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« Munich Re America launches transit bus collision avoidance pilot in Washington with Mobileye Shield+ system | Main | DOE announces $3M for 2nd round of HPC4Mfg for industry access to high performance computing » A techno-economic analysis by a team from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University has determined that biodiesel produced from oil from genetically modified lipid-producing sugarcane (lipid-cane) is much more economical than biodiesel produced from soybean oil. In their open-access paper, published in the journal Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining, the researchers reported results showing that the biodiesel production cost from lipid-cane decreased from $0.89/L to $0.59 /L as the lipid content in the cane increased from 2 to 20%; this cost was lower than that obtained for soybeans ($1.08/L). Ethanol was produced as a co-product from the remaining sugar from the cane. The ethanol production costs from lipid-cane were between $0.40/L and $0.46/L. The internal rate of return (IRR) for the soybean biodiesel process was 15.0%, and the IRR for the lipid-cane process went from 13.7 to 24.0% as the lipid content increased from 2 to 20%. Because of its high productivity, lipid-cane with 20% lipid content can produce 6700 L of biodiesel from each hectare of land, whereas soybean can only produce approximately 500 L of biodiesel from each hectare of land. The team had earlier altered sugarcane metabolism to convert sugars into lipids, or oils, which could be used to produce biodiesel. The natural makeup of sugarcane is typically only about 0.05 percent oil. Within a year of starting the project, the team was able to boost oil production 20 times, to approximately 1 percent. At the time of this analysis, the “oil-cane” plants are producing 12% oil. The ultimate goal is to achieve 20%. Oil cane has additional advantages that have been engineered by the team. These include increased cold tolerance and more efficient photosynthesis, which leads to greater biomass production and even more oil. If all of the energy that goes into producing sugar instead goes into oil, then you could get 17 to 20 barrels of oil per acre. A crop like this could be producing biodiesel at a very competitive price, and could represent a perpetual source of oil and a very significant offset to greenhouse gas emissions, as well. In their analysis, the team looked at the land area, technology, and costs required for processing oil-cane biomass into biodiesel under a variety of oil production scenarios, from 2 percent oil in the plant to 20 percent. These numbers were compared with normal sugarcane, which can be used to produce ethanol, and soybean. The analysis showed that oil cane with 20 percent oil in the stem, grown on under-utilized acres in the southeastern United States, could replace more than two-thirds of the country’s use of diesel and jet fuel. This represents a much greater proportion than could be supplied by soybean, even if the entire crop went to biodiesel production. Furthermore, oil cane could achieve this level of productivity on a fraction of the land area that would be needed for crops like soybean and canola, and it could do so on land considered unusable for food crop production. The current full production cost of biodiesel from soybean is $4.10 per gallon ($1.08 per liter). Using oil cane instead, that cost decreases to $3.30 per gallon for 2 percent oil cane and to $2.20 per gallon for 20 percent oil cane. The ethanol produced from 1-, 5- and 10 percent oil cane would add to the cost benefit. The project received funding from the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program.

