Category: Climate Change

A total of 210,000 gallons of oil leaked Thursday from the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota, the pipeline’s operator, TransCanada, said.

Crews shut down the pipeline Thursday morning, and officials are investigating the cause of the leak, which occurred about three miles southeast of the town of Amherst, said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
This is the largest Keystone oil spill to date in South Dakota, Walsh said. The leak comes just days before Nebraska officials announce a decision on whether the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, a sister project, can move forward.
In April 2016, there was a 400-barrel release — or 16,800 gallons — with the majority of the oil cleanup completed in two months, Walsh said.
About 5,000 barrels of oil spilled Thursday.
“It is a below-ground pipeline, but some oil has surfaced above ground to the grass,” Walsh said. “It will be a few days until they can excavate and get in borings to see if there is groundwater contamination.”
There were no initial reports of the oil spill affecting waterways, water systems or wildlife, he said.
TransCanada said it was working with state and federal agencies.
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“The safety of the public and environment are our top priorities and we will continue to provide updates as they become available,” the company said.
The Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring the situation and will provide resources and assistance if needed, a spokesman said.
“EPA is aware of the spill and is receiving periodic updates from the state of South Dakota, which is overseeing response activity at the spill site,” he said.

Concerns about the spill

The Keystone Pipeline system stretches more than 2,600 miles, from Hardisty, Alberta, east into Manitoba and then south to Texas, according to TransCanada. The pipeline transports crude oil from Canada.
The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which would stretch from Hardisty to Steele City, Nebraska, would complete the proposed system by cutting through Montana and South Dakota.
The sections of pipeline affected stretch from Hardisty to Cushing, Oklahoma, and to Wood River, Illinois, the company said.
The spill occurred in the same county as part of the Lake Traverse Reservation. The leak location is not on Sioux property, but it is adjacent to it and has historical value, said Dave Flute, tribal chairman for Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe.
“We want to know how long is it going to take to dig this plume of contaminated soil and how can we be reassured, without a doubt, that it has not and will not seep into the aquifer,” he said.
Flute, along with the tribal emergency management director and the manager of the tribal office of environmental protection, arrived Friday morning at the staging area of the leak site to meet with representatives from TransCanada. Flute said he was out there to offer assistance and to understand the cause of the leak and the environmental impacts it might pose.
“We want to find out, was there a crack in the pipe? We don’t know. We want to get that information,” Flute said. “More importantly, and to stay positive, they did clean up the site, they did contain it.”
Environmental activist group Greenpeace said the spill shows the new pipeline in Nebraska should not be approved.
“The Nebraska Public Service Commission needs to take a close look at this spill,” said Rachel Rye Butler of Greenpeace. “A permit approval allowing Canadian oil company TransCanada to build Keystone XL is a thumbs-up to likely spills in the future.”

New Keystone XL

In March, President Donald Trump’s administration officially issued a permit that approved construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Trump administration approves Keystone XL pipeline

The approval followed years of intense debate over the pipeline amid hefty opposition from environmental groups, who argued the pipeline supports the extraction of crude oil from oil sands, which pumps about 17% more greenhouse gases than standard crude oil extraction. Environmentalists also opposed the pipeline because it would cut across the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground deposits of fresh water.
Tar sands oil is much thicker and stickier than traditional oil, significantly complicating cleanup efforts. The fact it’s thicker also means it needs to be combined with other hazardous materials to allow it to be transported in pipelines.
Native American groups have argued the pipeline would cut across their sovereign lands.
Trump said the new pipeline will be a big win for American workers, but critics say it won’t be, because most of the jobs would be temporary.

Dakota Access pipeline

TransCanada said Thursday that the section of Keystone pipe that was leaking was isolated within 15 minutes after a drop in pressure was detected.
According to the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ website, this is the third pipeline spill in the state this year. Another came in April when about 84 gallons of crude oil leaked from the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline in Spink County.
That pipeline, which runs through both Dakotas and two other states, drew fierce resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, the tribe’s allies and environmentalists.
Opposition to the pipeline sparked monthslong protests, with as many as 10,000 people participating during the peak of the demonstrations. Clashes with police at the protests turned violent at times, with one woman nearly losing her arm after an explosion last November.

