Climate news, and what we’re doing about it

I have been away from home recently, with little opportunity to post to my blog, but I have been trying to keep up with the news and will seize this opportunity to share some of it. The first item re-affirms that we do desperately need to act on climate, the next two show what we are doing right, and the last two show the effect on fossil fuel consumption and (hence) companies. In each case the link is the headline and the quote beneath is a key point but the whole article is, I think, well worth reading.

What We Learned About Climate Change In 2014, In 6 Scary Charts

We are currently on track to make drought and extreme drying the normal condition for the Southwest, Central Plains, the Amazon, southern Europe, and much of the currently inhabited and arable land around the world in the second half of the century.

Earlier this month, the U.K.’s Met Office updated its bar chart of the hottest years on record to include 2014, which is headed toward a new record. …

The biggest scientific bombshell of 2014 was that the West Antarctic ice sheet appears close to if not past the point of irreversible collapse— and, relatedly, that “Greenland’s icy reaches are far more vulnerable to warm ocean waters from climate change than had been thought.”

We also learned in August that Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheet more than doubled their rate of ice loss in the last five years.

Those findings have led leading climatologists to conclude we are headed toward the high end of projected sea level rise this century, four to six feet. That means we are in a major coastal real estate bubble (see “When Will Coastal Property Values Crash“).

Why Elon Musk’s Batteries Scare the Hell Out of the Electric Company

… in Davis, California, Honda Motor Co. has developed a “smart home” that produces more energy than it uses while charging a plug-in car. The home was designed in collaboration with SolarCity, PG&E Corp. and the University of California at Davis to showcase energy-efficient and renewable technologies. …

SolarCity rival SunPower Corp. is offering its solar and storage systems to buyers of electric cars from Audi AG and rebates for solar-panels to Ford Motor Co. plug-in customers. SunPower also has struck a partnership with homebuilder KB Home to begin installing solar and storage systems in California.

The time when residents can charge their electric cars with excess solar stored in their home batteries is “not decades away, that is years away,” said SunPower CEO Tom Werner.

Sydney councils join forces to provide cheaper solar for residents, business

In what is becoming a familiar pattern, a group of local government councils in NSW has joined forces to take up the federal and state policy slack and drive Australian solar uptake; this time by working to providing residents and small businesses with ready access to cheaper PV systems – including through a solar leasing option.

The SMH reports that eight southern Sydney councils have jointly approached suppliers of solar PV, solar hot water and heat pumps, asking for their best offers, with the ultimate goal of having up to 30 per cent of the region’s energy needs generated by renewable sources.

‘Coal Is A Dead Man Walking’: A Look Back At 2014

King Coal ran into a slag heap of bad news in 2014. … Taken together, those developments give plenty of reasons to recall the 2011 pithy assessment of coal’s future by the head of asset management at Deutsche Bank. “Coal is a dead man walking,” said Kevin Parker. “Banks won’t finance them. Insurance companies won’t insure them. The EPA is coming after them … And the economics to make it clean don’t work.”

Or, as then New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg put it last year, “Even though the coal industry doesn’t totally know it yet or is ready to admit it, its day is done … Here in the U.S., I’m happy to say, the king is dead. Coal is a dead man walking.”

Oil Investors at Brink of Losing Trillions of Dollars in Assets. Gore: It’s That Road Runner Moment

A major threat to fossil fuel companies has suddenly moved from the fringe to center stage with a dramatic announcement by Germany’s biggest power company and an intriguing letter from the Bank of England.

A growing minority of investors and regulators are probing the possibility that untapped deposits of oil, gas and coal — valued at trillions of dollars globally — could become stranded assets as governments adopt stricter climate change policies.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore likens today’s fossil fuels to the subprime mortgages of the last decade that triggered the global credit crisis. Their value “is based on an assumption every bit as absurd,” specifically the notion that all known oil, gas and coal will be consumed.

There’s more on “stranded assets”, with a focus on the Galilee Basin, on a recent post on the NQCC site.

Update: the last section of this post was added a day after the rest was published, since it was too apt to leave out.