Later On

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Archive for the ‘Global warming’ Category

Tampa Bay is a possible catastrophe

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In July of 2017, I blogged about an article by Darryl Fears in the Washington Post, which begins:

TAMPA BAY, Fla. — Mark Luther’s dream home has a window that looks out to a world of water. He can slip out the back door and watch dolphins swim by his private dock. Shore birds squawk from nearby nests in giant mangroves.

He said it’s hard to imagine ever leaving this slice of paradise on St. Petersburg’s Bayou Grande, even though the water he adores is starting to get a little creepy.

Over the 24 years since he moved into the house, the bayou has inched up a protective sea wall and crept toward his front door. As sea level rises, a result of global warming, it contributes to flooding in his Venetian Isles neighborhood and Shore Acres, a neighboring community of homes worth as much as $2.5 million, about 70 times per year.

“Why stay?” asked Luther, an oceanographer who knows perfectly well a hurricane could one day shove 15 feet of water into his living room. “It’s just so nice.”

Tampa Bay is mesmerizing, with 700 miles of shoreline and some of the finest white sand beaches in the nation. But analysts say the metropolitan area is the most vulnerable in the United States to flooding and damage if a major hurricane ever scores a direct hit.

A Boston firm that analyzes potential catastrophic damage reported that the region would lose $175 billion in a storm the size of Hurricane Katrina. A World Bank study called Tampa Bay one of the 10 most at-risk areas on the globe.

Yet the bay area — greater Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater — has barely begun to assess the rate of sea-level rise and address its effects. Its slow response to a major threat is a case study in how American cities reluctantly prepare for the worst, even though signs of impacts from climate change abound all around.

State leaders could be part of the reason. Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has reportedly discouraged employees from using the words “climate change” in official communications. Last month, the Republican-controlled state legislature approved bills allowing any citizen to challenge textbooks and instructional materials, including those that teach the science of evolution and global warming.

The sea in Tampa Bay has risen naturally throughout time, about an inch per decade. But in the early 1990s, scientists say, it accelerated to several inches above normal, so much that recent projections have the bay rising between six inches and more than two feet by the middle of the century and up to nearly seven feet when it ends. On top of that, natural settling is causing land to slowly sink.

Sea-level rise worsens the severity of even small storms, adding to the water that can be pushed ashore. Hard rains now regularly flood neighborhoods in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater.

y a stroke of gambler’s luck, Tampa Bay hasn’t suffered a direct hit from a hurricane as powerful as a category 3 or higher in nearly a century. Tampa has doubled down on a bet that another won’t strike anytime soon, investing billions of dollars in high-rise condominiums along the waterfront and shipping port upgrades and expanding a hospital on an island in the middle of the bay to make it one of the largest in the state.

Once-sleepy St. Petersburg has gradually followed suit, adorning its downtown coast with high-rise condominiums, new shops and hotels. The city is in the final stages of a plan to build a $45 million pier as a major attraction that would extend out into the bay.

Worried that area leaders weren’t adequately focused on the downside of living in a tropic, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council reminded them of the risks by simulating a worst-case scenario hurricane, a category 5 with winds exceeding 156 mph, to demonstrate what would happen if it entered the Gulf of Mexico and turned their way.

The fictitious Phoenix hurricane scenario projects that wind damage would destroy nearly half a million homes and businesses. About 2 million residents would require medical treatment, and the estimated death toll, more than 2,000, would top the number of people who perished from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Florida’s most densely populated county, Pinellas, could be sliced in half by a wave of water. The low-lying county of about a million is growing so fast that there’s no land left to develop, and main roads and an interstate connecting it to Tampa get clogged with traffic even on a clear day.

“If a hurricane 4 or 5 hit us,” St. Petersburg City Council Chairman Darden Rice said, referring to the two highest category storms, “there’s no doubt about it. The plan is you’d better get out of Dodge.”

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s warning was even starker. Standing outside City Hall last year, he described what would happen if a hurricane as small as a category 3 with 110 mph to 130 mph winds hit downtown.

“Where you’re standing now would be 15 feet under water,” he said. . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more. It’s a lengthy article and if Fiona hits Tampa, we’ll know how much of the article is reliable.

Thank God Tampa’s had the past five years to prepare and reduce the risk. However, important but non-urgent things tend to be pushed aside by urgent matters (whether those are important or not).

Written by Leisureguy

27 September 2022 at 1:09 pm

US installs record solar capacity as prices keep falling

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John Timmer reports in Ars Technica:

This week, the US Department of Energy’s Berkeley Lab released its annual analysis of solar energy in the US. It found that nearly half the generating capacity was installed in the US during 2021 and is poised to dominate future installs. That’s in part because costs have dropped by more than 75 percent since 2010; it’s now often cheaper to build and operate a solar plant than it is to simply buy fuel for an existing natural gas plant.

The analysis was performed before the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which contains many incentives and tax breaks that should expand solar’s advantages in the coming years.

Solar, by the numbers

In terms of large, utility-scale solar installs, the US added over 12.5 gigawatts of new capacity last year, bringing the total installed capacity to over 50 gigawatts. Texas led the way, with about a third of the total capacity added (3.9 GW) going online in the Lone Star State. Combined with residential and other distributed solar installations, solar alone accounted for 45 percent of the new generating capacity added to the grid last year.

That growth showed up in figures on how much energy solar supplies. Five states now receive more than 15 percent of their electricity from solar power, including Massachusetts and Vermont, with California receiving 25 percent of its electricity from the Sun.

