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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Energy level

 

Evaluating the Cost, Safety, and Proliferation Risks of Small Floating Nuclear Reactors

Michael Ford, Ahmed Abdulla & Granger Morgan

Risk Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:
It is hard to see how our energy system can be decarbonized if the world abandons nuclear power, but equally hard to introduce the technology in nonnuclear energy states. This is especially true in countries with limited technical, institutional, and regulatory capabilities, where safety and proliferation concerns are acute. Given the need to achieve serious emissions mitigation by mid-century, and the multidecadal effort required to develop robust nuclear governance institutions, we must look to other models that might facilitate nuclear plant deployment while mitigating the technology's risks. One such deployment paradigm is the build-own-operate-return model. Because returning small land-based reactors containing spent fuel is infeasible, we evaluate the cost, safety, and proliferation risks of a system in which small modular reactors are manufactured in a factory, and then deployed to a customer nation on a floating platform. This floating small modular reactor would be owned and operated by a single entity and returned unopened to the developed state for refueling. We developed a decision model that allows for a comparison of floating and land-based alternatives considering key International Atomic Energy Agency plant-siting criteria. Abandoning onsite refueling is beneficial, and floating reactors built in a central facility can potentially reduce the risk of cost overruns and the consequences of accidents. However, if the floating platform must be built to military-grade specifications, then the cost would be much higher than a land-based system. The analysis tool presented is flexible, and can assist planners in determining the scope of risks and uncertainty associated with different deployment options.

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Seeing change and being change in the world: The relationship between lay theories about the world and environmental intentions

Monica Soliman & Anne Wilson

Journal of Environmental Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Scientists predict that climate change will cause substantial changes to life on our planet, and that human behavior should change substantially in order to mitigate its impact. Hence, we propose that lay theories of change are among the psychological factors that can influence pro-environmental engagement. We predicted that people who think of the world as relatively stable will be more likely to be skeptical about anthropogenic climate change. They should also be less likely to believe that society can change in ways that could alleviate or avert its consequences. In turn, their skepticism about climate change and their beliefs about mitigation are expected to influence their willingness to engage in pro-environmental behavior. A survey conducted with American adults (N = 297) supported these hypotheses; lay theories predicted people's beliefs about climate change and about the possibility of mitigation, which in turn influenced their intentions to engage in pro-environmental behaviors.

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Climate Change Helplessness and the (De)moralization of Individual Energy Behavior

Erika Salomon, Jesse Preston & Melanie Tannenbaum

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although most people understand the threat of climate change, they do little to modify their own energy conservation behavior. One reason for this gap between belief and behavior may be that individual actions seem unimpactful and therefore are not morally relevant. This research investigates how climate change helplessness — belief that one’s actions cannot affect climate change — can undermine the moralization of climate change and personal energy conservation. In Study 1, climate change efficacy predicted both moralization of energy use and energy conservation intentions beyond individual belief in climate change. In Studies 2 and 3, participants read information about climate change that varied in efficacy message, that is, whether individual actions (e.g., using less water, turning down heat) make a difference in the environment. Participants who read that their behavior made no meaningful impact reported weaker moralization and intentions (Study 2), and reported more energy consumption 1 week later (Study 3). Moreover, effects on intentions and actions were mediated by changes in moralization. We discuss ways to improve climate change messages to foster environmental efficacy and moralization of personal energy use.

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Consequences of the Clean Water Act and the Demand for Water Quality

David Keiser & Joseph Shapiro

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
Since the 1972 U.S. Clean Water Act, government and industry have invested over $1 trillion to abate water pollution, or $100 per person-year. Over half of U.S. stream and river miles, however, still violate pollution standards. We use the most comprehensive set of files ever compiled on water pollution and its determinants, including 50 million pollution readings from 170,000 monitoring sites, to study water pollution's trends, causes, and welfare consequences. We have three main findings. First, water pollution concentrations have fallen substantially since 1972, though were declining at faster rates before then. Second, the Clean Water Act's grants to municipal wastewater treatment plants caused some of these declines. Third, the grants' estimated effects on housing values are generally smaller than the grants' costs.

