Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday 31

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Lake Erie's Shores Are Being Eroded by Heavy Rains

One reason why climate change isn't just a problem for people who live near the ocean. 

Eroded bluff and Lake Erie coastline. (Bluff Photo Credit:  Lisa Kenion) Click to Enlarge.
Extreme weather is taking a toll on coastlines – and not just along the oceans.  Lisa Kenion lives in Euclid, Ohio …

Kenion: “… right about three doors away from Lake Erie.”

At the end of her street, a tall, grassy bluff overlooks the water.  Kenion and her neighbors collectively own that land and the beach below.

Kenion:  “The bluff is about thirty feet tall so we have like a little stairwell that goes down. And we have like a little boat house that’s about halfway down the incline.”

But during heavy rain this past spring, a long narrow strip of the bluff collapsed and washed down the steep slope to the water, like a small landslide.

This type of bluff erosion is getting worse as climate change causes more extreme storms and heavy precipitation.  Waves and high water eat away at the base of lakeside cliffs, weakening the land above and making it more likely to collapse during storms.

Read more at Lake Erie's Shores Are Being Eroded by Heavy Rains

Progress Continues on World's Biggest Tidal Stream Project

Alderney and the Alderney Race seen from Auderville in France. (Credit: Wikipedia) Click to Enlarge.
Simec Atlantis Energy Ltd., a renewable energy developer, announced a plan to extend its tidal stream project in Scotland by adding two new turbines.

The MeyGen facility currently has a capacity of 6 megawatts, and the extension will bring it to 10 megawatts, according to an emailed statement.  It’s partially funded by a 16.8 million-euro ($19 million) support package from the European Commission.  Atlantis is trying to bring costs down by using bigger rotors, more powerful generators, and a single export cable.

This extension “will be an important enabler for the subsequent extension of the MeyGen site by a further 80 megawatts, and ultimately to the full site capacity of 400 megawatts,” said Chief Executive Officer Tim Cornelius.  “Nearby sites in the Pentland Firth offer significant further growth potential.”

Atlantis is planning for the MeyGen project eventually to reach capacity of 398 megawatts.  The project entered into the U.K.’s renewable energy auction last year.  It was unsuccessful in competing against offshore wind, a technology that has seen its costs fall more rapidly than tidal power.

Last year, the company consolidated with Simec, a member of the GFG Alliance run by the Gupta family.  They are also working on converting a coal plant in Wales to burn a pellet made from a mix of waste plastic and biomass.

Joint Venture
In addition to the announcement about the two additional turbines, Simec Atlantic Energy also announced a joint venture with Development Agency for Normandy (AD Normandy), the regional agency for economic development in Normandy and regional investment fund Normandie Participations, for the purpose of developing a large-scale project in Raz Blanchard, Normandie. 

The JV, called, Normandie Hydrolienne has been established with the intention of eventually harnessing up to 2 GW of power from the Alderney Race, the eight-mile strait that runs between Alderney and La Hague, France, as well as more than 1 GW of resource from adjacent concessions under the control of the States of Alderney.

Read more at Progress Continues on World's Biggest Tidal Stream Project

Carbon Fees Take Center Stage in Washington State & Canada

Money (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Initiative 1631 In Washington
In the state of Washington, voters will have an opportunity to approve a plan that would put a price on carbon emissions, albeit a fairly modest one of $15 per ton starting in 2020.  The fee would ratchet up $2 a year until the state’s 2035 carbon reduction goals are met.  According to the New York Times, the measure — known as Initiative 1631 — would generate $2.2 billion in revenue in the first 5 years. It would raise the price of a gallon of gasoline by about 13 cents, an increase that would cost the average motorist in Washington $10 a month.

The money raised would be used to help the state transition to a low carbon economy.  It would pay for more electric buses and promote renewable energy initiatives.  Part of the money would also be used to shield low income residents from increases in their utility bills.

The fossil fuel industry is foaming at the mouth over this proposal.  Although the actual money involved is modest, big oil companies like Chevron and BP have poured more than $25 million into opposing the initiative.  They are scared that it might set a precedent for other states to follow, and hopefully it will.  Initiative 1631 is nothing more than an attempt to level the playing field by correcting a distortion in the current economic equation.

Canada Enacts A Carbon Fee
Last week, Canada also imposed a fee on carbon emissions.  It starts at $20 a ton in 2019 and goes up $10 a year until it reaches $50 a ton.  (Many economists put the social cost of carbon at around $130 a ton.)  Canadian provinces are split on emissions policy, with British Columbia being strongly in favor and Alberta — home to the infamous tar sands — being strongly opposed.

