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South-east US Climate Change Assessment
From: Climate Progress  Posted: July 28th 2015

A new report focuses on the economic impacts of climate change in the South East of the US and Texas. If we continue to emit greenhouse gases at our current rate agricultural yields and labour productivity will be adversely affected, whilst the region will see increased sea levels, higher energy demand and rising mortality rates.

In Florida alone, the value of properties below the high tide level will rise to $69billion (R866billion) by 2030 and $152billion (R1.9 trillion) by 2050. Florida is the state whose governor required state documents not use the phrase 'climate change'. South Florida is highly critical of the paltry efforts being made within the state to combat climate change and a movement exists to promote secession from the north.

Elsewhere, countries are beginning to wake up to what is coming, though with current uncertainty about the rate of change authorities are loath to spend funds on preparing their infrastructure for even the most likely outcomes.


Solar vs Gas
From: Climate Progress  Posted: July 26th 2015

Hillary Clinton announces that her plan to tackle climate change will install half a billion solar panels in the US by 2021. The plan envisages producing enough renewable energy to power every US home within 10 years of her being elected. Next year's presidential election will contrast that plan with Republican continuing denial that climate change is a problem.

The US public is beginning to realise that current low prices of shale gas will drive many gas exploration and production companies (E&Ps) out of business. The Economist warns of that whilst the Guardian tells us that private investors stand to lose $4.2 trillion (R53 trillion) in stranded assets.

Forbes magazine highlights the decrease in relevance of the Henry Hub spot price for gas because of better midstream infrastructure for plentiful Marcellus shale gas. Art Berman takes a look at the latest craziness of the oil and gas E&Ps and J. David Hughes sees no improvement in the US Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook when compared with last year's heavily criticised version.


Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Not Dead Yet
From: Clean Technica  Posted: July 22nd 2015

Researchers at Eindhoven University have used Gallium Phosphide (GaP) to produce a 'Solar Fuel Cell'. The cost of energy to produce hydrogen from natural gas, together with its greenhouse gas (GHG) implications, has put FCEVs on the back burner, but recently research has demonstrated the possibilities of using solar power to produce hydrogen (and oxygen) directly from water. The processes need development time before a commercial product is viable, but that now looks possible.

Bosch, Daimler and Car2go are joining forces to produce an automatic parking system. When you collect your share car, it finds you from the car park. When you return, it parks itself. Car2go offers a membership service in several larger cities within the US and similar services are appearing around the globe. A smart phone app calls you a vehicle on demand and you leave it wherever you finish up.

Amongst other upgrades, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announces a 'Ludicrous' mode for the Model S, which provides the power to accelerate from 0-60mph in 2.8sec. At the other end of the scale, users will soon be able to buy an intelligent home charger for $499.


Approaching the Eemian
From: Washington Post  Posted: July 20th 2015

This week sees the publication of a new paper from Hansen et al, a group of 17 researchers, which compares our current global climate conditions to those of the Eemian period, some 125,000 or so years ago. Global surface temperature is generally estimated to have been around 1°C warmer than now, though in polar regions the temperature anomaly would have been much higher and hippos swam in the Thames and Rhine.

The new paper couples palaeontological and ice-core data with global circulation models (GCMs) that envisage substantial changes to ocean circulation. We may just be beginning to see that occurring in the north Atlantic and which could cool northwest Europe in the years ahead. Whilst the world has just experienced its hottest January to June surface temperatures, the north Atlantic is the only region that has seen below average temperatures and even record cooling.

The paper is published by the European Geosciences Union in which much of the peer review process happens in public, so initial comments are coming to light, the consensus of which is to expect much more work to be undertaken before its conclusions can be thoroughly tested. But James Hansen has often successfully lead where others follow and this work is built on the his highly regarded 'Paleoclimate Implications' paper.


Greenland and Glaciers
From: The Guardian  Posted: July 14th 2015

Recent high temperatures and rainfall have combined to cause rapid melting of Greenland's ice sheet. On July 8th, the northern town of Qaanaaq set an all-time record of 20.4°C, a full 2.5°C above the previous record, set in 2012. Researchers are now beginning to suspect that the IPCC estimates of sea-level rise are too low, though Neven Acropolis sees nothing exceptional about 2015 from the melt pond fraction estimates.

