Justin Gillis, NYTIMES.COM
Delivering the latest stark news about climate change on Sunday, a United Nations panel warned that governments are not doing enough to avert profound risks in coming decades. But the experts found a silver lining: Not only is there still time to head off the worst, but the political will to do so seems to be rising around the world.
In a report unveiled here, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that decades of foot-dragging by political leaders had propelled humanity into a critical situation, with greenhouse emissions rising faster than ever. Though it remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, only an intensive push over the next 15 years to bring those emissions under control can achieve the goal, the committee found.
“We cannot afford to lose another decade,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”
via Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says – NYTimes.com.
Matt Brown, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Many Bay Area commuters will soon have an incentive to get out of their cars and try public transit or ridesharing services to get to work.
A new state law requires Bay Area companies with 50 or more employees to offer commuter benefits to workers, a perk that some companies have provided on their own for years.
The law, which may be the first of its kind in the nation, compels both private industry and public employers, with the threat of penalties, to help ease traffic and reduce greenhouse gases.
via New law boosts Sonoma County commuters | Petaluma360.com | Petaluma Argus-Courier | Petaluma, CA.
Tony Barboza, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Link to the IPCC 5th Assessment Report Summary for Policymakers
Climate change is already affecting every continent and ocean, posing immediate and growing risks to people, an international panel of scientists warned Monday.
The longer society delays steps to cut the release of planet-warming greenhouse gases, the more severe and widespread the harm will be, said the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report, which collects and summarizes thousands of scientific studies, is the panel’s starkest yet in laying out the risks facing nature and society.
Global warming threatens food and water supplies, security and economic growth, and will worsen many existing problems, including hunger, drought, flooding, wildfires, poverty and war, says the report by hundreds of scientists from 70 countries.
"Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change," panel Chairman Rajendra Pachauri said at a news conference in Yokohama, Japan, where the 2,500-page assessment was presented.
via Climate change is felt globally and risks are rising, U.N. panel says – latimes.com.
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Gov. Jerry Brown and Rep. Mike Thompson are involved in separate efforts to boost Sonoma County’s groundbreaking program to help residents pay for energy-saving improvements to their homes.
The highly touted program, which has funded more than $50 million worth of residential projects since it started in 2009, sustained a major setback in 2010 when federal housing officials said it jeopardized the nation’s major source of home mortgages.
While Thompson, D-St. Helena, is seeking to remove the federal roadblock, Brown and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer have created a $10 million fund aimed at offsetting the loan program’s potential impact on mortgages.
Thompson’s legislation went nowhere in 2010 and 2011, but may fare better this year with a new director, a former Democratic congressman from North Carolina, heading the federal agency that sets mortgage policy.
via Brown, Thompson step in to aid PACE loan program for homeowners | The Press Democrat.
Peter Gleick, posted on SCIENCE BLOGS
In the last few months, as the severe California drought has garnered attention among scientists, policymakers, and media, there has been a growing debate about the links between the drought and climate change. The debate has been marked by considerable controversy, confusion, and opaqueness.
The confusion stems from the failure of some scientists, bloggers, reporters, and others to distinguish among three separate questions. All three questions are scientifically interesting. But the three are different in their nuance, their importance to policy, and their interest to politicians and water managers. Here are the three different questions:
Is the California drought caused by climate change?
Is the California drought, no matter the cause, influenced or affected by climate changes already occurring?
How will climate changes affect future drought risks in California?
via Clarifying the Discussion about California Drought and Climate Change – Significant Figures by Peter Gleick.
R.J. Harrington and Timothy Schoechle, BOULDER DAILY CAMERA
In his March 16 Camera column, "Renewables? Yes!" Bob Greenlee praised the recently announced plan by Xcel Energy to construct a large utility-scale solar PV project in Pueblo County which he claims will be "two to three times more cost-effective than smaller rooftop projects." Although a dubious claim, such a project might still seem like a good idea — to those unaware of the incredibly rapid changes taking place in the energy world. But the ground is moving under Greenlee’s (and Xcel’s) feet. Over the last year, and particularly in the last few months, the main debate has shifted from fossil vs. renewables to centralized renewables vs. distributed renewables — specifically rooftop solar PV.