According to The Guardian, the plan will hike gasoline prices by 42 cents a gallon, double the price of coal, and raise the price of natural gas by 75%.  Those increases should exert leverage on the choices Canadians make when it comes time to purchase a new car.  They will also strongly influence the decision’s Canada’s utility companies make when it comes to keeping existing generating plants in operation or investing in new generation facilities.  The new government policy is expected to give a significant boost to renewable energy.

Read more at Carbon Fees Take Center Stage in Washington State & Canada

Christiana Figueres:  ‘Coal Is a Public Health Emergency’

At the World Health Organization’s first global conference on air pollution, the former UN climate chief launches a campaign to tackle toxic emissions at source.

A child scavenges for coal scraps in smoggy Manila (Photo Credit: Flickr/Adam Cohn) Click to Enlarge.
Coal is not just a problem for the climate, it is a “public health emergency”.

That is one of the key messages of an anti-air pollution campaign launched by former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres on Tuesday.

At the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first global conference on health and air pollution in Geneva, she joined forces with its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to call for action.

It is closely linked to the climate fight, she told Climate Home News:  “It makes the whole challenge that we are facing on climate change or greenhouse gases personal.  It brings it down to my personal experience, it brings it down to the lungs of my children, it brings it down to the brain development of my child.  It so happens that sources of greenhouse gases are the same sources of local pollutants.”

Nine out of ten children worldwide are breathing toxic air, which harms their health and development, according to a report released by the WHO.  It accounts for one in 10 deaths among infants under five-years-old, the report said.

The “Every Breath Matters” campaign argues “clean air is a human right” and by 2030, everyone should be breathing clean air.

While it does not make demands of specific polluters, the campaign highlights coal burning, dirty diesel vehicles, and slash-and-burn agriculture as sources of air pollution to tackle.

The aim is to raise the profile of existing anti-pollution efforts and give them “the size of megaphone that they deserve,” said Figueres.  She has recruited actor Leonardo DiCaprio as an advocate.

Tedros described air pollution as “the new tobacco” in terms of its public health impact, in a comment article for the Guardian.

Read more at Christiana Figueres:  ‘Coal Is a Public Health Emergency’

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tuesday 30

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Major EV Charging Pact Announced for US Drivers

A parking lot in Rosemead, California, with two electric vehicle charging stations. (Photo Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
A strategic partnership involving some of the world’s biggest car-makers has been launched that plans to roll-out expanded charging and communication capabilities for electric vehicle drivers in the US.

The pact is between EV charging company Blink and Hubject, an association of automotive and  energy technology firms including BMW, Daimler, Siemens, and Volkswagen.

Blink's nationwide network of chargers will become accessible to all EV drivers who utilize a Hubject charging platform called intercharge via a membership card and app.  It will also allow Blink members to quickly and easily find, access and pay at all participating charging stations from various charging networks with one account, one card, one app and one bill.

Blink said that its 135,000 members “will be able to quickly and easily access charging stations on Hubject participating networks while driving in the US, without having to register with any other charging companies”.

“This partnership allows members of other networks on Hubject's platform to charge their electric vehicles at Blink's charging stations." said Michael D. Farkas, founder of Blink.  "Additionally, we believe that partnerships like the one announced today will serve to improve charging station infrastructure, enhance the EV driver user experience, further accelerate EV adoption and expand Blink's market-leading position."

The partnership between Blink and Hubject will become operational early next year, 2019.

A key part of the pact involves the two companies working with automobile manufacturers in implementing the ISO 15118 communication protocol, which is intended to be the first step in implementing “seamless communication between electric vehicles and charging networks without the need for any human interaction during the charging process”.

Blink said “this telemetry between electric vehicles, charging networks and OEMs is also designed to allow the OEMs to incorporate critical EV data into future EV design as well as to layout the groundwork for enhanced EV ownership programs and develop transportation as a service business model”.

Paul Glenney, North American chief executive of Hubject, said the partnership with Blink “presents an incredible opportunity to set the standard for open collaboration in our e-mobility industry.  Our shared philosophy will help to get more Americans to drive electric vehicles."

Read more at Major EV Charging Pact Announced for US Drivers

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday 28

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Can Wind Farms Actually Weaken Hurricanes?

Offshore wind farm (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Simulations have shown that spinning turbine blades of offshore wind farms can actually slow the wind speeds of a hurricane.

Imagine all those people living on the coasts who argued great hulking white spikes of metal ruined the view.  Wonder how they feel knowing they could save their lives.

It happens as the hurricane moves into the reach of the blades.  Gradually the speed of the winds on the outside of the barrel are slowed, the waves reduce in size and ultimately the hurricane itself loses pace.

It’s thanks to 24 years of work from Professor Mark Z. Jacobson from Stanford University who teamed with Cristina Archer a civil and environmental engineer from the University of Delaware.  Part of that involved looking at how much energy turbines can take from wind currents.  After hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, he wondered what impact wind farms could have on these storms.

