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Published: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 05:18:30 -0500


Trump on Energy: "The Best of Any President Since Reagan"? Q/A With Alex Epstein

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:09:00 -0500

"What [Trump] has said about the best of any president since Reagan," says Alex Epstein, who is the president and founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, a think tank devoted to exploring how new technology can improve the planet. Trump, says Epstein, has so far been an advocate for "Americans to reach their full energy potential."(image)

Epstein is the author of the excellent 2014 book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, which, in his signature, clear-eyed style, argues that cheap and abundant hydrocarbons have made human flourishing possible. (Read Ron Bailey's 2015 review.) "Man...survives by impacting nature," he told Reason's Nick Gillespie. The environmental movement, however, "says [this] essence of human survival is bad. And that's wrong."

In our latest podcast, Epstein and Gillespie discuss hydraulic fracking ("our energy prosperity has depended on the ignorance of politicians"), global warming (he prefers the phrase "climate danger"), solar and wind power ("the unreliables"), Ayn Rand's influence on his work, and what we can expect from Trump on energy.

Click below to listen to that conversation—or subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

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California's New Cow Fart Regulations Totally Stink

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 11:48:00 -0500

(image) Livestock are responsible for roughly 15 percent of the world's greenhouse gases, but if you think getting people to stop driving their cars or using electricity is a difficult task, good luck preventing cows from farting.

California is going to try.

"This bill curbs these dangerous pollutants and thereby protects public health and slows climate change," said Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement when he signed the bill in September, against the wishes of the state's farmers.

The law won't stop cows from farting, of course, because cows are notoriously disrespectful of human-passed laws. Instead, it will make life more difficult for dairy farmers in California.

Dairy farms will be required to reduce methane emissions to 40 percent below their 2013 levels by 2030. The state will spend $50 million help offset the cost of so-called "dairy digesters," which are intended to capture methane spewed from cows and convert it into electricity. After that, the state's Air Resources Board will have the authority to set whatever regulations they deem necessary to reach the stated goal.

Cow farts—or "bovine entric fermentation" if you want to sound smart—pump a lot of methane into the environment. A single cow can produce up to 130 gallons of methane in a single day (even that's not as bad as what dinosaur farts could do), and methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Even if California were to find a way to stop cows from farting—or, more likely, if it were to regulate all its dairy farms out of existence—there would be a miniscule impact on global methane levels. California isn't even the leading producer of agricultural methane in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

On a global scale, the tiny microbes that grow on the roots of rice plants produce 30 percent of all agricultural methane on Earth.

California's not the first to target cows in an effort to rein-in global warming. Some ethical vegetarian groups have allied with global warming activists to call for reducing the number of cows in Africa.

The attack on dairy cows is part of a broader effort to reduce California's greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Doing that means giving a lot more power ot the state's Air Resources Board, which now finds itself in the business of regulating what comes out of bovine buttocks. According to an Associated Press report this week, the board is hoping California's proposal will be a model for other states to follow.

Record Temperatures and Record Grain Yields

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 10:15:00 -0500

(image) Those of us who try to monitor the torrent of climate change studies frequently come across various projections that just seem like a total waste of their researchers' time. The impacts of future climate change on crop productivity nearly a century hence is one such area. This particular blog post is provoked by a new study in Nature Climate Change purporting to predict that wheat yields will fall by 4.1 to 6.4 percent for every 1℃ increase in global average temperature. Some of the same researchers estimated in a 2014 study in the same journal that global wheat production will fall by 6 percent for each degree Celsius of further temperature increase. Other researchers projected that higher temperatures will also significantly lower corn yields in France, the U.S., Brazil, and Tanzania by "4.5, 6.0, 7.8 and 7.1% per °C at the four sites, respectively." While these projections claim to take into account efforts to adapt, the researchers all seem to be technological pessimists who more or less assume that farmers and crop breeders will be stuck using techniques and crop varieties not much different from the ones they have now.