Just over one year ago, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the investor-owned utility policy and lobbying organization, issued a brief, but prescient report titled "Disruptive Challenges: Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Electric Business." The report offered its members a "heads-up" that their basic 100-year old business model was threatened by rooftop solar, and it recommended that they rethink their whole business. The costs of rooftop solar panels (called Distributed Generation or DG) have dropped so dramatically that in some places they are already cost competitive with utility-supplied electricity. The conventional economies of scale of centralized generation is simply gone — solar modules are just as efficient at small scale as large. Public pressure has been mounting for PUCs to adopt new tariffs that recognize the "Value of Solar" to society and to encourage its use by moving beyond the ancient "cost-of-service" regulatory model that does not recognize the externalized costs of traditional generation (e.g., to air, water, health, jobs, environment, etc.) or the benefits of DG.
via The "value of solar"— utility-scale or rooftop? – Boulder Daily Camera.
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
About 5 percent of eligible business and residential customers so far have opted out of Sonoma County’s start-up public power agency, some over concerns the service won’t be as reliable as PG&E.
Sonoma Clean Power projects about 20 percent of eligible customers ultimately will opt out of the service, which launches May 1. About 24,000 potential customers — most of them businesses — are part of the first wave of service.
Geof Syphers, CEO of the power startup, said a “handful” of potential customers who received letters detailing the program cited reliability concerns as their reason for declining the service.
Under Sonoma Clean Power, PG&E would continue to provide services such as billing, metering and grid maintenance. Syphers said the “reality” is that “all aspects of reliability will be handled by PG&E in exactly the same way they are handling them now.”
via Some customers opting out of Sonoma Clean Power | The Press Democrat.
David R. Baker, SFGATE.COM
For more than two years, SolarCity Corp. has been trying to launch an experiment that could change the way we power our homes.
The San Mateo company has installed battery packs in more than 100 houses throughout California, each pack linked to rooftop solar panels. The lithium-ion batteries, made by Tesla Motors, store electricity from the panels during the day for use at night.
That combination – solar on the roof, batteries in the basement – could one day revolutionize the energy industry, undercutting traditional utility companies.
So the utilities, SolarCity says, are fighting back.
California’s big electricity providers are dragging their feet on connecting the batteries to the grid and charging steep fees – nearly $3,700 per customer, in some cases – to do so, according to SolarCity.
via SolarCity accuses utilities of slowing home-battery project – SFGate.
Lori A. Carter, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Petaluma City Council on Monday night rejected a proposed moratorium on gas stations that would have prohibited Safeway from building a fueling station in front of its North McDowell Boulevard store.
A temporary urgency ordinance – commonly called a moratorium – would have required the approval of six of seven council members.
As council members began discussing the issue, it soon became clear that Councilman Mike Healy, who sought the moratorium, wouldn’t even get a majority on his side. In a straw vote, only Healy, Gabe Kearney and Kathy Miller supported a 45-day ban to buy the council time to craft tighter regulations on gas stations.
“We should just follow the process we already have in place,” said Councilman Mike Harris, saying businesses should be able to rely on existing rules when they “make investments in our community.”
Councilwoman Teresa Barrett was conflicted in her vote. She said she opposes the gas station project on whole, but doesn’t support blanket bans.
Read more at: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/1857348-181/temporary-ban-on-petaluma-gas
Jeff Tollefson, NATURE
Many foresters have long assumed that trees gradually lose their vigour as they mature, but a new analysis suggests that the larger a tree gets, the more kilos of carbon it puts on each year.
“The trees that are adding the most mass are the biggest ones, and that holds pretty much everywhere on Earth that we looked,” says Nathan Stephenson, an ecologist at the US Geological Survey in Three Rivers, California, and the first author of the study, which appears today in Nature1. “Trees have the equivalent of an adolescent growth spurt, but it just keeps going.”
The scientific literature is chock-full of studies that focus on forests’ initial growth and their gradual move towards a plateau in the amount of carbon they store as they reach maturity2. Researchers have also documented a reduction in growth at the level of individual leaves in older trees3.
In their study, Stephenson and his colleagues analysed reams of data on 673,046 trees from 403 species in monitored forest plots, in both tropical and temperate areas around the world. They found that the largest trees gained the most mass each year in 97% of the species, capitalizing on their additional leaves and adding ever more girth high in the sky.
via Tree growth never slows : Nature News & Comment.