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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #47A

Posted on 19 November 2014 by John Hartz

A carbon tax could bolster wobbly progress in renewable energy

A couple of years ago, the smart money was on wind. In 2012, 13 gigawatts worth of wind-powered electricity generation capacity was installed in the United States, enough to meet the needs of roughly three million homes. That was some 40 percent of all the capacity added to the nation’s power grid that year, up from seven gigawatts added in 2011 and just over five in 2010.

But then a federal subsidy ended. Only one gigawatt worth of wind power capacity was installed in 2013. In the first half of 2014, additions totaled0.835 gigawatts. Facing a Congress controlled by Republicans with little interest in renewable energy, wind power’s future suddenly appears much more uncertain.

“Wind is competitive in more and more markets,” said Letha Tawney at the World Resources Institute. “But any time there is uncertainty about the production tax credit, it all stops.” 

A Carbon Tax Could Bolster Wobbly Progress in Renewable Energy by Eduardo Porter, New York Times, Nov 18, 2014

A dam revival, despite risks

While some dams in the United States and Europe are being decommissioned, a dam-building boom is underway in developing countries. It is a shift from the 1990s, when amid concerns about environmental impacts and displaced people, multilateral lenders like the World Bank backed away from large hydroelectric power projects.

World hydropower production will grow from 4,000 terawatt hours now — about the annual power output of the United States — to 4,670 terawatt hours in 2020, according to Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, in Paris. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that hydropower generation will double in China between 2008 and 2035, and triple in India and Africa.

The World Bank and other international lenders were the most important financiers of large dams before the ’90s lull. But although the World Bank has in recent years increased its investment in hydropower from a low of just a few million dollars in 1999 to about $1.8 billion in 2014, it still funds only 2 percent of hydropower project investment today.

A Dam Revival, Despite Risks by Erica Gies, New York Times, Nov 19, 2014

Congress is about to sabotage Obama’s historic climate deal

If you want to understand why the China-U.S. climate deal announced this week is going to be hard to meet, and if you want to understand why the Democratic Party is such an annoying institution, meet Tom Carper, Democratic senator from Delaware.

Tom Carper is very happy with the president’s climate deal with China. “Yesterday’s climate change agreement with China is yet another example that when the United States takes a leadership role in addressing our greatest global environmental challenges – other countries will follow,” he explained, which is the kind of self-satisfied vacuity Washington folks routinely utter. (Anyone who thinks the U.S. has taken a leadership position in addressing climate change needs to reconsider the last quarter century).

But here’s his real folly: Later the same day Carper announced he would vote in favor of the Keystone Pipeline, because he’s had “enough already” of the fight waged by more environmental activists than on any issue in a generation. “He is hopeful that moving forward with this bipartisan bill will pave the way for Congress to work together on other measures to increase our energy independence while also addressing the real environmental and public health threats we face from greenhouse gas pollution,” said a Carper spokeswoman.

Congress is about to sabotage Obama’s historic climate deal by Bill McKibben, Salon, Nov 14, 2014

David Cameron urges Tony Abbott to do more on climate change

British prime minister David Cameron has joined calls for Tony Abbott to do more to tackle climate change, saying “countries that have so far done the least have to think about what more they can do”.

Cameron told Britain’s Sky News that every nation needed to “put more on the table” if the world was to reach a successful agreement in Paris next year on reducing greenhouse emissions after 2020.

“Countries that have so far done the least have to think about what more they can do. I’ve had good and friendly discussions with prime minister Abbott about that,” he said, adding that even those unsure of climate science should regard action as a form of “insurance”.

“I hope [Australia will] do everything they can in the coming months to look at what more they can deliver, because when it comes to Paris if we want to get a global agreement everyone is going to have to bring something to the table.”

G20: David Cameron urges Tony Abbott to do more on climate change by Lenore Taylor, The Guardian, Nov 15, 2014

G20 pledges lift Green Climate Fund towards $10 billion U.N. goal

A promise by Japan on Sunday to give up to $1.5 billion to a U.N. fund to help poor nations cope with global warming puts the fund within sight of a $10 billion goal and brightens prospects for a U.N. climate pact next year.

Japan's pledge, at the G20 meeting of world leaders in Australia, raises the total promised to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to $7.5 billion, including up to $3 billion by U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday.

The Seoul-based GCF Secretariat in a statement hailed the pledges as a turning point before a first donors' conference in Berlin on Thursday. The United Nations has set an informal target of raising $10 billion this year.

