Rising Sea Levels More Dangerous Than Thought

Read the full story in Scientific American.

The consequences of global sea level rise could be even scarier than the worst-case scenarios predicted by the dominant climate models, which don’t fully account for the fast breakup of ice sheets and glaciers, NASA scientists said today (Aug. 26) at a press briefing.

What’s more, sea level rise is already occurring. The open question, NASA scientists say, is just how quickly the seas will rise in the future.

How Cities Can Beat the Heat

Read the full story in Scientific American.

As Earth’s climate changes over the coming decades, global warming will hit metropolitan areas especially hard because their buildings and pavements readily absorb sunlight and raise local temperatures, a phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect. Cities, as a result, stand a greater chance of extreme hot spells that can kill.

DOE Selects Eight Projects to Receive Funding for Reducing the Cost of CO2 Capture and Compression

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected eight projects to receive funding to construct small- and large-scale pilots for reducing the cost of carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and compression through DOE’s Carbon Capture Program.

The Carbon Capture Program is developing technologies that will enable cost-effective implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the power generation sector and ensure that the United States will continue to have access to safe, reliable, and affordable energy from fossil fuels. The program consists of two core research technology areas, post-combustion capture and pre-combustion capture, and also supports related CO2 compression efforts. Current research and development efforts are advancing technologies that could provide step-change reductions in both cost and energy penalty compared to currently available technologies.

The selected projects focus on advancing the development of a suite of post-combustion CO2 capture and supersonic compression systems for new and existing coal-based electric generating plants, specifically: (1) supersonic compression systems, (2) small pilot-scale (from 0.5 to 5 MWe) post-combustion CO2 capture development and testing, and (3) large pilot-scale (from 10 to more than 25 MWe) post-combustion CO2 capture development and testing.

Project descriptions follow.

Supersonic Compression Systems

Dresser-Rand Company (Wellsville, NY) will design, build, and test a pilot-scale, supersonic CO2 compressor applicable to new and existing coal-based electric generating plants. The major benefits of the supersonic compressor include reduced capital costs, smaller footprint, and reduced parasitic plant impact. The compressor will also help to save and expand a compressor manufacturing and technology base in the United States, creating economic opportunity and jobs.

Cost: DOE: $4,000,000/ Non-DOE: $3,999,688/ Total Funding: $7,999,688

Small Pilot-Scale Post-Combustion Capture

FuelCell Energy Inc. (Danbury, CT) will design, fabricate, and test a small pilot-scale system that incorporates FuelCell Energy’s combined electric power and CO2 separation (CEPACS) system, based on electrochemical membrane (ECM) technology, to separate at least 90 percent of CO2 from a 3 MWe equivalent slipstream of pulverized coal plant flue gas and achieve 95 percent CO2 purity at a cost of $40/tonne of CO2 captured and at a cost of electricity 30 percent less than baseline CO2 capture approaches. Successful pilot-scale validation of the CEPACS system is expected to pave the path toward commercial deployment of cost-effective ECM technology for large scale coal-based carbon capture applications by 2025. Partner is AECOM.

Cost: DOE: $15,000,000/ Non-DOE: $8,728,906/ Total Funding: $23,728,906

Large Pilot-Scale Post-Combustion Capture

The projects selected under the Large Pilot-Scale Area of Interest were only selected for Phase 1.  In FY2016, the recipients will submit their Phase 2 application to be considered for the full project.

Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (Champaign, IL) will capture approximately 500 tonnes per day of CO2 with a 90 percent capture rate from existing coal-fired boilers at the Abbott Power Plant on the campus of the University of Illinois using Linde/BASF’s cost-effective, energy-efficient, compact amine-based advanced CO2 capture absorption system. The successful completion of this project is expected to have significant impact on the speed of commercialization of this advanced solvent-based CO2 capture technology, and thereby meet the anticipated need for such plants beyond 2020. Partners are the Linde Group, BASF, Burns & McDonnell, and Affiliated Engineers Inc.


Cost: DOE: $1,000,000/ Non-DOE: $302,085/ Total Funding: $1,302,085

University of Kentucky Research Foundation (Lexington, KY) will design, fabricate, install, and test a large-pilot facility that will illustrate an innovative carbon capture system integrated with an operating power plant. The novel concepts used in this project will improve the overall plant efficiency when integrated with a CO2 capture system and can be utilized to retrofit existing coal-fired power plants. Partners are Electric Power Research Institute, Koch Modular Process Systems, WorleyParsons, Smith Management Group, and CMTA Consulting Engineers.

Cost: DOE: $999,070/ Non-DOE: $250,716/ Total Funding: $1,249,786

NRG Energy Inc. (Princeton, NJ) will team with Inventys to install Inventys’s VeloxoTherm™ post-combustion project at one of its Gulf Coast coal plants to process a 10 MWe slipstream of coal flue gas to separate the CO2. This project is intended to prove that the cost of capture, both from an upfront capital requirement as well as from an operating standpoint, is lower using this new post-combustion capture process when compared to existing baseline technologies. A secondary benefit is to show that this technology has a reduced footprint in comparison to competing baseline technologies.

Cost: DOE: $1,000,000/ Non DOE: $250,000/ Total Funding: $1,250,000

Alstom Power Inc. (Windsor, CT) will conduct a 3-year large-scale pilot-plant program to implement several concepts for improving the attractiveness and lowering the overall cost of Alstom’s chilled ammonia process (CAP) CO2 capture technology. Alstom’s CAP has shown the ability to achieve greater than 90 percent CO2 capture while producing a high purity CO2 product stream. Partners are Technology Centre Mongstad, Georgia Institute of Technology, General Electric Power & Water—Purecowater, and ElectroSep Inc.

