Electric Cars

We’re not building clean energy fast enough to avoid catastrophic #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol

At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system

Here are the real reasons we’re not building clean energy anywhere near fast enough.

James Temple

Fifteen years ago, Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution, calculated that the world would need to add about a nuclear power plant’s worth of clean-energy capacity every day between 2000 and 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Recently, he did a quick calculation to see how we’re doing.

Not well.

Instead of the roughly 1,100 megawatts of carbon-free energy per day likely needed to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 ˚C, as the 2003 Science paper by Caldeira and his colleagues found, we are adding around 151 megawatts.

That’s only enough to power roughly 125,000 homes.

At that rate, substantially transforming the energy system would take, not the next three decades, but nearly the next four centuries.

In the meantime, temperatures would soar, melting ice caps, sinking cities, and unleashing devastating heat waves around the globe (see “The year climate change began to spin out of control”).

Caldeira stresses that other factors are likely to significantly shorten that time frame (in particular, electrifying heat production, which accounts for a more than half of global energy consumption, will significantly alter demand). But he says it’s clear we’re overhauling the energy system about an order of magnitude too slowly, underscoring a point that few truly appreciate: It’s not that we aren’t building clean energy fast enough to address the challenge of climate change.

It’s that—even after decades of warnings, policy debates, and clean-energy campaigns—the world has barely even begun to confront the problem.

The UN’s climate change body asserts that the world needs to cut as much as 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions by midcentury to have any chance of avoiding 2 ˚C of warming. But carbon pollution has continued to rise, ticking up 2 percent last year.

So what’s the holdup?

Beyond the vexing combination of economic, political, and technical challenges is the basic problem of overwhelming scale. There is a massive amount that needs to be built, which will suck up an immense quantity of manpower, money, and materials.

For starters, global energy consumption is likely to soar by around 30 percent in the next few decades as developing economies expand. (China alone needs to add the equivalent of the entire US power sector by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.) To cut emissions fast enough and keep up with growth, the world will need to develop 10 to 30 terawatts of clean-energy capacity by 2050.

On the high end that would mean constructing the equivalent of around 30,000 nuclear power plants—or producing and installing 120 billion 250-watt solar panels.

Energy overhaul

There’s simply little financial incentive for the energy industry to build at that scale and speed while it has tens of trillions of dollars of sunk costs in the existing system.

“If you pay a billion dollars for a gigawatt of coal, you’re not going to be happy if you have to retire it in 10 years,” says Steven Davis, an associate professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine.

It’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to see how any of that will change until there are strong enough government policies or big enough technology breakthroughs to override the economics.

A quantum leap

In late February, I sat in Daniel Schrag’s office at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. His big yellow Chinook, Mickey, lay down next to my feet.

Schrag was one of President Barack Obama’s top climate advisors. As a geologist who has closely studied climate variability and warming periods in the ancient past, he has a special appreciation for how dramatically things can change.

Sitting next to me with his laptop, he opened a report he had recently coauthored assessing the risks of climate change.

It highlights the many technical strides that will be required to overhaul the energy system, including better carbon capture, biofuels, and storage.

The study also notes that the United States adds roughly 10 gigawatts of new energy generation capacity per year.

That includes all types, natural gas as well as solar and wind. But even at that rate, it would take more than 100 years to rebuild the existing electricity grid, to say nothing of the far larger one required in the decades to come.

“Is it possible to accelerate by a factor of 20?” he asks. “Yeah, but I don’t think people understand what that is, in terms of steel and glass and cement.”

Climate observers and commentators have used various historical parallels to illustrate the scale of the task, including the Manhattan Project and the moon mission. But for Schrag, the analogy that really speaks to the dimensions and urgency of the problem is World War II, when the United States nationalized parts of the steel, coal, and railroad industries.

The government forced automakers to halt car production in order to churn out airplanes, tanks, and jeeps.

The good news here is that if you direct an entire economy at a task, big things can happen fast. But how do you inspire a war mentality in peacetime, when the enemy is invisible and moving in slow motion?

“It’s a quantum leap from where we are today,” Schrag says.

The time delay

The fact that the really devastating consequences of climate change won’t come for decades complicates the issue in important ways. Even for people who care about the problem in the abstract, it doesn’t rate high among their immediate concerns.

As a consequence, they aren’t inclined to pay much, or change their lifestyle, to actually address it. In recent years, Americans were willing to increase their electricity bill by a median amount of only $5 a month even if that “solved,” not eased, global warming, down from $10 15 years earlier, according to a series of surveys by MIT and Harvard.

It’s conceivable that climate change will someday alter that mind-set as the mounting toll of wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, extinctions, and sea-level rise finally forces the world to grapple with the problem.

But that will be too late.

Carbon dioxide works on a time delay.

It takes about 10 years to achieve its full warming effect, and it stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

After we’ve tipped into the danger zone, eliminating carbon dioxide emissions doesn’t decrease the effects; it can only prevent them from getting worse.

Whatever level of climate change we allow to unfold is locked in for millennia, unless we develop technologies to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a massive scale (or try our luck with geoengineering).

This also means there’s likely to be a huge trade-off between what we would have to pay to fix the energy system and what it would cost to deal with the resulting disasters if we don’t. Various estimates find that cutting emissions will shrink the global economy by a few percentage points a year, but unmitigated warming could slash worldwide GDP more than 20 percent by the end of the century, if not far more.

In the money

Arguably the most crucial step to accelerate energy development is enacting strong government policies.

Many economists believe the most powerful tool would be a price on carbon, imposed through either a direct tax or a cap-and-trade program. As the price of producing energy from fossil fuels grows, this would create bigger incentives to replace those plants with clean energy (see “Surge of carbon pricing proposals coming in the new year”).

“If we’re going to make any progress on greenhouse gases, we’ll have to either pay the implicit or explicit costs of carbon,” says Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

But it has to be a big price, far higher than the $15 per ton it cost to acquire allowances in California’s cap-and-trade program late last year. Borenstein says a carbon fee approaching $40 a ton “just blows coal out of the market entirely and starts to put wind and solar very much into the money,” at least when you average costs across the lifetime of the plants.

Others think the price should be higher still. But it’s very hard to see how any tax even approaching that figure could pass in the United States, or many other nations, anytime soon.

The other major policy option would be caps that force utilities and companies to keep greenhouse emissions below a certain level, ideally one that decreases over time. This regulations-based approach is not considered as economically efficient as a carbon price, but it has the benefit of being much more politically palatable. American voters hate taxes but are perfectly comfortable with air pollution rules, says Stephen Ansolabehere, a professor of government at Harvard University.

Fundamental technical limitations will also increase the cost and complexity of shifting to clean energy. Our fastest-growing carbon-free sources, solar and wind farms, don’t supply power when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. So as they provide a larger portion of the grid’s electricity, we’ll also need long-range transmission lines that can balance out peaks and valleys across states, or massive amounts of very expensive energy storage, or both (see “Relying on renewables alone significantly inflates the cost of overhauling energy”).

