Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Scientists go cold on global warming goals

Scientists have scotched hopes of achieving the global warming goal set at the Paris climate conference, giving just 1 per cent odds that the rise can be contained to 1.5C this century.

A new study has found that even the secondary target adopted at Paris — a 2C increase — is a “best-case scenario”, with a 95 per cent probability it will be exceeded. Meanwhile, separate research has found a 1.5C rise could eventuate even if all fossil fuel emissions stopped now.

The two studies are among a slew of new papers charting the current and projected impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. They have been published this morning in the journals Nature Climate Change and PNAS.

The first paper estimated the likely average temperature rise by 2100, based on world population, GDP per person and “carbon ­intensity” or the amount of carbon emitted for each dollar of economic activity.

It found a 90 per cent ­likelihood of warming between 2C and 4.9C, with 3.2C a likely outcome.

The Paris agreement committed signatories to hold the ­increase in global average temperature to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, and to endeavour to limit the rise to 1.5C.

Lead author Adrian Raftery, of the University of Washington, said Paris delegates had argued for the 1.5C target because of the potential ramifications of exceeding that threshold.

“We’re closer to the margin than we think,” he said.

Professor Raftery said the ­increase would not primarily be caused by a more crowded world, even though the population is tipped to pass 11 billion this century, because most of the growth would be in Africa where comparatively little fossil fuel was used.

Carbon intensity was the critical factor, suggesting using fuel more efficiently could make a big dent in warming.

Meanwhile a study led by the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, in Germany, has found that “committed warming” — heating due to past emissions — will push average temperatures up by between 0.9C and 2.3C this century.

Rather than running computer models, the team focused on measurable dynamics such as the cap­acity of oceans to absorb ­carbon and the impact of ­temperature on fine atmospheric particles.

It calculated 13 per cent odds that the world was already ­committed to 1.5C warming by 2100. “Our estimates are based on things that have already happened,” said lead author Thorsten Mauritsen.

A North Carolina study has concluded that the climate’s ­effects on air pollution will trigger an extra 60,000 deaths a year in 2030, and 260,000 by 2100.


First ‘summer-less’ July in Denmark in 38 years

Global cooling!

A ‘summer day’, which is defined as any day in which temperatures top 25C (77F) at least somewhere in Denmark. According to the Danish Meteorology Institute (DMI), July is likely to end without reaching 77F anywhere in the country. If that prediction holds up, it will mark the first time that Danes will have suffered through a summer-less July in nearly four decades.

“There are only three years in our records in which July contains a big fat zero when it comes to summer days and temps above 25C. That’s 1962, 1974 and 1979,” climatologist John Cappelen said on the DMI website.

DMI’s database goes back to 1874.


Electric, hybrid and low-emission cars:  The problems of having lots of them

Britain last week joined France in pledging to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 in an attempt to cut toxic vehicle emissions. The move to battery-powered vehicles has been a long time coming. Environmental campaigners claim that charging cars and vans from the grid, like a laptop, is sure to be cleaner than petrol or diesel power. The government agrees and says it will invest more than £800m in driverless and clean technology, and a further £246m in battery technology research.

BMW plans to build a fully electric version of the Mini at Cowley in Oxford from 2019. Volvo announced earlier this month that from the same year, all its new models will have an electric motor.

Huge potential profits await those that can tap into this burgeoning market. Transparency Market Research estimated the global lithium-ion battery market at $30bn in 2015, rising to more than $75bn by 2024. Morgan Stanley analysts expect global car sales to rise by 50% by 2050 to more than 130m units a year, and estimates that electric vehicles will account for at least 47% of that total.

Lithium-ion batteries have long been used to power smartphones, laptops and other gadgets. Scaled-up versions are now being developed for electric vehicles. These batteries should last for at least 10 years, or 150,000 miles, until they need to be replaced.

However, the road to a promised land of zero-emission vehicles is littered with speed bumps and red lights that threaten to seriously slow the progress of the electric car. Battery makers are struggling to secure supplies of key ingredients in these large power packs – mainly cobalt and lithium. The hopes of both battery and vehicle manufacturers hang on the mining sector finding more deposits of these precious minerals.

Trent Mell of First Cobalt, a Toronto-based mining company, said: “Cobalt is tricky because of the scarcity of supply. There aren’t a lot of producers. We’re relying on more discoveries. It’s out there: we’ve just got to find it.”

The First Cobalt boss added that his company was currently confident of making discoveries in Idaho and Ontario. Investors see a chance of cashing in on the mineral’s key role: the price of shares in the Canadian firm has risen from C$0.06 to C$0.76 in the past year.

