Energy & Environment

How Large is America’s Climate Debt?

Phys Org: “All countries have contributed to recent climate change, but some much more so than others. Those that have contributed more than their fair share have accumulated a climate debt, owed to countries that have contributed less to historical warming.”

“This is the implication of a new study published in Nature Climate Change, in which Concordia University researcher Damon Matthews shows how national carbon and climate debts could be used to decide who should pay for the global costs of climate mitigation and damages. The countries that have accumulated the largest carbon debts on account of higher than average per-capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are the United States, Russia, Japan, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.”

“The U.S. alone carries 40 per cent of the cumulative world debt, while Canada carries about four per cent.”

Inside Climate News: “The study concludes  the carbon debt of high-emitting countries totals 250 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide since 1990. The U.S. government calculates the social cost of CO2 emissions –including property damage from increased flooding, reduced agricultural productivity and adverse effects on human health– is about $40 per metric ton of CO2. Multiplying the two figures  produces the $10 trillion figure.”


Climate Change Denial is a ‘Turn-Off’ for Millenials

Politico’s 9/10/15 Morning Energy newsletter reports that a poll from NextGen Climate finds that “‘the overwhelming majority (73%) [of millennials] is favorable to setting a goal to power America with at least 50% clean energy by the year 2030 (including 52% who are very favorable).’ The same poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, found that millennials are not feeling very engaged with the upcoming presidential election, and that their top concerns were the economy, jobs, and tuition costs.”

Hart Research: “It is clear from our research not only that Millennials accept the science of climate change, but that a candidate who does not is at a disadvantage. We heard throughout our conversations with swing-state Millennials that climate denial is associated with stubborn or backward-looking thinking. And in our survey, 70% of Millennials say they would have major concerns (45% very major concerns) about a Republican candidate who disagrees with NASA, the US Military, and 97% of climate scientists that human activity is responsible for climate change, including 69% of independents and half (50%) of self-identified Republicans.”

Vast Majority Support EPA Limits on Smog

The Hill: “Nearly three-quarters of United States voters want the Environmental Protection Agency to put further limits on the ozone pollution that causes smog, a new poll found.”

“The survey was commissioned by the American Lung Association, which supports the EPA’s proposed ozone rule, and found that 73 percent of voters favor stricter ozone limits.”

“The poll is meant to show support for the EPA’s efforts, proposed in November, to restrict the allowable levels of ozone in the air to between 65 and 70 parts per billion, from the current 75 parts per billion.”

2015 Poised to Smash Previous Records for Solar Power

Eco Watch: GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association “released its Q2 2015 report showing that the country has exceeded 20 gigawatts of solar electric capacity in the first half of 2015—enough power for 4.6 million homes.”

“This could make 2015 on track for another banner year. So while 2014 already smashed records, it looks like 2015 is poised for even better growth.”

“’The second half of the year should be significantly larger than the first in terms of new deployments,’ the report said. ‘We anticipate a bevy of utility-scale project completions, combined with a continued ramp in the residential market and a commercial solar resurgence in select states to bolster installations through the rest of the year.

“While the largest slice of the market comes from utility scale solar projects, residential solar installations especially stood out in the report. With a record 473 megawatts installed, the segment has grown 70 percent year-over-year … The current report is projecting a total of 7.7 gigawatts solar photovoltaic installations this year, far surpassing last year’s 6.2 gigawatts.”

U.S. PV Installations, Q1 2010 – Q2 2015

The Green Revolution Has Begun

Jonathan Chait: “Those who have consigned the world to its doom should reconsider. The technological and political underpinnings are at last in place to actually consummate the first global pact to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. The world is suddenly responding to the climate emergency with — by the standards of its previous behavior — astonishing speed. The game is not over. And the good guys are starting to win.”