The upshot is that we’re eventually going to need to either supplement wind and solar with many more nuclear reactors, fossil-fuel plants with carbon capture and other low-emissions sources, or pay far more to build out a much larger system of transmission, storage and renewable generation, says Jesse Jenkins, a researcher with the MIT Energy Initiative. In all cases, we’re still likely to need significant technical advances that drive down costs.

All of this, by the way, only addresses the challenge of overhauling the electricity sector, which currently represents less than 20 percent of total energy consumption. It will provide a far greater portion as we electrify things like vehicles and heating, which means we’ll eventually need to develop an electrical system several times larger than today’s.

But that still leaves the “really difficult parts of the global energy system” to deal with, says Davis of UC Irvine. That includes aviation, long-distance hauling, and the cement and steel industries, which produce carbon dioxide in the manufacturing process itself. To clean up these huge sectors of the economy, we’re going to need better carbon capture and storage tools, as well as cheaper biofuels or energy storage, he says.

These kinds of big technical achievements tend to require significant and sustained government support. But much like carbon taxes or emissions caps, a huge increase in federal research and development funding is highly unlikely in the current political climate.

Give up?

So should we just give up?

There is no magic bullet or obvious path here. All we can do is pull hard on the levers that seem to work best.

Environmental and clean-energy interest groups need to make climate change a higher priority, tying it to practical issues that citizens and politicians do care about, like clean air, security, and jobs. Investors or philanthropists need to be willing to make longer-term bets on early-stage energy technologies. Scientists and technologists need to focus their efforts on the most badly needed tools. And lawmakers need to push through policy changes to provide incentives, or mandates, for energy companies to change.

The hard reality, however, is that the world very likely won’t be able to accomplish what’s called for by midcentury. Schrag says that keeping temperature increases below 2 ˚C is already “a pipe dream,” adding that we’ll be lucky to prevent 4 ˚C of warming this century.

That means we’re likely to pay a very steep toll in lost lives, suffering, and environmental devastation (see “Hot and violent”).

But the imperative doesn’t end if warming tips past 2 ˚C. It only makes it more urgent to do everything we can to contain the looming threats, limit the damage, and shift to a sustainable system as fast as possible.

“If you miss 2050,” Schrag says, “you still have 2060, 2070, and 2080.”

Press link for more: Technology Review


Welcome to the Third Industrial Revolution #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Welcome to the Third Industrial Revolution

Arianna Huffington

In his 2009 book “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis,“ Jeremy Rifkin posed one of the defining questions of our time: in a hyper-connected world, what is the goal of all that unprecedented technological connectivity? “Seven billion individual connections,” he wrote, “absent any overall unifying purpose, seem a colossal waste of human energy.”

Now, I’m delighted that The WorldPost is featuring a new series by Rifkin exploring how the possibilities of an even more connected world can lead to solutions to one of our greatest crises: climate change.

With 2015 widely predicted to supersede 2014 as the hottest year on record, the topic’s relevance and timeliness are obvious. According to analysis by Climate Central, “13 of the hottest 15 years on record have all occurred since 2000 and … the odds of that happening randomly without the boost of global warming is 1 in 27 million.”

‘Thirteen of the hottest 15 years on record have all occurred since 2000 and … the odds of that happening randomly without the boost of global warming is 1 in 27 million.’

At the same time, we’re in a moment of real promise, which is why the series, the “Third Industrial Revolution,” will focus not only on the climate crisis but also on the wealth of innovation, creativity and potential solutions out there, which media too often overlook.

Rifkin, one of our premier scholars and thinkers whose work confronts a range of global challenges, sees the rise of “a new biosphere consciousness, as the human race begins to perceive the Earth as its indivisible community. We are each beginning to take on our responsibilities as stewards of the planetary ecosystems that sustain all of life,” he writes. And this new consciousness is coalescing at a moment when we are seeing a tipping point on climate change — both in terms of awareness and action.

For instance, we have seen an unprecedented commitment to common action by the leaders of the two largest economies in the world — the U.S. and China — to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In September, cities, states and provinces from around the world came together in Los Angeles to make the same commitment and to find practical ways to work together at both the global and local levels.

In June, Pope Francis drew worldwide attention to climate change with the release of his encyclical “Laudato Si,” which elevated the issue to a spiritual challenge and moral imperative. As HuffPost’s Jaweed Kaleem wrote at the time of the encyclical’s publication:

In the lengthy treatise, more broadly addressed to ‘every person’ who lives on Earth, the pope lays out a moral case for supporting sustainable economic and population growth as part of the church’s mission and humanity’s responsibility to protect God’s creation for future generations. While saying that there were natural causes to climate change over the earth’s history, the letter also says in strong words that human activity and production of greenhouse gases are to blame.

Then there is the U.N. summit on climate change, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris, with the goal of reaching a binding international agreement to reduce emissions. As President Obama told Rolling Stone in September, looking ahead to the Paris talks, “we’re now in a position for the first time to have all countries recognize their responsibilities to tackle the problem, and to have a meaningful set of targets as well as the financing required to help poor countries adapt.” If the summit leads to meaningful commitments, Obama said, that will pave the way for future progress: “Hope builds on itself. Success breeds success.”

For all the promise and possibility of official gatherings, much of the change we need will come from outside the halls of power. This is where technological advances and innovations, including the Internet of Things, are especially important. Rifkin sees tremendous potential in this aspect of increased connectivity: “For the first time in history,” he writes, “the entire human race can collaborate directly with one another, democratizing economic life.” Advances in digital connectivity, renewable energy sources and smart transportation are allowing us to responsibly shift the way we see the world and our place in it.

Rifkin labels all this the “Third Industrial Revolution” because, “to grasp the enormity of the economic change taking place, we need to understand the technological forces that have given rise to new economic systems throughout history.”

In the coming weeks, our series will outline the path ahead for the realization of this Third Industrial Revolution. And a range of other voices will join the conversation, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on how the Internet of Things can boost China’s manufacturing base and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on the need for a new, forward-looking narrative for European unity that captures the imagination of young people.

So please join the conversation on climate change, technology and the growing global movement toward solutions. And, as always, use the comments section to let us know what you think. Read the first essay here.

Press link for more: Huffington Post

China’s War on Pollution #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

China’s War on Pollution Will Change the World

March 9, 2018

China is cracking down on pollution like never before, with new green policies so hard-hitting and extensive they can be felt across the world, transforming everything from electric vehicle demand to commodities markets.

Four decades of breakneck economic growth turned China into the world’s biggest carbon emitter. But now the government is trying to change that without damaging the economy—and perhaps even use its green policies to become a leader in technological innovation.

So, as lawmakers attend the annual National People’s Congress, here’s a look at the impact of the environmental focus, at home and abroad.

PM 2.5 Concentration Estimate (µg/m3) as of January 31, 2018

Source: Berkeley Earth (see footnote for methodology)

China’s air pollution is so extreme that in 2015, independent research group Berkeley Earth estimated it contributed to 1.6 million deaths per year in the country.

The smog is heaviest in northern industrial provinces such as Shanxi, the dominant coal mining region, and steel-producing Hebei. Emissions there contribute to the planet’s largest mass of PM 2.5 air pollution—the particles which pose the greatest health risks because they can become lodged in the lungs. It can stretch from Mongolia to the Yellow Sea and often as far as South Korea.