This is the mother of supply chain headaches, and one hi-tech car manufacturers and electronics firms could do without. At the heart of the global cobalt trade is Glencore. The metals and mining giant produces almost a third (28,300 tonnes) of the world’s annual supply. As much as 65% of this global supply comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where cobalt production has fallen this year because of the unstable political situation. This sparked a 90% jump in the price of cobalt to a peak of $61,000 a tonne earlier this month.

Macquarie Research predicts that trouble in the DRC and rising demand for electric vehicles will lead to a four-year-long cobalt shortage. Writing in academic journal The Conversation, Ben McLellan, senior research fellow at Kyoto University, warned further: “Manufacturers such as electric vehicle makers should be concerned that the supply of one of the key mineral components, or the processing and refining infrastructure, could become too centralised in a single country. Without diverse source options, the possibility of supply restriction becomes more likely.”

The squeeze on cobalt has sent car giants such as Volkswagen scurrying to lock in supply deals with the likes of Glencore. First Cobalt’s Mell said: “I think there is going to be some jockeying for supply.”

Volkswagen, which had been slow to develop battery-powered vehicles, it is now pushing through an ambitious programme as it seeks to regain the trust of customers and investors after the diesel emissions scandal. The German manufacturer wants to launch more than 10 electrified models by the end of next year and is aiming at 30 battery-powered models by 2025. It plans to increase electric-car sales to a million a year by 2025, from tens of thousands at present.

Demand for other key battery ingredients, such as graphite and lithium carbonate, is also outstripping supply. The current shortage of lithium has seen prices double since 2015. Global lithium demand was 184,000 tonnes in 2015, with battery demand accounting for 40%. Analysts at Deutsche Bank expect demand to increase to 534,000 tonnes by 2025, with battery manufacturers accounting for 70%. Lithium deposits are found mostly in China and Bolivia.

Two South Korean battery makers – Samsung SDI and LG Chem – have responded to the crisis by stepping up development of new power packs that use more nickel and less cobalt.

Other battery pioneers are trialling alternative materials in an attempt to crack the booming energy storage market. In June, the US Naval Research Laboratory signed a commercial licensing agreement with California-based EnZinc. This firm was co-founded by Michael Burz, who worked previously on the design of the Tomahawk cruise missile as well as for Nissan.

The agreement gives EnZinc exclusive rights to a nickel-zinc battery for use in electric road vehicles, to hybrid cars that use that battery, and microgrids (small localised electric grids that can run independently) of up to 60 megawatts. Burz expects his zinc-based battery technology to be ready for market in about two years, with another year to gear up production.

Lithium-ion batteries can include other materials such as magnesium, cadmium, manganese and cobalt oxide. They also use a flammable electrolyte, which makes them more risky than lead-acid batteries. EnZinc’s solution is to incorporate less-volatile metals – zinc and nickel – in a battery with sponge-like silicon electrodes.

A key advantage of EnZinc’s plan is that zinc is in much more plentiful supply than cobalt and lithium. Deposits of the metal are found in China, Australia, Peru and the US among others. The US alone produces about 900,000 tonnes of zinc a year, much of it from the huge Red Dog Mine in Alaska, operated by Vancouver-based Teck Resources. It is thought around 600,000 tonnes of zinc would be required to make batteries for a million electric vehicles. One large international zinc company mines around 14m tonnes a year.

But while big corporations work on a green energy revolution, Amnesty International has shone a light on the dark side of this dream. The human rights group says children as young as seven continue to work in perilous conditions in mines in the DRC.

In 2014, according to Unicef, about 40,000 children were working in mines across southern DRC, many of them extracting cobalt. A report by Amnesty and Afrewatch (African Resources Watch) published in January said corporations such as Apple, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Daimler and Volkswagen were failing to do basic checks to ensure that they did not use cobalt mined by child labourers in their products.

Mark Dummett, business and human rights researcher at Amnesty International, said: “The glamorous shop displays and marketing of state-of-the-art technologies are a stark contrast to the children carrying bags of rocks, and miners in narrow manmade tunnels risking permanent lung damage.

“Millions of people enjoy the benefits of new technologies but rarely ask how they are made. It is high time the big brands took some responsibility for the mining of the raw materials that make their lucrative products.”


US coal floods Europe despite continent's fear about climate change

Coal exports to Europe and Asia are surging despite criticism from countries such as France and China over President Trump's decision to exit the Paris climate change agreement, according to new federal data.

Coal exports for making steel and generating electricity rose 58 percent in the first three months of the year compared to the first quarter of 2016, the Energy Information Administration reported this month. The Energy Department's independent analysis arm said it is not sure how long the trend will last.

The trend is continuing into the second quarter, with exports up 60 percent from a year ago, Reuters reported Friday.

However, the levels are still much lower than the peak exporting days of five years ago.

