Wednesday, July 05, 2017

There's no such thing as a happy Greenie

Give them an inch and they take a mile

Catholic Church is going green, but not fast enough for some. The Archdiocese of Boston’s headquarters — a brick building in a desert of parking lots and busy roads in Braintree — is about to become a green energy oasis.

Before the end of the year, a canopy of solar panels is set to be installed over the asphalt parking lot, with the capacity to generate a megawatt of electricity. That’s enough to offset 900 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually — approximately the amount that 37,500 trees absorb each year, by the estimation of one environmental group. The solar field, which will reduce the building’s energy costs an estimated 50 to 70 percent, is designed as a pilot that can be replicated in parishes across the archdiocese.

The inspiration is as much spiritual as financial: The project is the most ambitious example of the archdiocese’s response to Pope Francis’ call to action on climate change two years ago in his letter to the worldwide church, “Laudato Si” (Praise Be). Other efforts are bubbling up as well: In Boston, some parishes have set up “Creation Care” teams that are focused on recycling, making churches more fuel-efficient, and educating parishioners on reducing fossil fuel consumption. The archdiocese is helping parishes install LED lights and energy-efficient appliances, and it has mostly divested from the fossil fuel industry. Catholic schools in Boston have woven environmentalism into their curriculum.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, underscored the importance of the encyclical by scheduling a lengthy briefing for priests shortly after its publication, said John Straub, chancellor of the archdiocese.

But some environmentalists say the church in Boston and around the country needs a more organized and urgent response to a grave global crisis that speaks directly to the church’s core teachings on the value of life.

“The bishops have to come to terms with this as a right-to-life issue,” said Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, a social justice organization and an organizer of the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., in April. “It should be up there as a priority with abortion.”

The bishops should be challenging members of Congress who are climate-change deniers, dispatching busloads of Catholic schoolchildren to climate-change demonstrations, and issuing demands for action from the pulpit, Carolan said.

“If the bishops said, ‘This is a top issue for us, you can’t claim to be right-to-life if you’re wrong on this issue,’ then I think it would have an impact,” he said.

Tomás Insua, a research fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the founding global coordinator of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, a coalition of 400 Catholic organizations, said the American bishops have made progress but need to do more, faster.

“This is a two millennium-old institution — it’s naturally slow,” Insua said. But the time to prevent the worst damage is running short, he said. “We don’t have time to let it sink in, in a few decades.”

Bishops and priests, he said, should start by making all the buildings of the Catholic Church more energy-efficient. And they should talk constantly about the issue, urging Catholics to transform their personal habits and advocate for change.

Bradley Campbell, president of the Conservation Law Foundation, a leading New England environmental advocacy organization, said local Catholic leaders are not visible enough in climate-change policy debates.

“There are regular opportunities for them to weigh in — at climate hearings, community events, legislative hearings,” he said. “In a very Catholic political culture, that could have an enormous amount of impact. But that voice isn’t present.”

But church officials say they are working on multiple fronts to respond to the pope’s call.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops says it has made teaching and advocating about ecology and environmental degradation an explicit priority, working with a partner organization, the Catholic Climate Covenant.

The conference has developed educational resources for clergy and laity; in 2016, its “‘Laudato Si’ in the Parish” program reached 300 priests and deacons in six dioceses, according to Ricardo Simmonds, an environmental policy adviser to the bishops. Prelates across the country, including O’Malley, have issued statements on climate change policy.

Some dioceses have launched ambitious programs. In Burlington, Vt., Bishop Christopher Coyne, a former Boston church official, has designated a “Year of Creation,” featuring events about ecological justice. In March, for example, Coyne led a series of Scripture readings and reflections focused on environmental stewardship, followed by a soup supper where participants learned about how fasting from meat can benefit the environment and the poor. The Archdiocese of Atlanta, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Georgia, rolled out a Laudato Si action plan designed to help parishes and parishioners cut fossil fuel consumption.

