There’s still time to avert runaway climate change, but only with immediate, effective action to reduce carbon pollution, according to the leaked draft of the upcoming synthesis report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “The catastrophic changes in climate that we are voluntarily choosing to impose on our children and grandchildren—and countless generations after them—cannot plausibly be undone for hundreds of years or more,” Romm writes. “Future generations can’t simply adapt to the ruined climate we are in the process of handing over to them. Either we start cutting carbon pollution ASAP, or we should just stop pretending we are a rational, moral species.” The synthesis report will no doubt be watered down by participating governments before its official release, but what Romm calls the “unvarnished language” was leaked to the Associated Press and other media.
With turbine orders piling up, Vestas Wind Energy announced late last week that it was creating 800 new full-time, highly-skilled jobs in Colorado. With 370 new turbines ordered in the last few weeks, the company expects to open up 1,500 positions in the state this year. “We have received U.S. orders of 740 MW in the last month alone, so our North American factories are very busy, as are factories overseas,” Vestas spokesman Adam Serchuk told the Climate Progress blog. “As far as I can see, this will be the case at least through the end of 2015.”
Wind generation “is by far the cheapest new form of electricity” in Denmark, Climate Progress reports, with new onshore turbines expected to come in at half the cost of coal and natural gas by 2016, or about 5¢ per kilowatt/hour. “Wind power today is cheaper than other forms of energy,” said Danish Energy Minister Rasmus Peterson. “We need a long-term and stable energy policy to ensure that renewable energy, both today and in the future, is the obvious choice.”
More than 25 million Americans live within a one-mile “blast zone” that would have to be evacuated in the event of an oil train fire in their communities, according to a map released by ForestEthics last week. Based on industry data and on-the-ground reports, the map allows users to search for oil-by-rail routes by zip code. Oil train traffic in North America has increased 4,000% in the last five years, with most product coming from the Bakken formation in North Dakota and the tar sands/oil sands in Alberta.
Contamination from upstream tar sands/oil sands development is causing higher levels of cancer and other serious disease for members of the Athabasca Chipewyan and Mikisew Cree First Nations, a University of Manitoba research report confirmed Monday. As a result, reports Climate Progress, community members can no longer eat foods that were grown, hunted, or caught on their traditional lands. “The debate between the community and the government has been contentious — especially as the community says cancer and sickness rates have skyrocketed in the last 30 years,” Atkin writes. The Canadian government has refused to do a comprehensive health study to figure out the cause.”(More coverage in the Edmonton Journal, via InsideClimate News)
Every time a 320-ton train pulls into a commuter station in The Netherlands, the brakes use 60 kilowatt-hours of energy, enough to drive a Tesla electric vehicle 300 kilometres. Now, engineer and investor Arjan Heinen wants to use regenerative braking systems to put that energy to use. In the town of Apeldoorn, he points out, a fleet of 30 diesel buses needlessly burns 2,500 litres of fuel per day. “Heinen’s plan, to be implemented first at the Apeldoorn train station, but eventually all around the Netherlands, is to connect these two inefficient systems together to make a more efficient whole,” Climate Progress reports. “He has a plan to capture the energy from the trains and use it to power all of the city’s buses, simultaneously solving both the problem of the neglected wasted energy and the expensive, dirty emissions of the diesel buses.”
May 2014 was the 39th consecutive May and the 351st consecutive month where the global temperature was warmer than the 20th century average, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. At an average of 59.93°F (15.52°C), last month was 1.33°F (0.74°C) above the baseline. “If you are 29 years old,” Koronowski writes, “you have never experienced a colder-than-average month in your life.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change method for calculating economic risk suffers from “an overly simplistic model of how the economy grows, too little attention to climate sensitivity, and too little attention to certain extreme risks,” Climate Progress reports. That’s according to a critique by Lord Nicholas Stern and Simon Dietz of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change. The result is that conventional analyses “grossly underestimate” the economic damage that will result from climate change, Stern says, barring rapid reductions in carbon pollution. (h/t to Frank Came, The Globe Group, for spotting this story)
(This one’s for you, Andrew Horsfield!) The Pinehurst #2 golf course in North Carolina has cut its annual water use from 55 to 15 million gallons a year, heralding an era when brown will be the new green for golf enthusiasts. “We happen to think that, long term, water is going to be the biggest obstacle in the game of golf,” U.S. Golf Association Executive Director Mike Davis told the Washington Post. “It’s not going to be a question of cost. It’s a question of: Will you be able to get it?” In California, Romm reports, “prestigious golf courses have been shutting down in the face of the epic, warming-worsened drought.”
It would be “shockingly easy” for a small group of people to attack the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, cause an oil spill the size of the Exxon Valdez, and threaten drinking water supplies for millions of Americans, according to a retired U.S. Special Forces officer and member of “SEAL Team 6”. In an assessment conducted at the request of NextGen Climate, Dave Cooper concluded that no pipeline, however, small, can ever be completely secured. “Cooper contends that pipelines are a vulnerable form of energy infrastructure, and the government should conduct a security assessment before allowing another one to be built,” Climate Progress reports.
A new report from the U.S. Department of Energy shows that liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports may never deliver a net climate benefit—not if the analysis accurately accounts for methane releases from natural gas production. The DoE report assumes an “absurdly low leakage rate,” Romm reports—no more than 1.6%, compared to a range of 3.6% to 7.1% in a recent Stanford study. “To make LNG a climate winner, you’d have to assume levels of methane leakage that are a factor of two to three lower than what recent observations reveal,” he warns.
U.S. wind production in 2013 was the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road, the American Wind Energy Association reported last week. Wind reduced greenhouse gas emissions across the electric power sector by 126.8 megatons, or more than 5%, across the U.S., and 11 states reduced their emissions by at least 10% compared to 2011, said Climate Progress. “AWEA’s report noted that reducing carbon also carries co-benefits: sulphur dioxide emissions drop by almost 347 million pounds per year as a result of wind energy production, and nitrous oxide emissions are reduced by 214 million pounds per year.” Technology improvements have reduced wind generation costs by 43% in the last four years.
China will send more than six million of its most polluting cars to the dump by the end of the year, and vehicles registered pre-2005 that don’t meet national emissions standards will be phased out. “Recently, China has been forced to confront its record-breaking air pollution and the resultant looming public health catastrophe,” Climate Progress reported this week. “The country now has an alert system in every major city to help residents prepare for dangerous smog days and last year the government promised $275 billion over the next five years to combat the problem.”
The amount of oil available from the largest shale formation in the United States was overstated by 96%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The L.A. Times revealed last week that an independent contractor’s previous estimate of 13.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil would be downgraded to 600 million barrels, enough to meet U.S. consumption for only 32 days. Climate Progress said the revised estimated dealt “a major blow to industry projections about a new oil-boom future.” (h/t to Brian Gauspohl and David Herron for sharing this story)
Africa will quadruple its renewable energy capacity to about 120 gigawatts by 2030 if investors devote sufficient funds to the work, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. Moreover, according to Think Progress, “a World Bank report released this week found that Sub-Saharan Africa could provide more than 170 gigawatts of additional power-generation capacity — more than double the region’s current installations — through 3,200 ‘low-carbon’ energy projects.”