Saturday, 29 November 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

A Fossil Fuel-Free New York State by 2050

Sunday, 26 May 2013 00:00 By Bruce Melton, Truthout | News Analysis

Lights out in New York City the day after Hurricane Sandy hit, October 29, 2012.Lights out in New York City the day after Hurricane Sandy hit, October 29, 2012. (Photo: Christopher Schoenbohm)An in-depth look at Stanford and Cornell's 100 percent alternative energy road map for New York state.

Superstorm Sandy and Climate Change: Arctic Amplification, Warming Seas and Blocking Highs

The Northeast is still reeling from the impacts of Superstorm Sandy's fury. Costs for Sandy could exceed those for Katrina and if they do not, Sandy will be the number-two all-time most costly weather disaster in the United States - and this ranking is normalized for things like increasing population, increasing wealth in coastal areas and inflation. (1)

Research out of Stanford and Cornell has given us the most detailed plan yet for converting our society to fossil-free energy sources and beginning to address the new climate pollution -caused or -enhanced weather extremes. The plan is for New York State. Even though some officials and media outlets have dismissed it as too aggressive and overreaching, its benefits far outweigh the costs.

The plan costs $569 billion and creates 4.5 million construction-phase jobs, with earnings (in the form of wages, local revenue and local supply-chain impacts) of $314 billion, along with 58,000 permanent jobs with annual earnings of $5.1 billion per year. This is before the health and environmental benefits of $33 billion per year, savings to the United States of $1.7 billion per year because of reduced global warming impacts (a savings which increases to $12.1 billion per year in 2100), and increased tax valuation due to eliminating the fossil fuel industry. (2)

Some of the latest climate research shows that Hurricane Sandy was definitively enhanced by climate change and suggests its path may have been wholly determined by global warming. (3) More research from Rutgers and the University of Wisconsin tells us that after the turn of the century, Arctic amplification began to emerge and upper-level weather systems began to move more slowly. This was likely in response to diminishing sea ice and more rapidly melting winter snow cover in the Arctic. (4)

Arctic amplification - a meteorological process in which waves in the jet stream get bigger and slower as the Arctic's temperature warms, causing weather patterns to stay one place for longer periods - is something climate scientists have been warning us about for decades. It caused changes which created specific extreme weather events from 2003 to 2011, including snowstorms in Europe, northern Asia and the US Northeast (5); increased precipitation during storms worldwide - even in places where total annual precipitation is decreasing (6); heat waves in Moscow, Texas and Europe (7,8,9) and flooding in Pakistan and on the Mississippi (9,10).

More evidence of increasing weather extremes being linked to Arctic amplifications can be found in the prestigious Geophysical Research Letters. (11) The conclusion of this study says: "Can the persistent weather conditions associated with recent severe events such as the snowy winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 in the eastern U.S. and Europe, the historic drought and heat-wave in Texas during summer 2011, or record-breaking rains in the northeast U.S. of summer 2011 be attributed to enhanced high-latitude warming? Particular causes are difficult to implicate, but these sorts of occurrences are consistent with the analysis and mechanism presented in this study."

We also find evidence in this study for the direct cause of Sandy's unprecedented left turn because of a specific high-pressure system that was stuck over Greenland. This "blocking high" has been much stronger over the last ten years than the previous 30 years and is attributed to Arctic amplification. (12)

More implications for Sandy: sea surface temperatures at all-time highs off the Northeast Coast enhanced the storm's energy. (13) The storm's surge shattered records by four feet, typical of a Category 4 hurricane, not a Category 1 hurricane, and landfalling minimum pressure was the lowest ever recorded in the Northeast (the lower the minimum, the stronger the storm). (14) Extreme weather formation wholly caused by climate change is also discussed in the literature because of the greater probability of formation caused by blocking weather systems. (15)

So how can the Stanford/Cornell plan for New York State keep hurricanes like Sandy from happening again, when the plan is only a small part of the solution to climate pollution?

The plan is a roadmap for us all. Professor Mark Jacobson at Stanford, the lead author of the plan, reminds us, "We also consider this to be a practical plan that policymakers can begin to implement." By showing that a new energy system can be created in one area, the means by which it can be done elsewhere come into focus. We have to change the way we generate and use energy to avoid far greater impacts from climate change than we have already seen. Even without climate change, we would need to implement some type of new energy plan because technology and infrastructure do not last forever. We replace our entire fleet of automobiles every 15 years. Heating and cooling systems for buildings rarely last longer than 20 years. Power plants last 30 to 50 years, and most of them are already decades old.

The plan requires all new energy generating facilities and energy consuming devices to be powered by wind, water or solar (WWS) by 2020. This leaves 30 years for existing facilities to be phased out by 2050 due to old age and attrition.

Peak power prices across much of the United States are at or above the cost of energy from wind and solar already. With the continued declines in the cost of energy from alternatives, the cost of fossil fuel energy to meet the minimum reasonable consumer need will rise to levels that are not economic for new construction in the very near future. (16)

Is the plan worth it? The savings from health care and mortality alone, at $33 billion per year, pay for the plan in 17 years. To give us a comparison of the scale of this type of spending, New York's population-adjusted share of the costs for World War II was $400 billion, and what did we get in exchange for World War II? Every year, New York pays a population-adjusted $31 billion for the national defense budget. The state's share of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for just 2001 to 2011 was $134 billion. (17)

In Truthout's interview, one of Jacobsen's statements stood out: "We think that this is technological and economically feasible. There are still social and political barriers to overcome. Some areas, such as electrified transportation and growth of solar and wind power, are already moving fast, but still not fast enough."

Costs and Savings of Converting New York State to a Fossil-Fuel-Free Economy

Economics are at the crossroads of our society's new fossil-fuel-free economy. From the report: "The plan effectively pays for the 100% WWS energy generation infrastructure to power NYS [New York State] for all purposes over 15 years solely by the reduction in air-pollution costs to the state and global warming costs to the U.S. from state emissions. Annual electricity sales ... reduce the payback time to about 10 years."

To understand how fair this study is, we need to know what future costs were anticipated. A few of the most important costs used in the plan are: a 28 percent increase in the cost of natural gas and 109 percent for gasoline; conventional energy generation increases at 26 percent, while wind decreases 31-43 percent and solar decreases 42-57 percent.

Savings and benefits from our new alternative energy economy are beyond huge. Up to 4,000 lives will be saved per year because of reduced pollution.

The bottom line: In 2030 alone, annual savings from converting to alternative energy sources would be $114 billion. (18) This is on top of annual incomes and benefits that would be lost due to the loss of fossil fuel jobs.

Payback

The cost of the new infrastructure is $2.1 million per megawatt. The payback period for the 271 gigawatts of required alternative energy capacity (equal to 271,000 megawatts, with a cost of $569 billion) considering only the savings from preventing premature deaths and other impacts from air pollution, and additional costs of global warming, along with revenue from electricity sales at a forecasted 7 percent profit, is a very short 9.8 years.

Payback for residential solar is dropping dramatically too. The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has a splendid tool on their web site that shows a five- to seven-year payback for the 50 or so rooftops I clicked on. (19) The tool does include a 30 percent state and federal tax credit, but it uses costs for today's solar panels. By 2020 to 2030, the Stanford and Cornell researchers tell us, solar prices will have dropped by 60 percent. This means that payback without subsidies will happen in five to seven years - even before 2020.

