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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #51B

Posted on 19 December 2013 by John Hartz

  • China roars ahead with renewables
  • Climate change tweaks Pacific ocean chemistry
  • EU reaches deal to cap super-warming F-gases
  • Global coal use predicted to keep growing
  • Has the Great Barrier Reef just been approved for destruction?
  • Iceland's vanishing ice
  • Media still doesn't like talking about climate change
  • Nuclear scare stories are a gift to the truly lethal coal industry
  • Plants ‘could stop being brake on global warming’
  • The climate change scorecard
  • West Africa hopes new hydropower dams will cut poverty, climate risk
  • 'Whole world' at risk from simultaneous droughts, famines, epidemics

China roars ahead with renewables

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has just released some remarkable data on the addition of new electric generating capacity in 2013. China’s electric power system has been growing at a tremendous rate to keep up with the country’s breakneck expansion of its manufacturing industry over the past decade.

Between 2010 and 2011 China’s power system passed the 1 million kilowatt mark (kW), making it comparable in size to the US. In the years 2010, 2011 and 2012 the system was growing at around 10% a year, by amounts varying between 83 million kW and 94 million kW each year.

But in 2013 so far (the first 10 months, Jan to Oct), the National Energy Administration revealed that capacity additions have slumped. They total just 63 million kW so far, and might amount to perhaps 88 million kW for the year. The total power system in China appears to be levelling out.

The remarkable feature is that the share of renewables has leapt in significance. Whereas non-fossil fuel capacity additions totalled 31 million kW in 2012, these renewable and nuclear power stations have totalled 36 million kW so far this year – and could be projected to be 43 or 44 million kW for the whole year. That’s one new non-fossil power station of 1 million kW nearly every week!

China roars ahead with renewables by John Mathews & Hoa Tan, The Convesrsation, Dec 16, 2013 

Climate change tweaks Pacific ocean chemistry

Deep in the subtropical Pacific, one of the world's longest-lived animalshas been documenting the ocean's history.

Called the Hawaiian gold coral, the organism lives in treelike colonies about 1,300 feet below the ocean's surface. Scientists have dated pieces of its skeleton going as far back as 3,000 years.

Now, those pieces, collected in a series of deep-sea dives, are being used by scientists to prove that changes in ocean chemistry are linked with changes in the climate.

"It turns out there is a very distinct change in our records, and it begins about 150 years ago," said Owen Sherwood, a geologist who conducted research on these corals as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and who is now at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

Climate Change Tweaks Pacific Ocean Chemistry by Stephanie Paige Ogburn and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Dec 17, 2013 

EU reaches deal to cap super-warming F-gases

The European Union on Monday reached a tentative deal on limiting the use in fridges and air conditioners of fluorinated gases that have a global warming potential thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.

Two decades after international action led to the phasing out of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the European Commission last year proposed a law to eliminate the climate-harming "F-gases" that replaced CFCs.

Under Monday's deal, the new rules introduce a cap to achieve a 79 percent reduction by 2030 on the group of gases known as hydroflurocarbons (HFCs).

EU reaches deal to cap super-warming F-gases by Barbara Lewis, Reuters, Dec 18, 2013 

Global coal use predicted to keep growing

Global consumption of coal, a major source of the greenhouse gases blamed for rising global temperatures and other pollutants, is likely to continue to grow at “a relentless pace” through 2018, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.       

“Like it or not, coal is here to stay for a long time to come,” said Maria van der Hoeven, the agency’s executive director, in a statement.       

The report, released Monday by the I.E.A. in Paris, underscored the dilemma facing the world with regard to coal. Because coal is relatively inexpensive and abundant, it remains the dominant fuel for the generation of electricity, especially in developing countries. Yet burning coal is also highly polluting.

Global Coal Use Predicted to Keep Growing by Stanley Reed, New York Times, Dec 16, 2013

Has the Great Barrier Reef just been approved for destruction?

Unfortunately, soon a massively destructive coal port will be built just 50 km north of the magnificent Whitsunday Islands. The port expansion was approved by the Abbott Liberal National government on Wednesday 11 December, and it will become one of the world's largest coal ports.

The coal export facility is ironically located on Abbot Point. The construction of this port will involve dredging 3 million cubic metres of seabed. The dredge spoil will be dumped into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

To give you an idea of the scale of this dredging, if all of the spoil was put into dump trucks, there would be 150,000 of them lined up bumper to bumper from Brisbane to Melbourne.