Solar’s expansion has largely been driven by falling costs. The DOE estimates that the price of building a solar plant has been dropping by an average of about 10 percent a year, leading to a fall of over 75 percent since 2010. That has left prices averaging about $1.35 for each watt of capacity in 2021. Large-scale plants benefit the most, with projects over 50 megawatts costing about 20 percent less than those under 20 MW.

The drop in prices is causing some somewhat odd trends, driven by the fact that it’s becoming increasingly economical to install large facilities in states that don’t get as much sun, like Maine, Michigan, and Wisconsin. As a result, the past several years have seen the average incoming energy at newly constructed facilities (measured as daily kilowatt-hours per square meter) drop by about 20 percent.

That has helped cause a large spread in what’s called the capacity factor, which is calculated by dividing the amount of energy produced at a facility by the maximum energy it could have generated if it produced 24 hours a day. The median capacity factor of solar plants in the US was 24 percent, but outliers were as low as 9 percent and as high as 35 percent. As prices continue to fall, this spread may become more pronounced, with more plants at the low end of the range.

More to come

In parallel with the drop in construction costs, the cost of electricity generated by solar farms has been dropping as well. The new analysis has tracked this via both the cost of power purchase agreements and the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), the latter being a measure that compensates for the benefits of tax incentives to provide a more direct measure of how much a method of generation costs.

Both of these are dropping. The LCOE has plunged even faster than the cost of construction, dropping 16 percent annually since 2010, for a total drop of 85 percent. In concrete figures, the LCOE of solar was about $230 per megawatt-hour in 2010; it’s now $33 per MWh. If the tax incentives are included, it drops further to $27 per MWh.

(An aside about those tax breaks. Before the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the only way to get a tax break on a battery installation was . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2022 at 12:12 pm

New wind turbine concept

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Jesus Diaz writes in Fast Company:

The type of wind turbine you’re used to seeing in stock photos of wind farms is called a horizontal axis wind turbine (or, HAWT). But there is another form of wind power, called a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT), in which the blades rotate on an axis perpendicular to Earth’s surface. This type of turbine can work better in unstable wind conditions because they don’t need to be pointed into the wind, but still produce much less electricity and durability problems because of the force the wind exerts on them. That’s why you would only see VAWTs in small applications, like homes, and HAWTs in wind power farms.

But a new company claims to have improved on the VAWT design. The invention could create a turbine with a maximum output of 40 megawatts, far surpassing the 15 megawatts of the world’s current largest turbine. That company is called World Wide Wind, a Norwegian startup. The Norwegians—rich, thanks to their oil and gas reserveswant to dramatically increase their wind energy production to 30.000 megawatts by 2040. Their industry’s interest in offshore wind energy is so big that there is a waiting list to test new technologies off its coast, which is on the incredibly windy shores of the North Sea.

In June 2021, company founder Stian Valentin Knutsen wondered if it would be possible to have two sets of rotor blades on a single turbine mast, making them rotate in opposite directions. “The idea was to increase the energy output of the vertical turbines while simultaneously eliminating the increased torsional forces and the inherent problems associated with upscaling traditional HAWTs for increased energy outputs,” company spokesperson Elsbeth Tronstad told me via email. Knutsen looked for scientists to test the possibilities and finally met Hans Bernhoff, a professor at the department of electrical engineering at Uppsala University, in Sweden. 

According to the company, Bernhoff had been doing research on vertical wind turbines for more than 20 years, building his own 200 kilowatt (kW), 131-foot-high vertical turbine that was functional for a decade. He was intrigued by Knutsen’s theoretical model and joined the company, developing the idea of the large tilted offshore floating turbine that World Wide Wind is now working on.


The concept of vertical axis turbines is not new, but the architecture of this machine—which the company says is patent pending—is radically different. The design employs two coaxial, or counter-rotating, rotors mounted on a vertical shaft.

Each rotor has three blades that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 September 2022 at 3:59 pm

Fossil Fuel Industry Seeks to Expand Free Speech for Corporations and Limit It for Citizens

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Amy Westervelt reports in the Intercept:

REPS. JAMIE RASKIN, D-Md., and Katie Porter, D-Calif., probably didn’t plan for their committee hearings to run at the exact same time this week, but the hearings sure were talking to each other.

In her Committee on Natural Resources hearing, Porter highlighted the role PR firms play in blocking climate policy. Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, and his selected witness, Amy Cooke, CEO of the conservative John Locke Foundation, expressed concern that preventing companies and their hired PR firms from spreading misinformation about climate change would have a chilling effect on free speech.

Meanwhile, the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, chaired by Raskin, focused on free speech attacks against environmentalists, digging into the fossil fuel industry’s attempts to curb citizens’ speech rights via strategic litigation and laws that criminalize protest. Taken together, the two are a perfect illustration of the industry’s First Amendment strategy: expand free speech for corporations, curb it for citizens.

Raskin’s free speech hearing focused on two key tactics: the increased filing of strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs — defamation suits aimed at penalizing citizens or citizen groups for exercising their First Amendment rights — and the proliferation of so-called critical infrastructure bills, which pile on fines and criminal sentences for those caught trespassing or vandalizing near pipelines, power plants, railroads, or other infrastructure. These anti-protest bills were a direct industry backlash to the Standing Rock protests in 2016 and 2017. Starting with a law passed in Oklahoma in 2017, they proliferated with the help of the industry group American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which drafts and disseminates pro-corporate model legislation for adoption by state governments. Seventeen states now have critical infrastructure laws on the books, with several more considering proposals.