The Plan: Wind, Solar, Concentrated Solar, Hydro, Geothermal, Tidal and Wave

The researchers' plan includes 271 gigawatts of alternative energy capacity to deliver the 60 gigawatts of demand for 2030, 5 million rooftop solar installations, 2,600 wave generators and many other components.

Demand will be met by oversizing WWS generation to provide additional energy to be stored as heat to be reused when peak demand exceeds capacity, integrating geographically distant sources to smooth the effects of demand, thermal storage, new battery technologies, electric vehicle storage and demand management, such as shifting industrial demand when needed.

Hydroelectric generation currently produces 89 percent of the total hydroelectric demand needed in the plan. Tidal power has already been used to generate electricity in the East River in New York City through the Verdant Power Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project.

No Natural Gas or Biofuels

Why not natural gas or liquid or solid biofuels? Solid biofuels will be used as a bridge and phased out by 2030 to 2050. The reasons why these fuels are not in the plan are simple, though relatively unknown outside of academic circles. As stated in the plan: "Although natural gas emits less carbon dioxide per unit electric power than coal, two factors cause natural gas to increase global warming relative to coal: higher methane emissions and less sulfur dioxide emissions per unit energy than coal."

Emitting less carbon dioxide is good, but we need to be emitting zero carbon dioxide. Methane (natural gas) is much worse than CO2 in the short-term climate timeframe as a warming pollutant. Because of the difference in technology to produce fracked natural gas, researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies say somewhere around 620 times more methane leaks into our atmosphere from fracked natural gas compared to normal natural gas production. (20)

More concerning, the latest research shows that in the 20-year time frame, methane is 105 times more potent a warming pollutant than CO2. Compare this measurement to our understanding just five or six years ago, which pegged the measurement lower by a factor of five, at 21 times more potent. (21)

But it is the plan's observation about sulfur dioxide that could be the most important. Sulfur dioxide (one of the main components of smog) is a cooling pollutant. By switching from coal to natural gas, we would emit less cooling pollutants - effectively allowing for more warming.

Research from NASA, the University of Illinois and Berkeley in 2009 reveals just how important this finding is. What researchers found was that because coal burned in the energy sector emits so many more cooling sulfur dioxide pollutants than oil burned in the transportation sector (gasoline and diesel), actual warming in the 20-year time frame is 2.5 times more from oil than from coal. (22) Natural gas burns more cleanly than oil, so shifting to natural gas increases warming during the plan period greater than 2.5 times that of coal, while we are still dependent on energy supplied by coal.

And what about biofuels? It has long been known that biofuels take up an enormous amount of real estate compared to anything else in the energy sector. Stanford and Cornell cite other work that tells us the footprint for biofuels is about "one million times larger" than the footprint of wind energy (that's right, one million).

Ambitious and Overreaching

Five million residential rooftop solar installations? Put it into perspective: Germany installed nearly 250,000 residential rooftop solar installations in 2011 alone. (23) At that rate, it would take 20 years to install 5 million. Ramping that rate up will be far more feasible after grid parity is reached in less than 20 years.

For a scaling comparison: The onshore wind capacity proposed under this plan of 20.1 GW would be just over double the 2006-2012 installed capacity in Texas. (24)

The plan may seem big, and it is, but "big" is relative. Up until 2020, we can continue to replace existing infrastructure with fossil-fuel-powered machines. This plan is simply a redirection of ongoing maintenance and replacement. We need to begin to make changes to rules, building codes, planning devices and policy now to make this happen. The technologies are there already and their cost will be at or below the price of existing fossil fuel technology by 2020 - without subsidies.

Most official and media responses to the plan seem to base their characterizations of overreach on a 2030 plan end-date mentioned in the study's abstract and press. Even if these sources do not disparage the plan, they still get the 2030 date wrong. This error would have become apparent if they had done a little more reading. The end dates of different aspects of the plan are repeatedly and obviously laid out in the plan. The 2050 target is the most prominent, giving 20 years of additional time to implement the plan. The lead author tells us:

"The abstract is ambiguous, unfortunately. It states, 'Under the plan, NYS's 2030 all-purpose end-use power would be provided by ... ' What this means is IF the conversion occurred by 2030, this is what the infrastructure would look like then. However, the 2050 infrastructure will look similar as the 2030 WWS infrastructure because of the extremely slow population growth of NYS (~2% between now and 2030 by most estimates). Due to social and political barriers, we don't think a complete 2030 conversion will occur (we think we can get 80%), but a full conversion may occur by 2050."

Efficiency Measures:

The plan calls for a 37 percent reduction in energy demand from today's level by 2030. That does sound overreaching, until we look at the science.

Electricity is far more efficient than fossil fuels in most economic sectors: 21 percent more efficient in residential uses, 12.3 percent in commercial, 20 percent in industrial and 69.5 percent in transportation. So using more electricity and less fossil fuel fundamentally reduces demand.

Reduction in demand from other efficiency measures like more efficient appliances, converting to fluorescent lighting, using mass transportation, and other changes is also assumed to be modest in the plan, at 5 to 10 percent, Jacobson pointed out.

One example of outstanding ongoing conservation work is related to water usage in San Antonio, Texas. Because of increasing drought and San Antonio's limited water supply, this community with a population now larger than Dallas has been aggressively conserving water. The results are that in 2012, they used only 1 percent more water than they did in 2006, although their population grew by 15 percent during that period. (25) If San Antonio can do that with water, can't we all do something similar with energy?

McKinsey & Company, a global business, government and institutional management consulting firm, published a report in 2009 titled, "Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy." This report found that: "The US economy has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020, eliminating more than $1.2 trillion in waste - well beyond the $520 billion upfront investment (not including program costs) that would be required [for this $1.2 trillion savings]. The reduction in energy use would also result in the abatement of 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse-gas emissions annually - the equivalent of taking the entire US fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the roads." (26)

The Final Blow (and Flood) - Expert Judgments and Extreme Weather

There is an old, tired adage in the climate change outreach business that we cannot say for sure if any one weather event is caused by climate change or not. This statement is based on two things: a 20th-century view of climate change and statistics vs. expert judgment.

In the 20th century, we did not have examples of climate change-caused or -enhanced extreme weather like we do today, and we did not have scientific findings providing us with information such as that the 2011 Texas drought was 20 times more likely due to the elevated greenhouse gas concentrations of today than in a climate without elevated greenhouse gases. (27)

Expert judgment is different from scientific findings. Expert judgment is what a doctor uses to prescribe treatment for illness, or what an engineer does to determine the best design for a given situation. Climate science, like all pure studies of science, does not address phenomena based on judgment, but stays in the scientific realm of statistics. This is why we hear that scientists cannot say "for sure" that any one weather event was "caused" by climate change. The statistics simply will not allow it. There is always a chance that something else could have been responsible, however slight. Expert discernment, on the other hand, takes risk into consideration when assigning cause, and values those statistical findings accordingly.

