Climate News of the Week Roundup: Humanity Is Catapulting Itself Way Out of the Holocene

This week’s roundup covers several articles on climate science, the US EPA’s proposal for emission standards for new power plants, renewables ramping up in Brazil and China, a projection that the EU ETS will be oversupplied until 2027, and how to work around it, and several opinion pieces on the German energy transition.

Paleoclimate: The End of the Holocene. Stefan Rahmstorf discusses some recent research findings that highlight even more starkly than before how “we are catapulting ourselves way out of the Holocene”.  At the beginning of the Holocene – after the end of the last Ice Age – average global temperature increased, subsequently it decreased again by 0.7 ° C over the past 5,000 years. A trend which ended abruptly with the rapid warming of the 20th Century. The cooling of the previous 5000 years was undone with 100 years. And on current trajectories global average temperatures will probably be 5 to 12 standard deviations above the Holocene temperature mean.

The Known Knowns of Climate Change. Stefan Rahmstorf also did a nice summary of all the basic things that are well established in climate science.

Scientists take the Mail on Sunday to task over claim that warming is half what IPCC said last time. The usual suspects apparently go full throttle on pre-emptive climate denial ahead of the next IPCC report. Roz Pidcock of Carbon Brief covers one episode in the Mail on Sunday.

Will the USA’s new power plant pollution limits kill coal? RTCC reports on the publication of the US EPA’s proposed limits on CO2 emissions from new power plants. They would essentially make new coal plants impossible unless they were outfitted with carbon capture and storage technology. A much bigger impact could be had from standards on existing power plants, though, which are scheduled to be published next year.

Brazil cools on nuclear power plans; favors wind. Brian Winter reports for Reuters that according to the head of the Brazilian government’s energy planning agency they country will probably scale down its plans for new nuclear plants due to safety concerns following Fukushima and compensate with a “revolution” in wind power.

2,700 MW Of Solar PV Up For Grabs At Upcoming Brazilian Renewable Energy Auction. CleanTechnica reports that in addition to wind Brazil is also finally going into solar. The upcoming auction will be the first to include solar PV.

2.8 GW Solar PV Capacity Expected To Be Added In India In 2014. CleanTechnica reports that solar is scaling up in India, but not thanks to the central government, it’s the individual states who are setting the pace. Tamil Nadu alone expects to add 700 MW.

European carbon market to remain oversupplied until 2027. PointCarbon this week projected that the EU ETS would remain oversuppied till 2027 if the EU adopted a 40% emission reduction target for 2030, which is currently indeed the most likely outcome. They also projected that the carbon price would sharpy increase towards 2030 due to high-carbon lock-in in the current decade.

France calls for tougher EU CO2 emission target. Funnily enough, French president Hollande called for a 40% target one day later, as reported by Reuters.

Britain’s carbon tax to slow summer coal use from 2016. PointCarbon also reported on projections showing that the  carbon price floor introduced by Britain is going to have the desired effect of curtailing coal use. Unfortunately, it starts low and ratchets up over time, so the effect will be felt only in a couple of years. Nevertheless, an example of how to work around the dysfunctional EU ETS.

Overview of German power prices. Craig Morris debunks some of the myths around the impact of the Energiewende on German power prices. In fact, power prices make up only a fraction of most firms’ costs, fossil fuel prices have increased substantially since the 1990s, wholesale prices have gone down in recent years, exports have been soaring, as did utilities’ profit margins until 2011.

The whole story: a luxury item in contemporary journalism. Craig Morris also had it in for German weekly Der Spiegel this week. First, he thoroughly debunked a recent Spiegel piece claiming that renewables had made electricity a luxury good in Germany. In a follow-up, he posited more generally that Der Spiegel was “a tabloid for the educated”, “selling print by scaring readers”.

Renewable skid marks. Nick Reimer of points out (article in German) that Germany is far from being world champion in renewable energy if measured in per capita terms. In terms of installed capicity it’s only in fifth place, behind Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Sweden. In terms of annual additions, even the record year 2012 sufficed only for 7th place, behind Estonia, Romania, Denmark, the USA, Norway, Cape Verde and Austria. And this year Germany will add a lot less capacity than last.

German power supply remains secure. also reports on new figures from the German grid authority showing that contrary to skeptics’ claims the expansion of renewables doesn’t have negative impacts on German grid stability.

German energy transition “horribly managed”. Two of Germany’s more well-known journalists, Franz Alt and Fritz Vorholz, this week ran opinion pieces (in German, here and here) arguing that there had never been a national project of this scale that had been as badly managed as the energy transition.


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