May 31 2018

May 31 2018

healthy soils, nuclear power, low-carbon aluminum, mammoths for climate action

The New York Times reports on the challenge of climate change in Alaska, where the impacts are so clear that even conservative legislators recognize the need to prepare for a new future. At the same time, the state receives about 85% of its revenue from fossil fuel production, and a recent op-ed by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor demonstrates the challenge the state faces in addressing climate change while continuing to extract fossil fuels. Dave Roberts at Vox explores efforts to keep existing nuclear power plants operating, as these plants supply 50% of the country’s carbon-free electricity.

Inside Climate News has an excellent deep-dive on regional action to generate resilience in Norfolk, VA, which is experiencing the highest rate of sea level rise in the country. The City has produced NorfolkVision2100 that splits the City into four zones, with a yellow zone that comprises “areas where the city can’t afford to build expensive flood protection but must instead rely on some combination of adaptation and retreat.” Nobody knows what that looks like, but many fear existing residents will suffer as property values decline, housing is lost or new more resilient structures accelerate gentrification. Meanwhile, the City Council of Del Mar (San Diego County) voted to remove any reference to “planned retreat” from the community’s long-term plan for dealing with sea level rise (IMHO, this will necessitate “unplanned retreat” in the future).

Grist reports on the California Healthy Soils Initiative, which is using cap-and-trade funds to pay farmers to use agricultural techniques that will sequester carbon in soils. News Deeply has an article about the growing use of cover crops in California for water conservation and soil development (at present only 5% of farmers in California use this well-established agricultural practice).

California’s air quality has improved drastically from the last century, and we all owe a huge thanks to Mary Nichols for guiding the state along this path. Mary is the Chair of the California Air Resources Board, and the LA Times interviews her about the current attack by the Trump administration on our vehicle emissions standards.

The vast majority of scenarios for keeping the global temperature increase to 1.5 – 2°C by 2100 involve reliance on carbon-negative electricity generation (growing plants to take carbon out of the air, burning them, capturing the CO2 and storing it underground forever). There are many questions about the feasibility of this on a large scale (including the need to devote an area the size of India to impact global average temperature). How do we meet temperature goals with minimal reliance on such technologies (given that they do not currently exist)? Dave Roberts at VOX takes a look at what is required.

The Washington Post reports on a study concluding that climate change is leading to more rapid intensification of hurricanes, and that the massive rainfall of Hurricane Harvey was due in part to the extraordinarily high temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico caused by climate change. A NASA-led study concludes that climate change will lead to more intense atmospheric river (“pineapple express”) rainstorms in the future, although they will be slightly less frequent. NPR reports on Louisiana’s efforts to allow the Mississippi to get back to delivering the sediment that built and maintained the state’s marshes.

Meanwhile, from the Rockhead Department: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) asked a scientist testifying before the House “Science” Committee (sorry, quotes earned) on May 16 to consider that perhaps rocks falling into the ocean are causing sea level rise. Philip Bump at the Washington Post has done the math for us.

The Washington Post reports that a manufacturing joint venture between Alcoa and Rio Tinto will commercialize a new process to make aluminum that does not produce carbon dioxide as a by-product, and Apple has signed an agreement to purchase aluminum made by this process for its products. Inside Climate News describes how EPA’s Science Advisory Board, including some members appointed by Scott Pruitt, is fighting against the agency’s attempt to make regulatory changes not supported by evidence. describes the Pleistocene Park, where a Russian scientist and his colleagues are investigating the hypothesis that reintroduction of large herbivorous mammals into the northern steppes could promote ecological processes that will reduce soil temperature, thereby keeping more of the carbon in arctic soils out of the atmosphere. Initial results appear promising, and future plans include the introduction of the extinct mammoth (actually an elephant/mammoth hybrid) to accelerate soil cooling.