The Public Service Company of New Mexico is asking for project proposals, including renewables and battery storage, designed to help reach its coal-free goal by 2031.

It’s an ambitious, audacious goal.

In its 20-year 2017 Integrated Resource Plan submitted to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NMPRC)earlier this year, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) announced its intentions to be coal-free by 2031. Now it’s taken the first steps toward reaching those goals.

Last week, the state’s largest utility issued a request for proposals (RFP) for 456 MW of new generation resources, including renewable resources and battery storage. The RFP is predicated on the assumption that the utility’s San Juan Generating Station does not continue to operate post 2022.

The inclusion of battery storage in the RFP is part of a new NMPRC mandate that all the state’s utilities include those options in their future plans. The mandate was implemented in August.

In its August decision, the NMPRC said the original 2008 regulation that mandated IRPs didn’t take storage into account because the technology wasn’t sophisticated enough, and what did exist was too expensive. Now the technology is more easily deployable, adding them to the list of requirements makes far more sense – and PNM has taken the commission’s requirements into consideration with its new RFP.

But with new technologies available and prices coming down, the NMPRC decided the time was right to add it to the data requirements included in the reports.

PNM wants proposals that will help its portion of the grid provide the necessary reliability requirements and minimum operating resources that will meet North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) criteria.

PV Magazine 

A joint study by Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology and Energy Watch Group presented on the sidelines of the COP23 talks in Bonn demonstrates that a global transition to 100% renewable electricity could be achieved by 2050, and would be more cost effective than the current electricity system.

Longi Solar

The study, ‘Global Energy System Based on 100% Renewable Energy – Power Sector’ was presented during the Global Renewable Energy Solutions Showcase event, a sideline to the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP23 currently underway in Bonn.

The study’s key overall finding is that a global shift to 100% renewable electricity is feasible with current technology, and would be more cost effective than the current system led by fossil fuels and nuclear generation.

The study found that in a projected scenario for energy demand in 2050, 100% could be met by current renewable technologies, at a global average LCOE of €52/MWh, compared with 2015’s average LCOE of €70.

In EWG’s 2050 scenario, solar PV covers 69% of electricity demand, wind 18%, hydro 8% and bioenergy 2%. The study predicts that wind will briefly overtake solar in the 2020s, before further price drops put solar back in the lead.

Storage is outlined as the key supporting technology for solar, with around 31% of total demand covered by storage technologies. 95% of this is projected to come from short term storage provided by batteries, with power to gas conversion providing seasonal storage.

“There is no reason to invest one more dollar in fossil or nuclear power production,” exclaims EWG President Hans Josef. “All plans for a further expansion of coal, nuclear, gas and oil have to be ceased. More investments need to be channeled in renewable energies and the necessary infrastructure for storage and grids. Everything else will lead to unnecessary costs and increasing global warming.”

The report is based on an original model developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology, which calculates the most cost-effective mix of technologies based on available resources in 145 regions for a full reference year. The full study is published here.

Only time will tell whether this study’s recommendation will translate into reality. As lead author Christian Breyer sums up: “Energy transition is no longer a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but of political will.”

PV Magazine

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Barbados government says independent power producers interested in supplying electricity to the national grid will be able to apply for licences by early next year. Energy Minister Darcy Boyce said that recommendations on licensing systems for these producers should be in hand by the end of the year and that proposals for pricing of renewable energy would also go before the Fair Trading Commission early next year.

“We can give certainty to investors of what they will earn,” he said, adding that the recommendations on pricing will be made after stakeholder consultations.

Boyce was speaking at a signing ceremony between the Division of Energy and Enermax Limited to facilitate the installation of solar photovoltaic systems at 28 community centres and nine polyclinics.

The project, which will be implemented over the next three months, forms part of the Disaster Risk and Energy Access Management (DREAM) Project funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) with project support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Its primary objectives are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the use of renewable energy and to strengthen Barbados’ disaster risk response by promoting decentralised photovoltaic electricity generation with battery back-up.

Boyce said that eventually he would like to see all community centres, polyclinics, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and all schools with renewable energy systems.

He said this would result in a reduction in electricity costs, provide critical battery support when there were outages and ensure that communities and schools were not impacted in carrying out their programmes because of high electricity bills.