Actually, crop breeders in the United Kingdom are already working to create a "super wheat" genetically modified with enhanced photosynthesis. In greenhouses, this boosts yields by 15 to 20 percent and the researchers are planning on field trials next year. In addition, the GMO wheat is even more productive when carbon dioxide levels are higher. In South Australia, researchers are figuring out how to add beneficial microbes (endophytes) that boost wheat yields by 10 percent. American researchers detail in a November 16 article in Science how they are working on another technique to boost photosynthesis that could increase yields by 15 to 20 percent.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the world has warmed at a rate of 0.12 degrees Celsius per decade since 1951 which implies that global average temperature has increased by nearly 0.8 degrees Celsius. Even as the world warmed, the World Bank reports that per hectare yields of coarse grains (including wheat and corn) have increased from an average of 1,400 kilograms per hectare in 1961 to 3,900 kilograms per hectare in 2014, an increase of 280 percent.

It bears noting that world grain production (including wheat) reached a record high this year, which has been declared by the World Meteorological Organization to be the warmest year ever in the instrumental temperature record.

Climate Policy Actually Slowed Decarbonization Trends

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 15:20:00 -0500

Forty rich countries agreed in the Kyoto Protocol to cut by 2012 their future greenhouse gas emissions by around 5 percent below what they were emitting in 1990. The United States, which never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, would have been required to cut its emissions by 7.2 percent below their 1990 levels. A new study, "Does Climate Policy Matter?," by the folks at the eco-modernist Breakthrough Institute looks how greenhouse gas trends fared before and after the treaty was negotiated. The Breakthrough analysts point out that the downward trend in carbon intensity (that is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to produce a unit of GDP) and upward trend in generating low-carbon energy for signatory countries actually slowed once the Kyoto Protocol was finalized in 1997. From the analysis: Overall, the carbon intensity of economies that were party to the Kyoto Accord fell more rapidly in the decade before the agreement was signed than in the decade after. In the 10 years before signing, the compound annual growth rate for carbon intensity was -0.7%. In the 10 years after signing it was only -0.2%. Similarly, the low-carbon share of energy was growing at an annual rate of 1.0% in the ten years prior to 1997, and only at a rate of 0.3% annually for the ten years after, meaning deployment of clean energy stalled or slowed in comparison to fossil fuels in these countries after they signed Kyoto. Interestingly, the Breakthrough analysts conclude that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have actually fallen faster since 2010 than they would have had the the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade scheme been adopted by Congress. The U.S. trend toward lower carbon dioxide emissions was helped along by the global financial crisis, a weak recovery, and the ongoing switch from coal to cheap natural gas for electricity generation. Despite Germany's much-vaunted Energiewende, the Breakthrough report notes, "Germany's share of clean energy grew at 2% annually before 2007 and only 1% annually after 2007, and the carbon intensity declined at 0.5% annually before 2007 but has been almost flat since then." So will the Paris Agreement on climate change make a difference? The Breakthrough report cites a 2015 MIT climate modeling study that estimated the effect that the Paris commitments would have on climate in 2100. The Breakthrough report observes that the MIT study ... ... projects global atmospheric concentrations of carbon in 2100 at 710 ppm assuming full implementation of INDCs, versus 750 ppm in the absence of them, which translates to a difference in temperature increase above pre-industrial levels of 3.7 versus 3.9 degrees Celsius. What becomes clear in looking at climate policy as it has been implemented at the international level is that most countries have only been willing to commit to decarbonization targets that are consistent with expected business-as-usual trends, accounting for measures that they have intended to take in any event. So is international climate policy just "full sound and fury signifying nothing?" The Breakthrough report concludes: Even should the next [U.S.] administration withdraw from the Paris Agreement and abandon the Clean Power Plan, the United States might outperform the commitments that the Obama administration made in Paris if it keeps the nation's nuclear fleet online, continues tax incentives for deployment of wind and solar energy, and stays out of the way of the shale revolution. By contrast, a Democratic administration indifferent to the fate of the nation's existing nuclear fleet and hostile to shale gas production might ultimately slow US decarbonization trends. For folks worried about climate change, one big helpful de-regulatory step that could be taken by the new administration would be not just to keep existing nuclear power plants online but to revise the mission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to encourage innovators to develop and deploy safer and cheaper advanced nuclear power plants.[...]