Committed activists from around the Archdiocese of Boston are trying, too.

Fran Ludwig, an organizer of the Boston chapter of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, said her group hopes to adapt the Atlanta plan for the Boston archdiocese and has drawn representatives from about 30 of Boston’s 289 parishes to its “Greening Your Parish” workshops.

Her own parish, Sacred Heart and St. Brigid in Lexington, held a prayer walk and Green Mass on Earth Day this year; their pastor, Monsignor Paul Garrity, devoted a special homily to the themes of Laudato Si.

Laypeople should be leading the movement, Ludwig said, but support from priests is key. And though her own pastor has been supportive, others lack the capacity to devote to the issue because they are pressed for time and working at multiple parishes.

“A lot of them are so fixed on the nuts and bolts of trying to bring these parishes together,” Ludwig said.

At the Paulist Center, a Catholic community run by the Paulist Fathers in downtown Boston, a small “Care of our Common Home” ministry encouraged parishioners to carpool to Mass for Laudato Si’s first anniversary and is making arrangements to buy solar energy, said Trudy Macdonald, a parishioner who said Laudato Si motivated her to join her community’s recycling committee and work to pass a local plastic bag ban.

But she said the archdiocese should take a stronger stand.

“I would tell every parish it is their moral obligation to do an energy audit and make their buildings more efficient,” she said. “That would be an example for parishioners to do their own homes.”

But church officials say O’Malley prefers to steer away from top-down, heavy-handed approaches. Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, said parishes are working as quickly as possible, given the challenge of stretched resources.

“When we retrofit, change boilers, upgrade electrical, that’s a huge capital outlay,” said Donilon. “It’s going to take some time. Each parish and school is doing what they can.”

He also pointed to parishes such as Holy Family in Concord, which hosted four educational programs this spring exploring the themes of Laudato Si and is hoping to integrate the encyclical into its religious education program.

But Jack Clarke, director of public policy and government relations for Mass Audubon, said the archdiocese could move more quickly and effectively if O’Malley appointed someone whose sole job was putting Laudato Si into action.

“Unless there are people appointed to implement the message and work with government, it’s inspirational words on paper,” he said.

Clarke served a decade on the Parish Council at Holy Family Parish in Gloucester and Rockport, and is now a eucharistic minister and acolyte. He said the parish and pastor have had their hands full since finding massive leaks in the bell tower of 125-year-old St. Ann Church in Gloucester; the church, it discovered, was slowly falling apart and would require $1 million in repairs to save it.

The pastor, meanwhile, is overseeing two parishes that encompass three churches and a chapel.

No one, Clarke said, has yet found the time to establish a Creation Care committee.

“Our intention is there,” he said, “but the challenge is great.”


Forget Paris: 1600 New Coal Power Plants Built Around The World

1,600 new coal-fired power plants are planned or under construction in 62 countries.

When China halted plans for more than 100 new coal-fired power plants this year, even as President Trump vowed to “bring back coal” in America, the contrast seemed to confirm Beijing’s new role as a leader in the fight against climate change.

But new data on the world’s biggest developers of coal-fired power plants paints a very different picture: China’s energy companies will make up nearly half of the new coal generation expected to go online in the next decade.

These Chinese corporations are building or planning to build more than 700 new coal plants at home and around the world, some in countries that today burn little or no coal, according to tallies compiled by Urgewald, an environmental group based in Berlin. Many of the plants are in China, but by capacity, roughly a fifth of these new coal power stations are in other countries.

Over all, 1,600 coal plants are planned or under construction in 62 countries, according to Urgewald’s tally, which uses data from the Global Coal Plant Tracker portal. The new plants would expand the world’s coal-fired power capacity by 43 percent.

The fleet of new coal plants would make it virtually impossible to meet the goals set in the Paris climate accord, which aims to keep the increase in global temperatures from preindustrial levels below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Electricity generated from fossil fuels like coal is the biggest single contributor globally to the rise in carbon emissions, which scientists agree is causing the Earth’s temperatures to rise.