When the warnings have been flying for decades that weather events would become more extreme, when scientific findings show that blocking weather patterns "likely" (a statistical term) caused Sandy's unprecedented left turn, and when academic research says that snow disasters, heat waves and floods were "likely" caused by Arctic amplification, more experts should be telling us what Dr. Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research says in his paper about extreme weather and climate change: "All weather events are now influenced by climate change because all weather now develops in a different environment than before." (28)

The international insurer Swiss Re says economic impacts in the United States from drought and Sandy were $160 billion and that insurers would pay $65 billion in claims; however, the indirect costs are generally double the insured losses, and larger storms have an even higher ratio. (29, 30) So we could see $200 billion in damages from Sandy alone, which, remember, was not even a Category 1 hurricane at landfall.

When climate scientists said that hurricanes would get more powerful on a warmer planet, they did not just mean that we can expect to see a new Category 6 on the hurricane intensity scale; they meant that storms like Sandy would be bigger and more powerful, too. Sandy was so big that she was the single largest recorded hurricane in the Atlantic Basin since the detailed records of the Best Track system began in 1988. (31)

The warning signs are unmistakable. With roadmaps for systemic change in hand, our elected officials must act - and continue acting - to combat this most urgent of crises.

 

References:

Main Study
Jacobson et al., Examining the feasibility of converting New York State's all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight, Energy Policy 57 (2013) 585-601.

Numbered References:
1.Costs for Sandy could exceed those for Katrina, and if not, Sandy will rank as the number-two all-time most costly weather disaster - and this is normalized for things like increasing population and increasing wealth in coastal areas, as well as inflation. Pielke and Landsea, "Normalized hurricane damages in the United States: 1925-95," American Meteorological Society, Volume 13, 1998 (updated to 2004). Table 7, page 627.

Updated using National Hurricane Center damage estimates adjusted for inflation in Earth at Risk: Abrupt Climate Change,Chapter 5, table 2 on page 206.

Continued increasing disaster costs have apparently caused Professor Pielke, one of the few remaining academic climate change deniers, to change evaluation criteria in his disaster normalization work. His 2005 data do not match his 1998 data. The new evaluation adds storms from 1900 to 1925, so direct comparison is difficult, and adjusting assumptions based on new information over time is appropriate. Science is dynamic: as we live, we learn more. But in this case, we have a noted denier who finds massive amounts of moral support in the vested interest economic community. It appears that all of Pielke's normalized damages have increased substantially. Example: the New England storm in the 1998 work had damages of $16.6 billion and in 2008, $37-39 billion. Using the same normalization of population and wealth distribution, adjusted inflation New England should have only grown to $24 billion. This greatly diminishes the value of current disasters. Because of Pielke's predisposition to actively discredit climate change, his work is suspicious and until further normalizations reveal errors in his old work - done before his most active climate change denial period - his 2008 work is disregarded.
2.Alternative energy generating facilities do not decrease adjacent property values whereas fossil fuel extraction and generation facilities often do ... Hoen at al., "The Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values in the United States: A Multi-Site Hedonic Analysis," Berkeley National Laboratory, December 2009, last three sentences of abstract.
3. Hurricane Sandy was definitively enhanced by, or its path wholly caused by, climate change ...  The modeling and correlation to actual trends showing an increased amplification of high pressure in the eastern North Atlantic (associated with the blocking Greenland high) is shown in Figure 1 (a) OND (October, November, December). Also implications for slower moving weather systems "causing" extreme weather.
Francis and Vavrus, "Insandity: Research from last March tells us that Superstorm Sandy was directly caused by climate change," Geophysical Research Letters, March 2012, Conclusions, page 5 of 6.
Fully evaluated in: Melton, "Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: A research synthesis," November 1, 2012.
4.Arctic amplification began to emerge ...  "Arctic amplification being observed today is expected to become stronger in coming decades, invoking changes in atmospheric circulation, vegetation and the carbon cycle, with impacts both within and beyond the Arctic."
Serreze and Barry, "Snowtastrophes and snowmageddons in the Europe, Asia and the US Northeast ...," Global and Planetary Change, April 2011. Abstract, last sentence.
5. "Snowtastrophes and snowmageddons in the Europe, Asia and the US Northeast ... " Petoukhov and Semenov, "A link between reduced Barents-Kara sea ice and cold winter extremes over northern continents," Journal of Geophysical Research, November 2010, abstract.
Abstract: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2009JD013568.shtml
Full paper (prepub): http://eprints.uni-kiel.de/8738/1/2009JD013568-pip.pdf
6.Increased precipitation in storms worldwide, even where total precipitation is decreasing ... Trenberth, "Changes in precipitation with climate change," Climate Research, March 31, 2011, abstract, fourth sentence.
7.The chance that the heat wave in Texas in 2011 was not caused by climate change is exceedingly small ...  Hansen, Sato, Ruedy, Perception of Climate Change, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2012, abstract, last sentence.
8.Moscow heat wave: 80% probability of being caused by climate change ...  Rhamstorf and Coumou, "Increase of extreme events in a warming world," PNAS, October 24, 2011., last sentence of abstract.
9.The European heat wave of 2003 ... Trenberth et al., Current Extreme, Climate Communication, Science and Outreach, September 2011, page three, first paragraph.
Note: this is not a peer-reviewed paper, but the authors are:
Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Jerry Meehl , National Center for Atmospheric Research
Jeff Masters, Weather Underground
Richard Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego
10.Flooding in Pakistan in and on the Mississippi ... ibid, page 12, top two paragraphs.
11.More evidence of the increasing weather extremes being linked to Arctic Amplifications can be found in numerous extreme weather events in a study out of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University and the Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison ...  Francis and Vavrus, "Evidence linking Arctic Amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes," Geophysical Research Letters, March 2012, Conclusions, paragraph 2, page 5. "Can the persistent weather conditions associated with recent severe events such as the snowy winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 in the eastern U.S. and Europe, the historic drought and heat-wave in Texas during summer 2011, or record-breaking rains in the northeast U.S. of summer 2011 be attributed to enhanced high-latitude warming? Particular causes are difficult to implicate, but these sorts of occurrences are consistent with the analysis and mechanism presented in this study."
12.We also find the evidence for the direct cause of the unprecedented left turn made by Sandy in this study because of a blocking high pressure system over Greenland ...  ibid. page 2 of 6, left column top paragraph; represented by the graphic on page 2 of 6 and the large red anomaly (area of increased pressure 2000 to 2010 compared to the previous 30 years in the top left image (OND) (for October, November, December).
13.Record NE Atlantic sea surface temperature ... "Sea Surface Temperatures Reach Highest Level in 150 Years on US Northeast Continental Shelf," Northeast Fisheries Science Center, NOAA, third paragraph.
14.Sandy's Category 1 downgrade, record storm surge and record lowest minimum pressure ... Hurricane Sandy, National Hurricanes Center Tropical Cyclone Report, February 12, 2013.
Downgraded to extratropical: page 7, paragraphs 3 and 4.
Storm surge: page 8, third paragraph.
Lowest landfalling pressure: page 6, paragraph 1.
15.Extreme weather formation wholly caused by climate change is also discussed in the literature ...  Francis and Vavrus, "Evidence linking Arctic Amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes," Geophysical Research Letters, March 2012, page 1, second column, first paragraph, sentences 3 and 4.
16.The costs of alternative energy: Peak power prices across much of the U.S. are at or above the cost of energy from wind and solar already ... "Grid Parity of Solar and wind: Lazard, Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis" V 3.0 June, 2009, Slide 6.
Grid Parity ... Solar PV at grid parity by the mid 2010s in the Americas ...  Breyer, "Global overview on grid-parity," Progress in Photovoltaics, February 2012, Section 4.0 penultimate paragraph and conclusions, first paragraph.
Solar PV competitive with fossil fuels by 2020 ... Mattos, "New module efficiency record: 23.5% under 1-sun illumination using thin-film single-junction GaAs solar cells," 38th Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, June 2012. Abstract.
The other perspective ... Despite the burgeoning number of rosy projections of solar grid parity only represented by two references above, Olsen and Jones posit that economics dictating future baseload costs for conventional fuels fall due to what is basically the "discount rate," and that while parity may be reached soon, baseload costs will fall below alternative energy costs shortly thereafter, meaning that grid parity is no longer feasible. This is a valid economic argument if major events do not occur in our future world that are widely projected to occur very soon. These are: Fossil fuel prices do not increase, a carbon tax is not imposed, the ability of alternatives to meet baseload demand is not enhanced by thermal storage, energy-storage technology does not progress, renewable portfolios are not geographically distributed to enhance availability, demand management is not utilized, alternative energy costs do not fall as market penetration increases.
Olsen and Jones, "Chasing Grid Parity, Understanding the Dynamic Value of Renewable Energy," The Electricity Journal, April 2012.
(Extended Abstract only)
17.Costs of wars ...
World War II
Cost of Major US Wars, Congressional Research Service, June 2010, table 1, page 2. $4.1 trillion in 2011 dollars.
Wikipedia: US population in 1944: 140 million. New York State: 14.1 million
New York proportion: 14.1/140 (million) = 10 percent = $400 billion or about $100 billion per year for four years.