When it comes to hurricanes in the U.S., large-scale trends are not in our favor. In fact, unless action is taken to curb both global warming and coastal development, the American economy may be set to take a perilous bashing from stronger storms, rising seas and too much high value, high-risk property lying in harms' way. By the end of the century, a hurricane that strikes the eastern United States could cause up to three times more economic damage than a hurricane that strikes today, climate researchers warn in a new study. SEE ALSO: Why the extreme Louisiana floods are worrying but not surprising If the world doesn’t drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and Americans don’t move to safer ground, the U.S. could suffer an eight-fold jump in average annual financial losses from hurricanes by 2100, the study found. In the study, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the scientists from Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research show that future hurricane-related losses for American families, companies and communities could grow faster than the overall U.S. economy — meaning the country won’t be able to counteract the damages from extreme weather events by creating more jobs and wealth. “We find that hurricane losses have risen and will rise faster than the economy,” Tobias Geiger, the paper’s lead author and a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute, told Mashable. “The impacts of climate change cannot be simply economically outgrown," he said. In the U.S. alone, hurricanes caused $400 billion in estimated losses between 1980 and 2014, accounting for more than half of all weather-related economic losses, the German reinsurance giant Munich Re last year. Damages from other extreme weather events — including floods, wildfires, tornadoes and droughts — are also on the rise due to both human-caused global warming and unchecked development into floodplains, fire-prone forests and waterfronts. In 2015, the U.S. experienced 10 weather and climate disaster events that each caused $1 billion in total damages and costs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That’s about twice the annual average of 5.2 billion dollar events experienced from 1980 to 2015. And this year is already on track to outpace 2015 in the number of these expensive disasters. As of July, the country has suffered eight such events, including two flooding and six severe storm events — not including the devastating floods in southern Louisiana that have killed at least 13 people and led to 40,000 rescues. Geiger said that few other studies have projected future U.S. damages from hurricanes in a comparable way to the Potsdam Institute’s research. A in Climate Change Economics and a by the World Bank both found that hurricane-related losses would roughly double by the end of the century due to climate change alone. But Geiger said his team made a novel finding: That hurricane-related losses in the U.S. will grow faster than per-capita income growth, so that even if the United States grows wealthier as a nation, it will be no better protected from the wrath of warming-fueled hurricanes. “Some people hope that a growing economy will be able to compensate for the damages caused by climate change — that we can outgrow climate change economically instead of mitigating it,” Anders Levermann, one of the study’s authors, said in a press release.  “But what if damages grow faster than our economy? What if climate impacts hit faster than we are able to adapt?” A house destroyed by 2012's Hurricane Sandy in New York City, Oct. 8, 2013. Kerry Emanuel, a meteorologist at MIT and a prominent researcher examining global warming-related trends in hurricanes, said the study is “important” because it shows that the U.S. can’t compensate for increasing hurricane damages solely by growing the economy. Emanuel contributed research on the synthetic storm events used in the study and reviewed an earlier draft. “This adds urgency to the need to revise existing policies that inadvertently promote migration to and building within hurricane-prone coastal regions,” he told Mashable in an email. The Potdsam Institute researchers developed statistical damage models that linked a hurricane’s wind speed, the size of the exposed population and per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) to reported storm losses. They also studied information on historical hurricane tracks for the eastern U.S. to determine the connections between storm damages and the other three indicators. The team used those findings to analyze thousands of potential hurricane tracks that could affect the Gulf and Atlantic Coast regions through 2100, using different degrees of global warming. When it comes to the rise in annual financial losses from hurricanes, about one-third of the losses could be the result of global warming, while the remaining two-thirds could come from “increased vulnerability on the socio-economic side,” Geiger said in an email interview. Geiger said the institute’s research shows that adaptation measures — such as storm surge barriers, wind-resistant housing and floodgates — won’t be enough to keep the U.S. or other hurricane-prone nations safe in the warming future.  To fully hold costs down, we would have to limit the magnitude and pace of global warming, he said. Reducing emissions of harmful greenhouse gases that cause global warming is perhaps even more essential to limiting the future damage of hurricanes, Geiger said. “Although improving adaptation efforts can reduce further harm, it is important to increase climate mitigation in order to prevent or damp still-avoidable consequences,” Geiger said. Editor's Note: This story has been edited to remove the quotes from a researcher, Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who felt he had been misquoted as disagreeing with the new study's findings. Pielke's research, in fact, is consistent with the study's findings about future storm losses, he said on Thursday.