G20 pledges lift Green Climate Fund towards $10 billion U.N. goal by Alister Doyle, Reuters, Nov 16, 2014

Giant batteries connected to the grid: the future of energy storage?

Across the world, efforts are underway to improve the way we store and distribute energy, as we move towards more sustainable but intermittent forms of energy generation, such as wind and solar power.

Improving the way we store energy is important for the UK’s energy security, as it will allow us to decouple energy generation and its usage. If we can find a better way to store energy it will allow us to save it when it’s generated and use it when it’s required, replacing our current awkward system where generation has to match demand in real time.

The UK’s first two-megawatt (MW) lithium-titanate battery is to be connected to the energy grid as part of a new research project to tackle the challenges of industrial-scale energy storage. The project aims to test the technological and economic challenges of using giant batteries to provide support to the grid. We’ll also test whether used battery packs from electric vehicles can be given a second life, and applied in hybrid systems to lower the cost of storage.

Giant batteries connected to the grid: the future of energy storage? by Dani Strickland, The Guardian, Nov 14, 2014

Global warming is probably boosting lake-effect snows

In the aftermath of a massive lake-effect snowfall event in western New York state on Tuesday, it’s worth asking: Is climate change playing a role here? Because, I mean, come on. Seventy—seven zero—inches, people. And another huge round is forecast for Thursday, by the way. Buffalo deserves answers.

The short answer is: yes. Global warming is probably juicing lake-effect snows, and we’ve had the data to prove it for quite some time.

Global Warming Is Probably Boosting Lake-Effect Snows by Eric Holthaus, Slate, Nov 19, 2014

Humanity’s epic planetary facelift: Climate change, mass extinction and the uncertain future of life on earth

The Anthropocene: Don’t worry about trying to pronounce it. Don’t even worry about whether or not geologists decide we’ve officially entered it. This is the Age of Man: the epoch of mass extinction, of rapidly acidifying oceans and of unprecedented climate change – transformation on a planetary scale, all of which we’ve brought on ourselves.

Gaia Vince, formerly the editor of the journal Nature and the magazine New Scientist and a current editor at the journal Nature Climate Change, has been seeing this all play out for years; for some added perspective, she took an 800-day trip around the world, encountering places where humanity’s influence on the planet is already abundantly evident – and where humans are trying to redirect that influence into something more favorable.

Problem-solving in the Anthropocene is a monumental task: If people aren’t moving mountains yet, Vince at least documents cases where they’re painting them, and, in Nepal, connecting them to WiFi. They’re creating artificial glaciers in Ladakh, using electrical currents to restore coral reefs in Bali and, back in New Jersey, trying to create artificial trees that can remove CO2 from the atmosphere much more effectively than their natural counterparts.

Humanity’s epic planetary facelift: Climate change, mass extinction and the uncertain future of life on earth by Lindsay Abrams, Salon, Nov 15, 2014

NASA, other data show globe had warmest October

For the third month in a row, global temperatures reached record territory according to newly available data from NASA. And if one global temperature record isn’t enough, the Japanese Meteorological Agency also provided new data on Friday that showed the warmest October on record.

Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) show this October was 1.4°F above the 1951-1980 average they use as their baseline. That didn’t set a monthly mark, as did August and September, but rather tied 2005 as the warmest October since 1880. That keeps 2014 on track to be the hottest year on record.

While individual hot years or months don’t necessarily stand out, it’s notable that all 10 of the warmest years on record have all come since 1998, one of the clearest signs that the climate is warming due in large part to greenhouse gas emissions.

NASA, Other Data Show Globe Had Warmest October by Brian Kahn, Climate Central, Nov 14, 2014

Peru prepares to host climate talks as its Indigenous forest defenders die

The nonprofit group Global Witness makes some valuable points in a new report offering Peru a path to cut the violence on its poorly governed resource frontier in the Amazon. The report, “Peru’s Deadly Environment,” is being released today at a Manhattan event organized with the Alexander Soros Foundation.

The foundation’s founder, Alexander Soros, was scheduled to give a posthumous award for environmental activism to Edwin Chota, a prominent anti-logging campaigner, and three colleagues who were murdered earlier this year.

Diana Rios Rengifo, a daughter of one of the murdered men, was scheduled to accept the award on behalf of her father and their Ashéninka community, which has been trying to gain title to its lands for a decade.

Peru Prepares to Host Climate Talks as its Indigenous Forest Defenders Die by Andrew A. Revkin, DotEarth, New York Times, Nov 17, 2014

Tackle air pollution to kickstart climate action, says new study 

Air pollution is a huge problem worldwide, killing millions of people each year. Further warming will only increase the size of the problem, according to a Nature article today.

