Category Archives: Climate

4CP newsletter, September 2020: the Good and the Not-So-Good

To subscribe to the Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection (4CP) newsletter, email here.  We hope you find it informative. 

THE GOOD NEWS

Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030 (see here)

“The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The carbon in our atmosphere has created a blanket of gas that traps heat and is changing the world’s climate. Already, the planet’s temperature has risen by 1 degree centigrade. If we don’t curb emissions, and temperatures continue to climb, science tells us that the results will be catastrophic.”

Microsoft is not just to reducing its emissions but going carbon negative, wiping out all the carbon the company and its suppliers have emitted since its founding in 1975. Microsoft has set a new bar for what is considered climate leadership.   

It is a big deal. The company is setting new standards, especially in the rigor and transparency it is applying to the effort, and it is deliberately attempting to bring other companies, both suppliers and competitors, along with it into a world of shared metrics and data. First, some background. 

A quick note on kinds of emissions

In the carbon world, the emissions of a company can be divided into three buckets:

  • Scope 1 emissions come directly from resources the business owns or controls, like furnaces or delivery vehicles.
  • Scope 2 emissions come from the power plants that generate the electricity the business uses.
  • Scope 3 emissions are indirect, “embedded” in the materials and services the business uses, representing the emissions of the full supply chain including products.  This is significant, because for most companies, including Microsoft, scope 3 emissions are substantially larger than scope 1 and 2 combined.

“At Microsoft, we expect to emit 16 million metric tons of carbon this year,” according to president Brad Smith. “Of this total, about 100,000 are scope 1 emissions and about 4 million are scope 2 emissions. The remaining 12 million tons all fall into scope 3. Given the wide range of scope 3 activities, this higher percentage of the total is probably typical for most organizations.”

Microsoft just announced it has completed the largest-ever test running data center servers on hydrogen fuel cells, which can be powered by zero-carbon hydrogen generated from renewable energy. Currently, data centers have diesel generators on site for long-term backup in case of an outage. Power Innovations built a 250-kilowatt fuel cell system to help Microsoft explore the potential of using a hydrogen fuel cells for backup power generation at data centers. In a proof of concept, the system powered a row of servers for 48 consecutive hours.…  With 160 data centers worldwide and multiple generators per data center, that adds up to a lot of diesel generators. The company has pledged to phase them all out by 2030. That’s why it is testing fuel cells as backup power.

In January, Microsoft made a startling announcement: Not only will it reduce its scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions by 55 %; it will continue beyond that and go carbon negative, drawing down more carbon than it emits, by 2030. By 2050, it will draw down enough carbon to account for all the company’s emissions since its founding in 1975.

The January announcement, which came from Smith, the company’s president, backed by CFO Amy Hood and CEO Satya Nadella, laid out a set of principles that would guide the company’s approach [every company should have the equivalent!]:

  1. Grounding in science and math
  2. Taking responsibility for our carbon footprint
  3. Investing for new carbon reduction and removal technology
  4. Empowering customers around the world
  5. Ensuring effective transparency
  6. Using our voice on carbon-related public policy issues
  7. Enlisting our employees

It is now moving to a model where it directly contracts with renewable projects through power purchase agreements (PPAs). it is aiming to hit net zero for its scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2025 — and will compensate for what it can’t directly reduce with negative emissions.

As for No. 3, the company announced it will establish an investment fund that will target early-stage clean energy technologies, aiming to spend $1 billion over the next four years. A billion dollars in VC money is nothing to sneeze at. Nor is the signal Microsoft has sent to other companies by committing to a goal it admits it does not yet have the technology to achieve. It says going carbon negative will require “negative emission technologies (NET) potentially including afforestation and reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), and direct air capture (DAC).”

Some of those technologies don’t exist at meaningful scale yet, and Microsoft is making a concerted effort to accelerate them. Especially if it can inspire other companies to make similar investments. Amazon announced a $2 billion climate fund in June — the spillover effects will help boost the entire sector.

Microsoft chief environmental officer Lucas Joppa published an update on Microsoft’s progress. First, Microsoft is joining with nine other large companies — A.P. Moller-Maersk, Danone, Mercedes-Benz, AG, Natura & Co, Nike, Starbucks, Unilever, and Wipro, along with the EDF (Environmental Defense Fund), in Transform to Net Zero, “a cross-sector initiative to accelerate the transition to a net zero global economy.”

“Someday, CO2 removal will be fully commoditized,” says Julio Friedmann, a carbon researcher at the Center for Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, who has helped advise Microsoft on its RFP. “These actions help put us on that course.”