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Proximity to Development and Public Support for Hydraulic Fracturing

Hilary Boudet et al.

Oregon State University Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
Research on the relationship between proximity to energy development and public support for said development has produced conflicting results. Moreover, our understanding of this relationship in the context of unconventional oil and gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing becomes even cloudier because of limited data. Drawing on a unique dataset that includes both geo-coded data from nationally representative surveys conducted from 2012 to 2016 (9 waves; n=19,098) and high-resolution well location data, we examine how proximity to new unconventional oil and gas wells shapes familiarity with and support for hydraulic fracturing. After controlling for various individual and contextual factors, we find that proximity to new development is linked to both greater familiarity with and more support for hydraulic fracturing – a relationship that is similar in magnitude to the marginal effects of income, gender and age. We discuss the implications of these findings for effective risk communication, as well as the importance of incorporating spatial analysis into public opinion research on perceptions of energy development.

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Decline in global oceanic oxygen content during the past five decades

Sunke Schmidtko, Lothar Stramma & Martin Visbeck

Nature, 16 February 2017, Pages 335–339

Abstract:
Ocean models predict a decline in the dissolved oxygen inventory of the global ocean of one to seven per cent by the year 2100, caused by a combination of a warming-induced decline in oxygen solubility and reduced ventilation of the deep ocean. It is thought that such a decline in the oceanic oxygen content could affect ocean nutrient cycles and the marine habitat, with potentially detrimental consequences for fisheries and coastal economies. Regional observational data indicate a continuous decrease in oceanic dissolved oxygen concentrations in most regions of the global ocean, with an increase reported in a few limited areas, varying by study. Prior work attempting to resolve variations in dissolved oxygen concentrations at the global scale reported a global oxygen loss of 550 ± 130 teramoles (1012 mol) per decade between 100 and 1,000 metres depth based on a comparison of data from the 1970s and 1990s. Here we provide a quantitative assessment of the entire ocean oxygen inventory by analysing dissolved oxygen and supporting data for the complete oceanic water column over the past 50 years. We find that the global oceanic oxygen content of 227.4 ± 1.1 petamoles (1015 mol) has decreased by more than two per cent (4.8 ± 2.1 petamoles) since 1960, with large variations in oxygen loss in different ocean basins and at different depths. We suggest that changes in the upper water column are mostly due to a warming-induced decrease in solubility and biological consumption. Changes in the deeper ocean may have their origin in basin-scale multi-decadal variability, oceanic overturning slow-down and a potential increase in biological consumption.

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COP21 climate negotiators’ responses to climate model forecasts

Valentina Bosetti et al.

Nature Climate Change, March 2017

Abstract:
Policymakers involved in climate change negotiations are key users of climate science. It is therefore vital to understand how to communicate scientific information most effectively to this group. We tested how a unique sample of policymakers and negotiators at the Paris COP21 conference update their beliefs on year 2100 global mean temperature increases in response to a statistical summary of climate models’ forecasts. We randomized the way information was provided across participants using three different formats similar to those used in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. In spite of having received all available relevant scientific information, policymakers adopted such information very conservatively, assigning it less weight than their own prior beliefs. However, providing individual model estimates in addition to the statistical range was more effective in mitigating such inertia. The experiment was repeated with a population of European MBA students who, despite starting from similar priors, reported conditional probabilities closer to the provided models’ forecasts than policymakers. There was also no effect of presentation format in the MBA sample. These results highlight the importance of testing visualization tools directly on the population of interest.