Energy Poverty Is Much Worse for the Poor Than Climate Change

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 13:30:00 -0500

Some 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2016 report. About 2.7 billion still cook and heat their dwellings with wood, crop residues, and dung. In its main scenario for the trajectory of global energy consumption, the IEA projects that in 2040, half a billion people will still lack access to electricity and 1.8 billion will still be cooking and heating by burning biomass. The agency defines the initial threshold for modern energy access as 250 kilowatt-hours (kwh) for rural and 500 kwh for urban households per year. How much is that? "In rural areas, this level of consumption could, for example, provide for the use of a floor fan, a mobile telephone and two compact fluorescent light bulbs for about five hours per day," the IEA explains. For comparison, in 2015 the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. household was 10,812 kwh—43 times the IEA's energy access threshold for rural households. In September the United Nations issued 17 new sustainable development goals that are supposed to be achieved by 2030. Universal access to affordable and clean energy is number 7. To achieve this goal, the U.N. says countries can "accelerate the transition to an affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy system by investing in renewable energy resources, prioritizing energy efficient practices, and adopting clean energy technologies and infrastructure." The transition to renewable energy resources in poor countries was discussed in "Scaling of Innovative Solutions for Mitigation and Adaptation," a side event at the U.N. climate change conference in Marrakech, Morocco, last week. The panel highlighted the distribution of solar lanterns to poor households in Africa and the distribution of small solar panels that can be used to for lighting and to recharge mobile phones. Giving poor people access to such technologies is certainly better than nothing, but that still leaves them mired in energy poverty. The eco-modernist Breakthrough Institute takes a very different view than the U.N. in a new report, Energy for Human Development. Eco-modernists argue that through technological progress humanity will increasingly withdraw from nature, enabling a vast ecological restoration over the course of this century. The Breakthrough report rejects any approach based around small-scale energy projects aimed chiefly at supplying tiny amounts of electricity to millions of subsistence farmers. "There is no nation on earth with universal electricity access that remains primarily agrarian," the authors note. "Modern household energy consumption has historically been achieved as a side effect of electrification for non-household purposes such as factories, electrified transportation, public lighting, and commercial-scale agriculture." Rural electrification has always come last, after urbanization and economic development have taken off. For example, in the U.S. nearly 90 percent of city dwellers had electricity by the 1930s but only 10 percent of rural Americans did. Given this universal growth dynamic, the Breakthrough writers call for prioritizing energy development for productive, large-scale economic enterprises. Copious and reliable energy will accelerate the creation and spread of higher-productivity factories and businesses, which then will generate the opportunities for a better life; that, in turn, will draw poor subsistence farmers into cities. They further note that energy access and electricity access are not the same thing. In fact, in 2012 electricity accounted for only about 18 percent of the energy consumed globally. "Efforts to address energy poverty must address needs for transportation fuels and infrastructure, and for fertilizer and mechanization of agriculture," they argue. But what about climate change? Current renewable sources of energy are not technologically capable of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of energy pove[...]

Ending Energy Poverty vs. Climate Change Mitigation: New at Reason

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 13:30:00 -0500

(image) Some 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2016 report. About 2.7 billion still cook and heat their dwellings with wood, crop residues, and dung. In its main scenario for the trajectory of global energy consumption, the IEA projects that in 2040, half a billion people will still lack access to electricity and 1.8 billion will still be cooking and heating by burning biomass. In its new report, Energy for Human Development, the eco-modernist Breakthrough Institute make the case that ending energy poverty for hundreds of millions of poor people should be prioritized over efforts to mitigate future climate change. They correctly argue that "it is untenable morally and practically to insist that global climate change targets be balanced upon the backs of the poorest people on earth."

Trump Will 'Keep an Open Mind' About the Paris Climate Change Agreement

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 15:45:00 -0500

(image) During the presidential campaign Donald Trump suggested that man-made climate change was a "hoax" perpetrated by the Chinese.* In addition, he declared that he would "cancel" the Paris climate change agreement. Today during an luncheon interview at the New York Times, president-elect Trump seems to have backtracked bit with regard to the Paris Agreement. From the Times:

President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Tuesday that he would "keep an open mind" about whether to pull the United States out of a landmark multinational agreement on climate change.

During his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly said he would withdraw from the Paris climate accord. But on Tuesday, he said, "I'm looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it."