“SLAPPs and anti-protest bills are really two sides of the same coin,” said Deepa Padmanabha, deputy general counsel for Greenpeace and a witness at Raskin’s hearing. “They’re tactics used by the same corporate actors to quash dissent. They’re pushing legislation to silence us, to criminalize our critiques through anti-protest bills. And they’re also filing SLAPP suits to silence dissent.”

Greenpeace has dealt with both. Greenpeace USA activists were arrested in 2019 under Texas’s felony critical infrastructure law for unfurling banners on a bridge, which temporarily blocked shipping. The goal of the action was to highlight the connection between the oil industry and climate change.

Greenpeace is engaged in active litigation in a couple of SLAPP suits too. In one, Energy Transfer, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, sued the organization for its role in the Standing Rock protests. The suit was initially filed in federal court and invoked the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, a law designed to prosecute organized crime. “Energy Transfer was alleging that our advocacy work to uplift Indigenous voices at Standing Rock constituted organized crime,” Padmanabha said.

Because RICO allows for damages to be tripled if a defendant is found guilty, Greenpeace faced a $1 billion fine. Losing that suit would have had a truly chilling effect on free speech. A federal judge threw out the case, but Energy Transfer filed again in North Dakota (minus the RICO charge), a state that doesn’t have an anti-SLAPP law on the books. . .

Continue reading. Things look bad, overall.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2022 at 6:03 pm

Air Canada just ordered 30 electric planes that can carry passengers up to 500 miles as the race for airlines to cut emissions intensifies

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Taylor Rains reports in Business Insider:

Air Canada is one step closer to becoming a greener company.

The Montréal-based airline announced Thursday that it had ordered 30 of Heart Aerospace’s ES-30 electric aircraft. Air Canada has also gained a $5 million equity stake in the Swedish manufacturer. 

Scheduled to enter service in 2028, the plane is set to seat 30 passengers in a two-by-one configuration and fly up to 124 miles, or 200 kilometers, when in all-electric mode. 

The range can extend to 249 miles when the battery is supplemented by generators and 497 miles when the capacity is limited to 25 people, according to Air Canada.

“Air Canada has taken a leadership position in the industry to address climate change,” Michael Rousseau, the company’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “The introduction into our fleet of the ES-30 electric regional aircraft from Heart Aerospace will be a step forward to our goal of net zero emissions by 2050.”

The move complements Air Canada’s  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 September 2022 at 4:47 pm

Is Our Food Becoming Less Nutritious?

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Written by Leisureguy

9 September 2022 at 6:39 pm

Dan Patrick, Texas Lieutenant Governor, Demanded That Texas Retirement Funds Divest From BlackRock. But He Kept His Shares in the Firm.

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I find this all too typical of Republican politicians.  Their slogan seems to be “Rules are made for you, not for me.” (It’s very like the anti-abortionists who, when they or a family member needs an abortion, find that in this particular instance abortion is okay — but only for them. Russell Gold and Dan Solomon report in the Texas Monthly:

Last year, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick promised to pass a law requiring state retirement funds to stop doing business with Wall Street firms that, in his word, “boycott” the oil and gas industry. Yet nearly a year after he began his campaign, and months after he shepherded Senate Bill 13 into law, Patrick still owned shares in the firm he called “the worst offender,” BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager. Not just that: he also owned BlackRock mutual funds, along with shares in other companies that have pledged to stop using oil and natural gas.

In recent years, Wall Street has started to embrace socially responsible “ESG” (environment, social, and corporate governance) investing. In general terms, this means considering factors beyond financial performance, such as commitment to sustainability and good working conditions. BlackRock and its chief executive, Larry Fink, are leading voices in the movement. In a letter to shareholders on January 17, Fink argued against the notion that “going woke,” as he wrote, was the driver of the movement. Rather, he suggested, gradually moving investments away from fossil fuels and toward green industries such as wind and solar power is a sound investment strategy for growing resilient businesses that are viable for the long term. “We focus on sustainability not because we’re environmentalists, but because we are capitalists and fiduciaries to our clients,” he wrote, echoing his declaration in 2021 that “climate risk is investment risk.”

Patrick hoped that through SB 13, which charged the comptroller’s office with compiling a list of offending firms, Texas could use the weight of its large retirement funds—the Teacher Retirement System of Texas has nearly $200 billion under management—to turn Wall Street against ESG investing. Two days after Fink’s letter, Patrick sent an open letter to Texas comptroller Glenn Hegar that singled out BlackRock by name. “As you prepare the official list of companies that boycott energy companies, I ask that you include BlackRock,” he wrote, adding that “BlackRock is capriciously discriminating against the oil and gas industry.” He ended his letter with a declaration: “Texas will not do business with those that boycott fossil fuels.”

Patrick, however, had been personally doing business with those firms, as recently as three weeks before his letter, and possibly even after he sent it. At the end of 2021, according to annual financial disclosures Texas Monthly obtained from the Texas Ethics Commission, Patrick owned between one share and one hundred shares in BlackRock, potentially worth as much as $91,000. On top of that, Patrick and his wife owned shares in three BlackRock mutual funds, which together were worth between $15,000 and $58,000. The lieutenant governor also owned, either directly or with his wife, shares in several other companies that have taken pledges to use only renewable energy in the near future—including Apple, Meta, Microsoft, and Walmart. At the end of 2021, these holdings were worth between $92,000 and $460,000. Why such a wide range? Despite multiple attempts to ask for more details about how Patrick’s personal investments diverged from the laws he championed, no one from his office or campaign returned Texas Monthly’s calls. We also asked if he still owns those shares, or if he sold them at some point in 2022, but did not receive an answer. We may find the answers when Patrick’s next disclosure is filed, but that won’t be until next January.