“Even today, new countries are being brought into the cycle of coal dependency,” said Heffa Schücking, the director of Urgewald.

The United States may also be back in the game. On Thursday, Mr. Trump said he wanted to lift Obama-era restrictions on American financing for overseas coal projects as part of an energy policy focused on exports.

“We have nearly 100 years’ worth of natural gas and more than 250 years’ worth of clean, beautiful coal,” he said. “We will be dominant. We will export American energy all over the world, all around the globe.”


Serious quality problems in the surface temperature data sets

When people talk about the widely reported global surface temperature record, it is worth recalling Ross McKittrick’s damning assessment of it in 2010, “A Critical Review of Global Surface Temperature Data Products”.


There are three main global temperature histories: the combined CRU-Hadley record (HADCRU), the NASA-GISS (GISTEMP) record, and the NOAA record. All three global averages depend on the same underlying land data archive, the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN). Because of this reliance on GHCN, its quality deficiencies will constrain the quality of all derived products.

The number of weather stations providing data to GHCN plunged in 1990 and again in 2005. The sample size has fallen by over 75% from its peak in the early 1970s, and is now smaller than at any time since 1919. The collapse in sample size has increased the relative fraction of data coming from airports to about 50 percent (up from about 30 percent in the 1970s). It has also reduced the average latitude of source data and removed relatively more high-altitude monitoring sites.

Oceanic data are based on sea surface temperature (SST) rather than marine air temperature (MAT). All three global products rely on SST series derived from the ICOADS archive. ICOADS observations were primarily obtained from ships that voluntarily monitored SST. Prior to the post-war era, coverage of the southern oceans and polar regions was very thin. Coverage has improved partly due to deployment of buoys, as well as use of satellites to support extrapolation. Ship-based readings changed over the 20th century from bucket-and-thermometer to engine-intake methods, leading to a warm bias as the new readings displaced the old.

Until recently it was assumed that bucket methods disappeared after 1941, but this is now believed not to be the case, which may necessitate a major revision to the 20th century ocean record. There is evidence that SST trends overstate nearby MAT trends.

The quality of data over land, namely the raw temperature data in GHCN, depends on the validity of adjustments for known problems due to urbanization and land-use change. The adequacy of these adjustments has been tested in three different ways, with two of the three finding evidence that they do not suffice to remove warming biases.

The overall conclusion of this report is that there are serious quality problems in the surface temperature data sets that call into question whether the global temperature history, especially over land, can be considered both continuous and precise. Users should be aware of these limitations, especially in policy-sensitive applications.

Add into the mix the fact that there is little or no data for vast swathes of the world.

And it is clear that the whole thing needs to be taken with a large dose of salt.


New proposals would kill solar and wind in the European Union

Before we get started today, we will need to understand two terms (feel free to skip this paragraph if you already know them). Priority dispatch for renewables simply means that the grid must take up power from wind, solar, and biomass (along with hydro, geothermal, and anything else you give priority to) even if sources with no priority (such as coal, gas, and nuclear) have to be curtailed. Curtailment is when power has been generated already or can be generated, but the grid cannot take it up, so it is thrown away. For more terms, see our Glossary.

In late May, the Environmental and Energy Law Foundation of Würzburg – simply called the “Würzburger” in German – produced a review (PDF in German, but with an English abstract on pp. 7-9) of the Commission’s Winter Package for “clean energy,” which had the following main items in this context:

Renewable systems larger than 500 kW (and 250 kW or smaller, depending on how much is built, after 2025) would be curtailed first; conventional systems, later.

The renewable generators would be compensation for 90% of loss revenue nonetheless.

The Würzburger say that “priority grid access” (a term I have often used as synonymous with “priority dispatch”) for renewables could remain unchanged, meaning that a grid connection would need to be provided. The loss of priority “dispatch” means that the power would no longer have to be paid for, however – and since that’s where the money is made, the economic incentive for wind and solar would be gone. That’s where the 90% payment is crucial; foregone revenue would be limited to 10% when power is curtailed.