He discovered that it was significant.  In fact, wind speeds could be reduced by as much as 92%.  Storm surges could be brought down by 79%.  When he took Katrina, the one that caused unbelievable destruction in New Orleans in 2005, a certain number of turbines would have slowed speeds by as much as 98 mph, and the storm surge would have been dropped by 79%.

Read more at Can Wind Farms Actually Weaken Hurricanes?

Doubled Raw Materials Use Is Climate Risk

We’re using more and more raw materials to build the world anew:  our demands will almost have doubled by 2060.  That’s bad news for the climate.

Coal can expect a boom, says the OECD. (Image Credit: Dominik Vanyi on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
Just when you might think the world has heard an unmistakable warning of the need to curb climate change drastically and fast, along comes another warning, about humans’ voracious appetite for the raw materials we use so profligately.

Its message is simple:  one of the main causes of the Earth’s growing warmth is likely to be twice as severe 40 years from now as it is today.

This latest warning, from the club of the world’s richest countries, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says consumption of raw materials is on course to nearly double by 2060 as the global economy expands and living standards rise.

And that will mean a steep increase in emissions of the greenhouse gases which drive global warming.  Total emissions are projected to reach 75 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq.) by 2060, of which materials management would constitute about 50 Gt CO2-eq.  A gigatonne is a thousand million tonnes.  Gt CO2eq is an abbreviation for “gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide”, a unit based on the global warming potential of different gases.

If you find it hard to visualize raw material, the OECD offers some helpful examples.  The main sort of “stuff” it’s talking about includes the building blocks of the modern world: sand, gravel and crushed rock.  Metals are next, and third is coal.  It uses a disarmingly wide image to bring the message home: “The total raw materials consumed by an average family in a day would fill up a bathtub”.

The full OECD report, the Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060, will be available from 27 November, but a preview  was released this week at the World Circular Economy Forum in Yokohama, Japan.

The Outlook expects global materials use to rise from 90 gigatonnes (GT) today to 167 GT in 2060, because of the increase in world population to 10 billion people expected by then, and the rise in average global income per capita to converge with the current OECD level of US$40,000 (€34,900).

Immense human footprint
The projected figures are immense.  But so are those that quantify today’s hunger for materials. Scientists calculate, for instance, that the weight of objects made by humans is about 30 trillion tonnes, and that by 2050 we shall have built another 25 million km of roads, enough to circle the Earth 600 times. None of this bodes well for us, let alone for the other species that share the planet.

Without action to address these challenges, the projected increase in the extraction and processing of raw materials such as biomass, fossil fuels, metals and non-metallic minerals is likely to worsen the pollution of air, water and soils, and contribute significantly to climate change, the OECD says.

This increase will happen despite both a shift from manufacturing to service industries and continual improvements in manufacturing efficiency, which has lessened the amount of resources consumed for each unit of GDP.

Without this, it says, environmental pressures would be even worse.  The projection also acknowledges flattening demand in China and other emerging economies as their infrastructure booms end.

Read more at Doubled Raw Materials Use Is Climate Risk

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Saturday 27

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Historic Sites Face Risk from Rising Seas

Venice has been at hazard from rising seas for years.  But so now are almost all historic sites near Mediterranean coasts, a survey finds.

Some of the planet’s most historic sites could by 2100 face damage or outright destruction in a warming world.  Scientists who surveyed 49 World Heritage Sites in the Mediterranean report that 47 of them are at some degree of risk from future sea level rise.

As ever-higher levels of carbon dioxide enter the atmosphere to warm the planet, so global sea levels creep ever higher.  And this constant threat of attrition by ever-higher tides and storm surges poses an ever-higher risk to a suite of cities, sites, and ruins declared by UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, to be of global importance, and in need of careful preservation.

The locations most at risk include the city of Venice, the medieval city of Rhodes, the old city of Dubrovnik, and the ruins of Carthage in Tunisia.

The researchers considered the hazard of what is now a once-in-a-century storm surge occurring, as the seas rise by almost 1.5 meters by 2100.  By then, they found, storm surges that now occur once a century could be happening several times every year.

“Many of these heritage sites will slowly disappear with sea level rise, even though these sites are important parts of human history”

Increasingly, coastal flooding and erosion could damage, deface or completely obliterate landmarks that played a pivotal role in world history.  All the sites have important intangible value as icons of civilization; many of them are popular tourist destinations, and their disappearance could only mean huge economic losses as well.

Such studies are launched to alert governments, civic authorities, and communities to the need for action.  Venice, in particular, has been a subject of national and international concern for decades.  The surprise in the latest research, in the journal Nature Communications, is that of the 49 sites investigated, 37 are vulnerable to storm surge, 42 to coastal erosion − and many of them to both.

