Empty Gestures on Climate Change (by Bjørn Lomborg)

Individual actions to tackle climate change, even when added together, achieve so little because cheap and reliable energy underpins human prosperity. Fossil fuels currently meet 81% of our global energy needs. And even if every promised climate policy in the 2015 Paris climate agreement is achieved by 2040, they will still deliver 74% of the total.

When climate campaigners urge people to change their everyday behavior, they trivialize the challenge of global warming. The one individual action that citizens could take that would make a real difference would be to demand a vast increase in spending on green-energy research and development.

Source: Empty Gestures on Climate Change by Bjørn Lomborg – Project Syndicate

Embracing Climate Change (or, at least, planning for the worst case)

This report is from the same crowd that President Trump assembled shortly after his inauguration.  Shortly after assembling that crowd he disbanded it.  Phoenixes they were.  The original members and additional experts reconvened to complete this present report (link to abstract, below). The group’s conclusions makes sense to me: spend some time and money to figure out how to cope with climate change (instead of wishin’ and hopin’ that we could find a collective will to reverse the changes.

Among the recommendations in the report is for governments to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to better analyze climate risks. With cities facing threats as varied as disrupted water supplies, rising tides and infrastructure damage from heat, AI could “reveal impacts, insights, and options that would be difficult to otherwise discover,” the report finds. The report also recommends better use of citizen science to “fill many long-standing data gaps” that could be especially useful to local governments. [from https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/news/climate-panel-disbanded-under-trump-reforms-with-local-focus/552079/ ]

Specific recommendations include: evaluating climate models and data using user-defined metrics; improving benefit-cost assessment and supporting decision-making under uncertainty, and accelerating application of tools and methods such as citizen science, artificial intelligence, indicators, and geospatial analysis.

 

Source: Evaluating Knowledge to Support Climate Action: A Framework for Sustained Assessment: Weather, Climate, and Society: Early Online Release

Government commitments to address climate change

This report is a collaborative effort by Canada’s Federal and Provincial Attorneys-General.  It concludes “that actions taken by governments to date to address climate change across the country have fallen short of the governments’ commitments.”  Surprise, surprise.

The report includes national overviews and province-by-province analyses.

Perspectives on Climate Change Action in Canada—A Collaborative Report from Auditors General

Ontario government ponders ban on single-use plastics

No hard news or proposals here – just “pondering”.  But it’s the first pondering from the Ontario PCs that does not strike me as ridiculous.

This is the PC government’s discussion paper on Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities: Discussion Paper I couldn’t find any proposed bans on single-use plastics in it.  Regarding plastics in general the government is proposing more standardization for recycling, greater front-end involvement by manufacturers/packagers, and more Federal government leadership (which is unusual, coming from this particular bunch of PCs.)

Ontario government ponders ban on single-use plastics

Source: Ontario government ponders ban on single-use plastics | CBC News

Why I changed my mind about nuclear power | Michael Shellenberger

This anthropologist (by training) Michael Shellengerger makes the point that nuclear power generators are less carbon-intensive to construct than are massive solar or wind farms. It takes consume less steel and concrete to build them.  His other big point is the environmental impact that massive wind and solar farms have: degradation of the landscape, birds killed in wind turbines, rare species threatened. Nukes have a much smaller geographic footprint (when they’re operating correctly, I guess he means.)

He claims that as solar and wind generation increase as a percentage of the total they will cause require an increasing amount electricity from natural gas generation in order to quickly ramp up when the sun and wind die down.  That explains to him why some fossil fuel companies are promoting wind and solar “solutions”.

He explains (too briefly) how the waste from the reactors is much lower in volume than the millions of solar panels that will have to be recycled.

The comments on YouTube are pretty negative – “nothing new here”, but it was news to me.

 

Engineering utility-scale PV installations that are “pollinator-friendly”

It hadn’t occurred to me that there might not be enough acreage to support utility-scale solar electricity.  It turns out that not everyone wants a PV farm in their backyard. And I hadn’t considered the trade-off between lots of available sunshine (Death Valley) and lots of electricity users (not Death Valley).  So….PV site developers have figured out some ways of making their installations more neighbor-friendly.

“Conventional solar installation techniques typically involve turf grass and gravel as ground cover, which removes vegetation and flattens landscapes, according …. These methods lead to high preparation and labor costs, expected to account for 20% of the price of photovoltaic installations by 2020.

“Conversely, seeding solar grounds with native plant species provides agricultural and ecological benefits that gravel and turf cannot, such as better stormwater control because of plants’ deeper roots. Seeding can also boost solar efficiency by creating a cooler microclimate around the panels, which boosts solar efficiency, said Gavin Meinschein, a lead civil engineer at ENGIE Distributed Solar.Although the upfront costs for seeding are higher than installation of turf grass, the maintenance over projects’ 25-30 year lifespan is cheaper because it’s less involved, Meinschein said.Native plant sites can double as pollinator-friendly sites, an “irresistible synergy,” said John Jacob, who founded Old Sol Apiairies in 1997 and now works with solar developers to integrate bee farms and solar developments.The pollinator benefit is a specific twist to the story that has gotten buzz in local and national media.” ….Story continues…..

Source: Pollinator habitats: The bees’ knees of rural solar development | Utility Dive

“Clean Coal” Refinery – Hah!

This is depressing.  I that thought that “clean coal”  was commercially non-viable because of the costs to scrub the noxious gases and particulates from the combustion product.  Here’s a new perspective.  “Clean coal” in this instance means removing impurities from waste coal before it is burned.  The combustion products from the coal itself are presumably unaffected.   Cleaning the coal before combustion enables the mines to use waste coal that would have been uneconomic in current plants.  “It just makes sense to further remove the impurities from coal before burning it,” OMNIS Chairman Simon Hodson said in a statement. “This is truly clean coal production in our view.” And they get a $50 million grant from a new program announced last month by the US Dept. of Energy.

http://www.utilitydive.com/news/clean-coal-production-facility-slated-for-pennsylvania/504540/

CNX Coal Resources LP and OMNIS Bailey this week announced they will partner to develop “a first-of-a-kind solid energy refinery” that will process waste coal at CONSOL’s Bailey Mine Complex.

The Pennsylvania refinery will ultimately turn waste coal into a clean carbon fuel.

CNX said the project, which began as a pilot earlier this year, aims to generate a clean fuel that can be used to enhance the energy content and performance characteristics of its coal product.

The quest for “clean coal” continues, now by utilizing a process to remove impurities from waste coal that would have been discarded.