Pentagon defense budget USGovernmentSpending.com

Average annual defense budget, 2001 through 2012: $514 billion; New York State home to 6.4 percent of US total population= $33.5 billion per year
Costs of Iraq and Afghanistan wars Brown University, web site: Costs of Wars/Economic Costs Summary,
Congressional War Appropriations to the Pentagon: $1,407 billion
War-related Additions to the Pentagon Base Budget: $743 billion
Total: $2,105 billion, population adjusted for New York National proportion is 6.4 percent at $134 billion
18.In 2030 alone, annual savings from converting to alternative energy sources is $114 billion: The Levelized cost of energy ... This one comes from the report, but since it is complicated, I will explain here with the help of communications with Jacobson: I asked him for a bottom-line number in billions of dollars that reflected the total cost of alternative energy relative to the total cost of fossil fuel energy for the same period considering that the plan was not implemented. After a couple of emails we narrowed it down to this response about future electrical demand and the resulting cost of both an alternative energy economy and a fossil fuel economy: "Yes, the end use power demand for all purposes (in TW) is given in the first table as 0.06 TW for NYS in 2030 versus 0.096 TW for NYS in 2030 with conventional fuels. Multiply by 8760 hrs/year to obtain TWh/year. These numbers could be multiplied by cents/kWh (for WWS technologies and conventional fuels, respectively) from Table 3 to get the difference in total cost of energy for the future and current systems, respectively. For conventional fuels, you could use 18.5 cents/kWh in 2030 (this includes externalities) and for WWS, 8 cents/kWh. This would result in $42 billion/year for WWS and $156 billion/year for conventional fuels in 2030."
19. Cambridge Energy Alliance Residential Solar tool shows a payback period of five to seven years ...
http://en.mapdwell.com/solarsystem/cambridge
20. Methane (natural gas) is also much worse than CO2 in the short-term climate timeframe as a warming pollutant. 0.62 percent of the lifetime production of fracked gas escapes as fugitive emissions, compared to 0.01 percent for conventional natural gas production ... Howarth et al., Methane and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations, Climatic Change, 106, 4, 2011, page, Section 1, paragraph 2 and paragraph 4.
21. Methane has 105 times more potential global warming than CO2 in the 20-year time frame ...  Shindell et al., "Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions," Nature, October 2009, figure 2 description, page 717.
22. Actual warming in the 20-year time frame is 2.5 times more from oil than from coal ... Unger et al., "Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors," PNAS, December 2009, page 3384, Figure 1: On-road (transportation) radiative forcing (global warming) of 199 Watts per meter vs. Power (coal) 79 watts per meter = 2.52 times more warming.
23. Germany installed nearly 250,000 residential rooftop solar installations in 2011 ...  "The Photovoltaic Market in Germany 2012-2013," Germany Trade and Invest, page 4, paragraph 1.
24. Texas Wind: 9,473 MW installed since 2006 ...
2012: 12,212 MW, AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2011 Market Report, page 8.
2011: 10,377 MW, AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2011 Market Report, page 5.
2010: 10,085 MW, AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2010 Market Report, page 5.
2009: 9,410 MW, AWEA Year End 2009 Market Report, page 4.
2008: 7,118 American Wind Energy Association Annual Wind Industry Report 2008, page 9.
2007: 4,296 MW, The Energy Report 2008, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Chapter 11, Exhibit 11-1.
2006: 2739 MW, ibid.
25. San Antonio Water Usage ...  The Conservation Team, Water Conservation Program, San Antonio Water Supply, right column, top paragraph. San Antonio water system 2011 stat book, Customer Statistics, pages 23, 24 and 25.
26.The US economy has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020 ...  McKinsey & Company, "Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy," 2009, page iv, Executive Summary, first paragraph under the section Compelling Nationwide Opportunity.
27.The Texas drought in 2011 was made 20 times more likely because of climate pollution ...
Peterson et al., "Explaining extreme events of 2011 from a climate perspective," Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, July 2012. Conclusions, page 1053, paragraph 2.
28."All weather events are now influenced by climate change ... " Trenberth et al., Current Extreme Weather and Climate Change, Climate Communication, Science and Outreach, September 2011, page 2, second paragraph.
29. "US impacts from Sandy and drought $160 billion, Insurers will pay $65 billion in claims ... " Swiss Re: "Sigma preliminary estimates for 2012: insurers to pay for close to half of the USD 140 billion in economic losses caused by natural catastrophes and man-made disasters," paragraph 2.
30. Indirect losses from natural disasters are double the direct losses ...The Impacts of Natural Disasters: A Framework for Loss Estimation (1999)
Commission on Geosciences, Environment and Resources (CGER), National Academy of Sciences Press, Chapter 3, Indirect Losses of Natural Disasters, paragraph 1.
31. Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin since extremely detailed records (Best Track) began in 1988 ...Hurricane Sandy, National Hurricanes Center Tropical Cyclone Report, February 12, 2013, page 6, paragraph 2.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Bruce Melton

Bruce Melton is a professional engineer, environmental researcher, filmmaker, and author in Austin, Texas. Information on Melton's new book, Climate Discovery Chronicles can be found along with more climate change writing, climate science outreach and critical environmental issue documentary films on his web sites and www.climatediscovery.com Images copyright Bruce Melton 2012, except where referenced otherwise.

The Climate Change Now Initiative is a nonprofit outreach organization reporting the latest discoveries in climate science in plain English.