Read more at Historic Sites Face Risk from Rising Seas

They Know Seas Are Rising, but They’re Not Abandoning Their Beloved Cape Cod

Lifelong residents are building higher with each flood.  But while they contend with climate change, some say they aren’t sure what to believe about the cause.

Erosion and a changing landscape are givens on Cape Cod. Above, storm surge ate away at Coast Guard Beach in Eastham in February 2013. (Credit: Globe File Photo) Click to Enlarge.
Red Blood Among the Blues
Although Massachusetts is a solidly blue state as a whole, it is pockmarked with red regions, including chunks of the Cape.  At election time, lawns along scenic Cape Cod byways sprout signs supporting deeply conservative candidates who make nary a mention of climate change in their campaigns.  Before the September primaries, signs plaster every intersection in support of the re-election of Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty Jr. —a strong Donald Trump supporter who served time in federal prison for threatening to kill both President George H.W. Bush and Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Matt Teague is vastly more moderate than this—though he comes from conservative stock.  His father, Edward B. Teague III, represented Barnstable in the state legislature for eight years in the 1990s, eventually rising to House Republican leader, and spent some time as a conservative talk radio host.  Matt was a lifelong Republican himself—until about 10 years ago.  Then, exasperated by how hyper-partisan American politics had become, he "walked away from all of it," as he puts it.  But not all of it, exactly; he voted for Donald Trump in 2016.  "I got to make a living, and I don't like handing my money out to other people," he says by way of explanation.
Managed Retreat from the Shore?  Not Here.
Sea level has been rising since the end of the last Ice Age, around 20,000 years ago, when Cape Cod was formed as the Laurentide Ice Sheet retreated.  But the pace of sea level rise in the last century far exceeds the previous incremental increase that took place over eons.  As land ice melts at the poles and warm ocean waters expand, sea level is rising at an accelerated rate along the Mid-Atlantic coast, from Cape Hatteras to north of Boston.  At the same time, in a kind of double whammy, the land is sinking from natural geological processes.  If greenhouse gas emissions stay at their current levels, New England could experience seas that are nearly 7 feet higher than they are today by the end of the century, according to state documents.

Residents on Blish Point are concerned about adaptation.  A citizen group there helped secure $1.3 million in state funding for the area, money they hope will go in part toward restoring the marsh so it can better absorb flood impacts.

Homeowners can easily dismiss the grave risks of the nearby Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant, one of the country's worst-rated nuclear plants, which sits directly on the edge of Cape Cod Bay.  It's harder for them to ignore the tenuous future (and value) of their Cape homes when storm damage from sea level rise increases.  A report released this year by the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that nearly 90,000 Massachusetts homes, valued today at $63 billion, could be at risk by the end of the century—not just during storms but chronically, dozens of times each year.  This past summer, low-lying areas were inundated during new- and full-moon tides, leading to the strange situation of having flood advisories when there was no rain.  According to the Union of Concerned Scientists report, more than half of the homes in Blish Point are at risk of going the way of Matt's cottage, needing to be raised or risk ruin.

Finding Middle Ground
In some parts of the country facing this scenario, communities are opting for "managed retreat," in which homeowners in vulnerable neighborhoods allow themselves to be bought out all at once by city and state governments, instead of having the government bail them out repeatedly.  But seaside properties maintain their special allure on old Cape Cod, which has a flat sandy seascape with an unavoidably low-lying geography—and Barnstable's Blish Point is not entertaining such a radical idea as managed retreat.  Although the state recently passed legislation allocating $2.4 billion toward climate change adaptation and other environmental protections across Massachusetts, of which the Blish Point neighborhood will receive $1.3 million, buyouts are not a priority.

Instead, in the wake of the floods last winter, it wasn't just Matt Teague, but many Blish Point homeowners who were wrestling with hard decisions as they asked the question:  "What are we doing here?" Some, like the Teagues, made plans to demolish and rebuild.  Some had had enough, and a flurry of "For Sale" signs appeared by the time the summer tourists arrived.  Some formed a citizen group that was partly responsible for getting that $1.3 million in state funding, which they hope will go toward restoring the marsh so it can better absorb flood impacts, and ensuring safe exit routes when it can't.  Meanwhile, the day after the wicked January 4 storm, the neighborhood children ice skated with delight on the flood waters that had frozen, glasslike, in the front yard of Matt Teague's neighbor—while the same ice seized the interior contents of the houses and transformed them into wreckage.
The Ocean Creeps In
Follow the course of the shifting sands from Jack's office at Millway Marina and Barnstable Harbor and you'll wash ashore in Dennis, another Cape Cod town which, under the new FEMA flood maps, saw the number of homes at risk nearly triple.  There you'll find Dan Fortier, a town planner who's not being quiet as he tries to turn adaptive strategies into reality.  He gets some of his guidance from documents such as the state's climate change adaptation report, which recommends dozens of specific strategies to face the changes ahead.  Some read like a Hippocratic oath of shorelines, directing a "No Adverse Impact" approach to managing coastal lands, while others promote using future climate change projections instead of historical data to estimate sea level rise and flood zones.  But when we spoke, Dan kept returning to the economic risk for a place whose "export industry is summer."

