Power Plants’ Coal Ash Reports Show Toxins Leaking into Groundwater

Power Plants’ Coal Ash Reports Show Toxins Leaking into Groundwater

SOURCE: Inside Climate News

DATE: February 7, 2018

SNIP: Toxic substances including arsenic may be leaking from unlined pits and contaminating groundwater at hundreds of coal ash storage facilities nationwide, according to an analysis by the environmental law organization Earthjustice.

The analysis, an initial review of recently released data from 14 power plants in eight states, comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is weighing whether to revise recently enacted groundwater monitoring rules at coal ash storage facilities.

Nine of the 14 power plants noted “statistically significant increases” of toxic substances in groundwater near coal ash containment ponds, Earthjustice found.

The ponds store coal ash, the ash left after a power plant burns coal. Under a 2015 rule governing coal ash disposal, utility companies were required to complete initial monitoring of groundwater near such sites by Jan. 31, 2018, and they are required to make their data publicly available by March 2. Earthjustice reviewed the reports of the first 14 power plants to post their data. About 1,400 such sites exist nationwide, according to Earthjustice.

Last year, USWAG petitioned the EPA to weaken monitoring and remediation requirements in the coal ash rule. The May 2017 written request described the 2015 rule as “burdensome, inflexible, and often impracticable.” In September, the EPA announced it would reconsider certain provisions of the coal ash rule.

Reports of coal’s terminal decline are premature

Reports of coal’s terminal decline are premature

SOURCE: Environmental Research Letters

DATE: February 7, 2018

SNIP: [T]he continued reliance on coal-fired power plants in a number of major emerging economies could still turn out to be a massive stumbling block for climate change mitigation. Coal-fired power plants currently announced, planned, or under construction will, over the course of their expected life-time, generate a substantial amount of emissions in addition to those that are already ‘locked in’ (i.e. which will likely be generated in the future by already existing infrastructure). Unless these power plants are retired well before their expected life-time, which would increase mitigation costs and constitute a formidable political challenge, their associated emissions jeopardize the achievement of the (Intended) Nationally Determined Contributions ((I)NDC) targets as well as effective long-term climate change mitigation.

From Envisionation:

In 2016, China and India have each canceled more than 50 percent of their plans to build new coal-fired power plants, according to the study. However, globally coal investments are further increasing. Turkey, Indonesia, and Vietnam, for example, plan to increase their capacity altogether by about 160 gigawatts. This is about as much as the output of all existing coal-fired plants in the 28 EU countries.

In addition, other countries’ planned future investments in coal have been massively extended in 2016. Investment plans in Egypt, for example, have increased almost eightfold, while they have nearly doubled in Pakistan. These developments jeopardize countries’ ability to meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as CO2emissions from coal-fired power plants would increase almost tenfold from 2012 to 2030 in Vietnam, for example, and almost quadruple in Turkey. 


We Can Pull CO2 from Air, But It’s No Silver Bullet for Climate Change, Scientists Warn

We Can Pull CO2 from Air, But It’s No Silver Bullet for Climate Change, Scientists Warn

SOURCE: Inside Climate News

DATE: February 6, 2018

SNIP: While technologies are being developed that can remove carbon dioxide from the air, they aren’t yet feasible on the scale needed to slow global warming, Europe’s national science academies warn in a new report.

A wide array of technologies—from land management to ocean fertilization to capturing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it—are in various stages of testing and use, but according to the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, climate scientists and policymakers are being “seriously over-optimistic” about how much these approaches can help deal with the global warming crisis.

In recent years, climate experts have suggested that it’s not enough to just decrease the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. To avoid more than 2 degrees Celsius of global warming this century, they say, net emissions will have to fall to zero within a few decades, and it’s worth considering “negative emissions”—steps that subtract pollution from the atmosphere to offset what is being added.

But despite the appeal of that notion, which in theory allows the world to overshoot its emissions budget for a while and make up the difference later, the new report warns against banking on it.

These technologies offer only limited realistic potential to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and not at the scale envisaged in some climate scenarios,” wrote the report’s authors, a group of experts representing the national science academies of the European Union member states, Norway and Switzerland.

That’s troubling, because most of the pathways laid out by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) rely on deploying negative emissions approaches by the middle of this century.

Climate Change and the Ohio River Basin

Climate Change and the Ohio River Basin

SOURCES: DeSmog Blog, Courier Journal, Army Corps of Engineers Report

DATE: February 6, 2018

SNIP:

From DeSmog Blog:

Over the past year, oil and gas industry plans to build a petrochemical refining and storage hub along the Ohio River have steadily gaining traction. Proponents hope this potential hub, which would straddle Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky, could someday rival the industrial corridor found along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana.