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A Fossil Fuel-Free New York State by 2050

Sunday, 26 May 2013 00:00 By Bruce Melton, Truthout | News Analysis

Lights out in New York City the day after Hurricane Sandy hit, October 29, 2012.Lights out in New York City the day after Hurricane Sandy hit, October 29, 2012. (Photo: Christopher Schoenbohm)An in-depth look at Stanford and Cornell's 100 percent alternative energy road map for New York state.

Superstorm Sandy and Climate Change: Arctic Amplification, Warming Seas and Blocking Highs

The Northeast is still reeling from the impacts of Superstorm Sandy's fury. Costs for Sandy could exceed those for Katrina and if they do not, Sandy will be the number-two all-time most costly weather disaster in the United States - and this ranking is normalized for things like increasing population, increasing wealth in coastal areas and inflation. (1)

Research out of Stanford and Cornell has given us the most detailed plan yet for converting our society to fossil-free energy sources and beginning to address the new climate pollution -caused or -enhanced weather extremes. The plan is for New York State. Even though some officials and media outlets have dismissed it as too aggressive and overreaching, its benefits far outweigh the costs.

The plan costs $569 billion and creates 4.5 million construction-phase jobs, with earnings (in the form of wages, local revenue and local supply-chain impacts) of $314 billion, along with 58,000 permanent jobs with annual earnings of $5.1 billion per year. This is before the health and environmental benefits of $33 billion per year, savings to the United States of $1.7 billion per year because of reduced global warming impacts (a savings which increases to $12.1 billion per year in 2100), and increased tax valuation due to eliminating the fossil fuel industry. (2)

Some of the latest climate research shows that Hurricane Sandy was definitively enhanced by climate change and suggests its path may have been wholly determined by global warming. (3) More research from Rutgers and the University of Wisconsin tells us that after the turn of the century, Arctic amplification began to emerge and upper-level weather systems began to move more slowly. This was likely in response to diminishing sea ice and more rapidly melting winter snow cover in the Arctic. (4)

Arctic amplification - a meteorological process in which waves in the jet stream get bigger and slower as the Arctic's temperature warms, causing weather patterns to stay one place for longer periods - is something climate scientists have been warning us about for decades. It caused changes which created specific extreme weather events from 2003 to 2011, including snowstorms in Europe, northern Asia and the US Northeast (5); increased precipitation during storms worldwide - even in places where total annual precipitation is decreasing (6); heat waves in Moscow, Texas and Europe (7,8,9) and flooding in Pakistan and on the Mississippi (9,10).

More evidence of increasing weather extremes being linked to Arctic amplifications can be found in the prestigious Geophysical Research Letters. (11) The conclusion of this study says: "Can the persistent weather conditions associated with recent severe events such as the snowy winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 in the eastern U.S. and Europe, the historic drought and heat-wave in Texas during summer 2011, or record-breaking rains in the northeast U.S. of summer 2011 be attributed to enhanced high-latitude warming? Particular causes are difficult to implicate, but these sorts of occurrences are consistent with the analysis and mechanism presented in this study."

We also find evidence in this study for the direct cause of Sandy's unprecedented left turn because of a specific high-pressure system that was stuck over Greenland. This "blocking high" has been much stronger over the last ten years than the previous 30 years and is attributed to Arctic amplification. (12)

More implications for Sandy: sea surface temperatures at all-time highs off the Northeast Coast enhanced the storm's energy. (13) The storm's surge shattered records by four feet, typical of a Category 4 hurricane, not a Category 1 hurricane, and landfalling minimum pressure was the lowest ever recorded in the Northeast (the lower the minimum, the stronger the storm). (14) Extreme weather formation wholly caused by climate change is also discussed in the literature because of the greater probability of formation caused by blocking weather systems. (15)

So how can the Stanford/Cornell plan for New York State keep hurricanes like Sandy from happening again, when the plan is only a small part of the solution to climate pollution?

The plan is a roadmap for us all. Professor Mark Jacobson at Stanford, the lead author of the plan, reminds us, "We also consider this to be a practical plan that policymakers can begin to implement." By showing that a new energy system can be created in one area, the means by which it can be done elsewhere come into focus. We have to change the way we generate and use energy to avoid far greater impacts from climate change than we have already seen. Even without climate change, we would need to implement some type of new energy plan because technology and infrastructure do not last forever. We replace our entire fleet of automobiles every 15 years. Heating and cooling systems for buildings rarely last longer than 20 years. Power plants last 30 to 50 years, and most of them are already decades old.

The plan requires all new energy generating facilities and energy consuming devices to be powered by wind, water or solar (WWS) by 2020. This leaves 30 years for existing facilities to be phased out by 2050 due to old age and attrition.

Peak power prices across much of the United States are at or above the cost of energy from wind and solar already. With the continued declines in the cost of energy from alternatives, the cost of fossil fuel energy to meet the minimum reasonable consumer need will rise to levels that are not economic for new construction in the very near future. (16)

Is the plan worth it? The savings from health care and mortality alone, at $33 billion per year, pay for the plan in 17 years. To give us a comparison of the scale of this type of spending, New York's population-adjusted share of the costs for World War II was $400 billion, and what did we get in exchange for World War II? Every year, New York pays a population-adjusted $31 billion for the national defense budget. The state's share of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for just 2001 to 2011 was $134 billion. (17)

In Truthout's interview, one of Jacobsen's statements stood out: "We think that this is technological and economically feasible. There are still social and political barriers to overcome. Some areas, such as electrified transportation and growth of solar and wind power, are already moving fast, but still not fast enough."

Costs and Savings of Converting New York State to a Fossil-Fuel-Free Economy

Economics are at the crossroads of our society's new fossil-fuel-free economy. From the report: "The plan effectively pays for the 100% WWS energy generation infrastructure to power NYS [New York State] for all purposes over 15 years solely by the reduction in air-pollution costs to the state and global warming costs to the U.S. from state emissions. Annual electricity sales ... reduce the payback time to about 10 years."

To understand how fair this study is, we need to know what future costs were anticipated. A few of the most important costs used in the plan are: a 28 percent increase in the cost of natural gas and 109 percent for gasoline; conventional energy generation increases at 26 percent, while wind decreases 31-43 percent and solar decreases 42-57 percent.

Savings and benefits from our new alternative energy economy are beyond huge. Up to 4,000 lives will be saved per year because of reduced pollution.

The bottom line: In 2030 alone, annual savings from converting to alternative energy sources would be $114 billion. (18) This is on top of annual incomes and benefits that would be lost due to the loss of fossil fuel jobs.

Payback

The cost of the new infrastructure is $2.1 million per megawatt. The payback period for the 271 gigawatts of required alternative energy capacity (equal to 271,000 megawatts, with a cost of $569 billion) considering only the savings from preventing premature deaths and other impacts from air pollution, and additional costs of global warming, along with revenue from electricity sales at a forecasted 7 percent profit, is a very short 9.8 years.

Payback for residential solar is dropping dramatically too. The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has a splendid tool on their web site that shows a five- to seven-year payback for the 50 or so rooftops I clicked on. (19) The tool does include a 30 percent state and federal tax credit, but it uses costs for today's solar panels. By 2020 to 2030, the Stanford and Cornell researchers tell us, solar prices will have dropped by 60 percent. This means that payback without subsidies will happen in five to seven years - even before 2020.