The same day Microsoft published its updates on progress, Apple announced that it would aim to be “carbon neutral across its entire business, manufacturing supply chain, and product life cycle by 2030,” an astonishing goal for a company that manufactures, ships, and disposes of so many devices. “Apple has said their suppliers will all run on renewable energy,” says Bartlett. “It set targets for them.”  Since 2014, Apple has purchased enough renewable energy to offset the usage of all its data centers.  (See here.)

The London-based BritishPetroleum said that it will transform itself by halting oil and gas exploration in new countries, slashing oil and gas production by 40 %, lowering carbon emissions by about a third, and boosting capital spending on low-carbon energy tenfold to $5 billion a year. “This makes the BP the first supermajor to spell out, in detail, what the energy transition will actually entail, in practical terms.” Investment in low-carbon initiatives is set to jump to more than $3 billion by 2025 and $5 billion by 2030, “en route to 50 gigawatts of renewable generation capacity by 2030 alongside scale-up of other clean tech businesses.” And it also will build on its retail gasoline station chain to offer recharging to electric vehicles along with convenience items such as food. 

Nicely reviewed in this short video.

BYD (Build Your Dreams), the world’s leading electric vehicle company with proven innovative technology for cars, buses, trucks, forklifts, and rail systems like SkyRail. BYD is dedicated to creating a truly zero-emission ecosystem offering technology for solar electricity generation, energy storage to save that electricity, and battery-electric vehicles powered by that clean energy. BYD has 220,000 employees across the globe, including nearly 1,000 in North America.  It has completed the delivery of 10 battery-electric K9S buses to Link Transit in Wenatchee, Washington. They will join 8 already in use. In 2018, Link Transit commissioned the nation’s first 200-kilowatt wireless charging system for a battery-electric transit bus from Chester County Momentum Dynamics. The system has been operational on a BYD K9S bus since then. See picture at end.

Malvern 4 min video Wireless charging for electric vehicles. Momentum Dynamics is the market leader. A modular platform technology capable of spanning across multiple vehicle types automatically and without a plug. Up to 450kW systems means faster charging and more miles per minute while charging at > 90% efficiency.

Killer Heat by Congressional District: New Map and Fact Sheets Show What’s at stake.   A new map tool from the Union of Concerned Scientists lets you explore how the frequency and severity of extreme heat are projected to change in your Congressional district in response to global warming. Through the tool, you can download district-specific fact sheets in English or Spanish that show the risks your district faces.  Explore the interactive map.

Rolling blackouts California: 

As we review the issue; lets remember that climate change is causing more heat and we will only  get hotter, resulting in more AC use for longer periods and more wildfires ..

Yes, moving to renewables has problems and we need lots more battery storage and to keep those nuclear plants running.  But burning more CH4  means an even hotter planet with more dead people; dead trees ; dead fish & extinct polar bears.

There were 3 articles in the Wall Street Journal on the rolling blackouts in California.  All three are linked below in order.

WSJ, 18 August 2020, page A18, “Millions in California Stand to Lose Power” = news article.

WSJ, 19 August 2020, page A17, “If You Like Lockdowns, You’ll Love the Carbon-Free Future” = op-ed designed to make renewables look bad.

And then the op-ed piece, WSJ, 20 August 2020, page A16, “California’s Green Blackouts“. This is an opinion piece not news reporting.

The California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO) update about the Saturday outage:

“FOLSOM, Calif. – The California Independent System Operator (ISO) declared a Stage 3 Electrical Emergency at 6:28 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15, due to increased electricity demand, the unexpected loss of a 470-megawatt (MW) power plant, and loss of nearly 1,000 MW of wind power. The load was ordered back online 20 minutes later at 6:48 p.m., as wind resources increased.

“A Stage 3 Emergency is declared when demand begins to outpace available supply, and grid operators need to tap electricity reserves to balance the grid. Rotating power interruptions of about 470 MW were initiated across the state.”

Please note the first failure was a gas turbine power plant, and that the outages stopped as wind resources increased that evening.  The rolling blackouts covered the unexpected 470 MW capacity drop from the gas plant.

“In their letter, the regulators pointed to two factors that they think played a role: capacity shortfalls, as well as California’s heavy reliance on importing resources to meet its energy demand during late afternoons and early evenings in the summer. 

But one factor that they said did not cause the rotating outages is California’s broader transition to renewable energy, noting that their organizations understand the impacts of wind and solar on the grid and have taken steps to integrate the resources – although there’s clearly a need to do more.

So moving to renewables is not the root of the problems

– It’s capacity planning and management.

It’s rushing some shutdowns without fully modeling the entire grid.

It’s using infrastructure built in cooler times with lower populations in the desert Southwest.