One thing we do know is that Patrick and his wife owned more than 10,000 shares in something called BlackRock FDS V. What is that? It took some digging to find, but it’s a legal entity owned by BlackRock that includes fourteen mutual funds, four of which are on the comptroller’s list of banned mutual funds.

One of the four is  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 September 2022 at 10:18 am

Uruguay to Test Green-Hydrogen Appeal With Offshore Wind Tender

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Using electricity from a zero-emissions source (for example, wind or solar) to power electrolyzers that produce hydrogen from water to use as a zero-emissions fuel — that’s a win-win in anyone’s book. And, I would think, the oxygen that’s produced could also be of value.

Ken Parks reports for Bloomberg News:

Uruguay will gauge investor appetite for developing massive green hydrogen projects in the south Atlantic when it starts the tender of 10 offshore wind power blocs in the coming months covering an area the size of Delaware.

State energy company Ancap plans to publish bidding rules for offshore blocs this year and pick the winners in the second quarter of 2023, Chairman Alejandro Stipanicic said. He’s optimistic that some of the more than 40 oil drillers and renewable firms that inquired about the auction will submit bids. The power is earmarked for electrolyzers that strip hydrogen from water.

“We are offering blocs that have a certain potential that in our judgment justifies multibillion-dollar investments,” Stipanicic said in an interview. “It’s an offer that has attracted the attention of players that already said ‘we are decided to go for those blocs’.”

Oil majors like BP Plc and Shell Plc are pivoting to hydrogen at a time when countries are seeking to limit global warming and bolster energy security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Global output of clean hydrogen could surge as much as 18-fold to 11.6 million metric tons a year by 2030 with strong backing by governments, according to BloombergNEF.

In a good year, Uruguay generates more than 95% of its electricity from renewable sources thanks to investments that poured into wind, solar and biomass power in the last decade. Now the administration of President Luis Lacalle Pou is pitching Uruguay’s untapped renewable resources and tax breaks to put the country on the path to becoming a global hydrogen exporter.

Uruguay’s efforts are starting to pay off with Germany’s Enertrag planning to build 350 megawatts of solar and wind power in northern Uruguay to produce 21,000 tons of hydrogen a year from 2025. Enertrag will process the hydrogen into 100,000 tons of e-methanol, potentially for export to Germany.

Each of the blocs Ancap will tender could generate at least 2.1 gigawatts of electricity, enough to make 187,000 tons of hydrogen a year, according to  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 11:50 am

Sheep Are the Solar Industry’s Lawn Mowers of Choice

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 Amrith Ramkumar reports in the Wall Street Journal:

DEPORT, Texas—A team clearing grass from a field of solar panels on a recent day worked without complaint, despite the summer heat.

The panels blanket nearly 1,500 acres of a solar farm in Deport, a town near the Oklahoma border. Ely Valdez, the boss, makes sure prairie grasses don’t block sunshine from the panels. His sheep do most of the work.

Jobs clearing local flora under and around stretches of solar panels have triggered an unexpected boom for Mr. Valdez and other sheepherders working the new photovoltaic fields blooming across America. Centuries after breakout roles in the Bible, shepherds are back in demand.

Sheep, the surprise workhorse of renewable energy, are generating several million dollars in annual revenue tidying up solar farms nationwide.

“It’s changing all of our lives,” said Mr. Valdez, 45 years old. He expects the flocks he oversees to soon generate several hundred thousand dollars in annual revenue. The solar windfall helped Mr. Valdez pay off his house in San Antonio.

The number of acres of solar fields employing sheep in the U.S. has grown to tens of thousands from 5,000 in 2018, according to estimates by people in the business. Flock owners charge as much as $500 an acre a year.

The solar industry auditioned several methods for the job, but requirements weeded out expected contenders. Power mowers, which can’t maneuver easily enough under panels to avoid the risk of damaging equipment, are of limited use.

Grazing animals looked like front-runners but logistical constraints thinned the herd. Cows and horses are too big to fit under the panels. Goats are happy to eat any noxious weed but also chew on wiring and climb on equipment.

Sheep—docile, ravenous and just the right height—easily smoked the field.

Mr. Valdez is responsible for the 1,700 sheep that dot the solar farm owned by Lightsource BP in Deport. He gets a cut of the money paid to the flock’s owner. Where sheep are at work, the sound of bleating pierces the steady buzz of machinery converting sunlight to electricity.

His own 2,000-sheep flock is deployed at three solar projects near his home and watched over by his wife, three children and 10 employees. Like shepherds of the past, he teaches the kids.

Mr. Valdez, who previously owned a concrete company, launched his shepherding business seven years ago. He read an article about solar grazing in Europe that intrigued him and, by chance, saw a frustrated technician doing battle with plants sprouting in a solar field across the street from his house. He made a $30,000 deal for his 27 ewes and ditched the concrete business.

Hiring sheep for landscaping goes back decades. The White House had a flock of sheep to keep weeds in check during  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 11:40 am

Unexpected effect of climate change: Buildings whose foundations are rotting

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Sabrina Shankman and Daniel Kool report in the Boston Globe (no paywall):

In the mid-19th century, as architects and builders erected many of the neighborhoods and landmarks that now define Boston, they leaned on a European practice of driving wood pilings deep into the ground and building up from there. Saturated by groundwater, those pilings could stay strong for centuries — as long as they remained submerged.

Of course, those architects and builders didn’t know about climate change.

