February 9th News: Global Ice Loss from 2003–2010 Could “Cover the Entire United States in One and Half Feet of Water”

Other stories below: Solar power to pay Nevada city’s debt; Bank of England says to evaluate fossil-fuel investment risk

Global warming: CU-led study pinpoints Earth’s ice loss

Earth’s glaciers and ice caps outside of the regions of Greenland and Antarctica are shedding about 150 billion tons of ice annually, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

The total mass ice loss from Greenland, Antarctica and all Earth’s glaciers and ice caps between 2003 to 2010 was 1,000 cubic miles, about eight times the water volume of Lake Erie.


“The total amount of ice lost to Earth’s oceans from 2003 to 2010 would cover the entire United States in about 1 and one-half feet of water,” said CU-Boulder physics Professor John Wahr, who helped lead the study….

The measurements are important because the melting of the world’s glaciers and ice caps, along with Greenland and Antarctica, pose the greatest threat to sea level increases in the future, Wahr said.

The researchers used satellite measurements from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) to calculate that the world’s glaciers and ice caps lost about 148 billion tons, or about 39 cubic miles of ice annually from 2003 to 2010. The total does not count the mass from individual glacier and ice caps on the fringes of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which could add up to an additional 80 billion tons.

“This is the first time anyone has looked at all of the mass loss from all of Earth’s glaciers and ice caps with GRACE,” said Wahr. “The Earth is losing an incredible amount of ice to the oceans annually, and these new results will help us answer important questions in terms of both sea rise and how the planet’s cold regions are responding to global change.”

… According to the GRACE data, total sea level rise from all land-based ice on Earth including Greenland and Antarctica was roughly 1.5 millimeters per year annually or about 12 millimeters, or one-half inch, from 2003 to 2010, said Wahr. The sea rise amount does include the expansion of water due to warming, which is the second key sea-rise component and is roughly equal to melt totals, he said.

JR: I checked with JPL’s Eric Rignot, who called the study “a solid confirmation” of his 2011 paper, which I wrote about here: “JPL bombshell: Polar ice sheet mass loss is speeding up, on pace for 1 foot sea level rise by 2050.”Bank of England Says to Evaluate Fossil-Fuel Investment Risk

The Bank of England will evaluate whether the U.K.’s exposure to investments in greenhouse gas- emitting industries poses a risk to financial stability, Governor Mervyn King said.

Responding to a Jan. 19 letter from Climate Change Capital Ltd. and more than 20 other investors, academics and campaign groups urging a probe, King said that while there is a “question” about whether any danger exists, he’ll try to investigate investments in polluting industries further.

“There is clearly a scope for further evaluation of these issues,” King wrote in his Feb. 1 reply, posted on the Climate Change Capital website and confirmed by the bank. “We will endeavor to include this in the list of topics we regularly discuss with market participants to assess whether or not this is a risk of which they are aware and the extent to which they are taking it into account in their investment decisions.”

Offshore renewable energy planning system to be streamlined

The planning system for offshore renewable energy projects in Scottish waters is to be streamlined.

The move was welcomed by renewable energy firms and environmental groups.

They said the new approach would reduce delay while taking account of possible threats to wildlife.

First Minister Alex Salmond said the changes would make the planning, development and deployment of offshore wind, wave and tidal generation more effective and efficient.

He said: “Scotland now has a world lead in offshore wind and we want to make sure the planning process doesn’t allow other countries to catch us, and make sure that the tens of thousands of jobs which are going to come to Scotland from this industry are not unnecessarily delayed by the planning process.”

Solar Power to Pay Nevada City’s Debt, Government Costs for Decades

Boulder City, Nevada is best known as the home of Hoover Dam, once the largest hydroelectric power plant in the country. But the rapid expansion of solar power projects is quickly making a name for the city as the first solar-financed town in America.

A solar power building boom is happening in the community, located about 25 miles south of Las Vegas. This boom will soon generate enough revenue to eliminate Boulder City’s municipal debt and stabilize its financial needs for years to come, according to Mayor Roger Tobler.

The city is already home to Copper Mountain Solar 1, the largest solar photovoltaic power plant in the U.S. at 58 megawatts (MW), and Nevada Solar 1, a 65-MW concentrated solar power facility. But local officials, sensing a unique opportunity to expand renewable energy in their community, set aside 8,000 acres to develop an “energy zone.”

Renewable-energy executives want tax incentives extended

Executives from the U.S. hydropower, geothermal and biomass power industries called Wednesday for the passage of a congressional bill that would extend production tax credits to all renewable-energy projects.

The leaders were referring to H.R. 3307, the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act of 2011. The bill has been offered by Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and has drawn bipartisan support from more than 60 co-sponsors.

Failure to pass the bill, the executives said, would put thousands of jobs across the country at risk, stall active energy projects and make it very likely that few new projects would get the funding necessary to begin.

Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Assn., said that projects are already being hurt even though the current tax benefits assisting his industry do not run out until 2013.

Chargers for electric cars may become a “billion dollar business” by 2017

Chargers for electric cars may become a “billion dollar business” by 2017, said an executive at Swiss engineering firm ABB, which is teaming up with governments and companies such as RWE to roll out a network.

Building up a network of charging stations is vital to help fuel demand for electric cars, experts say, with some drivers put off by “range anxiety” — the fear their vehicle will run out of power miles from a charger.

The Zurich-based group, which makes equipment for oil, mining and utility companies, has announced a string of projects in recent months, including a 6 million euro deal to build 200 fast-charging stations throughout Estonia.

Canadian prime minister in China on visit focused on oil sales, other economic ties

Canada’s prime minister is visiting China to discuss oil sales and other economic ties following President Barack Obama’s rejection of a pipeline carrying Canadian oil across the continental United States.Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived late Tuesday, heading a 40-strong delegation of Canadian business leaders. He will meet with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other top Chinese officials following a welcoming ceremony Wednesday.

The visit highlights efforts by Canada to diversify energy sales. The U.S. market currently absorbs 97 percent of Canadian oil exports.

Chinese state-owned companies have invested more than $16 billion in Canadian energy in the past two years and hope to gain steady supplies to fuel their country’s booming economy. Chinese state-controlled Sinopec has a stake in a proposed Canadian pipeline to the Pacific Ocean that would substantially boost Chinese investment in Alberta oil sands.