Leaders at the congress said they will raise spending to curb pollution by 19 percent over the previous year to 40.5 billion yuan ($6.4 billion) and aim to cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 3 percent. They said heavy air pollution days in key cities are down 50 percent in five years.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Tons of Carbon Dioxide

December 2001:

China joins WTO

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy

The country had become the world’s No.1 carbon dioxide emitter as it rose to dominate global exports, a process which began several decades ago but got its biggest lift with World Trade Organization entry in 2001. Emissions have started to fall again.

Bigger Than Tesla

The government’s war on air pollution fits neatly with another goal: domination of the global electric-vehicle industry.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc. might be the best-known name, but China has been the global leader in EV sales since 2015, and is aiming for 7 million annual sales by 2025.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

To get there, it’s subsidizing manufacturers and tightening regulation around traditional fossil-fuel powered cars. Beneficiaries include BYD Co., a Warren Buffett-backed carmaker that soared 67 percent last year and sold more cars than Tesla. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has a buy rating on shares of Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd.

Clean Energy Frontiers

Worldwide, solar panel prices are plunging—allowing a faster shift away from carbon—thanks to the sheer scale of China’s clean-energy investment. It’s spending more than twice as much as the U.S. Two-thirds of solar panels are produced in China, BNEF estimates, and it’s home to global leaders, including JinkoSolar Holding Co. and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

But China isn’t stopping there. As well as wind and solar, it’s exploring frontier clean energy technologies like hydrogen as an alternative to coal.

Follow the Money

The trend towards clean energy is poised to keep gathering steam worldwide. BNEF projects global investment in new power generation capacity will exceed $10 trillion between 2017 and 2040. Of this, about 72 percent is projected to go toward renewable energy, roughly evenly split between wind and solar.

The Third Industrial Revolution

China’s efforts to cut excess industrial capacity overlap with the imperative to clean up the environment. Combined, those forces have had a hefty impact on commodity prices. Coal, steel, and aluminum prices soared last year as factories shut and mines closed. Under the weight of new rules on pollutant discharge, paper prices did the same. Some markets have recovered somewhat since then, some haven’t.

Thermal coal

(Per metric ton)

Steel rebar

(Per metric ton)


(Per metric ton)

Paper products

(Producer Price index)

Source: Data compiled by Bloomberg, China Coal Resource, National Bureau of Statistics

Clearer Skies

Five years ago, Beijing’s “airpocalypse” unleashed criticism of the government so searing that even Chinese state media joined in. Last year, the capital’s average daily concentration of PM2.5 particles was almost a third lower than in 2015, compared with declines of about a tenth for some other major cities.

The turnaround isn’t just limited to improving air quality. China has stopped accepting shiploads of other countries’ plastic and paper trash, a response to public concern over pollution and a decreased need for scrap materials.

As Xi pushes a greener approach, officials at every level of government are working to put his words into action. The government has set up a special police force, and polluting factories have been closed. Officials obediently banned coal, sending natural gas sales surging, before backtracking after supply shortfalls left many areas in the cold.

Beijing’s 30-Day Average Air Pollution Levels

PM 2.5 pollutant concentration µg/m3

China’s LNG Imports

Source: U.S. Department of State Air Quality Monitoring Program, China Customs

While smog was long excused as the inevitable byproduct of rising wealth, there’s no sign so far that the cleanup is derailing the country’s economy. Growth last year accelerated to 6.9 percent—the first uptick in seven years—and remains a crucial prop for global expansion.

What’s more, China sees high-tech industries like electric cars and solar panels as its chance to lead the world, setting standards and cornering markets as they begin to build momentum. But turning around carbon emissions at home is one thing. Winning over the world’s consumers to become a tech superpower is a different goal entirely.

Press link for more: Bloomberg.com

The third industrial revolution. #StopAdani #auspol

The third industrial revolution

The digitisation of manufacturing will transform the way goods are made—and change the politics of jobs too

THE first industrial revolution began in Britain in the late 18th century, with the mechanisation of the textile industry. Tasks previously done laboriously by hand in hundreds of weavers’ cottages were brought together in a single cotton mill, and the factory was born.

The second industrial revolution came in the early 20th century, when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line and ushered in the age of mass production.

The first two industrial revolutions made people richer and more urban.

Now a third revolution is under way. Manufacturing is going digital.

As this week’s special report argues, this could change not just business, but much else besides.

A number of remarkable technologies are converging: clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes (notably three-dimensional printing) and a whole range of web-based services.

The factory of the past was based on cranking out zillions of identical products: Ford famously said that car-buyers could have any colour they liked, as long as it was black.

But the cost of producing much smaller batches of a wider variety, with each product tailored precisely to each customer’s whims, is falling.

The factory of the future will focus on mass customisation—and may look more like those weavers’ cottages than Ford’s assembly line

Towards a third dimension

The old way of making things involved taking lots of parts and screwing or welding them together.

Now a product can be designed on a computer and “printed” on a 3D printer, which creates a solid object by building up successive layers of material.

The digital design can be tweaked with a few mouseclicks.

The 3D printer can run unattended, and can make many things which are too complex for a traditional factory to handle.

In time, these amazing machines may be able to make almost anything, anywhere—from your garage to an African village.

The applications of 3D printing are especially mind-boggling.

Already, hearing aids and high-tech parts of military jets are being printed in customised shapes.

The geography of supply chains will change.

An engineer working in the middle of a desert who finds he lacks a certain tool no longer has to have it delivered from the nearest city.

He can simply download the design and print it.

The days when projects ground to a halt for want of a piece of kit, or when customers complained that they could no longer find spare parts for things they had bought, will one day seem quaint.

Other changes are nearly as momentous.

New materials are lighter, stronger and more durable than the old ones.

Carbon fibre is replacing steel and aluminium in products ranging from aeroplanes to mountain bikes.

New techniques let engineers shape objects at a tiny scale.

Nanotechnology is giving products enhanced features, such as bandages that help heal cuts, engines that run more efficiently and crockery that cleans more easily. Genetically engineered viruses are being developed to make items such as batteries. And with the internet allowing ever more designers to collaborate on new products, the barriers to entry are falling. Ford needed heaps of capital to build his colossal River Rouge factory; his modern equivalent can start with little besides a laptop and a hunger to invent.

Like all revolutions, this one will be disruptive.

Digital technology has already rocked the media and retailing industries, just as cotton mills crushed hand looms and the Model T put farriers out of work. Many people will look at the factories of the future and shudder.

They will not be full of grimy machines manned by men in oily overalls. Many will be squeaky clean—and almost deserted.

Some carmakers already produce twice as many vehicles per employee as they did only a decade or so ago.

Most jobs will not be on the factory floor but in the offices nearby, which will be full of designers, engineers, IT specialists, logistics experts, marketing staff and other professionals. The manufacturing jobs of the future will require more skills.

Many dull, repetitive tasks will become obsolete: you no longer need riveters when a product has no rivets.