Furthermore, the Commission would still curtail conventional power first, cogeneration second, and renewables last, as the Würzburger point out: “one can hardly argue that the priority dispatch is abolished by the Commission’s suggestion as {is} often worried.”

In contrast, recent proposals from the CEER and ACER are worrisome. In its White Paper on Clean Energy from January, the Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER) “welcomed the European Commission’s proposals to remove priority dispatch.” But the CEER would expose all generators to the “real-time value of energy.” In mid-May, the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) issued a joint press release with the CEER arguing the same – and adding that compensation for curtailed renewable power should be done away with as well.

You might as well say you don’t want wind or solar

The problem, as the experts certainly know, is twofold. First, wind and solar react to the weather, not to prices. From the grid operator’s perspective, this situation is undesirable: they want generators that produce more power when needed and less when not. Solar and wind cannot be switched on.

Second, solar and wind cannibalize themselves. When the wind blows and the sun shines, more power is generated, so power prices on spot markets go down. If no payment is ensured for curtailment, it doesn’t matter how cheap solar and wind get; they price themselves out of the market. In other words, if you want wind and solar, you want guaranteed payments for them. Calls for them to make do with spot prices (and, eventually, forgo curtailment payments) are tantamount to saying, let’s just not have wind and solar, shall we?

The Commission’s use of the term “clean energy” is dangerous. That could be anything: renewables, nuclear, coal with CCS, gas. If the climate is the only issue, nothing speaks against all these sources. Surprisingly, in this complex world, our best minds often reduce everything to one issue, if not one number (GDP, ppm of CO2, etc.). The only complication that CEER and ACER allow for other than cost is that wind and solar are not dispatchable, so let’s do nuclear, gas, and coal with CCS. Nothing else matters.

According to the Würzburger, the regulation proposed in the Winter Package – unlike a directive – would become law immediately; it would not need to be ratified by members states first. The Commission will take account of comments, including those from ACER and CEER, in moving from its Winter Package to the upcoming Clean Energy Package 2020-2030, expected in 2018.


How Earth's growing tropical zone may lead to more droughts and hotter heatwaves on Australia's east coast

This is simply a grab at publicity.  The tropics are defined by the limits of the sun being overhead so the tropics cannot change. The underlying finding is that there is drying on both sides of the tropics. But drying is an effect of cooling.  Warming would produce MORE rain, not less.  So the phenomenon does not indicate global warming.  It in fact contradicts it

A leading academic A leading academic [An adjunct profesor is "leading"?] says the Earth's growing tropical zone may lead to more droughts and hotter heatwaves in Australia. says the Earth's growing tropical zone may lead to more droughts and hotter heatwaves in Australia.

CQUniversity's Adjunct Professor of Environmental Geography Steve Turton said temperatures could reach more than 40C in Sydney and Melbourne during heatwaves and last for two weeks, The Daily Telegraph reported.  

With the area between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn currently 'bulging' and heading poleward, Adjunct Prof Turton said this will have an impact on the nation.

The planet's waistline has been growing since 1979 and it is likely to continue thanks to human activity, Adjunct Prof wrote in a piece for The Conversation.

'If the current rate continues, by 2100 the edge of the new dry subtropical zone would extend from roughly Sydney to Perth,' he said.

'As these dry subtropical zones shift, droughts will worsen and overall less rain will fall in most warm temperate regions.'

Adjunct Prof Turton said the geographical location of Australia placed the nation at high risk of an expanded tropical zone.

He added: 'Future climate change projections for Australia include increasing air and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, more hot days (over 35C), declining rainfall in the southern continental areas, and more extreme fire weather events'.

Adjunct Prof Turton said biodiversity hotspots in Australia could also feel the effects of the tropical zone expansion as there were 'no suitable land areas (only oceans) for ecosystems and species to move into'.



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