Those plans center around creating what is known as the Appalachian Storage Hub, which received a major boost on November 9 during a trade mission to China attended by President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. At that trade mission, also attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the China Energy Investment Corp. announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to invest $83.7 billion into the planned storage hub over 20 years. For comparison, West Virginia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 was $72.9 billion.

Though called the Appalachian Storage Hub as a broad-sweeping term, in practice the hub could encompass natural gas liquids storage, a market trading index center, a key pipeline feeding epicenter, and a petrochemical refinery row. Its prospective development has been spurred by the current construction of a $6 billion petrochemical refining facility in Pennsylvania owned by Shell Oil.

A “major concern we have about the whole complex is that it will encourage a second or third wave of gas fracking in our region, from the Marcellus, the Utica, and the Rogersville field, which is a much deeper layer of shale gas and oil and has been recently tested and a few commercial wells have been built into it,” Robin Blakeman, project coordinator with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

From the Courier Journal:

Climate change will push the Ohio River and its tributaries into uncharted waters, setting off economic and environmental crises like never before across a 13-state region.

That’s the conclusion of a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report that hits close to home. It found that flooding, drought and power failures could become more frequent in Kentucky and Indiana — and the rest of the Ohio River basin.

The study concludes that the most dramatic effects are likely two decades away. But changes are happening more quickly than previously thought, and the time to start bracing for “a new normal” and making plans to adapt is now.

The Ohio River alone provides drinking water to 5 million people, including nearly 1 million supplied by the Louisville Water Co.

IN SUM:
Think it’s a good idea to build a storage hub for fossil fuels along a river that’s increasingly likely to flood? Has everyone already forgotten about Houston?

Sea ice tracking low in both hemispheres

Sea ice tracking low in both hemispheres

SOURCE: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)

DATE: February 6, 2018

SNIP: January of 2018 began and ended with satellite-era record lows in Arctic sea ice extent, resulting in a new record low for the month. Combined with low ice extent in the Antarctic, global sea ice extent is also at a record low.

The linear rate of decline for January is 47,700 square kilometers (18,400 square miles) per year, or 3.3 percent per decade.

Sea ice algae blooms in the dark

Sea ice algae blooms in the dark

SOURCE: AAAS EurekAlert

DATE: February 6, 2018

SNIP: Researchers from Aarhus University have measured a new world record: Small ice algae on the underside of the Arctic sea ice live and grow at a light level corresponding to only 0.02% of the light at the surface of the ice. Algae are the primary component of the Arctic food web and produce food far earlier in the year than previously thought.

The general view has been that ice algae do not obtain sufficient light for growth when they are covered by a more than 30-50 cm deep cover of snow and ice. The new measurements completely change that view and show that ice algae may play an important role much earlier in the spring in the Arctic than hitherto assumed.

Temperatures are rising in the Arctic. When the snow on top of the ice gets warmer, the algae residing on the underside of the ice receive more light. This may significantly impact the growth of the algae and the extent of the ‘spring bloom’. This new knowledge must be considered in the puzzle of how the Arctic will respond to a warmer world

Ozone at lower latitudes is not recovering, despite Antarctic ozone hole healing

Ozone at lower latitudes is not recovering, despite Antarctic ozone hole healing

SOURCE: AAAS EurekAlert

DATE: February 6, 2018

SNIP: Global ozone has been declining since the 1970s owing to certain man-made chemicals. Since these were banned, parts of the layer have been recovering, particularly at the poles.

However, the new result, published today in the European Geosciences Union journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, finds that the bottom part of the ozone layer at more populated latitudes is not recovering. The cause is currently unknown.

Study co-author Professor Joanna Haigh, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, said: “Ozone has been seriously declining globally since the 1980s, but while the banning of CFCs is leading to a recovery at the poles, the same does not appear to be true for the lower latitudes.

The potential for harm in lower latitudes may actually be worse than at the poles. The decreases in ozone are less than we saw at the poles before the Montreal Protocol was enacted, but UV radiation is more intense in these regions and more people live there.”

The cause of this decline is not certain, although the authors suggest a couple of possibilities. One is that climate change is altering the pattern of atmospheric circulation, causing more ozone to be carried away from the tropics.

The other possibility is that very short-lived substances (VSLSs), which contain chlorine and bromine, could be destroying ozone in the lower stratosphere. VSLSs include chemicals used as solvents, paint strippers, and as degreasing agents. One is even used in the production of an ozone-friendly replacement for CFCs.