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Global economic impacts of climate variability and change during the 20th century

Francisco Estrada, Richard Tol & Wouter Botzen

PLoS ONE, February 2017

Abstract:
Estimates of the global economic impacts of observed climate change during the 20th century obtained by applying five impact functions of different integrated assessment models (IAMs) are separated into their main natural and anthropogenic components. The estimates of the costs that can be attributed to natural variability factors and to the anthropogenic intervention with the climate system in general tend to show that: 1) during the first half of the century, the amplitude of the impacts associated with natural variability is considerably larger than that produced by anthropogenic factors and the effects of natural variability fluctuated between being negative and positive. These non-monotonic impacts are mostly determined by the low-frequency variability and the persistence of the climate system; 2) IAMs do not agree on the sign (nor on the magnitude) of the impacts of anthropogenic forcing but indicate that they steadily grew over the first part of the century, rapidly accelerated since the mid 1970's, and decelerated during the first decade of the 21st century. This deceleration is accentuated by the existence of interaction effects between natural variability and natural and anthropogenic forcing. The economic impacts of anthropogenic forcing range in the tenths of percentage of the world GDP by the end of the 20th century; 3) the impacts of natural forcing are about one order of magnitude lower than those associated with anthropogenic forcing and are dominated by the solar forcing; 4) the interaction effects between natural and anthropogenic factors can importantly modulate how impacts actually occur, at least for moderate increases in external forcing. Human activities became dominant drivers of the estimated economic impacts at the end of the 20th century, producing larger impacts than those of low-frequency natural variability. Some of the uses and limitations of IAMs are discussed.

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Global Climate Policy Will Have Net Benefits Larger Than Anyone Thinks (and Welfare Gains, Strangely, Are Likely To Be Much Larger Yet)

Philip Graves

Ecological Economics, June 2017, Pages 73–76

Abstract:
As with other public goods lacking strong special interest support, global climate policy suffers from two serious theoretical flaws. The first is failure to endogenize the labor-leisure decision when conducting benefit-cost analysis. Recognition that income generated will not remain the same pre-and-post policy results in downward bias in benefit estimation. Much more importantly, there will generally be free riding in input markets in addition to the well-known output demand revelation problem. Since even households with very high marginal values cannot individually increment public goods, too little income will be generated and too much of the income that is generated will be spent on relatively low value ordinary private goods. The ungenerated income would have all been spent on the public good, apart from general equilibrium considerations, resulting in additional — and perhaps large — downward bias in benefits of global climate policy. The reallocation of spending from relatively low value private goods to higher value public goods may further greatly increase willingness-to-pay for policies stabilizing global climate.

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Slower snowmelt in a warmer world

Keith Musselman et al.

Nature Climate Change, March 2017, Pages 214–219

Abstract:
There is general consensus that projected warming will cause earlier snowmelt, but how snowmelt rates will respond to climate change is poorly known. We present snowpack observations from western North America illustrating that shallower snowpack melts earlier, and at lower rates, than deeper, later-lying snow-cover. The observations provide the context for a hypothesis of slower snowmelt in a warmer world. We test this hypothesis using climate model simulations for both a control time period and re-run with a future climate scenario, and find that the fraction of meltwater volume produced at high snowmelt rates is greatly reduced in a warmer climate. The reduction is caused by a contraction of the snowmelt season to a time of lower available energy, reducing by as much as 64% the snow-covered area exposed to energy sufficient to drive high snowmelt rates. These results have unresolved implications on soil moisture deficits, vegetation stress, and streamflow declines.

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The 21st century Colorado River hot drought and implications for the future

Bradley Udall & Jonathan Overpeck

Water Resources Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Between 2000 and 2014, annual Colorado River flows averaged 19% below the 1906-1999 average, the worst 15-year drought on record. At least one-sixth to one-half (average at one-third) of this loss is due to unprecedented temperatures (0.9°C above the 1906-99 average), confirming model-based analysis that continued warming will likely further reduce flows. Whereas it is virtually certain that warming will continue with additional emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, there has been no observed trend towards greater precipitation in the Colorado Basin, nor are climate models in agreement that there should be a trend. Moreover, there is a significant risk of decadal and multidecadal drought in the coming century, indicating that any increase in mean precipitation will likely be offset during periods of prolonged drought. Recently published estimates of Colorado River flow sensitivity to temperature combined with a large number of recent climate model-based temperature projections indicate that continued business-as-usual warming will drive temperature-induced declines in river flow, conservatively -20% by mid-century and -35% by end–century, with support for losses exceeding -30% at mid-century and -55% at end-century. Precipitation increases may moderate these declines somewhat, but to date no such increases are evident and there is no model agreement on future precipitation changes. These results, combined with the increasing likelihood of prolonged drought in the river basin, suggest that future climate change impacts on the Colorado River flows will be much more serious than currently assumed, especially if substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions do not occur.