The revolution will affect not only how things are made, but where. Factories used to move to low-wage countries to curb labour costs. But labour costs are growing less and less important: a $499 first-generation iPad included only about $33 of manufacturing labour, of which the final assembly in China accounted for just $8. Offshore production is increasingly moving back to rich countries not because Chinese wages are rising, but because companies now want to be closer to their customers so that they can respond more quickly to changes in demand. And some products are so sophisticated that it helps to have the people who design them and the people who make them in the same place.

The Boston Consulting Group reckons that in areas such as transport, computers, fabricated metals and machinery, 10-30% of the goods that America now imports from China could be made at home by 2020, boosting American output by $20 billion-55 billion a year.

The shock of the new

Consumers will have little difficulty adapting to the new age of better products, swiftly delivered.

Governments, however, may find it harder.

Their instinct is to protect industries and companies that already exist, not the upstarts that would destroy them.

They shower old factories with subsidies and bully bosses who want to move production abroad.

They spend billions backing the new technologies which they, in their wisdom, think will prevail. And they cling to a romantic belief that manufacturing is superior to services, let alone finance.

None of this makes sense.

The lines between manufacturing and services are blurring.

Rolls-Royce no longer sells jet engines; it sells the hours that each engine is actually thrusting an aeroplane through the sky.

Governments have always been lousy at picking winners, and they are likely to become more so, as legions of entrepreneurs and tinkerers swap designs online, turn them into products at home and market them globally from a garage.

As the revolution rages, governments should stick to the basics: better schools for a skilled workforce, clear rules and a level playing field for enterprises of all kinds.

Leave the rest to the revolutionaries.

Press link for more: Economist.com

More than 100 cities produce more than 70% of electricity from renewables. #auspol #StopAdani

100+ cities Produce More than 70% of Electricity from Renewables – CDP | UNFCCC

The transition to clean, renewable energy is a critical component of meeting Paris Climate Change Agreement goals, and cities around the world are increasingly taking up the challenge.

According to data published by the CDP, more cities than ever are reporting that they are powered by renewable electricity.

The global environmental impact non-profit CDP holds information from over 570 of the world’s cities and names over 100 now getting at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, geothermal, solar and wind.

The list includes large cities such as Auckland (New Zealand); Nairobi (Kenya); Oslo (Norway); Seattle (USA) and Vancouver (Canada), and is more than double the 40 cities who reported that they were powered by at least 70% clean energy in 2015.

CDP’s analysis comes on the same day the UK100 network of local government leaders announce that over 80 UK towns and cities have committed to 100% clean energy by 2050, including Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and 16 London boroughs.

According to the World Economic Forum, unsubsidized renewables were the cheapest source of electricity in 30 countries in 2017, with renewables predicted to be consistently more cost effective than fossil fuels globally by 2020.

The new data has been released ahead of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conference in Edmonton, Canada on 5th March, when city government and science leaders will meet on the role of cities in tackling climate change.

Cities named by CDP as already powered by 100% renewable electricity include:

Burlington, Vermont’s largest city, now obtains 100% of its electricity from wind, solar, hydro, and biomass. The city has its own utility and citywide grid. In September 2014 the local community approved the city’s purchase of its ‘Winooski One’ Hydroelectric Facility.

“Burlington, Vermont is proud to have been the first city in the United States to source 100 percent of our power from renewable generation. Through our diverse mix of biomass, hydro, wind, and solar, we have seen first-hand that renewable energy boosts our local economy and creates a healthier place to work, live, and raise a family. We encourage other cities around the globe to follow our innovative path as we all work toward a more sustainable energy future,” added Mayor Miro Weinberger of Burlington.

Reykjavik, Iceland sources all electricity from hydropower and geothermal, and is now working to make all cars and public transit fossil-free by 2040. Iceland has almost entirely transitioned to clean energy for power and household heating.

Basel, Switzerland is 100% renewable powered by its own energy supply company. Most electricity comes from hydropower and 10% from wind. Advocating clear political vision and will, in May 2017 Switzerland voted to phase out nuclear power in favor of renewable energy.

CDP’s 2017 data highlights how cities are stepping up action on climate change with a sharp rise in environmental reporting, emissions reduction targets and climate action plans since 2015, following the ground-breaking Paris Agreement to limit global warming to below 2 degrees.

There is a growing momentum of the renewable energy cities movement beyond the UK, with cities around the world now aiming to switch from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

In the United States, 58 cities and towns have now committed to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy, including big cities like Atlanta (Georgia) and San Diego (California). Earlier this month, U.S. municipalities Denton (Texas) and St. Louis Park (Minnesota), became the latest communities to establish 100% renewable energy targets. In addition to these recent pledges, CDP data shows a further 23 global cities targeting 100% renewable energy.

Much of the drive behind city climate action and reporting comes from the 7,000+ mayors signed up to The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy who have pledged to act on climate change.

Kyra Appleby, Director of Cities, CDP said: “Cities are responsible for 70% of energy-related CO2 emissions and there is immense potential for them to lead on building a sustainable economy. Reassuringly, our data shows much commitment and ambition. Cities not only want to shift to renewable energy but, most importantly – they can. We urge all cities to disclose to us, work together to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and prioritize the development of ambitious renewable energy procurement strategies. The time to act is now.”

Showing a diverse mix of energy sources, 275 cities are now reporting the use of hydropower, with 189 generating electricity from wind and 184 using solar photovoltaics. An additional 164 use biomass and 65 geothermal.

CDP reports that cities are currently instigating renewable energy developments valued at US$2.3 billion, across nearly 150 projects. This forms part of a wider shift by cities to develop 1,000 clean infrastructure projects, such as electric transport and energy efficiency, worth over US$52 billion.

Read the relevant CDP press release here

For a full view of cities generating electricity from renewables, visit the CDP’s list of world renewable energy cities

Press link for more: COP23.UNFCCC

Australia’s Energy Fiasco. How do we extract ourselves from a deep hole? #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

By Alan Pears

At present there is intense focus on the design of a National Energy Guarantee.

We need to step back and take a few deep breaths.

Energy policy in Australia is being distorted by a small number of conservative politicians in the Coalition party room: we are being held hostage.

This is no way to run a multi-hundred billion dollar industry.

The NEG is just the latest attempt to try to appease these people.

Our present centralised energy system, developed over a century, has become a point of critical vulnerability to our economic and social development.

We need a diversified and distributed system that delivers practical solutions that respond to real world requirements.

And this is not only feasible, but attractive – except to powerful incumbent interests and those whose thinking is trapped in the past.

We are in the early stages of an exciting period of disruptive innovation in which future predictions are difficult to predict to a level of accuracy where business models with financially manageable risk can be implemented.

This means incremental, modular, flexible projects and products will have advantages.

It will be a very different world.

The reality is that the only group interested in energy for its own sake is the energy supply sector.

The rest of us want the services that run our economy and society and are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Energy is just one of many factors considered in decision-making, and in delivery of those services.

A cubic metre of gas or kilowatt-hour of electricity is not much use without the technology to use it, the businesses that provide it, and the desire for the outcome delivered by that technology.