Earthquakes of magnitude 5 or so are a surprising result of glacier melt in Greenland. The calving ice capsizes and pushes back against the glacier so that the flow is reversed for several minutes before it returns to its normal downhill flow. The resulting shocks are sufficient to cause these large tremors.

A fine short video featuring Konrad Steffen and Lonnie Thompson takes a look at their respective observations over 25 years of studying glaciers in Greenland (Steffen) and Peru and the Himalayas (Thompson). They are both worried at what they are seeing, which should be enough to concern us, too.


Solar PV Advances
From: Climate Progress  Posted: July 10th 2015

Hip-hop and R&B artist Akon met with five African prime ministers at the West African Energy Leaders Group to discuss how to provide solar energy to hundreds of millions of Africans who have no electricity. Armed with a $1billion credit line from a Chinese solar manufacturer, the plan is to provide skills via the Solar Academy and empower people to create their own opportunities.

Solar PV is rapidly taking off globally. In Texas last month's stunning record low of $57 per MWh has already been surpassed by a Nevada PPA with a fixed price over 20 years. Community solar, where many users share usually a ground-mounted installation and domestic solar PV has reached 45% of total PV.

Development continues apace and we can expect considerable price reductions, higher efficiencies, a 50-year life for panels and more massive national plan increases like India's. Move over fossil fuels.


Climate Change
From: Union of Concerned Scientists  Posted: July 9th 2015

Sixty years ago Nobel Laureates gathered on the small island of Mainau in Lake Constance to warn the world of the dangers of nuclear war. Last week 36 laureates, all but one of them scientists, gathered there again to warn us of the dangers of climate change and to sign a declaration stating that its dangers are comparable to that of a nuclear war.

Fatih Birol, who will head up the IEA in September, warns the energy industry that it is risking billions of dollars by ignoring the impacts of likely climate change policy. Somehow they seem to believe that they will be immune to whatever changes are agreed in Paris this December. Even should nothing transpire, the energy industry is in process of transition to clean power.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has produced a dossier of internal memos from the industry that they claim demonstrates the disinformation that constitutes 'a deliberate campaign to deceive the public.' Even the people of Denmark, a main contender as cleanest energy country, accuse industry and their own officials of deceiving them.


A (Tear) Drop in the Ocean
From: The Guardian  Posted: July 9th 2015

Roger Harrabin of the Guardian asks whether the tears that ran from his interviewee's eyes during a recent BBC radio programme helped or hindered her case. The programme looked at how carbon dioxide is acidifying our oceans and compared that to the rate at which the same effect occurred during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) 55 million years ago, which caused a mass extinction in the oceans. She was describing how the current rate was 10 or even 100 times that of the PETM and expressed her concern that her daughters would witness the death of coral reefs, though the damage extends far beyond our reefs.

An SkS article last month updates us on the latest theory of what happened in the PETM and NOAA's Mark Eakin describes how and where coral bleaching is occurring and how the coral can recover, but how repeated bleaching will not give time for recovery.

An extension to the Argo float programme has begun in the Indian Ocean, the first part of which will measure chlorophyll in phytoplankton by flashing lights at them.


Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
From: The Guardian  Posted: July 3rd 2015

The OECD secretary general, Angel Gurria, asked governments to think two, three or four times before authorising new coal-fired electricity generating plants. That has significance for the South African government which plans to use coal to boost Eskom's capacity. There are cleaner, less health damaging and better economic solutions available. Mr. Gurria also warns of the real possibility that they will become stranded assets. Germany shows us the way.

Two articles from Courtney White point out where the answer to missing carbon dioxide may lie (in the soil) and how to utilise existing technology to increase its sequestration. Ian Angus looks at how climate change may not be a smooth process during this century.

The Guardian tells us why shale gas is as bad as coal in GHG terms and so is not a 'bridging fuel'. Carbon Tracker explains that $283bn of LNG projects may now be sidelined, whilst SA announces how uncontrolled emissions may be handled under the law.


Storage: Research Promise and Production
From: Nanowerk  Posted: July 1st 2015

Research, development and product launches of electricity storage devices continue with unabated enthusiasm. Not everything is proceeding with breakneck speed though and included are examples of patient research that has taken or will take several years.