Just exactly how to square his climate change open-mindedness with his promises to somehow revive the coal industry and deregulate fossil fuel production is not clear.

Addendum: Apparently Trump also told the Times reporters and editors that with regard to climate change, "I think there is some connectivity. Some, something. It depends on how much."

*As astute commenters have pointed out the hoax line was from a 2012 tweet. I hope that my error did not unduly confuse readers.

Is Climate Change Already Solved?

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 10:15:00 -0500

Marrakech—The global clean energy transition has already taken off. That is the mantra repeated in countless speeches, presentations, panel discussions, activist manifestoes, open letters and official pronouncements here at the COP22 U.N. climate change conference. If true, then the problem of man-made global warming is well on the way to being solved. For example, in his swan song on Wednesday at COP22, Secretary of State John Kerry declared, "The market is clearly headed towards clean energy, and that trend will only become more pronounced." He continued, "The United States is right now, today, on our way to meeting all of the international targets that we've set, and because of the market decisions that are being made, I do not believe that that can or will be reversed." At the High-Level Meeting on Climate Change involving CEOs and government officials on Wednesday in Marrakech, Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the U.N. Global Compact asserted: "The climate movement is unstoppable. More and more companies are taking action, and seeing new opportunities for growth and innovation." On Wednesday, the leaders of some 300 businesses signed an open letter urging President-elect Trump to support the Paris Agreement. In conjunction with the letter Matt Patsky, CEO of the socially responsible Trillium Asset Management firm stated, "The enormous momentum generated by the business and investment community to address climate change cannot be reversed and cannot be ignored by the Trump administration. That train has left the station and to stand in its way is folly." These business leaders evidently agree with Kerry's assertion that "ultimately, clean energy is expected to be a multitrillion dollar market – the largest market the world has ever known. And no nation will do well if it sits on the sidelines, handicapping its new businesses from reaping the benefits of the clean-tech explosion." In a press briefing on Thursday Grenada-based climate negotiator Leon Charles concurred, "The U.S. will have to decide if it wants to be stuck with old technologies or new more efficient clean energy technologies. The best way to respond to the Trump phenomenon is to continue and accelerate the momentum toward a clean energy economy." Of course, if renewable energy turns out to be cheaper, American companies will not let themselves be stuck with old fossil fuel technologies, but will race to invest in, create and install those sources of power. If markets are already generating the clean energy transition, then the Paris Agreement is largely irrelevant, right? Not so fast. The government officials, businesspeople, and activists gathered at COP22 don't actually appear to quite believe what they are saying about the profitability and inevitability of the clean energy transition they are championing. Instead, they insist that governments have got to send "signals" to the energy markets in order to assure shareholders and corporations that their investments are sound. "The private sector welcomed the signals that we sent in Paris, but they are demanding even stronger signals now – the private sector – so that they can invest clean energy solutions with even greater confidence," explained Kerry. What sort of signals are they supposedly demanding? Subsidies, tax breaks, mandates and regulations that favor renewable energy technologies, of course. Let's just say that such interventions in commerce do not "signal" a lot of trust in the operation of markets to produce the clean energy results that the folks at COP22 insist are already on the way. The Marrakech Action Proclamation On Thursday evening, the Marrakech Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Development was agreed to by all 197 countries at COP22. "Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have the urgent duty to respond," asserts the Proclamation. It ci[...]

