Archive for July, 2007

California in a Changing Climate

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

A paper I wrote for Friends Committee on (CA) Legislation, California in a Changing Climate, is posted at their site.

Comments welcome (here, or for the committee).


Ozone, health, and climate change

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Ozone in the stratosphere is critical, absorbing enough ultraviolet light to allow land-based life to exist. Ozone-destroying chemicals are greenhouse gases as well, giving us another reason to limit their use.

Ozone is the main ingredient in smog
Ozone is the main ingredient in smog.

Tropospheric ozone is more of a problem. In the US alone, according to Bell, et al, the short-term effects of ground-level ozone kills 4,000 Americans annually.

…a 10-ppb increase in daily ozone would correspond to an additional 319 annual premature deaths for New York City and 3,767 premature deaths annually for the 95 urban communities, based on mortality data from 2000. This value is probably an underestimate of the total mortality burden from such an increase in ozone because it accounts for only the short-term effects.

Fossil fuels and ozone
have other health effects as well.

Ozone is also a contributor to changing our climate:
Climate Forcings
Climate Forcings — notice that the decrease in stratospheric ozone is actually cooling the Earth slightly, while the increase in ground-level ozone is warming the Earth. The forcing from ozone is about 20 – 25% as much as carbon dioxide (though the error bars for ozone show the contribution could be much greater).

A new report in Nature indicates that the indirect effects of ozone on climate change may be more significant than direct effects. Some plants react to increased ozone with stomatal closure, limiting plant exposure. This also limits carbon fertilization — carbon uptake.

We suggest that the resulting indirect radiative forcing by ozone effects on plants could contribute more to global warming than the direct radiative forcing due to tropospheric ozone increases.

As the temperature increases, and fossil fuels (and biomass) continue to be used, ozone levels are expected to rise, with consequent effects on human and ecosystem health, and climate change.

For more details, see the RealClimate post.

New rules on airplanes?

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

The European Union is advocating new rules for airlines:

In response, the European Union proposed rules that would require airlines serving domestic routes to enter into an emissions-trading scheme by 2011. Carriers flying to and from Europe, including U.S. airlines, would have to enter the system by the following year. The plan is based on one already in operation for other European industries that buy and sell credits to emit certain amounts of carbon dioxide.

While today

Boeing expects the number of commercial jetliners to nearly double, to 36,420, in the next 20 years. The Federal Aviation Administration expects 1.2 billion passengers a year to travel on U.S. carriers by 2020, up from 741 million last year.

By 2050, the industry is expected to contribute anywhere from 6 to 10 percent of the gases and particles tied to global warming, up from about 3 percent today, said Michael J. Prather, a professor at the University of California at Irvine and lead author of a 1999 report on aviation’s role in global warming [Aviation and the Global Atmosphere] for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Lear jet
Let’s not forget Lear jets and other private airplanes.

I wonder what is happening to the proposal for a fuel tax on air travel? Can someone help?

GHG emitting and noisy too
GHG emitting and noisy too

Travel by train
Travel by train?

Some consider travel by train more enjoyable.

An old MIT report on air traffic delays, will be updated soon:

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did a study several years ago and found that when missed connections and flight cancellations are factored in, the average wait was two-thirds longer than the official statistic.

They also determined that as planes become more crowded – and jets have never been as jammed as they are today – the delays grow much longer because it becomes harder to find a seat on a later flight.

The MIT researchers are updating their study now. But with domestic flights running 85 to 90 percent full, meaning that virtually all planes on desirable routes are full, Cynthia Barnhart, an MIT professor who studies transportation systems, has a pretty good idea of what the new research will show when it is completed this autumn: “There will be severe increases in delays,” she said.

About 32 percent of domestic passengers connect from one flight to another to reach their destination, according to Transportation Department data analyzed by Back Aviation Solutions, a consulting firm.

LA Times promotes coal power big time

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

LA smog
LA smog

An LA Times editorial, No to nukes, came out strongly in favor of building thousands of coal power plants:

On average, coal plants operate at 30% efficiency worldwide, but newer plants operate at 46%. If the world average could be raised to 42%, it would save the same amount of carbon as building 800 nuclear plants.

(Coal power plants tend to be smaller.) Strong support was also made for natural gas:

One fast-growing technology allows commercial buildings or complexes, such as schools, hospitals, hotels or offices, to generate their own electricity and hot water with micro-turbines fueled by natural gas or even biofuel, much more efficiently than utilities can do it and with far lower emissions.

The assertions aren’t true. It is true that increasing use of natural gas would require increasing imports of natural gas.

California can’t even use the coal power plants, as this Times article explains:

The California Energy Commission … imposed new rules that effectively forbid the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and all other municipal utilities in the state from signing new contracts with coal-fired power plants.

So where will we get our electricity from? Well, the LA Times omits that detail. Wind is not an important resource in CA. We are already highly dependent on natural gas — how many liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals would CA need, if we eschew nuclear power? It is unlikely that hydro will become increasingly more important, given assumptions that we have moved into a drought. California’s population is expected to increase by 20 – 30% in the next two decades, our contracts with the current coal power sources (21% of CA electricity) can’t be renewed. Biomass is probably not an important source of electricity for a state with our air pollution laws, and besides, the plan is to use it for biofuels.

Should Fresno build plants to produce electricity from biomass (except we’ve planned to use it for our fuel) or even more natural gas?

Downwind from Fresno
Downwind from Fresno

Nope, not well thought out.

There are a number of mistakes in the article, as well as statements that are true but irrelevant.

Visiting the Twin Cities

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

I just spent 9 days visiting St. Paul. Bicycling appears to be the best way to see the city.

I visited Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls
Minnehaha Falls

bicycling along the Mississippi River to get there.

Stone Bridge over the Mississippi
Stone Bridge over the Mississippi

Lots of children riding bicycles, in part because it’s flatter than in Berkeley. Much flatter. My favorite young riders were two urchins or pre-urchins pumping along at a pretty good rate on bicycles with training wheels. Their father skated between them, scooting them over to the right when other bicycles came along.

Unlike many of the children and adults I saw on bicycles, these were properly fitted with helmets.

Bicycle helmets -- proper usage
Bicycle helmets — proper usage