Amongst the launches, lithium sulphur (Li-S) batteries with double the energy density of the current crop of Li-ion batteries should be available in the US next year. That means for EVs that the same range could be provided for half the weight of batteries or that the range could be doubled using the same weight. The price per kWh will be on a par with Tesla's Powerwall or slightly below it, but since sulphur is a cheaper ingredient than Li-ion's equivalent, Li-S batteries could come to dominate.

But Biosolar Inc. claims that it can double the energy density of Tesla's batteries at a price around one quarter of them. Anyone interested in an empty giga-factory? Let's see what really happens as these products come onto the market, but if the claims become reality, we are looking at a very rapid transition away from internal combustion engine (ICE) passenger vehicles. That in turn will increase demand for clean electricity, which will likely mostly come from solar PV.


Shale Gas Economics - Part 1
From: Ian Perrin  Posted: June 26th 2015

The first part of our examination of the economics of shale gas production in South Africa takes a look at actual break-even costs in the US, anticipated costs in the EU and the break-even costs of conventional liquid natural gas (LNG) from Mozambique. It looks, too, at the premium paid by electricity utilities. Part 2 will look at the costs not so far included in the calculations.

Falling world gas and oil prices have made it difficult for the industry to compete profitably with cheap coal and particularly renewable energy. Many companies have hedged against falling prices, but the technique has a limited life. Should prices continue at their current, below break-even levels, then the experience of Itochu that sold a $1 billion investment for $1 this week may be repeated elsewhere.

It is vital that South Africa takes a long, hard look at what the fluctuation in fossil fuel prices can mean in terms of revenue to the fiscus, dependence on the oil and gas industry and the harsh effects upon employment. Are we living in an age of 25-year certainty (the life of a gas fired power station) or are we living in an age of great uncertainty, where stable fuel prices come into their own?

Future Food Catastrophe
From: Nafeez Ahmed  Posted: June 23rd 2015

A new report, backed by the British Foreign Office and Lloyds of London, suggests that without radical policy changes very severe food shortages could take hold in mid-century. The authors modelled what would happen under a business-as-usual (BUA) scenario in an El Niño year should the current damage from Asian soybean rust and Ug99 stem rust not be eliminated. The scenario, though, did not include any measures taken in advance to mitigate the crises.

Aled Jones, the lead author of the report stated "The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots. In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption."

The droughts in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe may or may not be warnings of what is to come, but we would be foolish not to be alerted. The water rationing now introduced in parts of KwaZulu-Natal and the measures being taken to protect the wildlife there should be assumed to be harbingers of what is to follow. Nothing is lost should prudence prove unnecessary.

Research: A Better Understanding of Climate Change Related Events
From: The Guardian  Posted: June 22nd 2015

Highly regarded New Zealander, Kevin Trenberth and his team at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have published their recent research into the effects of climate change on extreme weather events and how we may more accurately determine whether such events have been affected by it. He tells us that "All storms, without exception, are different. Even if most of them look just like the ones we used to have, they are not the same."

Belgian activists are preparing to sue their national and regional governments for failing to implement adequate climate change policies, whilst the EIA calculates that fossil fuel companies benefit from subsidies to the tune of $115 per tonne of carbon emitted and in the US, the EPA is proposing to regulate emissions from big trucks.

The death toll from the heatwave in southern Pakistan passed 1,200. At first sight this looks to be a climate change related event, but we must wait for NCAR or a similar organisation to confirm it. A report from the Lancet in the UK suggests that cutting carbon emissions could save 500,000 lives a year by 2030 and millions per year before 2050. Then there's a new study that confirms the belief that the earth's sixth great extinction, caused by humans, is underway.


SA Huge Market for Storage
From: IOL  Posted: June 17th 2015

Tesla's Powerwall storage units have huge potential for South Africa according to JB Straubel, the company's chief technical officer. "We can both effect resiliency, as well as back-up, as well as helping expand the infrastructure to do more." he told a US Energy Information Administration energy conference in Washington. Prices could decline to under half the current values by 2020 to aid that process and 24M a 'stealth' start-up claims it has the technology to do just that.