Now, as a prolonged climate-fueled drought afflicts the region, groundwater levels have dropped to alarming levels, in some cases to record lows, triggering worries that buildings across large swaths of the city could be put at risk as pilings are exposed to air and begin to decay. There are nearly 10,000 row houses and other buildings in nearly a dozen neighborhoods that rely on wood pilings for support, from the North End to the Back Bay and Fenway. Some of the city’s most historic landmarks, including Trinity Church, Custom House Tower, and Old South Church, are supported by the pilings, which typically extend 15 to 20 feet below the surface.

Experts said rotting halts when groundwater levels rise again, but will resume whenever pilings are re-exposed, a prospect made increasingly possible by the likelihood of more frequent and long-lasting droughts.

“The more prolonged periods of drought, the more frequent we have them, the more sustained they are, the bigger risk it is to the buildings that are supported on pilings,” said Christian Simonelli, executive director of the Boston Groundwater Trust, an organization established by the Boston City Council to monitor groundwater levels in threatened parts of the city and make recommendations.
This summer, as drought in Boston went from mild to significant to critical, the trust has observed drops in many of its 813 monitoring wells across the city, with 31 at their lowest level on record, Simonelli said.

“I’ll be very clear: We need rain. We can’t go another three or four months like this.” . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2022 at 9:22 am

The world’s first 100% hydrogen passenger trains are now running in Germany

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If solar energy is used to break apart water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen (both of which can be sold), then the production costs are free, though of course capital investment is required to build the production plant and solar array. The point is that both the production of the fuel (hydrogen) and the operation of the engine are then zero emissions.

Adele Peters reports in Fast Company:

Sitting inside a diesel train, you can be exposed to more pollution than if you were standing next to a busy street at rush hour. The trains are still common—especially in the U.S. But in Germany, one small train line that used to run on diesel is moving to 100% hydrogen.

Inside fuel cells, hydrogen stored on the roof of the train combines with oxygen to make power. The process emits only water vapor.

“It’s less noisy,” says Bruno Marguet from Alstom, the France-based company that designed and made the trains for LNVG, the German regional rail company that operates the trains. “You don’t smell the diesel smoke when you’re in the station . . . there aren’t diesel emissions from [nitrogen oxides], which are harmful for health.”

Without CO2 emissions from the smokestack, it’s also better for the climate. Right now, some of the hydrogen supplying the line is made with fossil fuels, but the train operator plans to work with partners to produce the hydrogen with local wind power instead.

Around half of Europe’s train lines have been electrified, and can use electric trains. But on lines that aren’t used as often, adding overhead electric wires can be too expensive. Hydrogen trains can also go farther before needing to refuel than a battery-electric train can go on one charge; Alstom’s trains go 1,000 kilometers, or 621 miles, before the hydrogen tanks need to be refilled. On LNVG’s regional route between smaller towns, the trains can run all day without refueling.

The company plans to transition completely away from diesel. “We will not buy any more diesel trains, in order to do even more to combat climate change,” Carmen Schwable, a spokesperson for LNVG, told Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster. “We [also] are convinced that diesel trains will no longer be economically viable in future.” Trains are already a lower-carbon choice for travel than flying, but like every other industry, train companies will have to move away from fossil fuels to meet global climate goals. Since trains can last for 30 years, new diesel trains arguably need to be phased out now.

The new route, between . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2022 at 12:03 pm

Engine Trouble

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Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2022 at 7:57 pm

Oceans Give, Oceans Take

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Written by Leisureguy

26 August 2022 at 1:29 pm

Wow! California to Ban the Sale of New Gasoline Cars after 2035

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This will accelerate the electric-car market. Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman report (gift link, no paywall) in the NY Times:

California is expected to put into effect on Thursday its sweeping plan to prohibit the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035, a groundbreaking move that could have major effects on the effort to fight climate change and accelerate a global transition toward electric vehicles.

“This is huge,” said Margo Oge, an electric vehicles expert who headed the Environmental Protection Agency’s transportation emissions program under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “California will now be the only government in the world that mandates zero-emission vehicles. It is unique.”

The rule, issued by the California Air Resources Board, will require that 100 percent of all new cars sold in the state by 2035 be free of the fossil fuel emissions chiefly responsible for warming the planet, up from 12 percent today. It sets interim targets requiring that 35 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in the state by 2026 produce zero emissions. That would climb to 68 percent by 2030.

The restrictions are important because not only is California the largest auto market in the United States, but more than a dozen other states typically follow California’s lead when setting their own auto emissions standards.

“The climate crisis is solvable if we focus on the big, bold steps necessary to stem the tide of carbon pollution,” Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, said in a statement.

California’s action comes on top of an expansive new climate law that President Biden signed last week. The law will invest $370 billion in spending and tax credits on clean energy programs, the largest action ever taken by the federal government to combat climate change. Enactment of that law is projected to help the United States cut its emissions 40 percent below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. Still, it will not be enough to eliminate U.S. emissions by 2050, the target that climate scientists say all major economies must reach if the world is to avert the most catastrophic and deadly impacts of climate change.

To help close the gap, White House officials have vowed to couple the bill with new regulations, including on automobile tailpipe emissions. They have also said that reducing emissions enough to stay in line with the science also will require aggressive state policies.

Experts said the new California rule, in both its stringency and reach, could stand alongside the Washington law as one of the world’s most important climate change policies, and could help take another significant bite out of the nation’s emissions of carbon dioxide. The new rule is also expected to influence new policies in Washington and around the world to promote electric vehicles and cut auto pollution. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

California has 13 years to build up the infrastructure required (charging stations, mainly), and I bet new homes will right now start including a charging capability for electric cars — if I were building a home on spec, I would make sure that was included (competitive advantage over homes that lack that facility). And in fact I imagine new homes will soon be roofed with solar shingles.

