2015 SkS Weekly News Roundup #11B

Coal: burning up Australia’s future

With less than a year to go before the United Nation’s annual climate change meeting scheduled to take place in Paris in November 2015, citizens and civil society groups are pushing their elected leaders to take stock of national commitments to lower carbon emissions in a bid to cap runaway global warming.

Industrialised countries’ trade, investment and environment policies are under the microscope, with per capita emissions from the U.S., Canada and Australia each topping 20 tonnes of carbon annually, double the per capital carbon emissions from China.

But despite fears that a rise in global temperatures of over two degrees Celsius could lead to catastrophic climate change, governments around the world continue to follow a ‘business as usual’ approach, pouring millions into dirty industries and unsustainable ventures that are heating the planet. 

In Australia, coal mining and combustion for electricity, for instance, has become a highly divisive issue, with politicians hailing the industry as the answer to poverty and unemployment, while scientists and concerned citizens fight fiercely for less environmentally damaging energy alternatives.

Coal: Burning Up Australia’s Future by Suganthi Singarayar, Inter Press Service (IPS), Mar 11, 2015

Delivering at scale, empowering transformation

In 2014, Tajikistan applied climate analysis to maximize investments in an aging hydropower system upon which half a million people depend. Morocco continued the phased development of a 500 MW concentrated solar power complex — the first of its kind in Morocco and one of the largest in the world, promising to bring electricity to 1.1 million Moroccans. Indigenous peoples’ groups in Brazil presented and received approval for a $6.5 million plan to advance their participation in sustainable forest management.

These are just a few of the many progressive steps that 63 developing and middle income countries are taking to shift to low carbon, climate-resilient economies with support from the Climate Investment Funds (CIF).

With more than $8 billion in resources expected to attract at least an additional $57 billion from other sources, the CIF is accelerating, scaling up, and influencing the design of a wide range of climate-related investments in participating countries. While this may be only a small portion of the resources needed annually to curb global warming, the CIF is showing that even a limited amount of public funding, if well placed, can deliver investments at scale to empower transformation.

Delivering at scale, empowering transformation by Mafalda Duarte, Development in a Changing Climate, World Bank, Mar 9, 2015

Earth science is not hard science, congressional Republicans declare

U.S. geoscientists are accustomed to being used as a punching bag by climate change skeptics in Congress, who challenge the science of global warming. But some influential Republican legislators are now going a step further, by denigrating the discipline itself.

Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX), the new chair of the science and space panel within the Senate commerce committee and an unofficial presidential candidate, asserted yesterday at a hearing that the earth sciences are not “hard science.” Freshman Senator Cory Gardner (R–CO), a member of the panel and a rising star within the Republican Party, echoed Cruz’s words. And the new chair of an important science spending panel in the House of Representatives, Representative John Culberson (R–TX), has said repeatedly in recent weeks that the earth sciences don’t meet his definition of “the pure sciences.”

Earth science is not hard science, congressional Republicans declare by Jeffrey Mervis, Science, Mar 13, 2015

IFRC and UNFCCC call for cooperative action to meet climate challenge

Statement by Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 

IFRC and UNFCCC Call for Cooperative Action to Meet Climate Challenge, UN Climate Change Newsroom, Mar 13, 2015

Global emissions trading scheme 'should be based on UN carbon budget

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) carbon budget could provide the scientific basis for a global cap on emissions, suggested Tim Yeo, the outgoing chair of the UK's energy and climate change committee.

In its most recent  report, the UN-backed panel of climate scientists  calculated that total carbon dioxide emissions must be limited to 3,670 gigatonnes in order to prevent warming of more than two degrees Celsius. Around 1,890 gigatonnes of this "budget" had already been emitted by 2011.

Yeo told a  conference in London today that the remaining gigatonnes could guide governments in capping carbon globally through an emissions trading scheme. 

Global emissions trading scheme 'should be based on UN carbon budget by Sophie Yeo & Simon Evans, The Carbon Brief, Mar 12, 2015

NASA: California has one year of water left

Plagued by prolonged drought, California now has only enough water to get it through the next year, according to NASA.

In an op-ed published Thursday by the Los Angeles Times, Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, painted a dire picture of the state's water crisis. California, he writes, has lost around 12 million acre-feet of stored water every year since 2011. In the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins, the combined water sources of snow, rivers, reservoirs, soil water and groundwater amounted to a volume that was 34 million acre-feet below normal levels in 2014. And there is no relief in sight.

"As our 'wet' season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows" Famiglietti writes. "We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too."

NASA: California Has One Year of Water Left by Zoe Schlanger, Newsweek, Mar 13, 2015

The Intergenerational Report underestimates climate threat: an open letter to the government

The following is an open letter initiated by Dr Andrew Glikson, signed by Australian environmental and climate scientists.

The Intergenerational Report underestimates climate threat: an open letter to the government by Andrew Glikson, The Conversation US Pilot, Mar 11, 2015

Twin’ cyclones could jolt weak El Nino

Weather geeks have been fixated this week on an unusual meteorological phenomenon over the Pacific Ocean: Two tropical cyclones are spinning directly across the equator from each other.

But these “twin” cyclones aren’t just a satellite spectacle, they could give a jolt to the El Niño that was officially declared by U.S. forecasters last week after months of sitting on the fence. This El Niño is a weak one, expected to have little impact on weather in the U.S. The two storms that could provide a boost, however, are Cyclone Pam, churning over the South Pacific at about 14 degrees south latitude, threatening the islands of Vanuatu and Fiji with strong, damaging winds and storm surge, and Tropical Depression 3 (or Bavi), spinning over the northern Pacific near 10 degrees north latitude heading towards Guam.

Together, the cyclones and El Niño illustrate the interplay between short-term weather and longer-term climate cycles, in this case potentially reinforcing each other. It is unclear, though, whether the cyclones caused a westerly wind burst ramping up the El Niño, or if it was the El Niño pattern that spawned the cyclones.

‘Twin’ Cyclones Could Jolt Weak El Nino by Andrea Thompson, Climate Central, Mar 13, 2015

Will natural gas dim solar’s shine?

On the outskirts of downtown St. Paul, Minn., Xcel Energy’s High Bridge Generating Station offers an iconic view of the current state of electrical generation in the United States. Opened in 2008 as a replacement for an aging coal plant, the 534-megawatt natural gas facility looms over three solar photovoltaic panels that provide a sculptural element to the site in addition to 9.8 kilowatts of electricity.

In the United States in 2014, PV accounted for around half of a percent of the nation’s electricity production compared with natural gas’s 27 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Yet if PV seems more ornamental than a serious energy contender, the data over the past two years documenting a dramatic increase in PV generation show a promising rookie ready to compete in the big leagues.

Will Natural Gas Dim Solar’s Shine? by Frank Jossi, Ensia, Climate Central, Mar 14, 2014

Wind could supply a third of the country’s power needs by 2050, government says

Wind power could provide more than a third of the country’s electricity by 2050 while yielding a net savings in energy costs paid by consumers, the Energy Department reported in a major study released Thursday.

Continued growth of wind energy—which has tripled since 2000 and now supplies nearly 5 percent of the country’s electric power—also could dramatically reduce air pollution and go a long way toward meeting the country’s goals on slowing climate change, the report said.

But the study also warned that consistent government policies were critical to avoiding “boom and bust” cycles for investment in wind energy. Congress must keep wind-friendly tax policies in place to minimize market uncertainty about future returns on investments in wind turbines, Energy Department officials said.

Wind could supply a third of the country’s power needs by 2050, government says by Joby Warrick, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Mar 12, 2015

Posted by John Hartz on Saturday, 14 March, 2015

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