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Fair Weather or Foul? The Macroeconomic Effects of El Niño

Paul Cashin, Kamiar Mohaddes & Mehdi Raissi

Journal of International Economics, May 2017, Pages 37–54

Abstract:
This paper employs a dynamic multi-country framework to analyze the international macroeconomic transmission of El Niño weather shocks. This framework comprises 21 country/region-specific models, estimated over the period 1979Q2 to 2013Q1, and accounts for not only direct exposures of countries to El Niño shocks but also indirect effects through third-markets. We contribute to the climate-macroeconomy literature by exploiting exogenous variation in El Niño weather events over time, and their impact on different regions cross-sectionally, to causatively identify the effects of El Niño shocks (direct and total) on growth, inflation, energy and non-fuel commodity prices. The results show that there are considerable heterogeneities in the responses of different countries to El Niño shocks. While Australia, Chile, Indonesia, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa face a short-lived fall in economic activity in response to an El Niño shock, for other countries (including the United States and European region), an El Niño occurrence has a growth-enhancing effect. Furthermore, most countries in our sample experience short-run inflationary pressures as both energy and non-fuel commodity prices increase. Given these findings, macroeconomic policy formulation should take into consideration the likelihood and effects of El Niño weather episodes.

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Bioaccumulation of persistent organic pollutants in the deepest ocean fauna

Alan Jamieson et al.

Nature Ecology & Evolution, February 2017

Abstract:
The legacy and reach of anthropogenic influence is most clearly evidenced by its impact on the most remote and inaccessible habitats on Earth. Here we identify extraordinary levels of persistent organic pollutants in the endemic amphipod fauna from two of the deepest ocean trenches (>10,000 metres). Contaminant levels were considerably higher than documented for nearby regions of heavy industrialization, indicating bioaccumulation of anthropogenic contamination and inferring that these pollutants are pervasive across the world’s oceans and to full ocean depth.

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Selenium deficiency risk predicted to increase under future climate change

Gerrad Jones et al.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:
Deficiencies of micronutrients, including essential trace elements, affect up to 3 billion people worldwide. The dietary availability of trace elements is determined largely by their soil concentrations. Until now, the mechanisms governing soil concentrations have been evaluated in small-scale studies, which identify soil physicochemical properties as governing variables. However, global concentrations of trace elements and the factors controlling their distributions are virtually unknown. We used 33,241 soil data points to model recent (1980–1999) global distributions of Selenium (Se), an essential trace element that is required for humans. Worldwide, up to one in seven people have been estimated to have low dietary Se intake. Contrary to small-scale studies, soil Se concentrations were dominated by climate–soil interactions. Using moderate climate-change scenarios for 2080–2099, we predicted that changes in climate and soil organic carbon content will lead to overall decreased soil Se concentrations, particularly in agricultural areas; these decreases could increase the prevalence of Se deficiency. The importance of climate–soil interactions to Se distributions suggests that other trace elements with similar retention mechanisms will be similarly affected by climate change.

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Industrial Investments in Energy Efficiency: A Good Idea?

Mary Jialin Li

University of Chicago Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
Yes, from an energy-saving perspective. No, once we factor in the negative output and productivity adoption effects. These are the main conclusions we reach by conducting the first large-scale study on cogeneration technology adoption – a prominent form of energy-saving investments – in the U.S. manufacturing sector, using a sample that runs from 1982 to 2010 and drawing on multiple data sources from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. We first show through a series of event studies that no differential trends exist in energy consumption nor production activities between adopters and never-adopters prior to the adoption event. We then compute a distribution of realized returns to energy savings, using accounting methods and regression methods, based on our difference-in-difference estimator. We find that (1) significant heterogeneity exists in returns; (2) unlike previous studies in the residential sector, the realized and projected returns to energy savings are roughly consistent in the industrial sector, for both private and social returns; (3) however, cogeneration adoption decreases manufacturing output and productivity persistently for at least the next 7-10 years, relative to the control group. Our IV strategies also show sizable decline in TFP post adoption.