The Plan: Wind, Solar, Concentrated Solar, Hydro, Geothermal, Tidal and Wave

The researchers' plan includes 271 gigawatts of alternative energy capacity to deliver the 60 gigawatts of demand for 2030, 5 million rooftop solar installations, 2,600 wave generators and many other components.

Demand will be met by oversizing WWS generation to provide additional energy to be stored as heat to be reused when peak demand exceeds capacity, integrating geographically distant sources to smooth the effects of demand, thermal storage, new battery technologies, electric vehicle storage and demand management, such as shifting industrial demand when needed.

Hydroelectric generation currently produces 89 percent of the total hydroelectric demand needed in the plan. Tidal power has already been used to generate electricity in the East River in New York City through the Verdant Power Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project.

No Natural Gas or Biofuels

Why not natural gas or liquid or solid biofuels? Solid biofuels will be used as a bridge and phased out by 2030 to 2050. The reasons why these fuels are not in the plan are simple, though relatively unknown outside of academic circles. As stated in the plan: "Although natural gas emits less carbon dioxide per unit electric power than coal, two factors cause natural gas to increase global warming relative to coal: higher methane emissions and less sulfur dioxide emissions per unit energy than coal."

Emitting less carbon dioxide is good, but we need to be emitting zero carbon dioxide. Methane (natural gas) is much worse than CO2 in the short-term climate timeframe as a warming pollutant. Because of the difference in technology to produce fracked natural gas, researchers at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies say somewhere around 620 times more methane leaks into our atmosphere from fracked natural gas compared to normal natural gas production. (20)

More concerning, the latest research shows that in the 20-year time frame, methane is 105 times more potent a warming pollutant than CO2. Compare this measurement to our understanding just five or six years ago, which pegged the measurement lower by a factor of five, at 21 times more potent. (21)

But it is the plan's observation about sulfur dioxide that could be the most important. Sulfur dioxide (one of the main components of smog) is a cooling pollutant. By switching from coal to natural gas, we would emit less cooling pollutants - effectively allowing for more warming.

Research from NASA, the University of Illinois and Berkeley in 2009 reveals just how important this finding is. What researchers found was that because coal burned in the energy sector emits so many more cooling sulfur dioxide pollutants than oil burned in the transportation sector (gasoline and diesel), actual warming in the 20-year time frame is 2.5 times more from oil than from coal. (22) Natural gas burns more cleanly than oil, so shifting to natural gas increases warming during the plan period greater than 2.5 times that of coal, while we are still dependent on energy supplied by coal.

And what about biofuels? It has long been known that biofuels take up an enormous amount of real estate compared to anything else in the energy sector. Stanford and Cornell cite other work that tells us the footprint for biofuels is about "one million times larger" than the footprint of wind energy (that's right, one million).

Ambitious and Overreaching

Five million residential rooftop solar installations? Put it into perspective: Germany installed nearly 250,000 residential rooftop solar installations in 2011 alone. (23) At that rate, it would take 20 years to install 5 million. Ramping that rate up will be far more feasible after grid parity is reached in less than 20 years.

For a scaling comparison: The onshore wind capacity proposed under this plan of 20.1 GW would be just over double the 2006-2012 installed capacity in Texas. (24)

The plan may seem big, and it is, but "big" is relative. Up until 2020, we can continue to replace existing infrastructure with fossil-fuel-powered machines. This plan is simply a redirection of ongoing maintenance and replacement. We need to begin to make changes to rules, building codes, planning devices and policy now to make this happen. The technologies are there already and their cost will be at or below the price of existing fossil fuel technology by 2020 - without subsidies.

Most official and media responses to the plan seem to base their characterizations of overreach on a 2030 plan end-date mentioned in the study's abstract and press. Even if these sources do not disparage the plan, they still get the 2030 date wrong. This error would have become apparent if they had done a little more reading. The end dates of different aspects of the plan are repeatedly and obviously laid out in the plan. The 2050 target is the most prominent, giving 20 years of additional time to implement the plan. The lead author tells us:

"The abstract is ambiguous, unfortunately. It states, 'Under the plan, NYS's 2030 all-purpose end-use power would be provided by ... ' What this means is IF the conversion occurred by 2030, this is what the infrastructure would look like then. However, the 2050 infrastructure will look similar as the 2030 WWS infrastructure because of the extremely slow population growth of NYS (~2% between now and 2030 by most estimates). Due to social and political barriers, we don't think a complete 2030 conversion will occur (we think we can get 80%), but a full conversion may occur by 2050."

Efficiency Measures:

The plan calls for a 37 percent reduction in energy demand from today's level by 2030. That does sound overreaching, until we look at the science.

Electricity is far more efficient than fossil fuels in most economic sectors: 21 percent more efficient in residential uses, 12.3 percent in commercial, 20 percent in industrial and 69.5 percent in transportation. So using more electricity and less fossil fuel fundamentally reduces demand.

Reduction in demand from other efficiency measures like more efficient appliances, converting to fluorescent lighting, using mass transportation, and other changes is also assumed to be modest in the plan, at 5 to 10 percent, Jacobson pointed out.

One example of outstanding ongoing conservation work is related to water usage in San Antonio, Texas. Because of increasing drought and San Antonio's limited water supply, this community with a population now larger than Dallas has been aggressively conserving water. The results are that in 2012, they used only 1 percent more water than they did in 2006, although their population grew by 15 percent during that period. (25) If San Antonio can do that with water, can't we all do something similar with energy?

McKinsey & Company, a global business, government and institutional management consulting firm, published a report in 2009 titled, "Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy." This report found that: "The US economy has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020, eliminating more than $1.2 trillion in waste - well beyond the $520 billion upfront investment (not including program costs) that would be required [for this $1.2 trillion savings]. The reduction in energy use would also result in the abatement of 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse-gas emissions annually - the equivalent of taking the entire US fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the roads." (26)

The Final Blow (and Flood) - Expert Judgments and Extreme Weather

There is an old, tired adage in the climate change outreach business that we cannot say for sure if any one weather event is caused by climate change or not. This statement is based on two things: a 20th-century view of climate change and statistics vs. expert judgment.

In the 20th century, we did not have examples of climate change-caused or -enhanced extreme weather like we do today, and we did not have scientific findings providing us with information such as that the 2011 Texas drought was 20 times more likely due to the elevated greenhouse gas concentrations of today than in a climate without elevated greenhouse gases. (27)

Expert judgment is different from scientific findings. Expert judgment is what a doctor uses to prescribe treatment for illness, or what an engineer does to determine the best design for a given situation. Climate science, like all pure studies of science, does not address phenomena based on judgment, but stays in the scientific realm of statistics. This is why we hear that scientists cannot say "for sure" that any one weather event was "caused" by climate change. The statistics simply will not allow it. There is always a chance that something else could have been responsible, however slight. Expert discernment, on the other hand, takes risk into consideration when assigning cause, and values those statistical findings accordingly.

