"Energy and Global Warming News for October 21st: Gulf Coast faces $350 billion in climate damage by 2030; U.S. approves fifth solar plant on Western public land; Hidden costs of coal generation"
Pollution from Chicago‘s two coal-fired power plants costs neighboring communities $127 million a year in hidden health damages, according to a report released Wednesday that relied on research from the nation’s leading scientific organization.
Environmental groups and Chicago aldermen have been fighting for years to force the aging Fisk plant in Pilsen and the Crawford plant in Little Village to either clean up or shut down. The former ComEd plants, now owned by Midwest Generation, also are tangled in anti-pollution lawsuits filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
While pollution problems at the two plants have been well-documented “” both are major sources of lung-damaging soot and other noxious chemicals “” this is the first time anyone has tried to calculate the economic costs of the steady stream of coal smoke that churns out of the smokestacks.
“Not only are these plants harming our health, they’re draining our wallets,” said Howard Learner, president of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Chicago-based group that released the new report.
Learner’s group obtained plant-specific data from the National Research Council, which issued a little-noticed report this year that estimated energy production and its use cost the nation $120 billion a year in damages. Most of those hidden costs are from soot pollution emitted by power plants and vehicles and are not reflected in market prices for coal, gasoline and diesel fuel, the council’s report concluded.
For more on that “little-noticed report” see “NRC: Burning fossil fuels costs the U.S. $120 billion a year “” not counting mercury or climate impacts!”
The U.S. Gulf Coast may face $350 billion in economic damage by 2030 as extreme weather fueled by climate change wreaks havoc on the region, according to a study released today by Entergy Corp.
The estimate assumes severe weather similar to Hurricane Katrina — a storm that crippled the region in 2005 — will occur every generation rather than once a century, according to the study by Swiss Re, a Zurich-based reinsurer, and McKinsey & Co., a New York-based research firm. New Orleans-based Entergy, the second-largest U.S. producer of electricity from nuclear reactors behind Exelon Corp., commissioned the report.
The study recommends spending $50 billion for projects such as overhauling building codes and reinforcing beaches and wetlands to curb losses. The region, which suffers an average annual loss of $14 billion, may lose as much as $23 billion a year from “extreme” climate change, the report said.
“With the multiplier effect, the amount of economic loss to the Gulf Coast could rise to $700 billion, the gross domestic product for the entire region for one year,” Entergy Chief Executive Officer J. Wayne Leonard said today in a statement. The study is a “call to arms for policy makers,” he said.
A fifth large-scale solar energy plant proposed on western U.S. public lands received federal approval Wednesday.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who earlier this month approved three other projects in California and one in Nevada, authorized the Bureau of Land Management to offer Houston-based Tessera Solar use of 4,604 acres for 30 years to build Calico Solar.
Calico is expected to cost more than $2 billion and create 136 permanent jobs and an average of 400 construction jobs, depending on the construction phase, Tessera spokeswoman Janette Coates said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. The site is 37 miles east of Barstow.
The project still faces an Oct. 28 hearing before the full California Energy Commission. A CEC committee recommended last month that the project be approved.
A New Jersey farm that was slated to become a housing development will now be used to cultivate energy from the sun.
Officials broke ground Wednesday on what they expect will be one of the nation’s largest solar farms when it begins generating power next spring – giving New Jersey even more bragging rights when it comes to harnessing the sun’s power.
The original plan of a housing development replacing the farm was troubling some residents of the rural southern New Jersey town about 20 miles from Wilmington, Del.
Now, Dallas-based Panda Power Funds and Valhalla, N.Y.-based Con Edison Development – the companies developing the project – say its 71,000 solar panels situated on a 100-acre farm will be installed and generating power by April or May.
The future of climate change legislation in the United States could rest in California, where voters will decide on Nov. 2 whether to pass Proposition 23, a ballot measure that would roll back the state’s ambitious greenhouse gas emissions targets. With some polls showing voters in California split over the issue, former Vice President Al Gore released a video today explaining his opposition.
“The fight for America’s clean energy future is taking place right now, and it’s come to California,” Gore says in the video. “This is a fight we simply cannot afford to lose.”