Historically the energy sector is one of the industries least responsive to, and with least understanding of, its customers.

The National Energy Market has been predicated on incorrect assumptions, such as the fully informed, empowered, economically rational customer who has an infinite amount of free time and is motivated to focus on something that should be (and mostly is) actually a small factor in rational decision-making.

The NEM’s formal objective is focused on low energy prices, not low overall costs of delivered services. And the sector knows little about the actual services its customers want.

Customers need a seat at the table

It is on a steep learning curve, though, driven by a whole new customer focused industry that still does not have a ‘seat at the table’ within the formal policy-making structure.

No wonder energy ‘experts’ continue to be surprised by unexpected change.

As someone who has spent forty years focusing on the interface between energy, people, technology and society, I am still bemused by the energy supply sector – which includes many within the renewable energy industry.

Effective policy starts with people and businesses who want services that respond to needs and desires such as comfort, productivity, shelter and access.

Today these requirements can be delivered by an increasingly diverse range of solutions that may be ‘virtual’ and interactive, and require a lot less energy than in the past.

A key flaw in energy policy is its isolation of the fundamental drivers of demand for energy from the perceived core business of the sector.

For example, even the enlightened Finkel Review reinforced this disconnect in its recommendation on energy efficiency.

While it emphasised that energy efficiency was important, and action should be accelerated, it declared it was a job for governments.

Yet the efficiency of energy use is a fundamental factor driving how much, what kind, and when energy is needed.

It is at the core of the energy sector’s existence. And efficiency of energy use is being transformed, along with our capacity to optimise and control it, store it, produce it ‘behind the meter’ and replace it with smart solutions.

An efficient TV now uses around 30 watts, compared with 250 watts or more for early plasma flat screen TVs.

Smart phones and laptop computers are examples of astounding energy efficiency.

It is the most energy-efficient solar car that wins the Darwin to Adelaide race.

We can build comfortable homes that require almost no heating or cooling in most Australian climates.

On-line services are transforming our economy – and saving a lot of energy in material production, reducing time spent travelling and offering services we could not imagine a few years ago.

The need to consider “Enoughness”

Of course, many point out that, associated with technology and energy efficiency improvement, we may buy bigger TVs or seek greater comfort.

That’s a reason why governments and business need to focus more on improving efficiency and, as a society, we need to consider ‘enoughness’.

But history has shown that trends are complex.

For example, many people now watch ‘TV’ on extremely efficient smart phones, and efficient virtual reality technology can replace big screens while providing a superior entertainment experience.

The proliferation of access to entertainment via new media opens up many issues, such as how much screen time kids should have, whether we are becoming more isolated as we spend more time on social media, and so on.

It also provides an incentive for more people to use public transport instead of driving – so they can play with their mobile devices!

The world is a complex place, but it is now possible to decouple energy use from economic and social development – if we decide it is important to do so.

For example, policy makers I spoke to recently in the Philippines recognise that many of their islands will never have a school teacher or doctor.

But they don’t want them migrating to their overcrowded cities.

They have recognised that fast broadband and low energy technologies can deliver education and health care services, as well as access to business opportunities and entertainment, to transform lives.

Somehow we have to refocus energy policy so that it is part of the real world, and a facilitator of a sustainable future, not a barrier.

Alan Pears is a senior industry fellow at RMIT University

Press link for more: Reneweconomy.com

Even Oil Companies Are Saying #ClimateChange Will Hurt Business #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Even Oil Companies Are Now Saying Climate Change Will Hurt Their Business

Oil has occupied a central place in the American economy for the past century — powering houses, automobiles, factories and everything in between.

As a result, the oil companies that drilled, shipped and sold black gold reaped billion in profit year after year and continue to do so.

But for the first time oil and gas companies are openly grappling with a less-than-certain future where climate change and related advances in other energy sources make them less dominant.

In its annual energy outlook released last week, BP said that it expected oil demand to peak in the next two decades as renewable energy grows and consumers purchase hundreds of millions of electric vehicles.

In an outlook released in February, Exxon Mobil projected a peak in demand for gasoline in the coming decades and acknowledged that some of its assets “may not be attractive investments” as a result of the shifting energy market.

These changes may sound subtle, but they signify a marked shift in direction in an industry that for years fought government climate regulation and in many cases sought to murky the science underpinning the need for action on global warming.

“The recognition of the energy transition has grown over the past year with the oil and gas players,” says Marie-Helene Ben Samoun, managing director of the Boston Consulting Group’s oil and gas practice. “They are not only acknowledging global warming, but they are also acknowledging the energy transition and the impact on their own portfolio.”

The biggest change for oil and gas companies will be the declining need for oil to power the internal combustion engine as electric vehicles become more prevalent and the remaining gas-powered cars become more efficient.

Exxon Mobil projected this year that demand for liquid fuel for passenger vehicles will likely peak by 2040.

BP reports that the total number of electric cars could hit 300 million by 2040 dealing a significant blow to fuel consumption.

That rise plays a significant role given that nearly half of oil consumed in the U.S. in 2016 was used to produce motor gasoline, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

Fossil fuel companies also face increased competition from renewable energy sources.

Exxon Mobil projects 400% growth in wind and solar power by 2040 while BP says renewable energy will make up 40% of growth in energy production in the same period.

Today, wind and solar make up around 7% of the U.S. electricity supply.

But despite the enormous challenges oil and gas companies insist they have an integral role in the future of energy.

Natural gas, along with renewables, will continue to replace coal in the power sector. And oil remains an essential product for petrochemicals, jet fuel and other refined petroleum products.

In some cases, oil companies will shift some of their refineries from making gasoline to making other petroleum products.

Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, described the future of oil demand as one of “plateau rather than peak.”

“The suggestion of some people that the rapid growth in electric cars will lead to the collapse in oil demand is just not born out in the basic arithmetic,” Dale said at a presentation in Washington D.C. this week. “The world will need to carry on investing in new oil production for many years to come in order to meet the worlds oil needs.”

The acknowledgement from oil companies is subtle enough that a casual observer could be forgiven for missing it, but it still represents a remarkable shift.

In some cases, oil companies have understood the risk climate change posed to their business for decades while spending heavily to undermine the credibility of climate change science and undercut policy efforts to address it.

That posture has changed as the science of climate change has become increasingly undeniable and countries across the globe push the energy sector away from fossil fuels.

Despite a burst of environmental deregulation and climate change skepticism from President Donald Trump, most large oil and gas companies today acknowledge climate change and try to push for policy solutions that will still leave them a significant role in the energy future.

“You can act in the U.S. market, but in the end your demand is made by consumers and that market is global,” says Samoun. “The global trend is happening no matter what the regulator would do.”

But the growing acknowledgment of climate change and the coming evolution of the energy sector is a business decision. And oil and gas companies are not necessarily working to address the issue beyond stabilizing their bottomline. A report this month from the 50/50 Climate Project, a non-profit that pushes big business to address climate change, highlights a slew of recent initiatives undertaken by oil and gas companies to slow progress on climate change. More than 20 of the country’s biggest utilities and oil and gas companies lack measured consideration of the risks of climate change, according to the report.