 It’s depending on hydro during extensive drought and energy imports from states suffering the same heatwave and with larger populations than the past.

  • Note, too, that these were the first rolling blackouts during two decades of energy transition, and happened during an extraordinary regional heatwave — a precursor of things to come.

Remember too that the first issue on August 15 was the sudden drop of a gas power plant . Too often the opinion writers at WSJ and elsewhere point out that wind and solar requires backup capacity, somehow failing to add that so do all other generation sources on the grid — coal, gas, nuclear, hydro, whatever. 

More batteries will help with stabilizing power, and do it faster and more accurately than peaker plants and spinning reserves. Batteries (in cars or fixed-place) will also store daytime solar for use at evening peaks, and use nighttime wind more efficiently, too.

Thermal plants, whether fossil or nuclear, also get stressed in high temperatures (or hurricanes or ice storms) , precisely when needed most, and for coal and nuclear, cooling water is sometimes another cause of unscheduled emergency shutdowns the rest of the grid needs to make up for.

We have to replace our aging power infrastructure. California should keep the Diablo nuclear plant up during that transition, but should also look at improving transmission and hardening local infrastructure.  As EVs and their batteries become virtual power plants, they’ll be able to smooth demand spikes. As the new grid matures, they’d also be able to help local areas run in island mode if the larger transmission grid overloads. 

Higher temperatures and bigger populations will only make the stress on big AC lines increase. More HVDC interconnects will also improve the situation nationally, with the bonus that HVDC cables use the entire cable to carry power, so are less subject to heat stress compared to AC lines.  Sag is one cause of the fires and outages.

Hiding costs of damage from a product is not honest market capitalism, but unfortunately, it runs rampant here. We need to get away from that.  More fossil fuel use in California would make their problems worse, not better.  They should transition carefully, but not go in reverse.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD NEWS

Trump EPA Plows Ahead With ‘Mind-Bogglingly Stupid and Destructive’ Rollback of Methane Emissions Rules: The new EPA policies effectively free fossil companies “from the need to detect and repair methane leaks—even as new research shows that far more of the potent greenhouse gas is seeping into the atmosphere than previously known,” the New York Times says. “Over the past few years there has been an explosion of new research on this, and the literature has coalesced — 80% of papers show that methane from oil and gas leaks is two to three times higher than the EPA’s estimates,” — Robert Howarth,  at Cornell University.

“It’s crazy to roll back this rule,” warned Howarth, who last year published a study on North American gas production and methane emissions. “Twenty-five % of the human-caused warming over the past 20 years is due to methane. Methane is going up. We need it to go down.”

SOILS : We already know that the Permafrost (land frozen at least 2 years) is warming and the microbes are releasing CO2 & CH4.  This change is irreversible.  And could lead to overheating the planet even if we stop burning fossil fuelsNOW: Warming soils in the tropics could cause microbes to release carbon dioxide from storage. One scientist called the finding “another example of why we need to worry more.” 

-An experiment that heated soil underneath a tropical rainforest to mimic temperatures expected in the coming decades found that hotter soils released 55% more planet-warming carbon dioxide than did nearby unwarmed areas. If the results apply throughout the tropics, much of the carbon stored underground could be released as the planet heats up. By warming only the soil, the Barro Colorado Island experiment did not capture how plants would fare under warmer conditions, If plants were to photosynthesize more, for example, they could take up some of the carbon dioxide that soils release, making the overall impact on the climate less severe. Maybe... maybe not.

Greenland: Past point of no return or just close to the cliff? Nature Communications Earth and Environment: “Greenland’s glaciers have passed a tipping point of sorts, where the snowfall that replenishes the ice sheet each year cannot keep up with the ice that is flowing into the ocean from glaciers.” “We’ve been looking at these remote sensing observations to study how ice discharge and accumulation have varied,” said Michalea King, lead author of the study at Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center. “And what we’ve found is that the ice that’s discharging into the ocean is far surpassing the snow that’s accumulating on the surface of the ice sheet.” King and other researchers analyzed monthly satellite data from more than 200 large glaciers draining into the ocean around Greenland.

While Greenland ice loss is very concerning, other experts state the tipping point is not yet reached. Richard Alley (Penn state) provides context: “models show… sustained temperature above some threshold will cause  ice sheet to lose most of its mass, but warming to date… probably not enough.”  Modeling study looked in detail at the thresholds involved, suggested that the threshold for complete loss is somewhere between 1º and 3ºC above pre-industrial (best estimate was ~1.6ºC).  So Greenland is headed toward the cliff but not over yet.