It's time efforts to curb soot, ozone and other pollutants in the atmosphere got more attention at an international level, the researchers argue.

Getting serious about air pollution could provide the impetus needed to tackle climate change more effectively.

Tackle air pollution to kickstart climate action, says new study by Roz Pidcock, The Carbon Brief, Nov 19, 2014

Turbulent week for global climate policy leaves many questions

They came, they saw, they cuddled koalas and world leaders then largely ignored the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s instructions to ignore the global, intergenerational and morally challenging kerfuffle over climate change.

All in all the last seven days have proven to be momentous for climate change policy - both at the Brisbane G20 summit in Queensland and elsewhere.

Suspicions were confirmed, deals were announced and positions were galvanized, but there are still major questions as the world tries to find a safe route to a new global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

I’ve been doing a bit of unpicking. Here are the threads.

Turbulent week for global climate policy leaves many questions by Graham Readfern, Planet Oz, The Guradian, Nov 17, 2014

U.S. Senate Democrats block Keystone pipeline

Senate Democrats blocked a move Tuesday to compel construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, dealing a sharp loss to one of their own, Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), who had pinned her chances for reelection on approval of the measure.

The vote was a victory for environmental activists who have turned defeat of the pipeline into one of the central symbolic causes of their movement. But Republicans, who will take majority control of the Senate in the next Congress, vowed to return to the fight next year.

On a 59 to 41 roll call, Landrieu’s campaign fell one vote shy of passing legislation meant to force President Obama to approve the nearly 1,700-mile, $7.6 billion project, which would deliver 830,000 barrels of oil a day from western Canada to the American heartland. With just 14 Democrats backing it, Landrieu’s bill fell victim to a filibuster by her own party. All 45 Republicans voted for the measure.

Democrats block Keystone pipeline, but GOP vows new fight when it takes over by Paul Kane and Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, Nov 18, 2014

Where is global warming's missing heat?

Call it the climate change conundrum: Even though humans are pumping more greenhouse gases than ever into the atmosphere, the world’s average air temperature isn’t rising as quickly as it once did. Some scientists have proposed that the missing heat is actually being trapped deep underwater by the Pacific Ocean. But a new modeling study concludes that the Pacific isn’t acting alone. Instead, it finds, several of the world’s oceans are playing a role in the warming slowdown by absorbing their share of the “missing” heat.

“There are a lot of details about exactly which ocean basin is taking up the energy,” says Andrew Dessler, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University, College Station, who wasn’t involved in the study. But “I don't see anything in here that changes our expectations of lon/>g-term climate change.”

Where is global warming's missing heat? by Puneet Kollipara, Science, Nov 14, 2014

White House turns climate change spotlight to U.S. cities, towns

After announcing a major deal with China to curb emissions and a $3 billion pledge into a fund to help poor countries fight climate change last week, the Obama administration will turn its focus to American towns and cities to help them adapt to the impacts of global warming.

On Monday, a task force of eight governors, 16 mayors and two tribal leaders will meet with Vice President Joe Biden and senior White House officials to present recommendations on how they can help local communities deal with extreme weather.

White House officials will also unveil a set of measures, including a Web-based climate resilience toolkit, to help local leaders adopt measures to prepare municipalities for rising sea levels, droughts, diseases and other climate impacts.

White House turns climate change spotlight to U.S. cities, towns by Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, Nov 17, 2014

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Comments 1 to 3:

  1. It would be great to include something about the mega-snow event in Buffalo, but I haven't seen a MSM news story that includes GW in it, even though it has GW fingerprints all over it. Yes, lake-effect snow is common. But the fact that these extreme levels of snowfall broke records shows that this event was quite uncommon.

    After a warm summer and fall, some of the lake temps were at record highs. Then you had the odd "Warm Arctic, Cold Continent" effect that is becoming more common as GW proceeds, displacing lots of Arctic air over those warm water bodies...and record lake-effect snows were a rather predictable result.

    If anyone does see someone connect these dots in the MSM, please to provide a link here. (And of course, if I've botched something in my reasoning here--not at all unlikely--please let me know that, too.)

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] See the seventh listed article in the OP.

  2. Doh!

    Thanks. Good to see that Slate is on top of it, as are you guys. Thanks!

    0 0
  3. Al Jazeera now has this coverage, too:

    Cold snap caused by climate change-weakened jet stream, scientists suggest

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