Keep It In The Ground: A Global Carbon Budget

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 10:15:00 -0500

Marrakech – "Science tells us in order to bring reality to climate change rhetoric, we must keep fossil fuels in the ground," declared Center for Biological Diversity associate conservation director Jean Su. Su moderated the Keep It in the Ground panel at the COP22 U.N. climate change conference. The idea is that in order to keep global average temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, humanity can only burn so much more coal, oil and natural gas. How much more? According to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change humanity can only put an additional 870 to 1,240 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2050 in order to preserve a 50 percent chance of keeping the global average temperature below the 2 degree Celsius threshold. By one estimate, burning known coal, oil, and natural gas reserves by 2050 would put an additional 2,900 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A January 2015 study in Nature calculated that "globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 per cent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2 °C." In a major victory last year, the Keep It In The Ground campaign persuaded the Obama administration to block the construction of the Keystone pipeline that would have transported about nearly a million barrels of petroleum daily from Canada's oilsands fields in Alberta. In his November 6, 2015 statement rejecting the Keystone pipeline's construction permit request, President Obama declared, "If we're going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we're going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky." The current Standing Rock protests against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline was a major touchstone of the Keep It In The Ground panel here in Morocco. The 1,172 mile Dakota Access pipeline would transport oil from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota. During the session, Indigenous Environmental Network representative Alberto Saldamando read a statement from IEN Director Tom Goldtooth in which he characterized the pipeline as a "black snake threatening the Missouri River" and asserted "we are not protesters; we are protectors of our sacred waters." The Goldtooth statement continued, "The black snake represents a world out of balance which views all life as private property and looks at Mother Earth as without a soul or spirit." Saldamando added, "From a personal perspective, money is bad medicine." Earlier this week, the Army Corps of Engineers halted pipeline construction near the protest site. The Corps announced that additional discussion and analysis of the project is "warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation's dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property." Other Keep It In The Ground panelists included Lidy Nacpil, coordinator, Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development from the Philippines, who denounced the fact that her country is slated to build 45 new coal-fired power generation plants and has approved environmental certificates for 118 new coal mines. Filip Lovstrom, from the Swedish group Youth Platform for Corporate Responsibility Platform Where Youth Cooperate for Sustainability (PUSH) decried the act of taking things from the ground and giving them "a fictional value." He declared, "The century we have before us can be a story of how we failed to live within planetary boundaries, and how we failed to maintain human rights. Or it can be the century in which we create a life worthy of all human beings and while preserving nature.[...]

John Kerry's Climate Change Swan Song at Marrakech

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 15:15:00 -0500

Marrakech - The standing room only crowd rose to its feet and burst into sustained applause when Secretary of State John Kerry walked into the Fes press conference tent at the Bab Ighli site of the COP22 U.N. climate change meeting. I thought that only U.N.-accredited media and members of the U.S. delegation were admitted to the venue. Odd. Kerry opened by acknowledging that at Marrakech he was "preaching to the choir" and that "all of us here are the proverbial choir." The Secretary of State evidently knew his audience better than I did. "No one should doubt the overwhelming majority of the citizens of the United States, who know climate change is happening and who are determined to keep our commitments that were made in Paris," asserted Kerry near the beginning of his clearly heartfelt speech. Just before Kerry spoke, the U.S. delegation submitted under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change a long-term climate strategy for deep decarbonization of the U.S. economy by 2050. The strategy "envisions economy-wide net GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions reductions of 80 percent or more below 2005 levels by 2050." The Obama administration had earlier promised to reduce U.S. GHG emissions by 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025. The Secretary of State noted since the Obama administration came into office in 2008 that electricity generated by wind power had tripled while solar power generation had grown 30-fold. For context, wind currently provides 4.7 percent and solar 0.6 percent of U.S. electricity. Kerry nevertheless believes that market forces are already driving the switch from fossil fuels to renewable power sources. "I can tell you with confidence that the United States is right now, today, on our way to meeting all of the international targets that we have set, and because of the market decisions that are being made, I do not believe that that can or will be reversed," Kerry claimed. "Emissions are being driven down because market-based efforts are taking hold." "We are not on a pre-ordained path to disaster," Kerry declared. "It is a test of willpower. It requires us to hold ourselves accountable to facts and to science." Kerry noted that 2016 is likely to be the hottest year in recorded history, adding that 15 of the 16 hottest years in recorded history have occurred since the beginning of the 21st century. The last decade was the hottest in recorded history; the decade before that was the second hottest, and the one before that was the third hottest. "For those in power in all parts of the world, including my own, who may be confronted with decisions about which road to take at this critical juncture, I ask you, on behalf of billions of people around the world: Don't take my word for it," he pleaded, "I ask you to see for yourselves." Kerry further urged, "Above all consult with the scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding this challenge." He asserted, "At some point, even the strongest skeptic has to acknowledge that something disturbing is happening." Like other members of the U.S. delegation here at the climate change conference, Kerry did not offer any conjectures about what the Trump administration's policy with regard to climate change might be. He did say, "While I can't stand here and speculate about what policies our president-elect will pursue, I will tell you this: In the time that I have spent in public life, one of the things I've learned is that some issues look a little bit different when you're actually in office compared to when you're on the campaign trail." Toward the end of his talk Kerry declared, "No one has the right to make decisions that affect billions of people based solely on ideology or without proper input." Kerry observed that he had been participating in the U.N. climate change negotiation process ever since the Earth [...]