Written by Leisureguy

24 August 2022 at 11:43 am

Climate change/global warming: Point and counterpoint

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 11:47 am

The river Loire is NOT in fact running dry

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I shared on Facebook a post that I also blogged, and I just got a Facebook fact-check that showed the information I shared was in fact misinformation. From that link:

Did the Loire River, the longest in France, run dry for the first time in at least 2,000 years due to an unprecedented drought in southwestern Europe? No, that’s not true: The Loire River did not run dry, nor did it fall to a record low flow rate. This photo shows a branch of the Loire that dries up when the water level falls. This fact check is intended to add context about the path of the river and the supplemental water from the reservoirs.

It is true that the river’s flow rate was extremely low, and at its lowest since dams had been installed in the 1980s. Drought conditions did require some crisis measures to conserve water in mid-August. The riverbed is engineered to contain the flow to one main channel. The Loire splits and flows to either side of an island, “île Batailleuse.” The trees visible on the right side of the photo are on the island. The road connecting the former communes of Varades on the north side of the river and Saint-Florent-le-Vieil to the south crosses the island by way of two bridges. The second bridge, not visible in this photo, spans the narrow but navigable portion of the Loire River hidden by the trees.

A series of photos of the Loire riverbed by press photographer @DubrayFranck was posted to Twitter on August 9, 2022, by the newspaper Ouest-France. One Twitter post featuring just one of the photos began to get attention online around August 10, 2022. An August 14, 2022, Facebook post with a caption that claimed “nowhere in the past 2000 years has the Loire run dry” was shared over 30,000 times. That post was updated on August 20, 2022, to include some additional links and context.

Apologies to my readers. I shall be more careful in the future, particularly with quoting things from Facebook. I do applaud Facebook for the correction.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 2:55 am

The century of climate migration: why we need to plan for the great upheaval

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I’ve blogged before on the coming mass migrations as climate change takes hold and once hospitable regions become uninhabitable. This will almost certainly lead to wars, since some migration targets are already have a settled population, and conflict will be exacerbated by food shortages due to crop failures and wars (cf. the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on food availability). In the article quoted below, however, Gaia Vince points out a more benign possibility if humans can plan and cooperate. (That is, of course, an enormous “if,” given that we see few signs of that approach to date.)

Some previous posts seem relevant, particularly this one from two years ago: “Predictable catastrophe: Mass migration from global warming.” The human race is strange in how it takes no steps — or at best tentative, minimal steps — to prepare for a completely predictable crisis.

See also: “The Loire River now dry” and “The great migrations will soon begin: 40 Million People Rely on the Colorado River. It’s Drying Up Fast.The great migrations will soon begin: 40 Million People Rely on the Colorado River. It’s Drying Up Fast.”

Gaia Vince’s book Nomad Century: How to Survive the Climate Upheaval will be published this coming week and an extract from the book was published in the Guardian:

A great upheaval is coming. Climate-driven movement of people is adding to a massive migration already under way to the world’s cities. The number of migrants has doubled globally over the past decade, and the issue of what to do about rapidly increasing populations of displaced people will only become greater and more urgent. To survive climate breakdown will require a planned and deliberate migration of a kind humanity has never before undertaken.

The world already sees twice as many days where temperatures exceed 50C than 30 years ago – this level of heat is deadly for humans, and also hugely problematic for buildings, roads and power stations. It makes an area unliveable. This explosive planetary drama demands a dynamic human response. We need to help people to move from danger and poverty to safety and comfort – to build a more resilient global society for everyone’s benefit.

Large populations will need to migrate, and not simply to the nearest city, but also across continents. Those living in regions with more tolerable conditions, especially nations in northern latitudes, will need to accommodate millions of migrants while themselves adapting to the demands of the climate crisis. We will need to create entirely new cities near the planet’s cooler poles, in land that is rapidly becoming ice-free. Parts of Siberia, for example, are already experiencing temperatures of 30C for months at a time.

Arctic areas are burning, with mega-blazes devouring Siberia, Greenland and Alaska. Even in January, peat fires were burning in the Siberian cryosphere, despite temperatures below –50C. These zombie fires smoulder year round in the peat below ground, in and around the Arctic Circle, only to burst into huge blazes that rage across the boreal forests of Siberia, Alaska and Canada.

In 2019, colossal fires destroyed more than 4m hectares of Siberian taiga forest, blazing for more than three months, and producing a cloud of soot and ash as large as the countries that make up the entire European Union. Models predict that fires in the boreal forests and Arctic tundra will increase by up to four times by 2100.

Wherever you live now, migration will affect you and the lives of your children. It is predictable that Bangladesh, a country where one-third of the population lives along a sinking, low-lying coast, is becoming uninhabitable. (More than 13 million Bangladeshis – nearly 10% of the population – are expected to have left the country by 2050.) But in the coming decades wealthy nations will be severely affected, too.

This upheaval occurs not only at a time of unprecedented climate change but also of human demographic change. Global population will continue to rise in the coming decades, peaking at perhaps 10 billion in the 2060s. Most of this increase will be in the tropical regions that are worst hit by climate catastrophe, causing people there to flee northwards. The global north faces the opposite problem – a “top-heavy” demographic crisis, in which a large elderly population is supported by a too-small workforce. North America and Europe have 300 million people above the traditional retirement age (65+), and by 2050, the economic old-age dependency ratio there is projected to be at 43 elderly persons per 100 working persons aged 20–64. Cities from Munich to Buffalo will begin competing with each other to attract migrants.