With one-third of the residential properties in town being in a flood zone, "the impacts of the next storm are always on my mind," says Dan, who's worked with the town for 18 years.  "If we lost one-third of our property value, it would be disastrous ... the death of our economy."  That's the bind coastal towns find themselves in.  They want to keep their citizens safe, but they depend on the property taxes of the most vulnerable of properties, which also happen to be the most valuable.  At least for now.

Dan doesn't question the impact of climate change on the Cape.  "Just in the last two decades, we have a continual creeping in of the ocean," he tells me.  "The ocean doesn't recede the way it used to.  Water is just there more and more because of sea level rise."
'"The fact that there's enough science out there to provide some predictability for that and to provide for some policy—that makes sense," Matt says returning to the hope for smart policy based on solid science.  "I think that's as good as you're going to get."

Read more at They Know Seas Are Rising, but They’re Not Abandoning Their Beloved Cape Cod

Friday, October 26, 2018

Friday 26

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

New York AG Sues Exxon, Says Oil Giant Defrauded Investors Over Climate Change

The state's lawsuit follows a three-year climate fraud investigation.  Exxon had been fighting in court to block the New York probe and another in Massachusetts.

New York's lawsuit sets the stage for what could be years of litigation. (Credit: Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty) Click to Enlarge.
The New York Attorney General's office sued ExxonMobil on Wednesday, accusing the fossil fuel giant of defrauding investors by misleading them about the financial risks the company faced from climate change regulations.

The lawsuit caps a contentious and often politically charged three-year investigation into Exxon and sets the stage for what could be years of litigation involving a company that fights furiously to protect its business.

Exxon engaged in "a longstanding fraudulent scheme" to deceive investors by providing false and misleading assurances that it was effectively managing the economic risks posed by increasingly stringent policies and regulations it anticipated being adopted to address climate change, the lawsuit states.

"Instead of managing those risks in the manner it represented to investors, Exxon employed internal practices that were inconsistent with its representations, were undisclosed to investors, and exposed the company to greater risk from climate change regulation than investors were led to believe," the lawsuit said.

Read more at New York AG Sues Exxon, Says Oil Giant Defrauded Investors Over Climate Change

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Thursday 25

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Canada Adopts Carbon Fee and Dividend to Rein in Climate Change

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces Canada’s carbon pricing policy (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Carbon fee and dividend, the solution to tackle climate change proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby, has emerged as the default policy in Canada to price carbon and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming.

Beginning in 2019, Canada’s federal policy will put a rising fee on carbon emissions and return the revenue directly to Canadians.  The federal policy is a backstop to cover the four provinces that have not initiated their own carbon-pricing policies.  Nearly half of Canadians live in these provinces.   

“For years, CCL grassroots lobbyists have pressed both the U.S. and the Canadian governments to enact carbon fee and dividend to bring heat-trapping emissions under control,” said Mark Reynolds, Executive Director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.  “We’re thrilled that Canada is taking the lead with this policy, and we hope their decision will inspire the U.S. Congress to take similar action.”

The policy announced today by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau applies a tax on carbon starting at $20 per ton in 2019, rising $10 per ton annually until it reaches $50 per ton in 2022.  Residents and businesses in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick, the four provinces subject to the federal tax, will receive rebate checks that will exceed the amount of the carbon tax paid by the average family.

Trudeau summed up the problem simply in today’s announcement:  “It is free to pollute, so we have too much pollution.”  He presented the solution simply too, saying, “Starting next year, it will no longer be free to pollute anywhere in Canada.  We are going to place a price on the pollution that causes climate change from coast to coast to coast.  We’re also going to help Canadians adjust to this new reality.”

He stated that a family of four would receive $307 with their tax return this spring.  That will more than double to $718 by 2022.  Using one province as an example, Trudeau said, “Eight in 10 Ontario families will get back more than they pay.”  The policy also includes extra support for small, rural and remote Canadian communities.  Trudeau emphasized that “every nickel” of the carbon pricing revenue would be returned to Canadians.

Since its inception in 2010, CCL Canada has lobbied relentlessly for Ottawa to adopt carbon fee and dividend, over the years holding 793 meetings with members of Parliament and generating thousands of letters to the editor and op-eds in support of the policy.

“We’re the little lobby that could,” said Cathy Orlando, CCL’s International Outreach Manager based in Sudbury, Ontario.  “Our patience and persistence has been rewarded with an effective program that puts Canada on the path to meeting its global obligation on climate change.  Today’s announcement is also an affirmation of CCL’s approach to engaging government with an attitude of appreciation, respect and being nonpartisan.”