Is the 'Momentum' for Action on Climate Change Unstoppable?

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 10:25:00 -0500

Marrakech - Anxiety about where U.S. climate policy is likely to go under the Trump administration is pervasive at the COP22 U.N. climate change conference. As a consequence, the meeting rooms in the tents at the Bab Ighli conference center are packed whenever members of the official U.S. delegation appear in press conferences and panel discussions. Keeping a stiff upper lip, they steadfastly decline to speculate on what incoming officials in the Trump administration might do. These anxieties were nicely summarized by a question/statement by PR Watch reporter Alex Carlin at a press conference featuring John Pershing, the Obama administration's special envoy on climate change. "Addressing the transition, when the new guys come in and you're in a meeting with those people, we have a new situation that is unprecedented. Their policy is not an adult rational policy based on math or science; it's something else. Dealing with an existential problem for the planet, you have two questions: can you appeal to them on a basic, rational level, in other words, educate them, number one? Can you set up any kind of symposiums where you educate them that two plus two is four and not five?," asked Carlin. "And second, can you demonstrate to them that if they continue with this childish position, we, America, will lose our status, we will become a pariah state; we will be humiliated?" PR Watch is a project of the self-described "nonprofit liberal watchdog and advocacy organization" the Center for Media and Democracy. Noting that he and other Obama administration officials currently in charge of climate change policy don't yet know who is on the Trump transition team, Pershing diplomatically replied, "We will certainly work to convey the importance that we find in this issue to them as they move forward." The diplomatic tack of refusing to speculate on Trump administration climate policy was also taken by Brian Deese, who is a senior advisor to President Obama on climate, conservation and energy policy during a session on U.S. Climate Action at All Levels on Tuesday. Nevertheless, Deese, like many other participants at COP22, argues that the "momentum" for action on climate change is unstoppable. Deese pointed out that the U.S. economy grew by 10 percent while carbon dioxide emissions fell by 9 percent since 2008. This is longest stretch in U.S. history in which economic growth has been decoupled from an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. He asserted that the fact that an economy can grow at a healthy rate without increased emissions is an important signal of structural shifts and in markets. Healthy growth rate? Deese discreetly neglected to note that U.S. economic growth under President Obama has been the slowest since World War II. It is worth noting, however, that total energy consumption in the U.S. has been falling which suggests that energy sources are not just decarbonizing but are becoming more efficient too. "The principle takeaway is that the trajectory in which our economy will continue to grow and carbon emissions will continue to fall will be sustained and move forward in the future," declared Deese. Progressive U.S. States Go Their Own Way on Climate Policy Deb Markowitz Secretary of Natural Resources for Vermont was next up. She opened with the observation that the meeting hall was packed "probably because of your concerns" about what "he who shall not be named" might do with regard to U.S. climate policy. The Voldemort reference did get a chuckle out of the audience. Her role was to argue that even if the Trump administration backtracked on climate change policies that progressive states like hers would continue to push them forward. It is amazing how ideologically blinkered Markowitz is. Markowitz started out by claiming that "we've been through this[...]