The coming migration will involve the world’s poorest fleeing deadly heatwaves and failed crops. It will also include the educated, the middle class, people who can no longer live where they planned because it’s impossible to get a mortgage or property insurance; because employment has moved elsewhere. The climate crisis has already uprooted millions in the US – in 2018, 1.2 million were displaced by extreme conditions, fire, storms and flooding; by 2020, the annual toll had risen to 1.7 million people. The US now averages a $1bn disaster every 18 days.

More than half of the western US is facing extreme drought conditions, and farmers in Oregon’s Klamath Basin talk about illegally using force to open dam gates for irrigation. At the other extreme, fatal floods have stranded thousands of people from Death Valley to Kentucky. By 2050, half a million existing US homes will be on land that floods at least once a year, according to data from Climate Central, a partnership of scientists and journalists. Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles has already been allocated $48m of federal tax dollars to move the entire community due to coastal erosion and rising sea levels; in Britain, the Welsh villagers of Fairbourne have been told their homes should be abandoned to the encroaching sea as the entire village is to be “decommissioned” in 2045. Larger coastal cities are at risk, too. Consider that the Welsh capital, Cardiff, is projected to be two-thirds underwater by 2050.

The UN International Organization for Migration estimates that there could be as many as 1.5 billion environmental migrants in the next 30 years. After 2050, that figure is expected to soar as the world heats further and the global population rises to its predicted peak in the mid 2060s.

The question for humanity becomes: what does a sustainable world look like? We will need to develop an entirely new way of feeding, fuelling and maintaining our lifestyles, while also reducing atmospheric carbon levels. We will need to live in denser concentrations in fewer cities, while reducing the associated risks of crowded populations, including power outages, sanitation problems, overheating, pollution and infectious disease.

At least as challenging, though, will be the task of overcoming the idea that we belong to a particular land and that it belongs to us. We will need to assimilate into globally diverse societies, living in new, polar cities. We will need to be ready to move again when necessary. With every degree of temperature increase, roughly 1 billion people will be pushed outside the zone in which humans have lived for thousands of years. We are running out of time to manage the coming upheaval before it becomes overwhelming and deadly.

Migration is not the problem; it is the solution.

How we manage this global crisis, and how humanely we treat each other as we migrate, will be key to whether this century of upheaval proceeds smoothly or with violent conflict and unnecessary deaths. Managed right, this upheaval could lead to a new global commonwealth of humanity. Migration is our way out of this crisis.

igration, whether from disaster to safety, or for a new land of opportunity, is deeply interwoven with . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2022 at 10:18 am

The Loire River now dry – Update: Not so, it turns out. See post.

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Update 23 Aug 2022: One should not, it seems rely upon Facebook posts for news and information. I got a fact check, which notes:

Did the Loire River, the longest in France, run dry for the first time in at least 2,000 years due to an unprecedented drought in southwestern Europe? No, that’s not true: The Loire River did not run dry, nor did it fall to a record low flow rate. This photo shows a branch of the Loire that dries up when the water level falls. This fact check is intended to add context about the path of the river and the supplemental water from the reservoirs.

It is true that the river’s flow rate was extremely low, and at its lowest since dams had been installed in the 1980s. Drought conditions did require some crisis measures to conserve water in mid-August. The riverbed is engineered to contain the flow to one main channel. The Loire splits and flows to either side of an island, “île Batailleuse.” The trees visible on the right side of the photo are on the island. The road connecting the former communes of Varades on the north side of the river and Saint-Florent-le-Vieil to the south crosses the island by way of two bridges. The second bridge, not visible in this photo, spans the narrow but navigable portion of the Loire River hidden by the trees.

A series of photos of the Loire riverbed by press photographer @DubrayFranck was posted featuring just one of the photos began to get attention online around August 10, 2022. An August 14, 2022, Facebook post with a caption that claimed “nowhere in the past 2000 years has the Loire run dry” was shared over 30,000 times. That post was updated on . . .

Continue reading.    /update

I wonder how climate-change deniers (such as the Republican Party) will greet this news. The problem with denying reality is that reality endures and will ultimately prevail. The photo is from a Facebook post, which notes:

This is the current state of the Loire, the longest river in France. This has not happened before in at least the 2000 years since literate people inhabited France. The Romans would have written about this. The medieval Franks would have written about this. To the best of our historical knowledge, nowhere in the past 2000 years has the Loire run dry, and likely never long before that. The drought that now grips southwestern Europe may well be unprecedented in recorded human history.

This is in the heart of wine country where grapes grow in abundance and wheat waves like golden seas- but not now. Now the wheat burns and the grapes whither to raisins on the vine. This is the end of days. And on Monday morning I’ll return to work and pretend this isn’t happening. It’s complete madness.

More information on the Loire River situation (including many more photos in “Images”).

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2022 at 9:08 am

Climate change and drought

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Update: Loire River runs dry.

This morning I read an article in the Boston Globe on the effects on Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, from the drought there: people no water in their homes and businesses for a few days each week, with some not having had water for a month — and when the water does flow, the pressure can be too low to fill a tank to save water for future use. (The article might be behind a paywall. However, I was able to read it because the Globe just had a subscription offer of $1 for six months. It’s a very good paper, so I jumped at the opportunity to have it for six months, though I doubt I’ll renew at the full rate.)

