2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #44A

Australian bushfires fan global warming debate

Australia has been battling unseasonably bad bushfires for weeks. The flames have destroyed hundreds of homes - and have also intensified a political debate about whether there is a link with global warming. 

Australian bushfires fan global warming debate by Jon Donnison, BBC News, Oct 26. 2013

B.C. firm looks at sewers to power sustainable energy shift

Lynn Mueller, head of International Wastewater Systems, has a keeninterest in sewers.

More specifically, he is obsessed with the hot water people flush down their drains and figuring out ways to recycle all that heat to be used again as energy for building systems — heating, air conditioning and hot water.

“A lot of people probably dream about other things than (sewage heat recovery), but I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” Mueller told The Sun.

Recycling energy from buildings is becoming de rigueur in sustainable construction.

B.C. firm looks at sewers to power sustainable energy shift by Derrick Penner, Vancouver Sun, Oct 27, 2013

Bill to block EPA greenhouse gas emissions rules

Two coal state lawmakers -- a Republican House member and a Democratic senator -- introduced legislation on Monday that would kneecap Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gas pollution from new coal-fired power plants.

The proposed legislation comes from Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Whitman said he "has been working closely" on the measure with Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who "will spearhead the legislation" in the Senate. The pair unveiled the plan in a press release on Monday afternoon.

The EPA last month issued new draft rules that would limit emissions from new power plants. The limits would mean that no new coal plants could be built unless they use technology to capture and store carbon emissions.

Coal State Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Block EPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rules by Kate Shepard, The Huffington Post, Oct 28, 2013

Ethiopia opens Africa's largest wind farm 

Africa's biggest wind farm began production in Ethiopia on Saturday, aiding efforts to diversify electricity generation from hydropower plants and help the country become a major regional exporter of energy.

The Horn of Africa country - plagued by frequent blackouts - plans to boost generating capacity from 2,000 MW to 10,000 MW within the next three to five years, much of it coming from the 6,000 MW Grand Renaissance Dam under construction on the Nile.

The plan also consists of raising wind power generation to more than 800 MW and geothermal capacity to less than 100 MW.

Ethiopia opens Africa's largest wind farm to boost power production by Aaron Maasho, Reuters, Oct 26, 2013

EU environment ministers call for action on climate policy

Thirteen European environment ministers urged the European Union on Monday to adopt ambitious energy and climate goals for 2030 or risk falling behind the rest of the world.

In a 40-page document released in Brussels, they also called on the 28-nation bloc to reform the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) and said environmental action need not clash with efforts to limit energy prices.

On the contrary, some EU nations with high levels of renewable energy have relatively low energy prices and are also benefiting from exporting renewable technology, they said.

EU environment ministers call for action on climate policy by Barbara Lewis and Nina Chestney, Reuters, Oct 28, 2013

How global warming could boost green energy in an unexpected way

Global warming is expected to make water scarcer in some places, which could mean nuclear and coal power plants, which need a lot of water, could lose out to green energy, a study suggests.

How global warming could boost green energy in an unexpected way by Peter Spotts, Christian Science Monitor, Oct 28, 2013 

Missing logic of Australian PM's denial of climate change link to bushfires

Imagine a teacher who wanders into a classroom full of five-year-olds, sits down, pulls out a packet of cigarettes and starts to smoke them, exhaling puffs of cancer-inducing haze that waft into the little kids' faces.

"Please stop that," pleads one of the children. "My mummy says smoking gives you cancer."

"Rubbish," replies the smoker. "People have been dying of cancer ever since humans have walked the Earth. How did the cavemen die of cancer before cigarettes were invented, eh?"

Missing logic of Australian Prime Minister's denial of climate change link to bushfires by Graham Readfearn, Planet OZ/The Guardian, Oct 28, 2013

Remember Sandy? Storms like that could become the new normal

One year ago, when the largest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history swept up the East Coast and collided with a nor'easter, the two massive weather events morphed into a superstorm. Sandy made landfall in New York harbor during a full moon—when the tides are highest—and caused a massive storm swell that flooded much of the region. It was dubbed a Frankenstorm, a Snor'eastercane, the Katrina of New Jersey.

By the time Sandy ran its course, it had created a disaster scenario better than anything Hollywood could dream up. But Sandy wasn't fiction—and climate models show that within the next hundred years Sandy-sized storms could even become the new norm. 

CHARTS: Remember Sandy? Storms Like That Could Become the New Normal by Maggie Caldwell, Mother Jones, Oct 26, 2013

Risk of Amazon rainforest dieback higher than IPCC projects

A new study suggests the southern portion of the Amazon rainforest is at a much higher risk of dieback due to climate change than projections made in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If severe enough, the loss of rainforest could cause the release of large volumes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It could also disrupt plant and animal communities in one of the regions of highest biodiversity in the world. 

Risk of Amazon Rainforest Dieback Higher than IPCC Projects by Francesco Fiondella, International Reserach Institute for Climate & Society, Columbia University, Oct 21, 2013 

Solar switch forces utilities to shift priorities

Sitting on a rooftop, soaking up sun, the humble solar panel may not look like a threat to a multibillion-dollar industry.

But some electric utility executives say it is. They even have a name for the nightmare scenario solar could create - the "death spiral."

They fear solar's rapid spread across homes and businesses, combined with the increasing efficiency of modern buildings and appliances, could slowly erode the utilities' ability to grow. California utilities get paid based on the value of the assets they own - the transmission lines, substations and wires. As more businesses and homeowners generate their own electricity, the utilities won't need to add as many of those assets as before.

Solar switch forces utilities to shift priorities by David R. Baker, SF Gate, Oct 26, 2013

The lesson of Hurricane Sandy: pay now, not later

One year ago, on October 29,superstorm Sandy swamped New York City and New Jersey. Although authorities did a terrific job of evacuating people, they were helpless against Sandy’s record-high storm surge. Today the city and its neighboring state are still trying to recover, and the struggles raise a stark lesson that coastal communities all along the U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast must take to heart: spending money, even lots of money, to protect against storms is far cheaper than fixing damage and rebuilding afterward.

Most of us have learned this lesson the hard way at some point, summed up in the tag line of an old commercial about the wisdom of getting a regular, inexpensive oil change for your car instead of delaying and creating a bigger, more expensive engine problem: “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” In 2007 New York released PlaNYC, a blueprint for making the city sustainable for decades, including adaptation to climate change. Work on a few of the recommendations began, but many went unfunded. In 2009 a group of scientist convened by the city, the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC), published a report saying the city should plan for up to two feet of sea level rise by 2100 as well as significant storm surges. Again, little work followed.

The Lesson of Hurricane Sandy: Pay Now, Not Later by Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, Oct 28, 2013

What would happen without the Amazon?

Climate change is wreaking havoc on the rainforest. One scientist and his airplane are tracking the destruction.

What would happen without the Amazon? (includes video) by Simeon Tegal and Oscar Durand, Salon, Oct 28, 2013

Posted by John Hartz on Tuesday, 29 October, 2013

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