That storage costs are declining rapidly is evidenced by rapid price reductions of competing technologies in Australia, an RMI review of current prices versus those forecast for 2015 just a few years ago and by technical advances typified by an intriguing advance from a South Korean university.

Existing EV manufacturers are waking up to the possibility of re-using their batteries for residential and commercial electricity storage once they are deemed to have fulfilled their original life. Both GM and Nissan have announced schemes to prolong Li-ion battery usage in ways that may benefit the second user and the original car owner.

NISSAN  |   GM vs TESLA  |   24M  |   UET

Pollution and Health. Climate Change and Fracking
From: Climate Progress  Posted: June 17th 2015

Domoic acid has been cited as the product of large algae blooms which is damaging marine life along much of the US western seaboard. Commercial harvesting of shellfish has been halted along large stretches of the coastline, since the toxins can cause serious illness or even death in humans. The intensity of the algae blooms has been blamed on the unusually high temperature of the NE Pacific.

The American Medical Association has called for full disclosure of all chemicals being used in fracking, saying "If we don’t know what chemicals are being used at specific well sites, physicians and public health officials can’t do their jobs."

Politico Magazine claims that at least 74 workers have been killed whilst working in the Bakken since 2006 and Michael Brune of the Sierra Club takes a good look at the EPA's Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Assessment. A University of Texas study found "widespread groundwater pollution in the Barnett shale from fracking chemicals.".


The State of the Climate Debate
From: Ian Perrin  Posted: June 13th 2014

"Kevin Anderson's blog of 5th June examines the US commitment to cut its emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and concludes that: The maths accompanying obligations to avoid 'dangerous climate change' demand fundamental change rather than rousing rhetoric and incremental action."

" View a 7 minute video clip of Michael Mann explaining the IPCC's conservatism and note that even the IPCC tells us that South Africa can expect temperature increases of 3 to 5C, without emissions reduction and that in turn implies consequences for food production."

"Ezra Klein, until recently a highly regarded political commentator with the Washington Post, wrote a piece entitled '7 Reasons America will fail on climate change' and Joe Romm of Climate Progress responded. Here we look at each of his 'Reasons' in turn and Joe Romm's response to each. "


Obama: ‘If Congress Won’t Act Soon To Protect Future Generations, I Will’
From: Joe Romm  Posted: February 13th 2013

"For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods – all are now more frequent and more intense."

"We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late."

"I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."


TEDX study reveals more detail about the dangers of gas drilling
From Ian Perrin  Posted: 14th November 2012

"The study shows that air sampling near natural gas operations reveals numerous chemicals in the air, many associated with natural gas operations. Some of the highest concentrations in the study were from methane, ethane, propane, and other alkanes that occur as a result of natural gas operations"

"Although concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in this study appear low, they may have clinical significance."

We thank them sincerely on behalf of all South Africans for the effort they are making to understand the effects of drilling and fracking for natural gas that will result in better protection for our workers and communities alike. [Ian]

Greenhouse Gas Theory explained
From Ian Perrin  Posted: 24th October 2012

You might have gained the impression climate change caused by rising amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere is a contentious theory added only recently to our scientific understanding.

Not so – we can trace the basis for it all the way back to Isaac Newton's work in the early 1670's and the first, generally accepted theory around 1859, more than 150 years ago."

Here's our plain English version of the history of its development and some detail on the scientists involved.

We Must Heed James Hansen
From: Joe Romm & Michael Mann  Posted: 9th August 2012

"During the hot, dry summer of 1988, Hansen announced that 'it is time to stop waffling…. The evidence is pretty strong that the [human-amplified] greenhouse effect is here.'" Much criticism followed.

"Hansen, it turns out, was right, and the critics were wrong. Rather than being reckless, as some of his critics charged, his announcement to the world proved to be prescient – and his critics were proven overly cautious."

"Given the prescience of Hansen’s science, we would be unwise to ignore his latest, more dire warning."

"The time for debate about the reality of human-caused climate change has now passed. We can have a good faith debate about how to deal with the problem – how to reduce future climate change and adapt to what is already upon us to reduce the risks that climate change poses to society. But we can no longer simply bury our heads in the sand."

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