From that article:

Faced with this situation, the government of Nuevo León announced that there would be water restrictions: Once a week we would not have water for a day. However, the cuts began to be more frequent.

Sometimes there is water only in the mornings, other times there is water all day, but sometimes two, three, four days can pass without water. This has been my experience, but there are people who have had to go up to a month without water in their homes. This has caused demonstrations where people have blocked avenues demanding water for their neighborhoods.

Most of the houses were not equipped with water tanks. People have purchased them, but sometimes it is hard to fill the tanks because there is not enough pressure or enough water on the days they have running water. So they have to buy water from water tankers to fill them because the government does not bring water to all the neighborhoods.

On days when there is water at home, we store it in buckets so we are prepared when there isn’t. We also buy bottles of water at the supermarket (in some stores you cannot buy more than a certain number of bottles).

When there is water, we take advantage of it to take a shower, wash dishes and clothes because we don’t know if there will be water in the following hours or days. We have to do everything we need to do with water because there is always the question of whether there will be any tomorrow. It is also important to mention that women are the ones who have carried out the most work during this situation because in most households in Mexico, women are in charge of the majority of the domestic labor and care activities. They have been forced to adjust their schedules and drop everything the minute they notice that water is available in order to perform those activities and collect water to store it for the rest of the day or the week.

One day, I posted on Facebook: “Has anyone around here had to call a water tanker? Do you have any situation in your home, neighborhood, or business that you consider to be more serious than the rest? Send me a message, please.”

I was surprised by the number of friends who answered. That afternoon I spent taking calls and messages. “I’ve been without water for a week”; “I had to move in with my parents who do have water”; “We have to pee in a single toilet, and wait until the end of the day to flush it because we can’t waste the little water we have”; “Everyone in my house had COVID-19, we had no water in the house, it was the worst week of our lives. I was sick, sweating and couldn’t wash my sheets.”

It is difficult to listen to these experiences and know that there are people who are having a worse time. I think of the houses where older adults or sick people live. It is also important to consider that not everybody has the means to buy water bottles, install a water tank system, or buy water from a water tanker.

The drought in Mexico is a bad sign for the American Southwest, already struggling with the drying up of the Colorado River, which affects agriculture and the lives of millions who dwell in cities in that region. Seven states are now working out what they will do when that water is no longer available.

And The Eldest point out an article in Sky News on how Europe is suffering the worst drought in 500 years. From the article:

The latest data from the European Drought Observatory (EDO) shows some 47% of the bloc’s territory under “warning” conditions, the second of three drought categories, during the 10 days leading to 30 July.

More worrying is the 17% of land that has moved into the most severe “alert” state, meaning not only is the soil drying out after low rain, but plants and crops are suffering too.

When water becomes scarce, not only are there food shortages (from crop failures and loss of livestock), but also people also must move away, so I expect there will be mass migrations from regions that lack water. That seems likely to lead to conflict.

The Great Famine in China under Mao resulted in millions dying (see this earlier post). The impact of climate change will almost certainly be worse.

It’s a great tragedy that humanity seems incapable of facing this on-coming crisis with constructive actions. (And “on-coming” is a bit of a misnomer: from the CO2 already added to the atmosphere, even if we discontinued today the use of all fossil fuels so that humans add no more CO2, conditions would still worsen for decades. The crisis has already happened; the effects will unfold over the coming decades.)

The best hope is a technology that would enable direct capture of CO2 from the atmosphere, and certainly people are working on that.

However, there are still a great many who deny that climate change is caused by human activity and who strongly resist any efforts to address climate change (because such efforts would be an admission that climate change is real)— the Republican party is a prime example. (I think in the case of Republicans, a stumbling block is that effectively addressing climate change requires large-scale group effort and almost certainly government leadership. That’s hard for Republicans to accept, since their philosophical outlook is that problems are solved through individual effort, heroic loners who require no help. In this view, help is for sissies. Republicans believe that problems should be addressed through competition, not cooperation. Libertarians take this attitude to an extreme, so that its failure is more immediately evident.)

Some states in the Southeast whose Atlantic coasts face ocean-level rise have passed laws to forbid the use of the words “climate change,” which seems a lot like magical thinking: “If we don’t say it aloud, it will not happen.” Examples: North Carolina and Miami (which already routinely sees sunny-day flooding). While such laws do show an effort to confront climate change, I do not see that that approach will be effective in addressing the problem, even in the relatively short term. It does, however, illustrate the first and most primitive psychological defense mechanism: denial.

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 9:02 am

Stanford Designer is Making Bricks Stronger than Concrete Out of Fast-Growing Mushrooms

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Andy Corbley reports at Good News Network:

While there aren’t any species of mushroom large enough to live in, one Bay-area designer thinks he can make one if he only cranks out enough of his patented “mushroom bricks.”

In fact, he knows he can do it, because he’s already build a showpiece called “Mycotecture”—a 6×6 mushroom brick arch from Ganoderma lucidum or reishi mushrooms.

Phil Ross doesn’t use the mushroom, or fruiting body of the reishi; he uses mycelium, the fast-growing fibrous roots that make up the vast majority of fungus lifeforms.

Mycelium grows fast, and is incredibly durable, waterproof, non-toxic, fire-resistant, and biodegradable.

Ross uses it to build bricks by growing mycelium in bags of delicious (to mushrooms) sawdust, before drying them out and cutting them with extremely heavy-duty steel blades.

This works because mushrooms digest cellulose in the sawdust, converting it into chitin, the same fiber that insect exoskeletons are made from.

“The bricks have the feel of a composite material with a core of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2022 at 1:55 pm

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