Jamaica Observer

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says Jamaica must capitalise on the availability of renewable energy. He explained that the country would be in a far better position if it could convert naturally occurring forces into energy.

“It is possible for Jamaica to go to approximately 50 per cent of its energy needs provided by alternatives,” Holness declared during a tour of BMR Jamaica Wind Limited in Potsdam, St Elizabeth, on Wednesday.

BMR Jamaica Wind Limited is the builder, owner and operator of Jamaica’s largest privately funded renewable energy project. The 36.3MW wind-generating facility has been in operation since July 1, 2016. At a cost of US$89.9 million, this represents a major investment in the parish of St Elizabeth.

LOCAL ENERGY A PREFERENCE

“From a policy perspective, we would much prefer to have more of our energy locally generated, and from that perspective, renewables are very important to us,” said Holness.

He pointed out that there is great potential between the parishes of Manchester and St Elizabeth for an expansion in wind-generating plants and that the significant investment made by BMR Limited is an indication that there can be even greater investment in wind energy in Jamaica.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said that the Government is doing an integrated resource plan which will project what are the country’s future needs. In addition, the plan will incorporate how the country can supply those future needs integrating renewables, in particular wind and solar.

PROBLEM WITH SUPPLY

“Of course, the problem with renewables is the intermittency of the supply, and even that can be overcome with battery technology, which has increased and improved, and so I hold a very optimistic view of the future of energy supply in Jamaica. We are now looking at expansion in solar,” added the Prime Minister.

According to Holness, another solar plant will be opened very soon and the Government is also examining waste energy as a solution.

The BMR Jamaica Wind project holds the distinction of being the first project funded in Jamaica by the Overseas Private Investment Company (OPIC). US$62.7 million was provided by OPIC and US$20 million from the International Finance Company (IFC).

The project is the recipient of the OPIC impact award 2016, as well as, the CREF Wind Project of the Year 2017.

Gleaner

UN CLIMATE CHANGE PRESS RELEASE / 10 NOV, 2017

Environmental campaigners on Thursday slammed a proposal to reform the European Union’s emissions trading system, saying it undermines international efforts to curb climate change.

The European Commission said the preliminary agreement between the EU Parliament and member states will strengthen the bloc’s emissions trading system after 2020 and would put the bloc on track to achieving “a significant part of its commitment” under the Paris Agreement.

Some 195 countries are currently taking part in talks in Germany aimed at implementing the 2015 climate accord.

Environmental group WWF said that while the deal will reduce the oversupply of emissions allowances that had weighed on the market, heavily polluting sectors will continue to get emissions certificates worth billions of euros for free until 2030.

“You couldn’t make it up,” said Sam Van den Plas, a climate specialist at WWF’s European policy office. “While EU negotiators at COP23 in Bonn are making progress on the Paris Agreement, EU decision-makers back in Brussels are busy undermining it.”

“Today’s shameful agreement … means Europe’s largest emitters will be paid to pollute, rather than having to pay,” he added.

The Climate Action Network Europe, an alliance of environmental groups, said the EU deal would throw a lifeline to the continued use of coal, one of the most polluting forms of fossil fuel.

“Instead of making polluters pay, the EU decided to do the exact opposite,” said Wendel Trio, the group’s director of CAN Europe. “It allowed its flagship climate tool to continue subsidising coal plants.”

Several European countries, especially Germany and Poland, still rely heavily on coal to produce electricity.

On Thursday, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he is donating US$50 million to encourage countries outside the United States to move away from coal. Bloomberg has already spent US$64 million to campaign against the use of coal in America.

Gleaner

The global community has coalesced around the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement, one of which is to peak global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as soon as possible. The longer we delay the peak — the point when global emissions switch from increasing to decreasing — the more difficult it will be to limit global warming. Yet global GHG emissions are still rising and are expected to continue to climb through 2030.

The timing of when individual countries’ emissions peak and then decline — especially those of major emitters like the United States and China — is critically important in determining whether we can avoid the most dangerous climate impacts.