The first-quarter export numbers show coal supplies to Europe and Asia for electricity production rose by 6 million short tons while metallurgical coal rose by 2 million short tons. Nevertheless, the agency's most recent projections show the trend will eventually subside.

One of the interesting points in the rise of U.S. coal exports comes from who is buying it — Europe. Many of the countries on the continent have criticized Trump's decision to withdraw from the United Nation climate deal that the Obama administration signed onto.

Trump called the climate agreement a bad deal for the U.S. because it allowed some of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, principally China and India, to continue their use of the fossil fuel over the next decade, while the U.S. would be required to begin phasing down its emissions from fossil fuels sooner. Many scientists blame the emissions from burning fossil fuels for driving man-made climate change.

The agency said the jump in coal shipments was coming from demand in the United Kingdom, which has climbed 175 percent, and a doubling of exports to France, which has been the most vocal critic of Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris deal.

The export surge to Europe has climate change economists wagging a finger at European nations that like to criticize Trump. "If Europe wants to lecture Trump on climate, then EU member states need transition plans to phase out polluting coal," said Laurence Watson, a coal researcher at the Carbon Tracker Initiative based in London.

Although increased coal demand is helping Trump's energy agenda, the mining industry is still recovering after a number of top coal producers had been in bankruptcy proceedings a year ago. Many of the coal export facilities on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are working well below their intended capacity, while plans to build export facilities in the Northwest have been delayed or scuttled completely.

"With coal exports running well below export capacity, no significant expansions of coal export facilities in the United States are currently under construction," EIA said in this month's public coal reporting.

Consol, a former coal firm turned natural gas company, operates one of two coal export facilities on the Atlantic Coast that ships out of Baltimore.

The Consol terminal, along with another owned by railroad giant CSX, has the ability to export slightly more than the 21 to 22 million short tons that were shipped from the U.S. in the first quarter of 2017, according to Energy Information Administration.

"Facilities in the Norfolk, Va., area alone have the capacity to export approximately 84 [million short tons] annually," which is more than the 61 million short tons that were exported in 2016. The U.S. had the capability of shipping 257 million short tons of coal in 2016, which means 196 million tons of capacity went unused.

The Trump administration for the most part is not focused on coal exports as much as it is on increasing natural gas exports from the U.S. to ports in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Trump has made increased use of American natural gas a top priority in discussions with foreign leaders, and the number of natural gas export terminals is set to grow through next year.

Talk of coal export terminal expansion projects in Baltimore have not taken any serious steps forward, while expansion projects at smaller terminals on the Great Lakes and California have stalled, according to the EIA. One project in the Pacific Northwest is awaiting a major environmental permit decision from the state and the Army Corps of Engineers later this year to be built in Washington state, called the Millenium Bulk Terminal. But the administration has been quiet on the topic, while other projects in the region have been canceled.


The lying BOM again

They can't even keep their story straight

RATHER than admit that temperature dropped to a record low -10.4 degree Celsius on the morning of Sunday 2nd July at Goulburn, the Bureau of Meteorology has come-up with yet another even more absurd story.

Responding to a letter from Josh Frydenberg, the Minister for  Environment and Energy, Andrew Johnson, CEO and Director of Meteorology, has claimed the weather station malfunctioned.  Previously the Bureau claimed that they had placed new limits on how cold it could get at Goulburn.

This is a contrived story, easily disproven with the following evidence.

We know that the Goulburn AWS recorded -10.4 on the morning of Sunday 2nd July from a screen shot taken from the observation page at the Bureau’s website:

The observation sheet shows a minimum of -10.4, this temperature is recorded every second and downloaded every minute. The lowest value recorded normally becomes the minimum for the day.  Contrary to previous policy, on 2nd July, this value was rounded to -10.0, which became the minimum for that day.

Subsequently, the Bureau sent an email confirming:

“The correct minimum temperature for Goulburn on 2 July, 2017 is -10.4 recorded at 6.30am at Goulburn Airport AWS… The Bureau’s quality control system, designed to filter out spurious low or high values was set at -10 minimum for Goulburn which is why the record automatically adjusted.”

In short, after initially recording -10.0 in the CDO dataset, this was changed to -10.4 three days later following a blog post (Bureau Erases Goulburn Record Minimum), an outcry on Facebook, and enquires from prominent journalists.

By 28th July when the above letter was sent to the Minister, the correct value of -10.4 had been showing in the CDO dataset for some 23 days.

This is a screenshot from the CDO database taken today, 30th July 2017. Contrary to the letter from the Bureau to the Minister it shows -10.4 as having been recorded on 2nd July 2017.

Yet in the letter from the Bureau’s Johnson to Minister Frydenberg it is claimed that: “the AWS at Goulburn stopped recording when the temperature fell below -10°C.”

This is demonstrably false. The Bureau has mislead the Minister – yet again.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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