No More Coal for Rich Countries by 2030

Tue, 15 Nov 2016 10:15:00 -0500

Marrakech - Paris Agreement on Climate Change has put coal on notice, according to the new study, Implications of the Paris Agreement for Coal Use in the Power Sector. The report was released on Monday at the U.N. climate change meeting here in Marrakech by the Berlin-based non-profit science and policy institute Climate Analytics. Based on energy systems modeling, the analysts at Climate Analytics concluded that humanity must phase out coal-fired electricity generation by mid-century globally in order to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of keeping future global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. The rich countries, including the United States, the European Union, and all other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, must phase out all coal power generation by 2030. China must end coal burning by 2040 and the rest of the world would phase out coal for power generation by 2050. The Climate Analytics researchers acknowledge that there are currently over 1,000 new coal-fired plants in construction or on the drawing boards around the globe. Is such a scheme for eliminating coal in just 13 years as a source of electric power generation in rich countries likely? The International Energy Agency (IEA) is slated to release its 2016 World Energy Outlook later this week, but its 2015 projections suggested that coal would still be in use by the U.S. and Europe, and other developed regions through 2040. While the IEA projected in 2015 that coal-fired power generation will increase globally by 10 percent by 2040, coal consumption was forecasted to fall by 40 percent in the OECD countries during that same period. The upshot is that the share of coal in the global electricity mix drops by 2040 from 41 percent to 30 percent. It is worth noting that the IEA estimated that fossil-fuel subsidies amounted to $490 billion in 2014 whereas renewable energy in the power sector received $112 billion, plus $23 billion for biofuels. Getting rid of subsidies is always a good idea. The IEA's 2015 report also noted that some 1.2 billion people today remain without electricity and 2.7 billion still cook using traditional biomass. More distressingly, the IEA projected by 2030 that 800 million people will still be without electricity and 2.3 billion will yet be cooking with wood, charcoal and dung. Is climate change really more of a danger to the health and well-being of such people than lack of access to modern fuels? After all, exposure to household air pollution from cooking with biomass fuels is estimated to cause 4.3 million premature deaths annually. In addition, in a comparison of life expectancy and per capita energy use, University of Colorado political scientist Roger Pielke has shown that "for the countries in the lowest fiftieth percentile of life expectancy the average life expectancy is 66 years and per capita energy use is 74 percent of the global average. For those countries in the top fiftieth percentile life expectancy at birth is 78 years and per capita energy use is 212 percent of the global average." Access to modern energy sources is literally life-saving. The main topic at U.N. climate change meetings is always money. Specifically, how much rich countries are supposed to pay poor countries to adapt to climate change and shift their future energy use from fossil fuels to renewable energy technologies. As part of the Paris Agreement, the rich countries promised to "mobilize" $100 billion annually to help poor countries to adapt and deploy no-carbon energy power sources. Earlier in the conference, Oxfam International issued its 2016 Climate Shadow Finance Report which found that while rich countries claim to already be spending $41 billion on climate finance targeted for de[...]

2016 Likely Hottest Year in Instrumental Record, Says WMO

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 11:01:00 -0500

(image) At the U.N. climate change meeting in Marrakech today, the World Meteorological Organization released its preliminary analysis of recent global temperature trends. In its press release the WMO reported:

It is very likely that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, with global temperatures even higher than the record-breaking temperatures in 2015. Preliminary data shows that 2016's global temperatures are approximately 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to an assessment by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Global temperatures for January to September 2016 have been about 0.88° Celsius (1.58°F) above the average (14°C) for the 1961-1990 reference period, which is used by WMO as a baseline. Temperatures spiked in the early months of the year because of the powerful El Niño event of 2015-16. Preliminary data for October indicate that they are at a sufficiently high level for 2016 to remain on track for the title of hottest year on record. This would mean that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century (1998 was the other one).


"Another year. Another record. The high temperatures we saw in 2015 are set to be beaten in 2016," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. The extra heat from the powerful El Niño event has disappeared. The heat from global warming will continue," he said.

The folks at University of Alabama at Huntsville who curate the satellite global temperature data also reported earlier that 2016 may edge out 1998 as the hottest year in its record.

Game Over for the Climate?