The Arctic has inversions just like Utah, and they could be making climate change worse

The Arctic has inversions just like Utah, and they could be making climate change worse

SOURCE: The Salt Lake Tribune

DATE: February 5, 2018

SNIP: The atmosphere over the Arctic is highly sensitive to air pollution and inversions much like Utah’s, scientists have discovered in a study that could help them understand why global warming is so much worse in one of the coldest places on Earth.

Tiny particulate pollution blowing north from population centers in Asia and Europe appears to alter cloud formation over the Arctic region, said University of Utah professor of atmospheric sciences Tim Garrett, co-author of the study published earlier this month in Geophysical Research Letters.

The pollutants become trapped over the Arctic when warm air flows over the region’s icy surface, in much the same way winter inversions set up over the Wasatch Front, accumulating a combination of moisture and air pollution that can mix into a soupy smog.

Arctic clouds form whether or not pollution is present, Garrett said, but the pollution makes it “a more effective blanket” by creating clouds made of smaller droplets of water than most naturally forming clouds.

These pollution-spurred clouds trap even more heat than usual, possibly contributing to rising temperatures in the Arctic.

What surprised Garrett and colleagues in their research, he said, was the degree to which pollution appeared to affect the Arctic clouds. Using satellite imagery and air-quality data to track cloud patterns and pollution, Garrett and others found the Arctic clouds were two to eight times more sensitive to the presence of pollution than previous studies suggested.

Earth’s Ice Is Melting Much Faster Than Forecast.

Earth’s Ice Is Melting Much Faster Than Forecast.

SOURCE: Garn Press

DATE: February 5, 2018

SNIP: The key question, as I see it, is how to project what the sea level will soon be due to ice sheet melting. But this is confounded by us not really knowing what to expect. We keep being surprised by nature being more sensitive and complex. As the science develops, we see more interconnection, where multiplying feedbacks produce surprisingly fast responses.

Will there be some saving self-regulation of human-induced climate warming and its melting land ice consequences? The enormous increase of heat in our oceans, from past decades of enhanced greenhouse effect, negates any hope that negative feedbacks or even solar output will prevent a much warmer world. The few negative feedbacks we have found for ice — like more snow as a result of a warming climate, more reflective frost, more efficient sub-glacial water transmission — are clearly being outdone. And at the global scale, despite some negative feedbacks like more clouds, clearly we are not seeing net cooling. Feedbacks, whether positive or negative, only do their thing after the initial effect. Negative feedbacks don’t reverse the perturbation.

Seemingly the biggest issue with abrupt sea level rise comes from the now unstoppable loss of key sectors of west Antarctic ice and the discovery of more marine instability than we thought elsewhere. Like glaciers thinning rapidly in east Antarctica. Or in Greenland where improved bedrock maps reveal a marine connection an average of 40 kilometers further inland than previously thought. Or like how new fjord underwater mapping reveals greater fjord depths, increasing the odds that deep warm ocean water can communicate with more Greenland glaciers than previously thought. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

If the past decade of scientific inquiry is any indication, I’d say we are in for more surprises.

[A]las, when it comes to ice, how fast it can go and how fast the sea will rise, if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on it going faster than forecast.

Read the rest: http://garnpress.com/2018/earths-ice-is-melting-much-faster-than-forecast-heres-why-thats-worrying/

Scientists find massive reserves of mercury hidden in permafrost

Scientists find massive reserves of mercury hidden in permafrost

SOURCE: AGU

DATE: February 5, 2018

SNIP: Researchers have discovered permafrost in the northern hemisphere stores massive amounts of natural mercury, a finding with significant implications for human health and ecosystems worldwide.

In a new study, scientists measured mercury concentrations in permafrost cores from Alaska and estimated how much mercury has been trapped in permafrost north of the equator since the last Ice Age.

The study reveals northern permafrost soils are the largest reservoir of mercury on the planet, storing nearly twice as much mercury as all other soils, the ocean and the atmosphere combined.

Warmer air temperatures due to climate change could thaw much of the existing permafrost layer in the northern hemisphere. This thawing permafrost could release a large amount of mercury that could potentially affect ecosystems around the world. Mercury accumulates in aquatic and terrestrial food chains, and has harmful neurological and reproductive effects on animals.

The study found approximately 793 gigagrams, or more than 15 million gallons, of mercury is frozen in northern permafrost soil. That is roughly 10 times the amount of all human-caused mercury emissions over the last 30 years, based on emissions estimates from 2016.