The Trump Administration on Aug  17 finalized its plan to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States. The decision sets the stage for what is expected to be a fierce legal battle over the fate of the refuge’s vast, remote coastal plain, which is believed to sit atop billions of barrels of oil but is also home to polar bears and migrating herds of caribou.  Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska: “Today, we are one step closer to securing a bright future for these Alaskans and their families.”

Interior Department downplayed the risks of climate change in its review. For example, the agency estimated that the refuge could produce as many as 10 billion barrels of oil over its lifetime, but argued that the effect on greenhouse gas emissions would be minimal, since most of that oil would simply displace oil being produced elsewhere in the country.

In comments submitted to the agency, the attorneys general from 15 states, including New York, called this displacement theory “completely unsupported” (NYTimes).

   

BYD is suppling Electric buses worldwide. These are in Spain.

Today’s port cities and beach communities are doomed

Coastal predictions are getting worse and worse, according to a study released on Oct. 29, “New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding” by Scott A. Kulp & Benjamin H. Strauss in Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 4844 (2019).

The authors show that even under a low emissions scenario (and good luck with that one, when emissions are rising every year), about 190 million people currently live below what will be the high tide levels of the year 2100.

Under a high emissions scenario, the number of people living today under the 2100 high tide level rises to 630 million people.

Hundreds of millions more people today live close enough above that high tide level to be in danger. These projections don’t take into consideration the ravages of future erosion as the water advances or the possible collapse of coastal defenses, which already protect some 110 million people living below the high tide level (as in New Orleans and much of the Netherlands).

The study finds that “more than 70% of the total number of people worldwide currently living on implicated land are in eight Asian countries: China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan.” Although devastating for those countries, is that better news for the rest of the world? Hardly, because those Asian countries are already overcrowded. As oceans rise, those hundreds of millions of people will seek to emigrate elsewhere.

The new analysis shows oceans rising by about 2 meters in the next 80 years: today’s children will likely see this happen. Does anyone wonder why Greta Thunberg is upset with today’s “world leaders”?

It is pretty obvious that when hordes of desperate people flooded out of Bangladesh and Vietnam push up the Ganges and Mekong Rivers and try to enter India and China, trouble will result on a scale that makes the current migrations out of the Middle East and Latin America look like a warm-up exercise.

One of the accompanying maps shows “Current population on land below projected mean higher high water level in 2100 assuming intermediate carbon emissions (RCP 4.5) and relatively stable Antarctic ice sheets (sea level model K14)”:

Yellow shows highest numbers of people affected, with the scale ranging from 1 to 100,000,000. Where will all the forced emigrants go? The two countries with the fewest “exposed,” Finland and Congo, in dark blue on the map, seem unlikely destinations. The US’s yellow-green is nothing to boast about either; dislocations will occur and Florida, where most people live along the shores, will lost its status as a highly populated political swing state, since much of it will be underwater.

Today’s excuses — reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be inconvenient for our life styles or would cut into a few industries’ profits (download RAN’s “Banking on Climate Change” to see banks that do the most to finance fossil fuel industries) — will soon look idiotic on the scale of global inconvenience that is already underway.

If people can’t control their greenhouse gas emissions, can they control their rate of reproduction? Purposefully and peacefully reducing the globe’s population by 630 million before 2100 seems far preferable to having that many people forced to relocate within a shrinking land mass that is already occupied by people who will defend their own space.

You’ve probably been to Cape May County NJ. The news is not good. Here is a map from NOAA’s sea level rise map viewer showing the effect of a rise in high tides of 6 feet (thus, about 6 inches less than the projected 2 meters). Deep blue shows areas substantially under water; light blue shallower water; but all blue areas will be uninhabitable. Cape May Point will be gone (following South Cape May, which was washed away in 1944), and the Atlantic beach will be about where today’s Garden State Parkway is.

More about the Climate Action and Peace rally, West Chester, 9/21/19

Why combine these 2 topics? Because Saturday was the International Day of Peace, and we can’t be at peace with nature if we aren’t at peace with ourselves and other people.

The theme for the day set by the refrain of one of Rev. Dan Schatz’s songs at the beginning: “I ain’t gonna be treated thisaway.” Who is the persona? People, Mother Nature? The generation of today’s children?

Longtime environment activist mayor Dianne Herrin welcomed the crowd and remarked how far Climate Action has come since Greta Thunberg was sitting on the sidewalk by herself in front of her Stockholm school.

Activist Jen Karsten challenged us not to be lulled into complacency, not to be satisfied with doing small things but to be bold.