Earlier this month, CCL Canada held its 5th annual conference, sending 55 citizen lobbyists to Parliament Hill to meet with MPs.  Throughout the 36 CCL chapters in Canada, volunteers also met with staff in the local offices of members of Parliament.

“The recent report from the IPCC warned us that we have little more than a decade to get our act together and take unprecedented actions to avert catastrophic climate change,” said Reynolds.  “Carbon fee and dividend is one of those unprecedented actions that not only reduces our risk, but also protects our economy by putting money in people’s pockets.”

Read more at Canada Adopts Carbon Fee and Dividend to Rein in Climate Change

Tesla Shares Jump as Musk Delivers Quarterly Profit, Cash

Tesla Vehicle Delivery Location (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) reported a net profit, positive cash flow, and wider-than-expected margins for the latest quarter on Wednesday, delivering on Chief Executive Elon Musk’s promise to turn the electric carmaker profitable as higher production volumes of its new Model 3 began to pay off.

Tesla reiterated that it expected to repeat its net profit in the current quarter, helping drive the company’s shares up 14 percent in after hours trading.

The controversial Musk, who has often set goals and deadlines that Tesla has failed to reach, surprised investors by delivering on his pledge to make Tesla profitable for only the third quarter in its 15-year existence, providing a positive end to a difficult quarter for the CEO whose leadership was openly questioned only weeks ago.

“We can actually be cash flow positive and profitable in all quarters going forward,” Musk said, qualifying that he excluded those in which a big debt payment comes due, such as the first quarter of 2019.

Musk reiterated that Tesla currently does not plan to raise equity or debt.

Tesla said it would begin taking orders in Europe and China for the Model 3 before the end of 2018.  Deliveries would begin to Europe in late February or March, and those to China in the second quarter, if not before, Musk said.

Read more at Tesla Shares Jump as Musk Delivers Quarterly Profit, Cash

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wednesday 24

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Redrawing the Map:  How the World’s Climate Zones Are Shifting

Rising global temperatures are altering climatic zones around the planet, with consequences for food and water security, local economies, and public health.  Here’s a stark look at some of the distinct features that are already on the move.

The tropics are expanding by half a degree per decade. (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
As human-caused emissions change the planet’s atmosphere, and people reshape the landscape, things are changing fast.  The receding line of Arctic ice has made headlines for years, as the white patch at the top of our planet shrinks dramatically.  The ocean is rising, gobbling up coastlines.  Plants, animals, and diseases are on the move as their patches of suitable climate move too.

Sometimes, the lines on the map can literally be redrawn: the line of where wheat will grow, or where tornadoes tend to form, where deserts end, where the frozen ground thaws, and even where the boundaries of the tropics lie.

Here we summarize some of the littler-known features that have shifted in the face of climate change and pulled the map out from under the people living on the edges.  Everything about global warming is changing how people grow their food, access their drinking water, and live in places that are increasingly being flooded, dried out, or blasted with heat waves.  Seeing these changes literally drawn on a map helps to hammer these impacts home.

The Tropics Are Getting Bigger at 30 Miles per Decade
On an atlas, the boundary of the tropics is marked out by the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, at about 23 degrees north and south.  These lines are determined by where the sun lies directly overhead on the December and June solstices.  But from a climate perspective, most scientists draw the edges of the tropics instead at the nearby boundary of the Hadley cell — a large-scale circulation pattern where hot air rises at the equator, and falls back to earth, cooler and drier, somewhere around 30 degrees latitude north (the top of the Sahara desert and Mexico) and 30 degrees south (the bottom of the Kalahari Desert).

The word “tropical” often brings to mind rainforests, colorful birds, and lush, dripping foliage, but the vast majority of our planet’s middle region is actually quite dry.  “The ratio is something like 100 to 1,” says Jian Lu, a climate scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.  About a decade ago, scientists first noticed that this dry belt seemed to be getting bigger.  The dry edges of the tropics are expanding as the subtropics push both north and south, bringing ever-drier weather to places including the Mediterranean.  Meanwhile, the smaller equatorial region with heavy rains is actually contracting, Lu says:  “People call it the tropic squeeze.”

In a paper published in August, Lu and colleagues tracked how and why the Hadley cell is expanding.  They found that since satellite records started in the late 1970s, the edges of the tropics have been moving at about 0.2-0.3 degrees of latitude per decade (in both the north and the south) .  The change is already dramatic in some areas, Lu says — the average over 30 years is about a degree of latitude, or approximately 70 miles, but in some spots the dry expansion is larger.  The result is that the boundary between where it’s getting wetter and where it’s getting drier is pushing farther north, making even countries as far north as Germany and Britain drier.  Meanwhile, already dry Mediterranean countries are really feeling the change:  In 2016, for example, the eastern Mediterranean region had its worst drought in 900 years.  The last time the tropics expanded northward (from 1568 to 1634, due to natural climate fluctuations), droughts helped to trigger the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Read more at Redrawing the Map:  How the World’s Climate Zones Are Shifting

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tuesday 23

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

A Record Number of Scientists Are Running for Congress, and They Get Climate Change

More than a dozen scientists are candidates for U.S. House and Senate seats this year in a wave fueled by the Trump Administration’s anti-science agenda.

