies to compete... so a lot will depend on batteries, on policy, on infrastructure,” Balhuizen said.

Electric cars are expected to soon cost the same as traditional vehicles - as early as next year by some estimates.  But governments are also getting on board, with China’s subsidies leading the way and Britain becoming the latest country to announce its all-electric ambitions in July.

Balhuizen said he expected the electric vehicle boom would be felt - for producers - first in copper, where supply will struggle to match increased demand.  The world’s top mines are aging and there have been no major discoveries in two decades.

The market, he said, may have underestimated the impact on the red metal:  fully electric vehicles require four times as much copper as cars that run on combustion engines.

BHP, Balhuizen said, is well-placed, with assets like Escondida and Spence in Chile, and Olympic Dam in Australia.  BHP said last month it was spending $2.5 billion to extend the life of the Spence mine in northern Chile by more than 50 years.

Read more at BHP:  2017 Year of ‘Electric Vehicle Revolution’ 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

  Wednesday, Sept 27

Global surface temperature relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP analysis (mostly NOAA data sources, as described by Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004.  We suggest in an upcoming paper that the temperature in 1940-45 is exaggerated because of data inhomogeneity in WW II. Linear-fit to temperature since 1970 yields present temperature of 1.06°C, which is perhaps our best estimate of warming since the preindustrial period.

The Sixth Mass Extinction of Wildlife Also Threatens Global Food Supplies

Training cows to walk in groups to extract wheat in Koka villge, Ethiopia. (Credit: CIFOR) Click to Enlarge.
The sixth mass extinction of global wildlife already under way is seriously threatening the world’s food supplies, according to experts.

“Huge proportions of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of our food supply are just as endangered [as wildlife] and are getting almost no attention,” said Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity International, a research group that published a new report.

“If there is one thing we cannot allow to become extinct, it is the species that provide the food that sustains each and every one of the seven billion people on our planet,” she said in an article for the Guardian.  “This ‘agrobiodiversity’ is a precious resource that we are losing, and yet it can also help solve or mitigate many challenges the world is facing.  It has a critical yet overlooked role in helping us improve global nutrition, reduce our impact on the environment and adapt to climate change.”

Three-quarters of the world’s food today comes from just 12 crops and five animal species and this leaves supplies very vulnerable to disease and pests that can sweep through large areas of monocultures, as happened in the Irish potato famine when a million people starved to death.  Reliance on only a few strains also means the world’s fast changing climate will cut yields just as the demand from a growing global population is rising.

There are tens of thousands of wild or rarely cultivated species that could provide a richly varied range of nutritious foods, resistant to disease and tolerant of the changing environment.  But the destruction of wild areas, pollution and overhunting has started a mass extinction of species on Earth.  The focus to date has been on wild animals — half of which have been lost in the last 40 years — but the new report reveals that the same pressures are endangering humanity’s food supply, with at least 1,000 cultivated species already endangered.

Tutwiler said saving the world’s agrobiodiversity is also vital in tackling the number one cause of human death and disability in the world — poor diet, which includes both too much and too little food.  “We are not winning the battle against obesity and undernutrition,” she said.  “Poor diets are in large part because we have very unified diets based on a narrow set of commodities and we are not consuming enough diversity.”

The new report sets out how both governments and companies can protect, enhance and use the huge variety of little-known food crops.  It highlights examples including the gac, a fiery red fruit from Vietnam, and the orange-fleshed Asupina banana.  Both have extremely high levels of beta-carotene that the body converts to vitamin A and could help the many millions of people suffering deficiency of that vitamin.

Quinoa has become popular in some rich nations but only a few of the thousands of varieties native to South America are cultivated.  The report shows how support has enabled farmers in Peru to grow a tough, nutritious variety that will protect them from future diseases or extreme weather.

Mainstream crops can also benefit from diversity and earlier in 2017 in Ethiopia researchers found two varieties of durum wheat that produce excellent yields even in dry areas.  Fish diversity is also very valuable, with a local Bangladeshi species now shown to be extremely nutritious.

“Food biodiversity is full of superfoods but perhaps even more important is the fact these foods are also readily available and adapted to local farming conditions,” said Tutwiler.

Bioversity International is working with both companies and governments to ramp up investment in agrobiodiversity.  The supermarket Sainsbury’s is one, and its head of agriculture, Beth Hart, said:  “The world is changing — global warming, extreme weather and volatile prices are making it harder for farmers and growers to produce the foods our customers love.  Which is why we are committed to working with our suppliers, farmers and growers around the world to optimise the health benefits, address the impact and biodiversity of these products and secure a sustainable supply.”

Pierfrancesco Sacco, Italy’s permanent representative to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, said:  “The latest OECD report rates Italy third lowest in the world for levels of obesity after Japan and Korea.  Is it a coincidence that all three countries have long traditions of healthy diets based on local food biodiversity, short food supply chains and celebration of local varieties and dishes?”

He said finding and cultivating a wider range of food is the key:  “Unlike conserving pandas or rhinos, the more you use agrobiodiversity and the more you eat it, the better you conserve it.”

Read original at The Sixth Mass Extinction of Wildlife Also Threatens Global Food Supplies