When the warnings have been flying for decades that weather events would become more extreme, when scientific findings show that blocking weather patterns "likely" (a statistical term) caused Sandy's unprecedented left turn, and when academic research says that snow disasters, heat waves and floods were "likely" caused by Arctic amplification, more experts should be telling us what Dr. Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research says in his paper about extreme weather and climate change: "All weather events are now influenced by climate change because all weather now develops in a different environment than before." (28)

The international insurer Swiss Re says economic impacts in the United States from drought and Sandy were $160 billion and that insurers would pay $65 billion in claims; however, the indirect costs are generally double the insured losses, and larger storms have an even higher ratio. (29, 30) So we could see $200 billion in damages from Sandy alone, which, remember, was not even a Category 1 hurricane at landfall.

When climate scientists said that hurricanes would get more powerful on a warmer planet, they did not just mean that we can expect to see a new Category 6 on the hurricane intensity scale; they meant that storms like Sandy would be bigger and more powerful, too. Sandy was so big that she was the single largest recorded hurricane in the Atlantic Basin since the detailed records of the Best Track system began in 1988. (31)

The warning signs are unmistakable. With roadmaps for systemic change in hand, our elected officials must act - and continue acting - to combat this most urgent of crises.

 

References:

Main Study
Jacobson et al., Examining the feasibility of converting New York State's all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight, Energy Policy 57 (2013) 585-601.

Numbered References:
1.Costs for Sandy could exceed those for Katrina, and if not, Sandy will rank as the number-two all-time most costly weather disaster - and this is normalized for things like increasing population and increasing wealth in coastal areas, as well as inflation. Pielke and Landsea, "Normalized hurricane damages in the United States: 1925-95," American Meteorological Society, Volume 13, 1998 (updated to 2004). Table 7, page 627.

Updated using National Hurricane Center damage estimates adjusted for inflation in Earth at Risk: Abrupt Climate Change,Chapter 5, table 2 on page 206.

Continued increasing disaster costs have apparently caused Professor Pielke, one of the few remaining academic climate change deniers, to change evaluation criteria in his disaster normalization work. His 2005 data do not match his 1998 data. The new evaluation adds storms from 1900 to 1925, so direct comparison is difficult, and adjusting assumptions based on new information over time is appropriate. Science is dynamic: as we live, we learn more. But in this case, we have a noted denier who finds massive amounts of moral support in the vested interest economic community. It appears that all of Pielke's normalized damages have increased substantially. Example: the New England storm in the 1998 work had damages of $16.6 billion and in 2008, $37-39 billion. Using the same normalization of population and wealth distribution, adjusted inflation New England should have only grown to $24 billion. This greatly diminishes the value of current disasters. Because of Pielke's predisposition to actively discredit climate change, his work is suspicious and until further normalizations reveal errors in his old work - done before his most active climate change denial period - his 2008 work is disregarded.
2.Alternative energy generating facilities do not decrease adjacent property values whereas fossil fuel extraction and generation facilities often do ... Hoen at al., "The Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values in the United States: A Multi-Site Hedonic Analysis," Berkeley National Laboratory, December 2009, last three sentences of abstract.
3. Hurricane Sandy was definitively enhanced by, or its path wholly caused by, climate change ...  The modeling and correlation to actual trends showing an increased amplification of high pressure in the eastern North Atlantic (associated with the blocking Greenland high) is shown in Figure 1 (a) OND (October, November, December). Also implications for slower moving weather systems "causing" extreme weather.
Francis and Vavrus, "Insandity: Research from last March tells us that Superstorm Sandy was directly caused by climate change," Geophysical Research Letters, March 2012, Conclusions, page 5 of 6.
Fully evaluated in: Melton, "Processes and impacts of Arctic amplification: A research synthesis," November 1, 2012.
4.Arctic amplification began to emerge ...  "Arctic amplification being observed today is expected to become stronger in coming decades, invoking changes in atmospheric circulation, vegetation and the carbon cycle, with impacts both within and beyond the Arctic."
Serreze and Barry, "Snowtastrophes and snowmageddons in the Europe, Asia and the US Northeast ...," Global and Planetary Change, April 2011. Abstract, last sentence.
5. "Snowtastrophes and snowmageddons in the Europe, Asia and the US Northeast ... " Petoukhov and Semenov, "A link between reduced Barents-Kara sea ice and cold winter extremes over northern continents," Journal of Geophysical Research, November 2010, abstract.
Abstract: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2009JD013568.shtml
Full paper (prepub): http://eprints.uni-kiel.de/8738/1/2009JD013568-pip.pdf
6.Increased precipitation in storms worldwide, even where total precipitation is decreasing ... Trenberth, "Changes in precipitation with climate change," Climate Research, March 31, 2011, abstract, fourth sentence.
7.The chance that the heat wave in Texas in 2011 was not caused by climate change is exceedingly small ...  Hansen, Sato, Ruedy, Perception of Climate Change, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2012, abstract, last sentence.
8.Moscow heat wave: 80% probability of being caused by climate change ...  Rhamstorf and Coumou, "Increase of extreme events in a warming world," PNAS, October 24, 2011., last sentence of abstract.
9.The European heat wave of 2003 ... Trenberth et al., Current Extreme, Climate Communication, Science and Outreach, September 2011, page three, first paragraph.
Note: this is not a peer-reviewed paper, but the authors are:
Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Jerry Meehl , National Center for Atmospheric Research
Jeff Masters, Weather Underground
Richard Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego
10.Flooding in Pakistan in and on the Mississippi ... ibid, page 12, top two paragraphs.
11.More evidence of the increasing weather extremes being linked to Arctic Amplifications can be found in numerous extreme weather events in a study out of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University and the Center for Climatic Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison ...  Francis and Vavrus, "Evidence linking Arctic Amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes," Geophysical Research Letters, March 2012, Conclusions, paragraph 2, page 5. "Can the persistent weather conditions associated with recent severe events such as the snowy winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 in the eastern U.S. and Europe, the historic drought and heat-wave in Texas during summer 2011, or record-breaking rains in the northeast U.S. of summer 2011 be attributed to enhanced high-latitude warming? Particular causes are difficult to implicate, but these sorts of occurrences are consistent with the analysis and mechanism presented in this study."
12.We also find the evidence for the direct cause of the unprecedented left turn made by Sandy in this study because of a blocking high pressure system over Greenland ...  ibid. page 2 of 6, left column top paragraph; represented by the graphic on page 2 of 6 and the large red anomaly (area of increased pressure 2000 to 2010 compared to the previous 30 years in the top left image (OND) (for October, November, December).
13.Record NE Atlantic sea surface temperature ... "Sea Surface Temperatures Reach Highest Level in 150 Years on US Northeast Continental Shelf," Northeast Fisheries Science Center, NOAA, third paragraph.
14.Sandy's Category 1 downgrade, record storm surge and record lowest minimum pressure ... Hurricane Sandy, National Hurricanes Center Tropical Cyclone Report, February 12, 2013.
Downgraded to extratropical: page 7, paragraphs 3 and 4.
Storm surge: page 8, third paragraph.
Lowest landfalling pressure: page 6, paragraph 1.
15.Extreme weather formation wholly caused by climate change is also discussed in the literature ...  Francis and Vavrus, "Evidence linking Arctic Amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes," Geophysical Research Letters, March 2012, page 1, second column, first paragraph, sentences 3 and 4.
16.The costs of alternative energy: Peak power prices across much of the U.S. are at or above the cost of energy from wind and solar already ... "Grid Parity of Solar and wind: Lazard, Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis" V 3.0 June, 2009, Slide 6.
Grid Parity ... Solar PV at grid parity by the mid 2010s in the Americas ...  Breyer, "Global overview on grid-parity," Progress in Photovoltaics, February 2012, Section 4.0 penultimate paragraph and conclusions, first paragraph.
Solar PV competitive with fossil fuels by 2020 ... Mattos, "New module efficiency record: 23.5% under 1-sun illumination using thin-film single-junction GaAs solar cells," 38th Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, June 2012. Abstract.
The other perspective ... Despite the burgeoning number of rosy projections of solar grid parity only represented by two references above, Olsen and Jones posit that economics dictating future baseload costs for conventional fuels fall due to what is basically the "discount rate," and that while parity may be reached soon, baseload costs will fall below alternative energy costs shortly thereafter, meaning that grid parity is no longer feasible. This is a valid economic argument if major events do not occur in our future world that are widely projected to occur very soon. These are: Fossil fuel prices do not increase, a carbon tax is not imposed, the ability of alternatives to meet baseload demand is not enhanced by thermal storage, energy-storage technology does not progress, renewable portfolios are not geographically distributed to enhance availability, demand management is not utilized, alternative energy costs do not fall as market penetration increases.
Olsen and Jones, "Chasing Grid Parity, Understanding the Dynamic Value of Renewable Energy," The Electricity Journal, April 2012.
(Extended Abstract only)
17.Costs of wars ...
World War II
Cost of Major US Wars, Congressional Research Service, June 2010, table 1, page 2. $4.1 trillion in 2011 dollars.
Wikipedia: US population in 1944: 140 million. New York State: 14.1 million
New York proportion: 14.1/140 (million) = 10 percent = $400 billion or about $100 billion per year for four years.