Has the Great Barrier Reef just been approved for destruction by the Australian government? by Alexander White, Southern Crossroads, The Guardian, Dec 18, 2013

Iceland's vanishing ice

Iceland, lying just below the Arctic Circle, is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet – as much a four times the Northern Hemisphere average. The 300-some glaciers that cover more than 10 percent of the island are losing an average of 11 billion tons of ice a year. 

The annual volume carried away from Iceland's glaciers and not replaced by new snow would fill 50 of the world's largest trucks every minute for the entire year.

"It is among the highest losses on the Earth," said pioneering glaciologist Helgi Bjornsson during an interview in his office at the University of Iceland's Institute of Earth Sciences, overflowing with 40 years of research and books about ice. 

Iceland's vanishing ice by Cheryl Katz, The Daily Climate, Dec 18, 2013

Media still doesn't like talking about climate change

Surprise! The media still doesn't want to discuss climate change that much.

A new FAIR survey looking at top national news networks found that while reports of extreme weather dominated the media in 2013, networks failed to include hardly any mention of human influence. From January to September 2013, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and ABC World News aired 450 segments consisting of 200 words or more, FAIR reported Wednesday. However, only 4 percent of those reports actually mentioned the words "climate change," "global warming" or "greenhouse gases."

Media Still Doesn't Like Talking About Climate Change by Catherine Taibi, The Huffington Post, Dec 18, 2013           

Nuclear scare stories are a gift to the truly lethal coal industry 

Most of the afflictions wrongly attributed to nuclear power can rightly be attributed to coal. I was struck by this thought when I saw the graphics published by Greenpeace on Friday, showing the premature deaths caused by coal plants in China. The research it commissioned suggests that a quarter of a million deaths a year could be avoided if coal power there were shut down. Yes, a quarter of a million.

Were Greenpeace to plot the impacts of nuclear power on the same scale, the vast red splodges depicting the air pollution catastrophe suffered by several Chinese cities would be replaced by dots invisible to the naked eye.

Nuclear scare stories are a gift to the truly lethal coal industry, Op-ed by George Monbiot, The Guardian, Dec 16, 2013 

Plants ‘could stop being brake on global warming’

Earth’s vegetation could be saturated with carbon by the end of the century and stop acting as a brake on global warming, scientists warn.

A 4C rise in global temperature, predicted by 2100, marks the threshold point after which terrestrial trees and plants will be unable to soak up any more carbon from the atmosphere.

Atmospheric carbon will then start to increase more rapidly, accelerating climate change, the researchers warn.

Plants ‘could stop being brake on global warming’, The Independent, Dec 16, 2013

The climate change scorecard

Consider this the background “temperature” for Dahr Jamail’s latest piece for TomDispatch, an exploration of what climate scientists just beyond  the mainstream are thinking about how climate change will affect life on  this planet.  What, in other words, is the worst that we could possibly  face in the decades to come?  The answer: a nightmare scenario.  So  buckle your seat belt.  There’s a tumultuous ride ahead. Tom

Tomgram: Dahr Jamail, The Climate Change Scorecard by Tom Englehardt,, Dec 17, 2013

West Africa hopes new hydropower dams will cut poverty, climate risk

West African states in the Niger River Basin are seeking to tackle climate risks and reduce poverty by constructing three hydropower dams in the next five years.

In late November, the Council of Ministers of the Niger Basin Authority (NBA), meeting in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde, endorsed an environmental and climate action plan for sustainable management of the scenic basin and its rich natural resources, which have come under threat from climate change.

The projects include a 102 megawatt (MW) hydropower dam at Fomi in Guinea, a 25 MW hydropower plant in Toussa, Mali, and the 565 MW Kandadji dam in Niger. These aim to boost hydro-electricity and irrigation, reduce desertification and flooding, and improve economic activities across the region.

West Africa hopes new hydropower dams will cut poverty, climate risk by Elias Ntungwe Ngalame, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Dec 17, 2013

'Whole world' at risk from simultaneous droughts, famines, epidemics 

An international scientific research project known as the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP), run by 30 teams from 12 countries, has attempted to understand the severity and scale of global impacts of climate change. The project compares model projections on water scarcity, crop yields, disease, floods among other issues to see how they could interact.

The series of papers published by the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows that policymakers might be underestimating the social and economic consequences of climate change due to insufficient attention on how different climate risks are interconnected.

'Whole world' at risk from simultaneous droughts, famines, epidemics: scientists by Nafeez Ahmed, Earth Insight, The Guardian, Dec 17, 2013

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  1. The link for the aricle on the Great Barrier Reef leads back here, instead of to the article at the Guardian

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Link fixed. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. 

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