Cost: DOE: $922,709/ Non-DOE: $324,195/ Total Funding: $1,246,904

Southern Company Services (SCS) (Birmingham, AL) will test improvements to CCS processes using an existing 25 MWe, amine-based CO2 capture process at SCS’s Plant Barry. The project will address key technical challenges of current CCS technologies, including high steam consumption, solvent degradation due to flue gas contaminants, and large process footprints. The project researchers aim to improve upon the current state of the art of solvent-based processes by making significant progress towards meeting DOE’s goals.   Partners are AECOM and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America.

Cost: DOE: $707,207/ Non-DOE: $141,441/ Total Funding: $848,648

General Electric Company—GE Global Research (Oklahoma City, OK) will do validation testing of its aminosilicone CO2 capture system, a non-aqueous chemical solvent, at large pilot-scale at an operating plant.  A successful test will achieve two important results: (1) a closed heat and material balance that will validate performance claims, and (2) sustained operation and performance that will de-risk the technology. A validated aminosilicone system will represent a value proposition relative to aqueous amines in certain applications and enable commercial deployments on a short time frame. Partner is CO2 Capture Centre Mongstad.

Cost: DOE: $982,040/ Non-DOE: $245,510/ Total Funding: $1,227,550

How Are U.N. Climate Talks Like A Middle School? Cliques Rule

Read the full story at NPR.

It seems to be part of human nature to want to belong to a group. People constantly form groups, in all kinds of situations, and high-stakes negotiations on climate change are no exception.

Ever heard of the Umbrella Group? Or the Like-Minded Developing Countries? How about the Group of 77? (Here’s a hint — it doesn’t actually have 77 countries.)

Delegates from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Bonn, Germany, this week to resume negotiations on a new global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions — it’s part of the runup to a major summit in Paris later this year. And the countries negotiate in groups, some of which are a little puzzling.

Potential Liability of Governments for Failure to Prepare for Climate Change

Read the full post at the Climate Law Blog.

As governments turn a blind eye to the accumulating risks of climate change, do they expose themselves to potential legal liability? A new working paper by former Sabin Center fellow Jennifer Klein explores three possible legal claims against state and local governments for their failure to prepare for climate change.

EPA Report: For the US, Global Action Now Saves Lives and Avoids Significant Climate Change Damages

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released one of the most comprehensive analyses to date on the economic, health and environmental benefits to the United States of global climate action. The peer-reviewed report, Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action, examines how future impacts and damages of climate change across a number of sectors in the United States can be avoided or reduced with global action. The report compares two future scenarios: a future with significant global action on climate change, where global warming has been limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and a future with no action on climate change (where global temperatures rise 9 degrees Fahrenheit). The report then quantifies the differences in health, infrastructure and ecosystem impacts under the two scenarios, producing estimates of the costs of inaction and the benefits of reducing global GHG emissions.

“Will the United States benefit from climate action? Absolutely. This report shows us how costly inaction will be to Americans’ health, our environment and our society. But more importantly, it helps us understand the magnitude of benefits to a number of sectors of the U.S. with global climate action,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “We can save tens of thousands of American lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars, annually in the United States by the end of this century, but the sooner we act, the better off America and future generations of Americans will be.”

The report examines how the impacts and damages of climate change across a number of sectors in the United States can be avoided with global action. The findings include:

Global action on climate change reduces the frequency of extreme weather events and associated impacts. For example, by 2100 global action on climate change is projected to avoid an estimated 12,000 deaths annually associated with extreme temperatures in 49 U.S. cities, compared to a future with no reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than a 90 percent reduction from what we would expect with no action.

Global action now leads to greater benefits over time. The decisions we make today will have long-term effects, and future generations will either benefit from, or be burdened by, our current actions. Compared to a future with unchecked climate change, climate action is projected to avoid approximately 13,000 deaths in 2050 and 57,000 deaths annually in 2100 from poor air quality. Delaying action on emissions reductions will likely reduce these and other benefits.

Global action on climate change avoids costly damages in the United States. For nearly all of the 20 sectors studied, global action on climate change significantly reduces the economic damages of climate change. For example, without climate action, we estimated up to $10 billion in increased road maintenance costs each year by the end of the century. With action, we can avoid up to $7 billion of these damages.

Climate change impacts are not equally distributed. Some regions of the United States are more vulnerable than others and will bear greater impacts. For example, without action on climate change, California is projected to face increasing risk of drought, the Rocky Mountain region will see significant increases in wildfires, and the mid-Atlantic and Southeast are projected to experience infrastructure damage from extreme temperatures, heavy rainfall, sea level rise, and storm surge.

Adaptation can reduce damages and costs. For some sectors, adaptation can substantially reduce the impacts of climate change. For example, in a future without greenhouse gas reductions, estimated damages from sea-level rise and storm surge to coastal property in the lower 48 states are $5.0 trillion dollars through 2100. With adaptation along the coast, the estimated damages and adaptation costs are reduced to $810 billion.

The report is a product of the Climate Change Impacts and Risks Analysis (CIRA) project, led by EPA in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Pacific Northwest National Lab, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and other partners. The CIRA project is one of the first efforts to quantify the benefits of global action on climate change across a large number of U.S. sectors using a common analytic framework and consistent underlying data inputs. The project spans 20 U.S. sectors related to health, infrastructure, electricity, water resources, agriculture and forestry, and ecosystems.

Explore the report at http://www2.epa.gov/cira

Exposure of U.S. population to extreme heat could quadruple by mid-century

Read the full story from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the City University of New York.

U.S. residents’ exposure to extreme heat could increase four- to six-fold by mid-century, due to both a warming climate and a population that’s growing especially fast in the hottest regions of the country, according to new research.

The study, by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the City University of New York (CUNY), highlights the importance of considering societal changes when trying to determine future climate impacts.