Sunday, September 17, 2017

Economics says time to shut down some coal plants (even ignoring externalities)

From Think Progress (originally from paywalled Moodys):

Sadly the graph isn't global, it's for the 15 US states with the best wind resources. But for those states it's saying that the cost of just operating and fueling coal plants exceeds the cost for wind power of constructing, operating, and (heh) fueling.

Imagine a utility that recently commissioned a coal plant and sold long term bonds to finance it. The utility would need to charge $39/MWhr plus the cost of paying off the bonds, let's say another $6/MWhr (for this exercise, the bond payment amount doesn't matter). That utility could shut down the coal plant, build wind instead, pay off the stranded cost bond for constructing the coal plant and still charge much less than it would cost to keep operating coal.

Moodys predicts early retirement of coal plants as a result. Looking to see it happen soon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Horseshoes and Hurricanes

Several folk - half the world to be precise- have been going too and fro about the role that climate change has played in the latest weather catastrophes.  Eli had a say yesterday, and some of the Friends of the Bunny chimed in.  Perhaps Izen had the best tweet comment about cause and effect

To stretch the metaphor, many things can light a fire, but the size depends on how big the pile of fuel it can burn.
and Bernard J pointed out that the nature of the beast of chance is that when the statistics become strong enough so a single event can be unequivocally attributed to the changes we are making in the atmosphere, oceans and soil, then it is already too late and a considerable amount of pain has already been absorbed with more and worse to follow.  It may not be a good idea to be living on such a planet.

This, of course, raises the question of the skill in hurricane track forecasting  A difference of 70 km or so yesterday saved Miami and by an even smaller margin Tampa.  Others may debate to the value and duration of such a reprieve.  There are lots of folk who know more about this than Eli, and one of them pointed him to those who really care, the US National Hurricane Center page on Forecast Verification.  

Turns out there are multiple models from many places and a scorecard is for sure needed. NOAA provides one for the models it uses  Forecasts are done on a three hour cycle with the forecast due three hours after the start of the cycle.  Models are divided into early or late, depending on when in the cycle (or afterwards) they are available.  Early models which start to run at the beginning of the cycle and are available before the end are called early.  Those which take longer are called late.  The output of the late model is adjusted so that it feeds into the start of the next occurring cycle becoming a psuedo very early forecast for that cycle. 

Models can be statistical, depending on historical data, these tend to be early, or dynamical, at some (varied) level doing physics based climate modeling.  The most complex of these are pretty obviously late models.  Models can be dropped from the ensemble when they don't perform well or something better comes along.

That being said, how are the models doing.  Data goes back to the 1970s.

Things are improving, perhaps also because tracking is improving.  At early times the ensemble was heavily weighted to statistical models, dynamical models rose to the fore in the 1990s

There are multiple models and combining them into a single forecast has a bit of magic about it where the forecasters weigh the combination of various models.  This can be seen in the 48 hour forecasts from the "early" models and the official NHC (dark line) forecast,  The dotted line is a combination of two statistical forecasts (see links for details)

Anyhow the Florida peninsula is about 150 miles at the widest down to about 100 just north of Orlando.  You can get lucky at horseshoes.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Harvey and Irma

By scientific observation the denialati are trying to shift the question to whether climate change CAUSED these storms.  Eli's response which has been somewhat successful is to say that climate change increased the DAMAGE from these storms and that their refusal to acknowledge climate change CAUSED more damage because nothing was done in anticipation, FL being the poster child

Florida has provided funding to save the Everglades, the tropical wetlands in South Florida, but Miami Beach City Engineer Bruce Mowry said the state has not funded his city’s $500 million flood prevention programme.
Kerry Emanuel studies hurricanes and talks on them. So here is the abstract

and here the full paper

Closing with prayer last night as Irma moved towards Key West

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

-Warsan Shire

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Another Reason to Join the AGU

Well, the Fall Meeting has been moved to New Orleans, and RayP tweets
Having said that, have a look at the draft statement which starts:
It is not currently possible to robustly assess the potential consequences of geoengineering (also known as “climate engineering”). Therefore, significant additional research, risk assessment,  and consideration of difficult policy questions are required before the potential of  geoengineering systems to offset climate change can be evaluated adequately.
The weakness Ray sees, of course, is who is going to stop anybunny who starts, and if the consequences are positive for them and negative for others, what's gonna stop them.

Anyhow it continues
It is well established that humans are responsible, primarily through the release of greenhouse gases, for most of the well‐documented increase in global average temperatures over the last  half century. Further emissions of these pollutants, particularly of carbon dioxide from the  burning of fossil fuels, will almost certainly cause additional widespread changes in climate, with major negative consequences for most nations and natural ecosystems. 
The only way to slow and stop human impacts on climate is through mitigation of these emissions, which must therefore be central to any policy response to the dangers of climate change. Over the last three decades it has become apparent that there are many political and technological difficulties in achieving deep, global reductions, and many studies have shown that current mitigation efforts are not sufficient to limit global warming to widely discussed goals such as 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Mindful of this reality there has been more attention to climate adaptation: moderating climate impacts by increasing the capacity of societies to cope with them.  
Insufficient mitigation and adaptation leaves humans and nature exposed to large, harmful changes in climate. That reality has led, in part, to growing interest in the option of geoengineering: “deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change.” In theory, geoengineering technologies could be deployed—in tandem with mitigation and adaptation—with a variety of goals, such as reducing peak levels and rates of climate change or responding to unforeseen and harmful shifts in climate.
The drafting committee points out that geo engineering is a wide tent that covers a lot of cess pools, with some being riper than others, but which can be generally divided into those that steal COout of the air (called carbon dioxide removal or CDM) and others that manipulate the amount of sunlight that is absorbed in the Earth system (called solar radiation management or SRM).