 March for science (Credit: Time Health) Click to Enlarge.
Joseph Kopser, an aerospace engineer, Army veteran and Austin tech entrepreneur, is spending October on the campaign trail, Texas style.

At a barbecue, a block party, even a hayride through Hill Country, he's making the case for a dramatic change in Texas' 21st Congressional District and an historic transformation in the U.S. Congress.

Kopser is one of more than a dozen scientists running for Congress this November—a record number that reflects a groundswell of political activism in the scientific community triggered by the anti-science agenda of President Donald Trump's administration, especially on climate change.

Kopser is quick to point out that the political attacks on science pre-date Trump. His district is a prime example:  He's running to fill the congressional seat of retiring Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, who spent the past six years using his power as chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to cast doubt on consensus climate and environmental science.

"The problem I saw is we are so entrenched in our camps and party loyalty, no one is willing to think about other ways of doing business right now," said Kopser, who is a Democrat like many of the scientists running for office.  "Trump is just a symptom of the day and age."

The scientist candidates and their supporters say the political movement has the potential to transform Congress, injecting a critical mass of evidence-based thinkers who could lessen the influence of ideology on decision-making.  It could help catalyze real debate on solutions to address climate change and a host of other issues, they say.

Already, the scientists are having an impact, forcing some GOP opponents to attempt to rebrand themselves to appeal to voters who are concerned about the environment.  But the collective clout of the engineers, physicians and other scientists running for Congress ultimately will depend on getting elected, and their odds vary widely depending on the political landscape of their states and local districts.

Read more at A Record Number of Scientists Are Running for Congress, and They Get Climate Change

China’s Action on Air Quality Is Saving Lives

Emissions control policies in China are rapidly proving effective in improving air quality and helping to increase life expectancy.

Deadly effects of air pollution are being reduced in China. (Image Credit: Matthew Nolan on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
Air quality in China has substantially improved over the last three years with a 20% reduction in small particulates, the most dangerous form of pollution that has been causing more than one million deaths a year.

The figures show that Chinese government policies designed to improve air quality are working, and that life expectancy in the country will increase as a result.

The news is also good for climate change because the same policies mean less fossil fuel is being burned and fewer greenhouse gases released.

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters by the University of Leeds in England, is based on air quality readings taken at 1,600 locations in China from 2015 to 2017.
Another study, published in Environment International, says that replacing fossil fuels with renewables in China and India will add years to people’s lives.

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences looked at the effect of air pollution on the life expectancy of 2.7 billion people who live in the two countries – more than a third of the world’s population.

Air pollution is one of the largest contributors to death in both countries. China is rated as the fourth most polluted country in the world, and India is ranked fifth.

The researchers found that eliminating harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants could annually save an estimated 15 million years of life in China and 11 million years of life in India.

Read more at China’s Action on Air Quality Is Saving Lives

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sunday 21

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

By 2035 the ‘Great Fuel Switch’ Will Mark the End of the Age of Oil and Gas, Analysts Expect

Solar and wind energy will meet 20 percent of global power needs sooner than previously forecast.

A wind farm near Freiwalde, Germany. (Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Close to 20 percent of global power needs will be met by solar or wind energy by 2035, marking a shift from the age of oil and gas to the age of renewables, according to a new report from researchers at the consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

The growing focus on sustainability in many parts of the world, the report says, “is almost akin to a gravitational force, pulling things in one direction and driving the ‘great fuel switch,’ leaving little possibility for a reversal.”

Energy transitions, similar to the ongoing shift to renewables, are nothing new, Wood Mackenzie researchers write in the report released Wednesday, entitled “Thinking Global Energy Transitions:  The What, If, How and When.” 

The current hydrocarbon-based economy has itself evolved out of many previous energy transitions, from the age of biomass to the age of coal, and, ultimately, to that of oil and gas.  Each of these was different, but all took at least 30 to 50 years to unfold, the report says.

Technological advancements in the renewable energy industry, coupled with the growth of energy storage and the growth of electric vehicles, are driving the “large-scale commodity switch” away from fossil fuels, Prajit Ghosh, Wood Mackenzie’s head of global strategy, power and renewables, said Wednesday in a statement.

“The result is that the energy transition seems less the plot of a sci-fi movie and more of a feasible, albeit ambitious, plan,” Ghosh said.