“For one thing, the price of solar is falling, and rapidly … Meanwhile, the coal industry has gone into free fall. In 2009, 523 coal plants operated in the United States. More than 200 of them have since shut down, displaced mostly by natural-gas plants, which emit half as much carbon dioxide … Only one coal-fired plant has been green-lit since 2008, and new regulations make it virtually certain that no coal plant will break ground in the United States ever again.”

“The energy revolution has rippled widely through the economy. In the first half of this year, renewable-energy installations accounted for 70 percent of new electrical power.”

“Laboratories from Cambridge to Silicon Valley are racing to develop next-generation batteries, as well as ultra­efficient solar cells, vehicles, kitchen appliances. For more than a century, everything that consumed energy was designed without a thought to the carbon dioxide that would be released into the air. Now everything from buildings to refrigerators is being designed anew to account for scientific reality.”

Could Plummeting Oil Prices Cause the Next Recession?

A. Gary Shilling, in Bloomberg View: “Oil-importing countries are obvious winners from falling crude prices. That includes the U.S., where — despite a surge in domestic production — imports still account for nearly 50 percent of petroleum consumption.”

“Lower oil prices, however, could come with a downside. As they work their way through the system, deflation could follow … The risk is that deflationary expectations could follow, encouraging consumers to withhold purchases in anticipation of even lower prices.”

“If that happens, excess capacity and inventories would build, forcing prices down more. When buyers’ suspicions are confirmed, they further delay consumption, in a vicious downward cycle. The result is little if any economic growth, as deflation-prone Japan has seen over the last two decades.”

“I believe the Fed will hold off on a rate hike until next year, at the earliest. But if it does move this year, and commodity prices tumble, China slumps and deflation sets in, it could soon wish it hadn’t.”

Is Obama a Climate Hypocrite?

Eric Holthaus in Mother Jones argues that President Obama’s calls for action on climate change “fall flat when compared with Obama’s mixed record on climate. The widely publicized trip comes at a delicate moment for the president. Barely two weeks ago, his administration gave Royal Dutch Shell final approval to drill for oil offshore from Alaska’s northwest Arctic coast—not exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from someone who professes to be ‘leading by example.'”

“One progressive activist group, Credo Action, has called the unfortunate juxtaposition of Obama’s words and actions his ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment, in reference to Bush’s declaration of victory in the Iraq war. I agree.”

“For many environmental activists, Obama’s approval of Shell’s Arctic drilling permit is the icing on an extremely hypocritical cake.”

“What the president seems to miss is that environmental activists aren’t as concerned with the potentially devastating impacts of an oil spill in the Arctic as the message it sends to the rest of the world: Bold action on climate change doesn’t look so different from the status quo. In reality, the scale of action that climate science demands is far beyond what Obama has put in place. America can’t solve climate change on its own, but it could offer a truly heroic leader. It just doesn’t seem like Obama is the person for the job.”

It’s Time to Take Coal Off Life Support

Bloomberg Editorial Board: “Coal-fired electricity is becoming ever less profitable. That’s the good news — or it should be, since it gives power companies greater incentive to embrace cleaner and cheaper sources of energy.”

“The declining profitability of coal is an opportunity to save consumers money and reduce reliance on a dirty power source. Coal-fired power plants spew more than atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide.”

“The transition away from coal won’t happen all at once. Renewable energy cannot yet supply the steady volume of power that coal has long been able to provide. Even refitting a plant to burn natural gas rather than coal takes time and money.”

“But make no mistake: As an energy source, coal is in decline. By acquiescing to requests to delay this inevitability, regulators aren’t helping energy companies, their customers or the environment.”

‘Overwhelming Majority’ in Favor of EPA Clean Power Plan

Think Progress: “Americans support the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan by a margin of nearly two to one, a new poll from the League of Conservation Voters found.”

“Despite the rhetoric from some Republican governors, 70 percent of Americans want their states to develop plans to meet the EPA’s guidelines.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 7.45.24 AM

“According to the poll, conducted for the League of Conservation Voters by Hart Research, supporters of the plan outnumber opponents pretty much across the board.”