Ultimately, while the oil and gas industry’s vision of a low-carbon future may have inched closer to the position of scientists and policymakers concerned about climate change, the two opposing sides still remain mile apart with no bridge in sight.

Press link for more: Time.com

The Water Will Come, rising seas, sinking cities. #auspol #StopAdani #ClimateChange

FEBRUARY 21, 2018

IN HIS URGENT NEW BOOK, Jeff Goodell takes readers on a tour of places likely to be swallowed up by the sea — among them Florida; New York City; Venice; Norfolk, Virginia; Rotterdam; Lagos; and the Marshall Islands.

The book tells the engrossing story of their likely demise, and how our inability to deal with climate change renders this tragedy increasingly inevitable.

Many other places, too, will be swallowed up if humans don’t stop spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And, alas, even if they do stop, there’s no telling when the sea will stop rising.

While keenly observing and poignantly describing rapidly changing coastal ecologies, Goodell also reports with empathy and acumen on his conversations with a mix of scientists, engineers, community workers, real estate agents, activists, and politicians.

At an event hosted by the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce in 2016, the theme of the evening was the “Economic Impact of Sea Level Rise.” Goodell describes chatting with a real estate broker who became apoplectic over the suggestion that flood risks related to sea-level rise should be revealed before a sale. “That would be idiotic,” she said, gulping down her gin and tonic.

“It would just kill the market.”

Some politicians, such as former President Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, convey to Goodell their concern about climate change, whereas, predictably, plenty of others, such as Senator John Barrasso, make clear their commitment to ignorance.

Representing the big coal state Wyoming, Barrasso introduced legislation in 2011 not only to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon pollution but also to stop the agency from even studying what is going on with the climate.

Too many politicians, some concerned with other matters and some in hock to the fossil fuel industry, are in denial. And a sizable number of them assure the general public — who, after all, want to be comforted — that climate change is either not a major concern or else a Chinese hoax, a liberal conspiracy, and a job destroyer.

They claim that coal has a future, and that drilling for oil in the Arctic, in National Parks, and off the East Coast, will “make America great again,” and that therefore no change is required to how we live, consume, and produce.

Just as chain-smoking, junk food, and sugary drinks are not a health hazard but a birthright!

In contrast to this willfully engineered popular ignorance, the consensus in the scientific community is overwhelming. Goodell recounts how scientists carefully describe to him the conclusions they draw from data trends and observable phenomena.

Already in 2005, many of them were part of the national science academies of Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States calling in a joint statement for a global response to climate change.

By late 2017, over 15,000 scientists from 184 countries around the world issued the attention-grabbing “Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” (disclosure: I am one of its endorsers).

Taking climate change as a given, Goodell cautions in the prologue that “if you’re still questioning the link between human activity and climate change, you’re reading the wrong book.”

His purpose is not to recapitulate the science behind climate change but to show what will happen if humanity fails to stop burning fossil fuels.

Still, it is useful to review the scientific consensus, which is broadly as follows: for hundreds of thousands of years, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), the major heat-trapping (greenhouse) gas, have been between 180 and 280 parts per million (ppm). This remained so during the roughly 8,000 years of human civilization. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, humans have burned through enough fossil fuel — coal, oil, and natural gas — to add some 1,500 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, with deforestation contributing another 700 billion tons of CO2. Each year, we are adding another 40 billion tons of CO2, an amount that is still increasing.

With the data showing that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide by the 1960s had risen to about 300 ppm and the Earth was getting warmer. The year 2016 was the first in which atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide were consistently above 400 ppm, and the Earth had warmed about one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in the 136 years since temperature measurements have been taken. As carbon dioxide absorbs and emits infrared radiation and thus leads to higher global surface temperature, a vicious feedback loop results: higher atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide lead to ever higher temperatures.

Unlike, say, steam, which evaporates, CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and lingers for centuries, even thousands of years. Thus, present-day atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are the result of both cumulative emissions since the Industrial Revolution and current emissions.

In recent years, the rate of emissions has not slowed but skyrocketed — and the temperatures have been rising in tandem. To wit: The aggregate emissions of the two centuries from 1751 to 1950 were less than those of the past seven years.

From 1945 to 2016, they increased ninefold. At nearly 40 gigatons, the year 2016 set a record for CO2 emissions. It was also the hottest year ever documented, following on the record-breaking year 2015, which, in turn, came after the so-far-hottest year 2014.

As it happens, 13 of the 14 hottest years ever recorded were in the 21st century (the one prior to the 21st century was 1998, the eighth warmest). The year 2017 was the 21st consecutive year that the annual average temperature in the United States exceeded the average.

For the third consecutive year, every state across the contiguous United States and Alaska experienced above-average annual temperatures. “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it,” writes Goodell, quoting Neil deGrasse Tyson from the email signature block of Florida International University geologist Henry Briceño.

Warming is a major driver for the extreme events of the past few months, such as floods in Bangladesh, droughts in Africa, hurricanes in the Caribbean as well as in the Southern United States, and wildfires in Canada and California. The damage attributable to natural disasters in 2017 in the United States alone exceeds $300 billion (up from $75 billion for Hurricane Sandy in 2012, according to the National Center for Environmental Information), which makes prevention look like a bargain. Unless a trend reversal happens, the risk of unremitting CO2 emissions is potentially catastrophic temperature increases, which, in turn, lead to extreme weather events — hurricanes, droughts, heat or cold waves, sea-level rise owing to the collapse of large ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, disrupted global food supplies and tropical rainforests, further ocean acidification, the spread of deserts, and mass migration of climate refugees.

The reasons are legion for why doing something to counter climate change is so incredibly hard.

Perhaps too hard.

Dale Jamieson, a philosophy professor at NYU, considers climate change the largest collective-action problem humanity has ever faced. He refers not to the underlying science but to the politics — the temptation to grab a free ride, even though we know that the costs for us and everybody else will only increase as time passes.

Waiting for others to go first with reductions means that there will be no winners, and we will all be worse off.

Goodell attended the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015, when world leaders committed themselves to holding the increase in global average temperature below two degrees Celsius or 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

The Paris Agreement is a major achievement in defining problems and outlining the tasks ahead.

Yet mapping the journey is not the same as actually moving forward.

As matters stand, the emissions-pledge pathway negotiated in Paris has a probability of more than 90 percent to exceed two degrees Celsius, and only a “likely” chance of remaining below three degrees Celsius in this century.

So, even if current commitments were kept, a one-third probability of climate change in excess of three degrees Celsius would remain.

Achieving the Paris goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius — a 50 percent increase over current temperature — is all but impossible.

Climate change is caused by production and consumption patterns originating in the Industrial Revolution.

Its consequences extend far into the future and affect the entire globe.

While no one will escape, it is a cosmic injustice that the hardest hit will be those who have barely if at all contributed to the problem and are our planet’s most vulnerable citizens: the poor, the citizens of developing countries, those not yet born — as well as other species. In Goodell’s words:

Climate change was set in motion because of the two-hundred-year-long fossil fuel party the West has been throwing for itself. […] To put in perspective how little the Marshallese have done to cause the problem, consider this: the entire amount of CO2 emitted by the Marshallese in the last 50 years is less than the city of Portland, Oregon, emits in a single year.