The transition to solar and wind energy will replace the equivalent of about 100 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas demand in the global power sector, the report says.  For comparison, demand for natural gas in the United States — the world’s largest consumer of natural gas — averaged about 74 billion cubic per day for all purposes, or about 20 percent of global natural gas consumption, in 2017.

Read more at By 2035 the ‘Great Fuel Switch’ Will Mark the End of the Age of Oil and Gas, Analysts Expect

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Saturday 20

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

'Dire' IPCC Report Ignites Headlines, Media Coverage

Whether report, and media coverage of it, will budge public opinion remains unclear.

Flooding in Philadelphia (Photo Credit: Bud Ward, Copyright protected) Click to Enlarge.
News of the short-term climate catastrophe scientists say the world now faces first came over the weekend of October 6-7.  That’s just as many across the U.S. were already consumed by “breaking news” of an entirely different sort – the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh.
Major broadcast networks and cable news stations, and what remains of serious daily newspapers soon were giving earnest play to the latest IPCC report, and expressing substantial levels of concern.

For those who somehow missed it, a quick catch-up:  The news from IPCC scientists gathered from across the world was indeed serious, and troubling to all but those wanting to still play the “hoax” card.  A few samplings from the report:
  • “Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
  • Limiting the warming to 1.5 rather than to 2 degrees C will provide “clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems…, ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.”  That is, there’s a big difference in that one-half degree C in terms of adverse impacts.
  • “We are already seeing the consequences of 1-degree C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing arctic sea ice, among other changes.”
  • “By 2100, global sea-level rise would be 10 cm [nearly four inches] lower with global warming of 1.5 C compared with 2 C.”
  • “Likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5 C, compared with at least once per decade with 2 C.”
  • “Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5 C whereas virtually all (>99 percent) would be lost with 2C.”
‘Rapid-far reaching transitions’ needed …

It’s that very important distinction – between the stated goal of limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees C and the “aspirational” goal of capping warmth at 1.5 degrees C – that strikes many as a particularly valuable contribution of the new report.  It ends up there’s a B I G difference indeed in term of the severity of impacts between 1.5 and 2 degrees C.

But there’s more too.
Achieving that 1.5-degree C maximum warming threshold means “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities,” with global net human-caused emissions of CO2 falling by roughly 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 … to “net zero” around 2050.

Read more at 'Dire' IPCC Report Ignites Headlines, Media Coverage

New Materials Could Make Concentrated Solar Power Cheaper than Battery Storage

Heat exchanger material for CSP (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Sunlight can do lots of useful things.  It can make plants grow.  It can allow solar panels to make electricity.  And it can be used to heat stuff up to extremely high temperatures.  That last one is what makes concentrated solar power possible.  According to a report in Science Daily, “Concentrated solar power plants convert solar energy into electricity by using mirrors or lenses to concentrate a lot of light onto a small area, which generates heat that is transferred to a molten salt.  Heat from the molten salt is then transferred to a “working” fluid, supercritical carbon dioxide, that expands and works to spin a turbine for generating electricity.”

The critical elements in that process are the heat exchangers used to transfer the heat stored in the molten salt to the carbon dioxide working fluid.  If the whole process could be made to operate at even higher temperatures, CSP systems could make more electricity from a given amount of sunlight.

“Storing solar energy as heat can already be cheaper than storing energy via batteries, so the next step is reducing the cost of generating electricity from the sun’s heat with the added benefit of zero greenhouse gas emissions,” says Kenneth Sandhage, a professor of materials engineering at Purdue University.

At the present time, those heat exchangers are made of stainless steel or nickel based alloys, but they get too soft at the desired higher temperatures and at the elevated pressure of supercritical carbon dioxide.  Professor Sandhage has been collaborating with researchers at  the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop new materials that can be used in heat exchangers that operate at those higher temperatures.  The results of their research have been published recently in the journal Nature.

The scientists looked at the materials used to make nozzles for solid fuel rocket engines and created new heat exchangers made from zirconium carbide and tungsten that can withstand the high temperature, high pressure supercritical carbon dioxide needed for generating electricity more efficiently.  An economic analysis by Georgia Tech and Purdue researchers also showed that the scaled up manufacturing of these heat exchangers could be conducted at comparable or lower cost than for stainless steel or nickel alloy-based ones.

“Ultimately, with continued development, this technology would allow for large scale penetration of renewable solar energy into the electricity grid,” Sandhage says.  “This would mean dramatic reductions in human-made carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production.”  What a delicious irony that carbon dioxide — the molecule responsible for most global warming — could be used to help reduce carbon emissions from the energy generation sector.  Check out the video below for more on this breakthrough research.

Read more at New Materials Could Make Concentrated Solar Power Cheaper than Battery Storage