In 2006, California passed a law to curb the state’s emissions by 15 percent by 2020, which would bring them down to 1990 levels. The plan targeted a range of economic sectors for emissions cuts, including automobiles, buildings and landfills, and it called for a third of California’s electricity to come from renewable sources like wind or solar energy. The plan was hailed as a model for national climate change legislation.
Climate change a proven case
We can’t afford luxury of debate anymore
Two weeks ago I began a discussion about climate change, and why most people are still not convinced that taking immediate, serious action–especially in terms of a carbon tax or cap and trade program– is the way to proceed. I also looked at some of the extreme weather events that have taken place in 2010 and how they reflect what to anticipate in a warming world.
As you are probably aware, the first half of 2010 was–at a global level–the warmest ever recorded.
As for the period from January to September, the global combined land and ocean surface temperature was tied with 1998 as the warmest January-September period on record.
In Peterborough, the mean (average) temperature for September mirrored the global trend.
The average temperature for the month was 19.55 C, a full 6 C warmer than the 1971 to 2000 average of 14.6 C. September’s average high was 26.1 C, while the average low was 13 C. These are much warmer than the long-term averages of 20.1 C and 9 C.
Today, I’d like to present some recent research findings that underscore the vulnerability of both nature and human society to climate change.
The United Nations should impose a moratorium on “geo-engineering” projects such as artificial volcanoes and vast cloud-seeding schemes to fight climate change, green groups say, fearing they could harm nature and mankind.
The risks were too great because the impacts of manipulating nature on a vast scale were not fully known, the groups said at a major U.N. meeting in Japan aimed at combating increasing losses of plant and animal species.
Envoys from nearly 200 countries are gathered in Nagoya, Japan, to agree targets to fight the destruction of forests, rivers and coral reefs that provide resources and services central to livelihoods and economies.
A major cause for the rapid losses in nature is climate change, the United Nations says, raising the urgency for the world to do whatever it can to curb global warming and prevent extreme droughts, floods and rising sea levels.
Some countries regard geo-engineering projects costing billions of dollars as a way to control climate change by cutting the amount of sunlight hitting the earth or soaking up excess greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide.
And here the whole time we thought the biggest downsides of climate change were polar melt and flooded coastlines. But a new study suggests that what we really need to fear is prolonged drought. Wet your lips and read on.
Bake it to the limit: Aiguo Dai, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado came to that conclusion after analyzing 22 computer models. He thinks that unless greenhouse-gas emissions are cut, large areas of the planet, including the U.S. Southwest, are in for some very long, very damaging dry spells within the next 30 years. Few continents would escape — Dai mentions parts of Asia, southern Europe, and much of Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East — and he believes regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea could suffer “almost unprecedented” drought conditions. Says Dai:
We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community. If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous. [Discovery News]
Change we don’t need: Which is why military strategists and terrorism experts are focusing more and more on climate change as a major risk to global security. The latest to weigh in is Great Britain’s Strategic Defense and Security Review, which warns that increasing competition for scarce energy and water resources could increase the likelihood of terrorism and armed conflicts. [Business Green]
The sludge spill in Hungary dominated world news for days, as horrific images of red-mud rivers appeared nonstop on the Internet, newspaper front pages, and TV screens. Yet other environmental threats “” less visible, but potentially more devastating “” often go largely unnoticed.
European environmental groups had long fretted about an aging industrial sludge pond near Ajka, Hungary, containing caustic waste from the process that converts bauxite to aluminum. The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River included the pond on a 2006 watch list of sites “at risk” for accidents that could pollute the Danube ecosystem. WWF Hungary had pushed for the closure of the pond (large enough that it could easily be seen from space on Google Earth) and of two other bauxite sludge storage ponds in western Hungary.
But in the policy world, mining pollution is a perennial also-ran in the list of environmental concerns “” distant from where most people live, and normally out-of-sight, out-of-mind. And even many of the people who lived close to the pond, in villages like Kolontar and Devecser, were not particularly bothered by its presence.
That all changed around lunchtime on Oct. 4, when a corner of the sludge reservoir gave way after weeks of heavy rains, letting loose a tidal wave of thick red sludge that oozed its way over garden fences, onto front porches and into middle-class living rooms in Kolontar and Devecser, where lunches sat waiting on tables. Ten people were killed by the muck “” most from drowning “” and more than 100 had chemical burns from the highly alkaline mud that were serious enough to require hospitalization.