Pentagon defense budget USGovernmentSpending.com

Average annual defense budget, 2001 through 2012: $514 billion; New York State home to 6.4 percent of US total population= $33.5 billion per year
Costs of Iraq and Afghanistan wars Brown University, web site: Costs of Wars/Economic Costs Summary,
Congressional War Appropriations to the Pentagon: $1,407 billion
War-related Additions to the Pentagon Base Budget: $743 billion
Total: $2,105 billion, population adjusted for New York National proportion is 6.4 percent at $134 billion
18.In 2030 alone, annual savings from converting to alternative energy sources is $114 billion: The Levelized cost of energy ... This one comes from the report, but since it is complicated, I will explain here with the help of communications with Jacobson: I asked him for a bottom-line number in billions of dollars that reflected the total cost of alternative energy relative to the total cost of fossil fuel energy for the same period considering that the plan was not implemented. After a couple of emails we narrowed it down to this response about future electrical demand and the resulting cost of both an alternative energy economy and a fossil fuel economy: "Yes, the end use power demand for all purposes (in TW) is given in the first table as 0.06 TW for NYS in 2030 versus 0.096 TW for NYS in 2030 with conventional fuels. Multiply by 8760 hrs/year to obtain TWh/year. These numbers could be multiplied by cents/kWh (for WWS technologies and conventional fuels, respectively) from Table 3 to get the difference in total cost of energy for the future and current systems, respectively. For conventional fuels, you could use 18.5 cents/kWh in 2030 (this includes externalities) and for WWS, 8 cents/kWh. This would result in $42 billion/year for WWS and $156 billion/year for conventional fuels in 2030."
19. Cambridge Energy Alliance Residential Solar tool shows a payback period of five to seven years ...
http://en.mapdwell.com/solarsystem/cambridge
20. Methane (natural gas) is also much worse than CO2 in the short-term climate timeframe as a warming pollutant. 0.62 percent of the lifetime production of fracked gas escapes as fugitive emissions, compared to 0.01 percent for conventional natural gas production ... Howarth et al., Methane and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations, Climatic Change, 106, 4, 2011, page, Section 1, paragraph 2 and paragraph 4.
21. Methane has 105 times more potential global warming than CO2 in the 20-year time frame ...  Shindell et al., "Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions," Nature, October 2009, figure 2 description, page 717.
22. Actual warming in the 20-year time frame is 2.5 times more from oil than from coal ... Unger et al., "Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors," PNAS, December 2009, page 3384, Figure 1: On-road (transportation) radiative forcing (global warming) of 199 Watts per meter vs. Power (coal) 79 watts per meter = 2.52 times more warming.
23. Germany installed nearly 250,000 residential rooftop solar installations in 2011 ...  "The Photovoltaic Market in Germany 2012-2013," Germany Trade and Invest, page 4, paragraph 1.
24. Texas Wind: 9,473 MW installed since 2006 ...
2012: 12,212 MW, AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2011 Market Report, page 8.
2011: 10,377 MW, AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2011 Market Report, page 5.
2010: 10,085 MW, AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2010 Market Report, page 5.
2009: 9,410 MW, AWEA Year End 2009 Market Report, page 4.
2008: 7,118 American Wind Energy Association Annual Wind Industry Report 2008, page 9.
2007: 4,296 MW, The Energy Report 2008, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Chapter 11, Exhibit 11-1.
2006: 2739 MW, ibid.
25. San Antonio Water Usage ...  The Conservation Team, Water Conservation Program, San Antonio Water Supply, right column, top paragraph. San Antonio water system 2011 stat book, Customer Statistics, pages 23, 24 and 25.
26.The US economy has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020 ...  McKinsey & Company, "Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy," 2009, page iv, Executive Summary, first paragraph under the section Compelling Nationwide Opportunity.
27.The Texas drought in 2011 was made 20 times more likely because of climate pollution ...
Peterson et al., "Explaining extreme events of 2011 from a climate perspective," Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, July 2012. Conclusions, page 1053, paragraph 2.
28."All weather events are now influenced by climate change ... " Trenberth et al., Current Extreme Weather and Climate Change, Climate Communication, Science and Outreach, September 2011, page 2, second paragraph.
29. "US impacts from Sandy and drought $160 billion, Insurers will pay $65 billion in claims ... " Swiss Re: "Sigma preliminary estimates for 2012: insurers to pay for close to half of the USD 140 billion in economic losses caused by natural catastrophes and man-made disasters," paragraph 2.
30. Indirect losses from natural disasters are double the direct losses ...The Impacts of Natural Disasters: A Framework for Loss Estimation (1999)
Commission on Geosciences, Environment and Resources (CGER), National Academy of Sciences Press, Chapter 3, Indirect Losses of Natural Disasters, paragraph 1.
31. Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin since extremely detailed records (Best Track) began in 1988 ...Hurricane Sandy, National Hurricanes Center Tropical Cyclone Report, February 12, 2013, page 6, paragraph 2.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Bruce Melton

Bruce Melton is a professional engineer, environmental researcher, filmmaker, and author in Austin, Texas. Information on Melton's new book, Climate Discovery Chronicles can be found along with more climate change writing, climate science outreach and critical environmental issue documentary films on his web sites and www.climatediscovery.com Images copyright Bruce Melton 2012, except where referenced otherwise.

The Climate Change Now Initiative is a nonprofit outreach organization reporting the latest discoveries in climate science in plain English.


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