Although the timing of when global GHG emissions need to peak is well documented, there has been less research on when individual countries’ emissions have peaked. World Resources Institute’s (WRI) new paper, Turning Points: Trends in Countries Reaching Peak Greenhouse Gas Emissions Over Tim e, fills this gap by analysing which countries’ emissions peaked in the past and which countries have emissions- reduction commitments that imply peaking in the future.

The paper documents steady progress in the number of countries reaching peak emissions over time. By 1990, 19 countries had peaked (representing 21 per cent of global emissions), and by 2030 this number is likely to grow to 57 countries (representing 60 per cent of global emissions). Among the 57 countries that have peaked already or have a commitment that implies a peak by 2030 are some of the world’s biggest emitters, including China, the United States, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Germany and Mexico.

Peaking Progress by Decade

19 countries, representing 21 per cent of global emissions (based on 1990 emissions data), reached peak emissions in 1990 or earlier. Sixteen of them were former Soviet republics and/or economies in transition. The economic collapse after the break-up of the Soviet Union resulted in several former Soviet republics’ emissions declining sharply. Germany and Norway also peaked by 1990, and the European Union as a whole reached peak emissions by 1990.

By 2000

By 2000, 33 countries’ emissions peaked, representing 18 per cent of global emissions (based on 2000 emissions data). Many of the countries peaking in the 1990s were European nations such as the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Finland. Costa Rica also reached peak emissions levels in 1999.

By 2010

The number of countries that peaked by 2010 grew to 49, representing 36 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data). This includes several more European countries such as Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, as well as Brazil (which peaked in 2004), Australia (which peaked in 2006), and the United States and Canada (both of which peaked in 2007).

By 2020

53 countries representing 40 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data rather than 2020 projections) peaked or have a commitment to peak by 2020. Countries with commitments to peak as part of their Copenhagen Accord pledges for 2020 include Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malta, and New Zealand. By 2020, almost all developed countries are expected to have peaked. 42 of the 43 Annex I countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are expected to peak — all except for Turkey.

By 2030

China, the Marshall Islands, Mexico and Singapore have unconditional climate pledges under the Paris Agreement that imply a peak in emissions by 2030 (China’s commitment is for CO2 emissions only). This brings the number of countries that have peaked or have a commitment to peak by 2030 to 57, representing 60 per cent of global emissions (based on 2010 emissions data rather than 2030 projections).

To be conservative, our analysis only considers countries with unconditional targets as having a target that implies a future peak. Additional countries that have targets that imply an emissions peak by 2030 but are contingent on receiving international support include Bhutan, Botswana, Ethiopia, Grenada and South Africa. The inclusion of these countries would increase the per cent of global emissions covered by peaking countries from 60 to 61 per cent in 2030.

Accelerating Climate Commitments

While this trend is encouraging, it’s not enough. Research suggests that to have a likely chance of staying within the 2°C limit for the least cost, global GHG emissions need to peak by 2020 at the latest. The world’s ability to limit warming to 1.5 or 2˚C depends not only on the number of countries that have peaked over time, but also the global share of emissions represented by those countries; their emissions levels at peaking; the timing of peaking; and the rate of emissions reductions after peaking.

Countries must make and achieve commitments to peak their emissions as soon as possible, set their peaks at lower emissions levels, and commit to a significant rate of emissions decline after peaking.

Countries can make these commitments when communicating or updating their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement in 2020. Doing so will help ensure that countries’ emission reduction commitments bring global emissions to the level needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals, and avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Jamaica Observer

THE NEARLY 13,000 comments from expert reviewers worldwide on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) first draft of the special report on global warming of 1.5°C has put to bed any lingering doubts over its importance.

“The comments were comprehensive and indicate there is significant interest in the report and what it will suggest for a diverse set of stakeholders,” noted Professor Michael Taylor, one of the report’s coordinating lead authors, who was in Sweden last month to work on addressing the comments.

That meeting, he said, provided the various chapter authors the opportunity to look at how to respond to comments “and put us on the path to produce the second draft which is to be submitted by year end”.

According to an October 24 press release published on the IPCC’s website, 2,000 experts from 124 countries registered to be reviewers.

“Overall, the First Order Draft of the Special Report on 1.5 degrees C attracted 12,895 review comments. These comments came from 489 expert reviewers representing 61 different countries,” it said.