Binata Pinata stands on top of a rock holding a fish her husband Kaibakia just caught off Bikeman islet, located off South Tarawa in the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati in this May 25, 2013 file photo. Global leaders are close to the end of two weeks of talks to try to agree an accord to slow climate change. A draft agreement this week showed countries had made progress on some sticking points but remain divided over several core issues before Friday's deadline. A weak deal could lead to a situation where "insurance will be pretty hard to find in some places", according to Matt Cullen, head of strategy at the Association of British Insurers, as droughts, flash floods and wildfires become more common around the world. But the most vulnerable countries are already finding it onerous to fix the damage wreaked by climate change. "As of now, there is insurance cover for high waters and flooding, but not for coastal erosion," Thoriq Ibrahim, minister for environment and energy for the Maldives, told Reuters by phone from Paris. "It's very expensive to repair." The Asian Development Bank has described the "pancake-flat" Maldives in the Indian Ocean as the country most at risk in South Asia from climate change. If left unchecked, this could cause annual economic losses of nearly 13 percent of gross domestic product by the end of the century, it estimated. AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island States, which the Maldives currently chairs, wants developed countries and insurers to provide help for the costs of rising sea levels. There are already some insurance options for managing other extreme weather losses. Local insurers are able to provide cover for flood damage in the Maldives, Ibrahim said, who then farm some of the risk out to international reinsurers. But the lack of specific climate change-related insurance meant one hotel resort in the Maldives was recently unable to claim on losses caused by erosion, a local insurer told Reuters. For now at least, industry participants see insuring for rising sea levels as a no-go area - as risky as covering a house for fire when someone is already walking up the path with a lit match. "Risks from the slowly but steadily rising sea level are not insurable because there is no sudden and unforeseeable trigger, which is a prerequisite for insurance," said Peter Hoeppe, head of geo risk research at reinsurer Munich Re. Nevertheless, international insurers, working with multilateral lenders, governments and development organizations, have come up with special arrangements to help cash-strapped countries in the Caribbean and Africa deal with natural disasters such as hurricanes, extreme rainfall and drought. These are the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility www.ccrif.org/ and African Risk Capacity. www.africanriskcapacity.org/ The United States pledged more support for these initiatives in Paris, along with financial backing for a similar project in the Pacific Islands. Twenty of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, from the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan to the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, said in October they plan to work for a pooling mechanism to share insurance risk. These arrangements typically pay out if a certain natural disaster is triggered - such as if a specific level of rainfall is exceeded within a set period - so those that have suffered get the cash far faster than if they have to assess damage and make claims. Islands and insurers agree that more needs to be done, however, to understand the risks involved so that suitable insurance can be offered, for instance through the development of more sophisticated forecasting. "We need to make pretty big investments in data analysis and technology, so we can be as informed as we can be," said Mike McGuire, chief financial officer at insurer Endurance Specialty Holdings. "As an industry, we never know exactly what's going to happen." Small island states are pushing for a mechanism in a Paris accord to cover loss and damage, for instance from typhoons or sea level rise that exceed nations' abilities to adapt. "There has to be some real international mechanism, funding, that is predictable," Jose Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, told Reuters in Paris. Most of the existing multilateral initiatives will help only governments, rather than providing broader support for those suffering directly from natural disasters, according to Reto Schnarwiler, head of Americas and EMEA at Swiss Re Global Partnerships. "The injured party is the government. They would use these proceeds for emergency relief, reconstruction of public infrastructure - it's not a facility for individuals and business." A study by reinsurer Swiss Re shows that in the last 10 years, policies covered only 30 percent of global catastrophe losses, leaving governments, companies and individuals to pay $1.3 trillion. In the U.S. island state of Hawaii, the risks from increasing natural disasters due to climate change are "real and large", according to Celeste Connors, executive director of Hawaii Green Growth. A category 4 hurricane over Waikiki - a beachfront area of the state capital Honolulu - could cause $20-40 billion in losses, she said. "Hawaii has been lucky over the last several years, but luck eventually runs out. There's currently a gap between Hawaii's exposure and investment in climate-resilient infrastructure and post-disaster financing." Other risks are also becoming uninsurable. Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at catastrophe risk modeling firm RMS, said that in the Bahamas, houses built on canals were lying vacant due to lack of insurance against hurricanes. "That's one example of a dystopian future, where insurers simply walked away." Without insurance, countries need to spend the money themselves to become more resilient to climate change. The most drastic option is to move house. The Pacific island state of Kiribati bought 6,000 acres (2,500 hectares) of land in Fiji last year to help safeguard future food supplies and perhaps to become a home if seas rise, as part of a policy of "migration with dignity". "The worst case scenario is relocation of some islands," said the Maldives' Ibrahim. "We want to adapt, we want to stay, and we want funds for that."