Maurice M. Sampson II , Clean Water Action’s Eastern Pennsylvania Director, celebrated West Chester’s recent passage of an ordinance to ban single-use plastic bags and straws. Sometimes, he said, the “reasonable” case for deferring action must be rejected.

Representative Carolyn Comitta (PA House 156) introduced 12-year-old activist Isaac Harte, who spoke to how the young can model sustainability for their elders, by recycling, growing food, composting, taking public transportation….

For pipeline opponent Ginny Kerslake’s words, see here.

Senator Andy Dinniman (PA Senate 19) deplored the way decisions are made in Harrisburg, which for environment is worse today than when he started there in 2006. Powerful interests rule there; and “nothing except a united voice is going to change it…. You have the power to stand up to those corporations…. We do have the power to make American democracy work….”

Finally, former West Chester Mayor Jordan Norley paid tribute to what we have in common: Mother Earth. Every individual makes some impact on the planet; every generation feels the impact of what we do. And wrapping up the day’s themes: “In sustainability we find peace.”

The world’s youth is on strike

On September 27th, the anniversary of Silent Spring, there will be a General Strike to Save the Planet! We invite students to strike on this day and not attend school to draw attention to the growing climate problem.

Climatologists worldwide have shown beyond a doubt that Earth’s climate is changing, and human industry is responsible. Unless we take immediate action, this trend is slated to continue at an accelerating pace, leading us – every human and animal on the planet – to a state of climate catastrophe.

earth-strike.com

To learn more about Earth Strike, visit earth.strike.com. More info regarding events on this day in West Chester will be posted as the date approaches.

Global Climate Strike in West Chester Sept. 20!

By Katrin

Don’t forget to come tomorrow to the Global Climate Strike in West Chester. It starts at 11:00 am at the Chester County Courthouse. We want to show the politicians that there are people out there who care for the future of our planet and are even willing to skip school or work.

After the rally there is going to be an information event from 1:00 – 2:30 pm at the Academic Quad on the Campus of West Chester University. Bring your strike signs and a lot of motivation!

And if you’re still motivated, join us during the International Peace march on Saturday. At noon there is going to be a peace commemoration at the Courthouse and at 2:00 pm the Climate Action and Peace Rally starts.

Grab some friends and come to these important events. Time is running out – we need to act now!

Peace and Climate Rally and March Sept. 21

Sept. 21 is International Day of Peace, whose theme this year is Climate Action. Peacefulness toward people and life implies treasuring our shared home: earth and the climate that nourishes it.

West Chester Green Team and allies are hosting a rally at the Courthouse with some great speakers, followed by a march 5 blocks down S. High St, and more events at the Unitarian Congregation.

download pdf here: https://wcgreenteam.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/climate-peace.pdf

Major US Newspapers Are Not Reporting on the UN’s Newest Climate Crisis Warning

In May of this year, the UN released another alarming report on species extinction – but almost no one in the media is talking about it. Only 19 of the top 50 US newspapers covered the report.

The UN released a partial report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – “Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’, Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’, Current global response insufficient; ‘Transformative changes’ needed to restore and protect nature; 1,000,000 species threatened with extinction”.

Then, Public Citizen did a study on the top 50 major US newspapers, to find how this report was being covered in the media. Shockingly, 31 of those outlets had no coverage on the report at all! Here is a total summary of their findings:

  • Thirty-one of the top 50 papers did not cover the U.N. report in their print editions.
  • The remaining 19 papers produced 48 total pieces that at least referenced the U.N. report.
  • Among pieces that covered the report, 67 percent connected the possible extinction of one million species to the climate crisis.
  • The Washington Post produced the most coverage with nine pieces, including three columns and an editorial.
  • Twenty-nine percent or 14 of the articles were reprints from other publications or wire services. Eight of these 14 reprinted an Associated Press article by Seth Borenstein.
  • Eight papers editorialized on the report: the Houston Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, The New York Times, Newsday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot, and The Washington Post.
  • Forty percent of pieces on the U.N. report discussed how we can prevent such a massive loss of biodiversity, including by mitigating climate change.
  • Twenty percent of pieces discussed barriers to saving threatened species, such as efforts by the Trump Administration to weaken the Endangered Species Act.
  • Just one mention of the report, in the “Fake Test” section of the New York Post, was dismissive of the findings.
  • A total of 30 letters to the editor referencing the report were published among 13 of the top 50 papers.

You can read more about Public Citizen’s study on this here and here.

The IPBES report contains vital information that needs to be shared with the public. It “also presents a wide range of illustrative actions for sustainability and pathways for achieving them across and between sectors such as agriculture, forestry, marine systems, freshwater systems, urban areas, energy, finance and many others”. To read the U.N.’s partial release of the report, please see here.