The questions raised wrt CDR are who is doing it, are they doing enough, can it be scaled up and should this be a private investment Obamacare for the Atmosphere effort or do we need a government run Medicare for all the CO2 model.

SRM is another kettle of problems altogether.  If the Earth is the test tube, even preliminary tests carry ethical and political threats and, as is the case with nuclear programs, distinguishing between climate mitigation and preparations for a weather war is not always straight forward, with the answer lying in the minds of the observer.

Anybunny who joins the AGU can submit comments until September 25. ** In conclusion
CDR and SRM will not substitute for aggressive mitigation nor the need for proactive adaptation, but they could contribute to a comprehensive risk management strategy to slow 106 climate change and alleviate some of its negative impacts. The potential to help society cope with climate change and the risks of adverse consequences imply a need for adequate research, appropriate regulation, and transparent deliberation. 
Adopted by the American Geophysical Union DATE. Based on an earlier statement adopted by the AGU on 13 December 2009 in collaboration with the American Meteorological Society (as adopted by the AMS Council on 20 July 2009); revised and reaffirmed February 2012. 
** Turns out there is a radio button for non joiners so feel free to comment

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Coastal floods from rain get worse as the drop to sea level gets smaller

Something that isn't getting mentioned but should about Hurricane Harvey - gradient determines drainage speed, and higher sea level means less gradient and slower drainage. And of course you have zero gradient and zero drainage when you hit sea level, which is six or seven inches higher than it was when Houston was founded. Not an inconsiderable amount when the coast is as flat as Houston's is, and that'll get worse. This issue and Roger Pielke Jr's refusal to recognize it was one of my earlier interactions with him, back in the day.

Maybe on to a cheerier idea:

Distributed renewable generation + power storage = disaster resiliency

It's a good thing that this is gradually happening, and it's a point I was making two years ago in support of Silicon Valley cities banding together to buy their own electric power supply. It's not just good for the environment, it's about disaster preparedness. More crucial facilities can stay open if they have their own power sources or draw it from a smart grid. More people can stay home instead of evacuating if the refrigerator still operates to keep food and medicines cold, and if a stove can boil water. A bit at a time we're getting closer to this type of preparation for disaster.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Somebody Notices


Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio Is an Impeachable Offense

....Trump’s defenders will ask how a president can be impeached merely for exercising a power he undeniably possesses. But this question turns the constitutional function of impeachment on its head.

The founders included in the Constitution a congressional power to impeach presidents primarily to respond to misuse by the president of express or implied powers given him elsewhere in the document. the founders, the main point of impeachment was that there must be a remedy when a president perverts the powers of his office, either for personal or political self-aggrandizement or, regardless of motive, when the president’s acts threaten the proper distribution of authority among the coordinate branches or otherwise offend either law or fundamental governing norms.

Some things worth adding:
  • The term "high crimes and misdemeanors" in the Constitution is broader than doing something technically illegal, it refers to a gross abuse of office. It doesn't matter how unlimited the pardon power is, it is still limited by the impeachment power to remedy and prevent further abuse of office.
  • Pardons normally occur despite the petitioner's crime, done in light of the other good works and redeeming features of the pardoned person. Trump didn't pardon Arpaio despite Arpaio's illegal activities, he pardoned Arpaio because of Trump's support for Arpaio's illegal defiance of court orders directing him to stop racially profiling people. While the official statement glosses over this, Trump himself is very clear, indicating this week that he planned to pardon Arpaio because Trump viewed the illegal activities as Arpaio "doing his job."

And despite all this, I'm not quite ready to say Trump's actions satisfy the grounds for impeachment. This action is one article of impeachment. Another is his violation of the emoluments clause. By themselves I don't think they're enough. Other charges like collusion with Russia to harm American democracy are still in process and not fully determined.

That Trump is unfit for office is clear, however, and he's making it likely that in addition he will soon be a good candidate for removal via impeachment (despite whatever Senate Republicans may say).

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Rare Climate Victory in Congress

From the Miami Herald:

Carlos Curbelo touts himself as a rare Republican in Washington willing to criticize Donald Trump and conservative members of his own party.

And after months of talk and lots of tweeting, Curbelo’s effort to build a bloc of moderate Republicans capable of swaying anti-climate-change legislation appears to have paid off.

Curbelo’s Climate Solutions Caucus, a group of 24 Republicans and 24 Democrats who are concerned about the impacts of climate change, voted en masse on Thursday against a proposal to nix a Defense Department report on the threats posed by climate change to military installations.

The vote was 234-185 that ended a Congressional attempt to stop the military from planning how it responds to things like sea level rise at naval ports.

It is possible to go too far in support of climate denialism - do that and you'll lose ten percent of Congressional Republicans and lose the vote. OTOH, this was a pretty extreme attempt at Congressional interference in the military.

We'll see if any other signs of sanity come out of the Republican Party.