For the citizens of the Marshall Islands, the Maldives, and many other small island states, climate change is not about costs, economic advantage, or power maximation.

It is about survival.

The Water Will Come concretely and compellingly tracks the reasons why our current production and consumption patterns are unsustainable.

Powerful economic and political interests are preventing us from taking meaningful remedial action.

Goodell is not given to drama, and more in sorrow than anger does he pile on evidence that prevention and mitigation are much cheaper in the long run than damage repair, quite apart from the intangible but surely consequential benefit of preserving nature in all its glory.

For the past several decades and more, economists have analyzed the “tragedy of the commons,” or what they term “externalities.” We can think of the atmosphere as “the commons.”

Using it as a sewer has no cost, and those who will suffer from our use and misuse of it receive no compensation.

Since market prices do not reflect the social and environmental cost of economic activity, our way of life is based on recklessly “externalizing” the costs of our lifestyle to poorer continents and future generations.

This is not a theoretical argument but an existential one.

People have become a force of nature, indeed a destroyer of nature.

Paul J. Crutzen, the Nobel Prize–winning atmospheric chemist, popularized the term “Anthropocene” to describe the new era when human actions drastically affect the Earth, threatening the regenerative, life-preserving balance of nature.

The environmental movement originally was concerned with an exploding population, a polluted nature, and the reckless exploitation of nonrenewable resources that, inevitably, would lead to a Malthusian nightmare of famine.

However, it has become increasingly clear that the danger stems less from the depletion of raw materials than from the consequences of using them.

There is a glut, not a shortage, of fossil fuels (which are cheap, since they are not priced to include the damage they cause to “the commons”), and the formidable challenge is to figure out how to leave them in the ground.

This will be hard, if it is at all possible.

All Western economies have become dependent — or rather, addicted — to fossil fuels

. The countries of the Global South, with full moral justification, aspire to the same comforts and levels of consumption as their northern neighbors.

Fossil fuel producers, whether they are companies or states, relish the income they derive from fossil fuels.

Manufacturers of cars, planes, consumer durables, electronics, and so on prefer their markets to expand.

Consumers in the North enjoy — and those in the South desire — the luxury of mobility and the convenience of enjoying a multitude of apparatuses in spacious, smoothly climatized quarters.

This unholy alliance of producers, consumers, and parochially focused governments is sleepwalking the Earth over the climate cliff.

Timely remedial action is essential, but politics is local and mired in the present.

How then can existing political institutions, mechanisms, and tools adequately deal with climate change?

Goodell interviewed President Obama, who, he thought, might balk at the phrase “climate catastrophe.” He did not. When asked if the science wasn’t scaring the hell out of him, he flatly answered, “Yeah.” Still, Obama cautioned that “no matter how urgent the science is on climate change, you have to take the politics slowly.”

It is an open question, given the current state of politics in the United States and in much of the world, if the warnings of scientists and rational arguments will catalyze action, even if only slowly. Or does the combination of self-interest, ideology, and hostility to science constitute an insurmountable roadblock to action?

Since nature is neither responsive to declarations of intent nor prone to negotiation, surely the normal tools of politics and economics do not apply. Accommodating the powerful and playing for time or splitting the difference are not going to protect the ecosphere. Discounting future benefits and assigning monetary values to biological diversity and climate stability is a hapless attempt to be rational. Too many unknown factors, including the frightful irreversibility of a number of tipping points, mean that we don’t have time to take the politics slowly. Indeed, we don’t have time for politics as currently practiced. In late January 2018, the hands of the iconic Doomsday Clock were pushed 30 seconds closer to midnight, the closest it has been since 1953 to the symbolic point of annihilation. In a statement published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, aptly titled “It is Now 2 Minutes to Midnight,” scientists involved in setting the clock warned:

[A]voiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now … The nations of the world will have to significantly decrease their greenhouse gas emissions to keep climate risks manageable, and so far, the global response has fallen far short of meeting this challenge.

But climate change, sadly, has become an ideological battleground — even though our survival depends on its depoliticization. There will be no winners if action is delayed. It is hard to imagine today that, in 2007, Republican Senator John McCain testified to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that:

The science tells us that urgent and significant action is needed. […] If the scientists are right and temperatures continue to rise, we could face environmental, economic, and national security consequences far beyond our ability to imagine. If they are wrong and the Earth finds a way to compensate for the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, what will we have accomplished? Cleaner air; greater energy efficiency, a more diverse and secure energy mix, and U.S. leadership in the technologies of the future. There is no doubt; failure to act is the far greater risk.

Such courage and leadership are even more imperative today. Instead, we harbor the vain hope for a deus ex machina, some miracle cure that will, seconds before midnight, rescue us. Regardless of the facts or odds, we assume that problems won’t turn out as badly as they could have, and that solutions will somehow emerge. As the Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, who Goodell quotes, puts it, “Governments, corporations, and citizens allow themselves to act in a very irresponsible way because they assume that when push comes to shove, the scientists will invent something that will save the day.”

A cacophonic public discourse and an overcrowded political agenda militate against taking action on what, in the public mind, is a clear-but-not-quite-present danger. Change occurring over years and decades, Goodell reminds us, is the kind of threat that we humans are genetically ill-equipped to deal with. “We have evolved to defend ourselves from a guy with a knife or an animal with big teeth, but we are not wired to make decisions about barely perceptible threats that gradually accelerate over time.”

Jeff Goodell’s excellent book gives new meaning to “après moi le déluge.” However, this time, the water will rise not after, but during, our lifetime.


Franz Baumann is a visiting professor at NYU whose work focuses on the international governance of climate change. Prior to entering academia, Baumann worked for the United Nations for over 30 years. He is currently working on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Press link for more: LA Review of Books

Combating #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani

Combating climate change

Goals for the coming years

Just as the United States is in the process of pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, US government data revealed that the need for action to stem global warming is as urgent as ever.

US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) both published separate reports last month that indicate that 2017 was among the three warmest years since 1880, when record-keeping began.

NASA calculations show that globally averaged temperatures in 2017 were 0.90 degrees Celsius (1.62 degrees Fahrenheit) above the arithmetic mean of the 1951–1980 years.

According to the NOAA analysis, average temperature was 0.84 degrees Celsius (1.51 degrees F) above the 20th century average.

In light of these alarming trends, what can be done, and how are various stakeholders responding to these renewed challenges?

Unfortunately, there is not much encouraging news on combating climate change.

While signatories to the Paris Agreement met twice since December 2015, progress on its implementation and finance has been slow, and emissions of carbon show no signs of levelling off.

Between 2014–16, for three years, emissions remained steady at over 32.1 metric gigatons of CO2 each year, but now appear to be rising again.“Three years without emissions growth is notable, but it needs to be turned into a decline,” said Glen Peters, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo in Norway.

It is too early to judge whether the cause of combating climate change has advanced or experienced a setback since the Paris Accord was signed over two years ago.