News Article
Site: www.reuters.com

While the climate phenomenon known as 'El Niño' reduced the development of hurricanes in the North Atlantic, storms and floods still inflicted billions of dollars of damage in Europe and North America, the world's largest reinsurer said in an annual review. Munich Re said floods in the UK and Scandinavia from storm "Desmond" early last month may cause about 700 million euros ($764 million) in claims, while later flooding from storm "Eva" in the UK may cause overall damage of more than 1 billion euros. Climate change may have played a role in the floods, it said. Two tornado outbreaks and flooding also hit the United States hard last month but Munich Re said damage estimates were not yet available. The insurance industry lobbied governments to take action to curb climate change in the run-up to the UN climate summit in Paris last year, citing both rising payouts in heavily-insured rich country markets and a lack of affordable insurance in developing countries where it is most needed. "The proportion of insured losses for catastrophes in developing and emerging countries remains very low,” said Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek. "The insurance industry is exploring new avenues to close this gap in cover and thus to help people better cope with material losses after a catastrophe," Jeworrek said. Munich Re participates in newly-established insurance pools to help Caribbean, Pacific Island and African states cope with weather related catastrophes. Insurers and reinsurers may get a push from an international effort unveiled by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney to develop company disclosures so investors can assess companies' physical, liability and other risks from climate change. "Quantification and disclosure of insurance risk has helped to drive reinsurance demand for the last 25 years," said John Cavanagh, Chief Executive at broker Willis Re. The $27 billion in insured damage last year was lower than the $31 billion registered in 2014 and also below the 10-year average of $56 billion, Munich Re said. Overall damage, including that not covered by insurance, was $90 billion last year, the lowest level since 2009. In all, 23,000 people were killed in 2015, many in the Nepal earthquake in April. The total compared with 7,700 the previous year, but was well below the 10-year average of 68,000. Lower claims payouts boost insurance industry profit but have a downside for reinsurers, whose insurance company clients often then demand lower prices for reinsurers' backing. Willis Re said reinsurance prices continued to fall for contracts taking effect at the start of 2016 and that predictions of an end to the multi-year decline had proved illusory. "The January renewals have unfortunately confounded the hopes of commentators that the market was reaching a pricing floor," Willis Re's Cavanagh said. The review gave no claims figures for Munich Re itself. The reinsurer is due to report its results from the January renewals contracts with insurers, as well as its 2015 financial results, on Feb. 4.

Smerzini C.,Polytechnic of Milan | Paolucci R.,Polytechnic of Milan | Stupazzini M.,Munich Re
Bulletin of Earthquake Engineering | Year: 2011

In this work we studied the performance of different numerical approaches to simulate the large amplifications of long period earthquake ground motion within the Gubbio plain, a closed-shape intra-mountain alluvial basin of extensional tectonic origin in Central Italy, observed during the Umbria-Marche 1997 seismic sequence. Particularly, referring to the Sep 26 1997 Mw6. 0 mainshock, we considered the following numerical approximations: (a) 3D model, including a kinematic model of the extended seismic source, a layered crustal structure, and the basin itself with a simplified homogeneous velocity profile; (b) 2D model of a longitudinal and transversal cross-section of the basin, subject to vertical and oblique incidence of plane waves with time dependence at bedrock obtained by the 3D simulations; (c) 1D model. 3D and 2D numerical simulations were carried out using the spectral element code GeoELSE, exploiting in 3D its implementation in parallel computer architectures. 3D numerical simulations were successful to predict the observed large amplification of ground motion at periods beyond about 1 s, due to the prominent onset of surface waves originated at the southern edge of the basin and propagating northwards. More specifically, the difference of 3D vs 2D results is remarkable, since the latter ones fail to approach such large amplification levels, even when an oblique incidence of plane waves is considered. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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