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Do Energy Efficiency Investments Deliver at the Right Time?

Judson Boomhower & Lucas Davis

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

Abstract:
Electricity cannot be cost-effectively stored even for short periods of time. Consequently, wholesale electricity prices vary widely across hours of the day with peak prices frequently exceeding off-peak prices by a factor of ten or more. Most analyses of energy-efficiency policies ignore this variation, focusing on total energy savings without regard to when those savings occur. In this paper we demonstrate the importance of this distinction using novel evidence from a rebate program for air conditioners in Southern California. We estimate electricity savings using hourly smart-meter data and show that savings tend to occur during hours when the value of electricity is high. This significantly increases the overall value of the program, especially once we account for the large capacity payments received by generators to guarantee their availability in high-demand hours. We then compare this estimated savings profile with engineering-based estimates for this program as well as a variety of alternative energy-efficiency investments. The results illustrate a surprisingly large amount of variation in economic value across investments.

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Potential Climate Change Health Risks from Increases in Heat Waves: Abnormal Birth Outcomes and Adverse Maternal Health Conditions

Gulcan Cil & Trudy Ann Cameron

Risk Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract:
We investigate the risks presented by heat waves for adverse health conditions for babies and expectant mothers when these mothers have been exposed to heat waves during gestation or during the period just prior to conception. Rather than just birth weight and gestational age, we focus on less common metrics such as abnormal conditions in the newborn (fetal distress, reliance on a ventilator, and meconium aspiration) and adverse health conditions in the mother (pregnancy-related hypertension, uterine bleeding during pregnancy, eclampsia, and incompetent cervix). We use monthly panel data for over 3,000 U.S. counties, constructed from the confidential version of the U.S. Natality Files for 1989–2008. Our models control for sociodemographic factors and include county, month, and state-by-year fixed effects to control for unobserved spatial and timewise heterogeneity in the data. Even within the United States, where there is widespread access to air conditioning, heat waves increase the fraction of babies with abnormal conditions related to maternal stress, as well as the fraction of mothers who experience pregnancy-related adverse health conditions. The scope for these risks in developing countries is likely to be even greater.

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Revisiting the social cost of carbon

William Nordhaus

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 February 2017, Pages 1518–1523

Abstract:
The social cost of carbon (SCC) is a central concept for understanding and implementing climate change policies. This term represents the economic cost caused by an additional ton of carbon dioxide emissions or its equivalent. The present study presents updated estimates based on a revised DICE model (Dynamic Integrated model of Climate and the Economy). The study estimates that the SCC is $31 per ton of CO2 in 2010 US$ for the current period (2015). For the central case, the real SCC grows at 3% per year over the period to 2050. The paper also compares the estimates with those from other sources.

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No evidence of publication bias in climate change science

Christian Harlos, Tim Edgell & Johan Hollander

Climatic Change, February 2017, Pages 375–385

Abstract:
Non-significant results are less likely to be reported by authors and, when submitted for peer review, are less likely to be published by journal editors. This phenomenon, known collectively as publication bias, is seen in a variety of scientific disciplines and can erode public trust in the scientific method and the validity of scientific theories. Public trust in science is especially important for fields like climate change science, where scientific consensus can influence state policies on a global scale, including strategies for industrial and agricultural management and development. Here, we used meta-analysis to test for biases in the statistical results of climate change articles, including 1154 experimental results from a sample of 120 articles. Funnel plots revealed no evidence of publication bias given no pattern of non-significant results being under-reported, even at low sample sizes. However, we discovered three other types of systematic bias relating to writing style, the relative prestige of journals, and the apparent rise in popularity of this field: First, the magnitude of statistical effects was significantly larger in the abstract than the main body of articles. Second, the difference in effect sizes in abstracts versus main body of articles was especially pronounced in journals with high impact factors. Finally, the number of published articles about climate change and the magnitude of effect sizes therein both increased within 2 years of the seminal report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007.

By KEVIN LEWIS | 09:00:00 AM