“Based on citizenship, half of expert reviewers were from Europe (51 per cent). North America, Central America and the Caribbean accounted for a further 19 per cent; Asia, 13 per cent; South America, seven per cent; South West Pacific, six per cent; and Africa five per cent,” it added.

Women also featured well in those numbers.

“A third (31 per cent) of expert reviewers were female and two-thirds (69 per cent) were male,” the release said.

EXCITING TIMES

For Taylor, it is exciting times.

“There is a general excitement to see how the document is shaping and is being shaped by the expertise of the many scientists who are involved, the expertise of the global community and the comments, and to see where the work is going,” the physicist and head of the Mona Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies told The Gleaner.

“We know that climate change is an issue and the question this document is trying to answer is whether 1.5 is a good target. The sum of the scientists’ findings is what does 1.5 mean for the world and what does a higher target mean? And there is a distinction between the 1.5 and a two degrees in many areas, not in every area,” he added.

The report, for many, is vital – and not only given the Paris Agreement which aims to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”.

Small-island developing states, such as those of the Caribbean, have consistently held that a world warmed beyond 1.5 could severely impair their survivability, given climate threats, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events, the likes of hurricanes recently experienced.

The year 2017 is “very likely” to be in the top three warmest years on record, according to provisional figures from the World Meteorological Organization.

The WMO says it will likely be the hottest year in the absence of the El Niño phenomenon.

The scientists argue that the long-term trend of warming driven by human activities continues unabated.

They say many of the “extraordinary” weather events seen this year bear the hallmarks of climate change.

On the opening day of this year’s key UN climate talks, researchers from the WMO have presented their annual State of the Global Climate report.

It follows hot on the heels of their greenhouse gases study from last week which found that concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere were the highest on record.

While the new study only covers January to September, the WMO says the average global temperature was 1.1C above the pre-industrial figure.

This is getting dangerously close to the 1.5 degrees threshold that many island states feel temperatures must be kept under to ensure their survival.

The analysis suggests that 2017 is likely to come in 0.47C warmer than the 1981-2010 average.

This is slightly down on 2016 when the El Niño weather phenomenon saw temperatures that were 0.56C above the average. According to the WMO, this year vies with 2015 to be the second or third warmest mark yet recorded.

“The past three years have all been in the top three years in terms of temperature records. This is part of a long-term warming trend,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50C in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic, (and) reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa.

“Many of these events – and detailed scientific studies will determine exactly how many – bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities,” he said.

The Caribbean island of Saint-Barthelemy after it was hit by Hurricane Irma

Scientists will have to do attribution studies to clearly link specific events from 2017 to rising temperatures. But they believe the fingerprints of climate change are to be seen in events such as tropical cyclones, where the warmer seas can transfer more heat to the gathering storms and increased sea levels can make flooding more damaging.

The Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index, which measures the intensity and duration of these events, showed its highest ever monthly values in September this year.

It was also the first time that two Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the same year in the US.

Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm for the longest period on record. Rain gauges in Nederland, Texas, recorded 1,539mm, the largest ever recorded for a single event in the mainland US.

Scientists say that extreme heat and drought contributed to many destructive wildfires such as this one in California

There were also significant flooding events with large loss of life in Sierra Leone, in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Peru among many others.

In contrast, droughts and heatwaves affected many parts of Africa and South America. In Somalia, more than half of cropland was impacted with herds reduced by 40-60%.

More than 11 million people are experiencing severe food insecurity in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

“This year saw a multitude of damaging weather extremes which is not uncommon but many of these events were made more severe by the sustained warming influence of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels due to human activities,” said Richard Allan, professor of climate science at the University of Reading, UK.

“An increased severity of weather extremes is expected in the decades ahead as Earth continues to heat up and it is only with the substantive cuts in greenhouse gas emissions required by the Paris climate agreement that we can avert much more potent and widespread damage to our societies and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”

With UN talks on climate change now underway here in Bonn, the report is likely to reinforce a sense of urgency among many delegates.

“These findings underline the rising risks to people, economies and the very fabric of life on Earth if we fail to get on track with the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement,” said Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Climate Change, which is hosting the Bonn conference.

BBC