At the global level, there is no doubt that public awareness has increased, and scientific progress in the realm of clean energy and emissions control has been phenomenal.

Price of solar panels, electric cars, and renewable energy has come down steadily.

However, at the same time, the pace of economic growth and demand for energy is again drawing on low-cost sources including coal-powered power plants.

Urgewald, a German non-profit association, estimates that currently there are 1,600 coal plants planned or under construction in 62 countries which would increase the capacity of coal-powered plants by 43 percent, and make it harder to meet the goals set in the Paris Accord to keep global temperatures from rising below 2 degrees Centigrade.

While global awareness of the perils of climate change is high and environmental activism is growing in every nook and corner, these two forces of dynamism have hit the hard wall of reality, represented by renewed global economic uptick.

I call this the tug of war between activism vs reality.

GDP growth during 2018–20 is predicted to be robust, and increased energy demands will be met mainly by non-renewable energy sources, including coal, gas, and oil. United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) released its Emissions Gap, 2017 report in November and it shows a “disparity between the world’s stated ambitions on climate and the actions it is currently taking.”

In a similar vein, Fatih Birol, Executive Director of International Energy Agency, asserts, “The era of fossil fuels is far from being over, even if the Paris pledges are fully implemented,”

Today, he said, the share of fossil fuels in the global energy mix is about 81 percent; if Paris goals are met, the share will drop only to 74 percent by 2040.

The bodies entrusted with the implementation of the Paris Accord, particularly the Conference of the Parties (COP) met twice since the Paris summit.

The first, COP22 met in Marrakech, Morocco in November 2016 and COP23 Fiji, so named because Fiji was at the presidency, was held in Bonn, Germany in November 2017.

COP24 is expected to meet in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

The group is entrusted with formulating the rules and principles of implementation of the Paris Accord, known as the Rulebook, and finalising the format of “Talanoa dialogue”, a Fijian name for the collective “stocktake” or progress report due in 2018.

Even at COP23 it was clear that with US participation in doubt, future negotiations on some sticking points, particularly “loss and damage” and financing, will probably drag on beyond 2018.

On the positive side, China, the world’s largest consumer of energy, is likely to step into a more activist role, filling in the vacuum created by the US departure.

China’s role while crucial is not fully transparent, and is compounded by its mixed record on the ground.

Its energy demand is increasing in double digits, and while it is looking for carbon-free energy sources and electric vehicles, Chinese companies are building coal plants everywhere. “Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal.”

According to Bloomberg, China’s coal-fired generation capacity may increase by as much as 19 percent over the next five years. “While the country has cancelled some coal-fired capacity due to lack of demand growth, China still plans to increase its coal-fired power plants to almost 1,100 gigawatts, which is three times the coal-fired capacity of the US”.

The challenges for the coming years are tremendous, but not insurmountable.

Countries must remain committed to the principle of Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to reduce carbon emissions.

Some environmental groups have also suggested that OECD countries, i.e. large, developed countries that have created the current problem,need to keep their side of the bargain, even if the developing countries are falling behind. “Global energy consumption, expected to increase by 48 percent in the next 20 years, needs a major realignment, with current high consumers cutting back to allow the developing countries to catch up.

A substantial reduction in growth of electricity demand is a precondition for the share of renewables to increase.”

Various studies indicated that coal powered power plants need to be phased-out in OECD and EU by 2030 and by 2050 for developing countries.

It is doubtful if this will happen since US is cutting back on its commitment and the Clean Power plan of the Obama era is dead.

However, individual states must take action to help with plant shutdowns or phase-out, by providing the right incentives to the utilities and facilitating retraining of workers affected by closures of coal-fired plants.

While some renewables are competitive with fossil fuels, others are not.

Onshore wind and solar photovoltaic are comparable but offshore wind farms and solar thermal energy, are not.

Solar and wind energy still have some technical issues that have slowed down adoption, and these are intermittency and the resulting high cost of integration into the power grid.

Finally, a word of caution from Proessor Earl Ritchie of University of Houston.

He wrote, “Most scenarios with high percentages of renewables rely on substantial reduction in growth of electricity demand.

It’s questionable how realistic this is, particularly if strong growth in electric automobiles is anticipated.”

Dr Abdullah Shibli is an economist, and Senior Research Fellow at International Sustainable Development Institute (ISDI), a think-tank based in Boston, USA.

Press link for more: The Daily Star

Chief scientist Alan Finkel hits back at electric car doubters. #auspol #qldpol

Chief scientist Alan Finkel hits back at electric car doubters

February 9 2018 – 9:25PM

Affordable electric vehicles that can drive up to 600 kilometres on a single charge will help bring a motoring revolution to Australia, predicts Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, in an intervention that defies naysayers of the technology.

In an interview with Fairfax Media, Dr Finkel said the onus was on the federal government to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector, but predicted electric cars “will be a significant element” of policies considered.

In praise of the transport revolution: Chief Scientist Alan Finkel with an electric car. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

Dr Finkel – who owns two electric cars – would not comment on government policy. But he pointed to his review of the national electricity market that called for the development of a whole-of-economy emissions reduction strategy by 2020.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg last month declared electric vehicles would revolutionise Australia, saying the scale of disruption would rival the introduction of the iPhone.

The comments prompted fierce debate about the extent to which the government should encourage the electric vehicle industry. A handful of Coalition backbenchers led by climate sceptic Craig Kelly stridently oppose financial incentives, such as subsidies, to lower the purchase cost of the technology.

The transport sector is a major contributor to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

However electric vehicle uptake in this nation is minute compared with other nations such as those in Europe, where governments have played a far greater role in encouraging the technology.

Dr Finkel said Australia’s vast distances, and concern about electric vehicle driving range, may have held back sales.

However the next generation of cars, soon to reach Australia, were at entry-level prices and could drive up to 600 kilometres on a single charge, he said.

“That will make quite a difference to Australians’ interest in electric cars. It will get better and better in time because the improvements in batteries keep on coming,” he said.

France and Britain are encouraging electric car adoption by vowing to end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040. Norway and the Netherlands aim to do so by 2025, and China has indicated it will also adopt a ban.

Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce has ruled out similar moves in Australia.

Despite this, benefits flowing from the overseas bans would trickle down to Australia, Dr Finkel told Fairfax Media.

“There will be an extraordinarily deep shift away from petrol and diesel cars towards pure electric [vehicles],” he said of countries with a ban on conventional cars.

“Volume will go up, prices will go down, electric cars will therefore inevitably be better vehicles with longer range, lower prices and more accessible to Australians.”

Dr Finkel said aside from the clear environmental benefits, electric cars were a “more enjoyable driving experience”.

“You just touch the accelerator and the car responds, whereas in a petrol car there is a lag of two tenths of a second … There is something magical about the responsiveness of it,” he said.

Australia had the potential to develop next-generation lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars, but there was “no actual large-scale activity” to date, Dr Finkel said.

“Around the world what you’re seeing is companies getting into it partly because there is some support from government,” he said.

“We’ve got a workforce, we’ve got access to raw materials such as lithium … we’ve got experience in designing, building and exporting products, but we haven’t made that kind of commitment.”

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