“’A majority of voters in every region of the country support it, as do a majority of voters in every age, education, and income category,’ the researchers found. And while there is majority support among both Democrats and Independents, Republicans are not far behind: 56 percent of ‘non-conservative’ Republicans are generally in favor of the Clean Power Plan, and 58 percent of all Republicans want their state to comply with the EPA rule — even if they don’t support it.”

California’s Investment in Energy Efficiency Yields Large Benefits

Clean Technica: “Over the last 40 years, the state of California has been investing in energy efficiency initiatives, to the tune of about $1 billion per year, and these efforts have saved its residents some $90 billion in utility costs, created ‘hundreds of thousands’ of energy efficiency jobs, and by the end of the decade will have avoided the pollution equivalent of 41 power plants, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).”


“According to the updated report, Californians have household electric bills that are some $20 less per month than the national average, which can be attributed to energy saving programs, building codes, and higher standards for appliances. The per capita electricity use in California has also remained flat, according to NRDC, when compared to the increases in other parts of the country (which are up about 50% since the 1970s) thanks to these initiatives, and the state’s energy efficiency commitments have ‘reduced the overall electricity needed to serve customers by nearly one-fifth.’”

Is an Increase in Renewables Worth the Price?

Christopher Flavelle in Bloomberg asks: “Is it even possible for the U.S. to increase so quickly the share of power it gets from renewables … by the end of the next decade? If so, what will it cost? And who would pay? ”

“One way to answer the first question is asking whether there’s precedent for so rapid a shift. The answer is yes, but with caveats — and those caveats suggest that the pace of change Clinton proposes could come at significant cost.”

“In 2014, six states got more than 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources other than hydro power … But there’s a catch: Much of the new renewable capacity was in states with landscapes ideally suited to large wind farms, built to export clean power to other states.”


Who bears the costs? “Most states still have regulated electricity markets, where utility companies recover the expense of building and upgrading plants by adding those costs to customers’ monthly energy bills.”

“The debate over renewables, as with climate change more broadly, needs to move past whether policy has to change (it does) and toward how much we’re willing to pay for it — and who gets the tab. Leaving that discussion for later, or pretending it doesn’t need to happen, is the wrong way to turn promises into something real.”

Renewable Energy Takes Second Place Spot Behind Coal

Eco Watch: “Electricity generation from renewable sources has overtaken natural gas to become the second largest source of electricity worldwide, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has announced … Since 1990, global solar photovoltaic power has been increasing at an average growth rate of 44.6 percent a year and wind at 27.1 percent.”

OECD Electricity production 20132014

“In 2014, solar photovoltaic power overtook solid biofuels—used in power plants that burn biomass—to become the second-largest source of non-hydro renewable electricity in OECD countries of Europe, with a share of 17.3 percent.”

“The IEA’s data will encourage renewable energy’s supporters, but they also show how much the world continues to rely on fossil fuels for its electricity. In 1971, coal produced about 2 TWh of global electrical power, but that figure is now almost five times higher. Replacing that much generation with clean fuels will be a huge challenge, despite the very rapidly accelerating growth of renewables.”

EPA to Propose Regulations to Cut Methane Emissions

New York Times: “The Obama administration is expected to propose as soon as Tuesday the first-ever federal regulation to cut emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, by the nation’s oil and natural-gas industry, officials familiar with the plan said on Monday.”

“The proposed rule would call for the reduction of methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent over the next decade from 2012 levels, the officials said.”

“The new rules on methane could create a tougher regulatory scheme on the nation’s fossil fuel production, particularly on the way that companies extract, move and store natural gas.”

Hottest July on Record

Think Progress: “NASA reports this was the hottest July on record. So we are now in “bet the mortgage” territory that 2015 will be the hottest year in NASA’s 125-year temperature record.”

“In fact, 2015 is likely to crush the previous record — 2014 — probably by a wide margin, especially since one of the strongest El Niños in 50 years is adding to the strong underlying global warming trend.”

GISTEMP-July 2015