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Weekly Roundup 12-1-2017

The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News for the week ending Dec. 1, 2017 follows.  Please forward the URL to anyone you think might be interested.

Policy and Politics

President Trump’s nominee to head NOAA, Barry Meyers, former CEO of AccuWeather, affirmed during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that he accepts the scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming.  In addition, he said “I fully support the ability, as I said, of scientists to do their work unfettered.”  State department official Judith Garber said the U.S. is starting the process to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which sets a phasedown path for HFCs, a group of potent greenhouse gases used as refrigerants in refrigerators and air conditioners.  President Trump’s trade representative requested more details about how low-cost imported solar panels have harmed U.S. manufacturers as the White House considers imposing tariffs.

Most of us concerned about climate change think of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) as a regulation to decrease CO2 emissions.  In reality, it is much more, also reducing a host of other pollutants that impact human health, as was emphasized during testimony at the CPP hearings in Charleston, WV, this weekEmily Atkin had an interesting commentary on the hearings in the New Republic.  While we were on break last week, Carbon Brief published an interview with everyone’s favorite climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe.  It’s very interesting.  Writing at Southeast Energy News, Jim Pierobon examined the hurdles still to be faced as the McAuliffe and Northam administrations strive to have Virginia join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Climate

A new study, published in the journal PLoS One, has found that almost 14,000 coastal archeological sites and national monuments in the southeastern U.S. could be lost by the year 2100 because of sea level rise.  Meanwhile, in the Arctic, melting permafrost is threatening artifacts that have been preserved for centuries.  Speaking of sea level rise, in the last Weekly Roundup I provided a link to Bill McKibben’s review of Jeff Goodell’s new book The Water Will Come.  This week, Amy Brady posted an interview with Goodell.

Writing in Nautilus, Victor Gomes cataloged seven climate change impacts you may not have considered.  One impact not covered by Gomes is on the tiny creatures in the oceans that form the base of the food chain.  Amorina Kingdon took a brief look at them at Hakai Magazine.  Another consequence that you may not have considered is an increase in the number of child brides in Africa.

In a report to its clients on Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service Inc. explained how it incorporates climate change into its credit ratings for state and local bonds.  If cities and states don’t deal with risks from surging seas or intense storms, they are at greater risk of default, and hence they will have to pay a higher interest rate for their bonds.  Speaking of risks, an analysis by NOAA showed the amount of rain that defines a "100-year storm" has risen by 3 to 5 inches in the Houston area since the last estimates were put in place in 2002.  Instead of expecting 12 to 14 inches in a day during a 100-year storm, the data show the area should expect 15 to 18 inches.

A report released Tuesday by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation said that the fashion industry currently creates 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions per year--more than emissions from international flights and shipping combined.  It called on the fashion industry to alter its practices in order to become more sustainable.

A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined 20 conservation, restoration, and land management actions that could help the world reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Warm waters in the Bering and Chukchi Seas have hampered sea ice development this fall.  And that’s not all.  A new report completed by 90 scientists for the Arctic Council concluded that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the mid-latitudes and is likely to see average warming of up to 5°C as early as 2040.

Energy

Bloomberg New Energy Finance held a conference this week in Shanghai on the future of energy in Asia.  Anindya Upadhyay and Iain Wilson presented some of the highpoints from the conference for Bloomberg Technology, including the projection that the growing market for electric vehicles (EVs) will cut oil demand by 8 million barrels a day by 2040.  Furthermore, according to a UBS global autos survey released Tuesday, EVs will make up 16% of all car sales by 2025.  However, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, battery prices need to drop by more than half before electric vehicles will be competitive with cars powered by internal-combustion engines, something that is likely to happen by 2026.  Before Thanksgiving I included information about Tesla’s new long-haul truck.  Now Bloomberg Technology has questioned whether Elon Musk’s claims are achievable.

According to data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, between January 2010 and November 2017, natural gas pipelines leaked a total of 17.55 billion cubic feet of gas, killed nearly 100 people, and injured close to 500.  Jonathan Thompson of High Country News has prepared an interesting infographic using that data.  ExxonMobil was the only American-owned company to sign an agreement with seven other energy firms to crack down on emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that producers tend to emit along the natural gas production chain.  A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, sought to measure methane emissions from cattle, swine, and poultry production.  They found that total U.S. livestock methane emissions were 19.6 billion pounds per year, a figure close to that determined by the EPA.  Fuel cell technology based on methane as the energy source can produce electricity with fewer CO2 emissions than a gas-fired turbine.  Consequently, they are being considered by some companies for powering their data centers.

Shell is increasing the capital expenditure for its new energies division, to $1billion-$2billion a year for 2018-2020, up from a previous plan of up to $1bn a year by 2020.  Furthermore, its new climate change target aims to cut the net carbon footprint of its products by 50% by 2050, and by 20% by 2035.  In addition, Shell has partnered with top carmakers to deploy ultra-fast chargers at 80 European highway sites in 2019.

About 5% of all K-12 schools in the U.S. are powered by the sun, and their solar capacity has almost doubled in the last three years, according to a new study by the Solar Energy Industries Association, The Solar Foundation, and Generation 180, a clean energy nonprofit.

The world’s largest lithium-ion battery has officially been turned on in South Australia.  The 100 MW battery, produced by Tesla, is paired to the neighboring Hornsdale Wind Farm, owned by French company Neoen, to bring greater reliability and stability to the state’s electricity grid.  Hyundai Electric & Energy Systems Co. is building a 150 MW unit that will go live in about three months in Ulsan near South Korea’s southeast coast.

About 2,800 new hydroelectric dams are planned across a region stretching from Slovenia to Greece, 37% of which will be built in protected areas such as national parks or Natura 2000 sites, sparking fears of disappearing mountain rivers and biodiversity loss.

India’s Minister for New & Renewable Energy expressed confidence that the country could achieve 200 GW of operational renewable energy capacity by March 2022 instead of the current target of 175 GW.

Les Grady
R. A. Bowen Professor Emeritus