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 09:59:00 -0500

"The American people are very engaged and committed to the fight against climate change," asserted Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar at a press conference on Saturday at the U.N. climate change conference in Marrakech. Mezouar, who presides over the conference, also declared that "negotiations are going well" and noted that 105 Parties have now deposited their instruments of ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Some 20,000 negotiators and climate activists from over 190 countries are convening in Morocco at the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP-22) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Some 1,500 journalists are accredited to report on it. With regard to the engagement of the American people in the fight against climate change, the most recent Gallup poll on the topic did find that 64 percent of Americans surveyed worry a "great deal" or a "fair amount" about the phenomenon. On the other hand, Gallup reports that climate change is second from the bottom on a list of 13 national issues that concern voters. The election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States has provoked some dismay among the participants at COP-22. For example, Carbon Brief published a roundup of comments from climate scientists from around the globe. "The U.S. de-elected expertise and will likely show a blockade mentality now, so Europe and Asia have to pioneer and save the world," asserted Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "Having a person in the position of US President who does not acknowledge scientific facts establishing the clear reality of human-caused climate change is a disgrace," concurred Bristol University cryosphere researcher Twila Moon. Danish glaciologist Jason Box said, "Those of us in the sciences are all about the rational and we surround ourselves by rational media. The U.S. election outcome reflects the irrational and how those voters were influenced by irrational media." And Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann succinctly observed, "To quote James Hansen, I fear this may be game over for the climate." COP-22 is not just about climate negotiations, but also showcases findings from the latest research. On Monday, the Global Carbon Project released its most recent analysis of carbon emissions trends. Interestingly, the analysts report that "global carbon dioxide emissions were almost flat for the third year in a row, despite strong economic growth." During the first decade of this century carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry grew at over 3 percent per year, but growth slowed in the 2010s and in the last three years levelled off at around 36.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. This flattening in global emission appears largely to be a result of a slowdown in the use of coal China to generate electricity. In addition, U.S. emissions have generally been falling since 2007, dropping a further 2.5 percent in 2015 and are projected to go down 1.7 percent in 2016. "It remains to be seen whether US emission reductions will be sustained if president-elect Trump rolls back key environmental policies as promised in his election campaign", said report co-author Jan Ivar Korsbakken, who is a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo. In any case, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed and stayed above the 400 parts per million threshold for the first time. Pre-industrial concentrations were about 280 parts per million. This year also is on track to tie with 1998 as the hottest year in the global satellite temperature record. During the first week of COP-22, the Wo[...]

Trump and the Climate Activist Freakout

Wed, 09 Nov 2016 10:10:00 -0500

On Monday, the 22nd conference of the parties (COP-22) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change convened in Marrakesh, Morocco to discuss the next steps for activating the Paris Agreement on climate change that just came into force on November 4. The assembled diplomats and climate change activists at COP-22 were, to say the least, stunned by Donald Trump's victory last yesterday. Below are excerpts from various statements issued by various climate change activists at COP-22 in reaction to the impending Trump presidency. "Donald Trump now has the unflattering distinction of being the only head of state in the entire world to reject the scientific consensus that mankind is driving climate change. No matter what happens, Donald Trump can't change the fact that wind and solar energy are rapidly becoming more affordable and accessible than dirty fossil fuels. With both the market and grassroots environmental advocacy moving us toward clean energy, there is still a strong path forward for reducing climate pollution even under a Trump presidency. Still, this is a time for tough choices. Trump must choose whether he will be a President remembered for putting America and the world on a path to climate disaster, or for listening to the American public and keeping us on a path to climate progress. Trump better choose wisely, otherwise - we can guarantee him the hardest fight of his life every step of the way." - Michael Brune, Executive Director, The Sierra Club "The Paris Agreement was signed and ratified not by a President, but by the United States itself. As a matter of international law, and as a matter of human survival, the nations of the world can, must, and will hold the United States to its climate commitments." - Carroll Muffett, President, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) "From infrastructure to foreign aid, every decision the next President makes should be made through the lens of bold climate action. It's not enough to just admit climate change is real, we need a President who will dramatically accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy for all." - May Boeve, Executive Director, "The outcome of the US election clearly implies potential shifts in climate policy of the new US administration. While this creates uncertainty in a domestic and international context, a pragmatic assessment is called for. Notwithstanding short term changes in US posture and policy, the global economy has already begun to shift its focus towards a low carbon future. Markets and economics are likely to moderate any future US policy shift as US companies and investors assess what will keep America's economy competitive and in business in a global market - given that some its largest trading partners and competitors are already heavily investing in low carbon technologies and infrastructure." - Achim Steiner, Director of Oxford Martin School and former Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme "President-elect Trump has the opportunity to catalyze further action on climate that sends a clear signal to investors to keep the transition to a renewable-powered economy on track. China, India, and other economic competitors are racing to be the global clean energy superpower, and the US doesn't want to be left behind." - Tina Johnson, Policy Director, US Climate Action Network I will be reporting from the climate change conference beginning next week. It should be interesting.[...]