Arctic Report Card 2018

December 11, 2018

The Arctic Report Card is an annual update on changes in the Arctic, and is rolled out at the AGU Fall Meeting. This is the first time I’ve actually attended the press conference.

Retired Admiral Tim Gallaudet, acting Chair of NOAA, was the target of some pointed questions from reporters as to whether the White House has been fully briefed on the findings, and how that squares with professed denial of climate science. Gillaudet fended them off, insisting that the White House continues to support NOAA science.

New York Times:

The warmer Arctic air causes the jet stream to become “sluggish and unusually wavy,” the researchers said. That has possible connections to extreme weather events elsewhere on the globe, including last winter’ssevere storms in the United States.

The jet steam normally acts as a kind of atmospheric spinning lasso that encircles and contains the cold air near the pole; a weaker, wavering jet stream can allow Arctic blasts to travel south in winter and can stall weather systems in the summer, among other effects.

The more rapid warming in the upper north, known as Arctic amplification, is tied to many factors, including the simple fact that snow and ice reflect a lot of sunlight, while open water, which is darker, absorbs more heat. As sea ice melts, less ice and more open water create a “feedback loop” of more melting that leads to progressively less ice and more open water.

And as Arctic waters become increasingly ice-free, there are commercial and geopolitical implications: New shipping routes may open, and rivalries with other countries, including Russia, are intensifying.

 

 

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In Washington DC, the world’s largest scientific meeting is underway – The American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting is Burning Man for earth, ocean and atmospheric scientists, and I’m lining up the interviews, sessions and after-hours activities that will make this another exhausting but illuminating week.

Very happy to chat with Dr Katey Walter Anthony this morning, famous for her youtube vids that have blown so many minds with exploding methane bubbles on arctic lakes. Informative and sharp on one of our biggest climate question marks. Stay tuned – I’ll be hit and miss this week.

Below, AGU Pressroom has wifi, coffee,… and food – for journalists on a budget…

pressroom

This pirate vid is up for now, includes the whole monologue from the other night that I couldn’t find on the Late Show channel – they chose to omit some of the more gallows humor on climate, apparently.

 

UPDATE – sadly video has been removed by the user.

 

Saudis, US and Russia attempting to dismember science.

Hope to talk with Mike and many others this week at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in DC.

BBC:

Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed.

The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October.

Scientists and many delegates in Poland were shocked as the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to this meeting “welcoming” the report.

It was the 2015 climate conference that had commissioned the landmark study.

The report said that the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century rather than 1.5C.

Keeping to the preferred target would need “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. If warming was to be kept to 1.5C this century, then emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45% by 2030.

The report, launched in Incheon in South Korea, had an immediate impact winning praise from politicians all over the world.

But negotiators here ran into serious trouble when Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait objected to the conference “welcoming” the document.

trumporb_MBS_Putin500

 

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CBC:

The new U.S. ambassador to Canada says that when it comes to climate change she believes in “both sides of the science.”

Kelly Craft, who took up her position Monday, told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton she appreciated all of the scientific evidence on climate change.

“I think that both sides have their own results, from their studies, and I appreciate and I respect both sides of the science,” Craft told Barton.

She also said that while U.S. President Donald Trump’s approach to climate change is different from the government of Canada’s, both the U.S. and Canada have the same goal: to “better our environment and to maintain the environment.”

Craft said the U.S. can still fight climate change even though her country has signalled it will leave the Paris climate change accord.

 

We are watching giant, coal-heavy, Rust Belt utilities pivot hard away from fossil fuels and towards renewables, and efficiency.
My jaw was on the floor after I interviewed Jessica Woycehoski, a forecaster for Consumer’s Energy, Michigan’s largest utility, and one I know well. Below, summary of a speech by her boss, Patti Poppe.

Simply by running the numbers, Utility execs are getting that renewables aren’t just a good idea, like eating more Kale – but the only way they can compete and survive going forward.

Midwest Energy News:

In a speech this week to a large, business-friendly crowd in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Consumers Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe presented an economic case for solar power, electric vehicles and moving past coal.

The company closed seven Michigan coal plants in 2016, cutting carbon emissions 25 percent without hurting its workforce. As the company focuses on solar in the coming years, Poppe said electric vehicles will play a growing role in the company’s “triple bottom line” principle of serving people, the planet and prosperity.

It’s a big departure for a CEO who not too long ago had an “I love coal” bumper sticker on her car. Here are four themes of Poppe’s Dec. 3 speech to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids:

Solar is the future

Poppe conceded that Consumers previously “fought” solar adoption. Now the company is embracing it, planning up to 6,000 megawatts of solar in its portfolio by 2040.

“We can have cleaner, more modular energy that more closely matches demand,” Poppe said. “It saves everyone money.”

She said the build-out will be “a little bit of both” utility-scale and smaller distributed projects, but active farmland isn’t the company’s first choice for development.

“We should be finding ways to use otherwise unusable land for solar — parking lots, warehouse rooftops,” she said.

Electric vehicles are good for the grid

Before joining the power sector, Poppe worked at General Motors for 15 years. She also co-chairs the Edison Electric Institute’s EV Task Force.

“We can all agree emissions-free vehicles would be good,” she said.

Electric vehicles also have cheaper operating costs, better performance and a longer lifespan than traditional internal combustion vehicles. And by charging electric vehicles during off-peak demand times when the system has excess capacity, “Fundamentally it just reduces the unit cost of energy.”

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Sorry wonks – we still need you – but we need a good story, a good inspiration, a great vision, even more.

Rob Meyer in Atlantic:

On Monday, speaking at a town hall led by Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez framed her chosen climate policy—the Green New Deal—through the lens of gallant American exceptionalism. “This is going to be the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation,” she said.

The Green New Deal aspires to cut U.S. carbon emissions fast enough to reach the Paris Agreement’s most ambitious climate goal: preventing the world from warming no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. In a blockbuster reportreleased in October, an international group of scientists said that meeting this goal could skirt the worst climate effects, such as massive floods, expansive droughts, and irreversible sea-level rise.

To actually make the target, though, the world must start reducing its carbon pollution immediately, and cut it in half by 2030. And we’re nowhere close. Global emissions levels just hit a record high, and even the Barack Obama administration’s most breakneck climate policy did not put the United States close to making its part of the goal.

The Green New Deal aims to get us there—and remake the country in the process. It promises to give every American a job in that new economy: installing solar panels, retrofitting coastal  infrastructure, manufacturing electric vehicles. In the 1960s, the U.S. pointed the full power of its military-technological industry at going to the moon. Ocasio-Cortez wants to do the same thing, except to save the planet.

I have no idea whether the Green New Deal will result in a federal climate law two or five or 10 years from now. The proposal clearly has momentum on the left. Since early November, I’ve seen the Green New Deal talked about as a story of Democrats in disarray, or as another example of the party’s turn toward socialism. Both analyses miss the mark. The Green New Deal is one of the most interesting—and strategic—left-wing policy interventions from the Democratic Party in years.

As I wrote last year, the Democrats have a problem: They are the only major political party that cares about climate change, but they don’t have a national strategy to address it. Party elites know that they want to fight climate change, of course, but after that the specifics get hazy, and almost no one agrees on what new laws should get passed.

For the past two years, this lack of agenda hasn’t really hampered them, because they could unite around blocking Donald Trump’s deregulation extravaganza. But as Democrats consider the possibility of controlling Congress and the White House in 2020, they will feel more pressure to zero in on a strategy.

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