Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Harvard Study Finds Exxon Misled Public about Climate Change

An analysis of Exxon’s research and public statements shows a sharp contrast between what the oil giant knew about climate change and what it told the public.

Exxon scientists led research into carbon dioxide changes in the oceans and atmosphere in the early 1980s, but the corporate tone shifted. “ExxonMobil contributed quietly to the science and loudly to raising doubts about it,” say the authors of a new study. (Credit: Richard Werthamer) Click to Enlarge.
A comprehensive, peer-reviewed academic study of ExxonMobil's internal deliberations, scientific research and public rhetoric over the decades has confirmed empirically that the oil giant misled the public about what it knew about climate change and the risks posed by fossil fuel emissions, the authors said on Tuesday.

The paper confirms the findings of a 2015 investigative series by InsideClimate News that was based largely on the company's internal records, and also of independent work published by the Los Angeles Times.  That reporting ignited investigations by state attorneys general that are still in litigation.

"On the question of whether ExxonMobil misled non-scientific audiences about climate science, our analysis supports the conclusion that it did," Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University wrote in the study, published Tuesday in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters.

Across the board, the paper found "a systematic discrepancy between what ExxonMobil's scientists and executives discussed about climate change privately and in academic circles and what it presented to the general public," the authors said.

"ExxonMobil contributed quietly to the science and loudly to raising doubts about it," they wrote.

The authors explicitly rejected Exxon's main defense, which was to claim that journalists were "cherry picking" the company's record and that its positions had always been in step with the state of the science.  The company often said that anyone who read the full documentary record would see matters Exxon's way.

The Harvard researchers said their task was to accept Exxon's challenge to review the full record.  Among the documents they examined were dozens cited in ICN's work, as well as more than 50 scientific papers Exxon frequently mentioned in its own defense and its issue advertising.

Supran and Oreskes called their conclusions "an expansive, quantitative, independent corroboration of the findings of investigative journalists."

In an interview Supran said the evidence was unambiguous.

The authors reviewed 187 public and internal Exxon documents over the past four decades, including many that were brought to light by ICN's reporting.

In one finding they judged that 83 percent of peer-reviewed papers written by company scientists and 80 percent of the company's internal communications acknowledged that climate change is real and caused by humans.  But among Exxon's advertisements on the editorial pages of The New York Times, a proxy for communications aimed at a broad public audience, only 12 percent acknowledged climate change as real and human-caused, while 81 percent expressed doubt.

Read more at Harvard Study Finds Exxon Misled Public about Climate Change

Can Business Save the World from Climate Change?

City lights in Chicago. (Credit: Luis José Da Silva G/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
“We are still in.”  On June 5, 2017, with these four words a group of U.S. businesses and investors with a combined annual revenue of $1.4 trillion sent a powerful message to the world:  U.S. president Donald Trump may have withdrawn from the Paris agreement on climate change four days earlier, but corporate America was not following suit.

We Are Still In launched with more than 20 Fortune 500 companies on board, including Google, Apple, Nike, and Microsoft, as well as a host of smaller companies.  The statement was coordinated by a large collective of organizations including World Wildlife Fund, Rocky Mountain Institute, Climate Mayors, Ceres, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.  It has now grown to include more than 1,500 businesses and investors, as well as nine U.S. states, more than 200 cities and counties, and more than 300 colleges and universities.

In recent years, a number of initiatives and collaborations have sprung up around the world focused on private sector action on climate change.  And it’s not alone.  In recent years, a number of initiatives and collaborations have sprung up around the world focused on private sector action on climate change.  With Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement, these initiatives have raised an intriguing question:  In the absence of political action, can business save the world from devastating climate change?

...“The simple answer is there’s no saving the world without business, but business can’t do it on its own,” says Nigel Topping, CEO of We Mean Business.  “The reason we need these kinds of coalitions is so that both business leaders and political leaders hear loud and clear that actually the majority of businesses understand that we’ve got to change, and actually are on board and already in motion.”

We Mean Business is a global coalition of many of the same NGOs that initiated We Are Still In — CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), The B Team, The Climate Group, and others — and the two initiatives are closely connected.  We Mean Business’s role is to provide a framework for corporate commitments on climate change and a platform from which to make those commitments public.

Science-based Targets
One such commitment is to adopt science-based greenhouse gas emissions targets.  This is where Science Based Targets comes in.  This global collaboration among CDP, World Resources Institute, the World Wide Fund, and the United Nations Global Compact encourages and helps corporations to align their climate change policies with scientific evidence.

“What we could observe is a majority of companies were setting targets, but at least from a CDP perspective, we had many challenges to understand what targets were best,” says Pedro Faria, technical director of CDP and member of the Science Based Targets steering committee.  “Talking with companies and other NGOs, we realized there was no method, so companies were setting targets based on what was feasible and not what was needed.”

“It has been extremely important to just make people aware of this concept:  Set your ambition according to what the best available science tells you.”

Science Based Targets helps companies determine what actions they need to take to contribute meaningfully to the global target of remaining below 2°C (3.6°F) warming, a level above which experts say irreversible changes become locked in.  These actions will vary across industries, so targets must be tailored to individual companies while still meeting global needs.  Nearly 300 companies have signed on from every continent except Antarctica.

“It has been extremely important to just make people aware of this concept:  Set your ambition according to what the best available science tells you,” Faria says.  “Our mission is to make science-based targets a new norm.”  Sixty-two companies have now set approved science-based targets for emissions reductions.  For example, Coca-Cola HBC — a leading bottler of The Coca-Cola Company — has committed to a science-based target of reducing its emissions by 50 percent per liter of drink by 2020.

Energy For Renewables
Another corporate commitment We Mean Business advocates is the goal of 100 percent renewable power.  More than 100 companies, including Ikea, Walmart, Nestle, and Unilever have committed to this, but in a complex energy market like that in the U.S., buying this much renewable energy isn’t always easy.  So in May 2016, Business for Social Responsibility, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund started the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, or REBA, which helps steer corporations through the energy market maze.  The end goal is facilitating the deployment of 60 gigawatts of new renewable energy in the U.S. corporate sector by 2025.

Read more at Can Business Save the World from Climate Change?

Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050

Currently, forecasts vary from 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050.

Imagine a world with as many as one billion people facing harsh climate change impacts resulting in devastating droughts and/or floods, extreme weather, destruction of natural resources, in particular lands, soils and water, and the consequence of severe livelihoods conditions, famine and starvation.

Although not yet based on definite scientific projections, the proven speed with which the process of climate change has been taking place, might lead to such a scenario by 2050.  If so, 1 in 9 human beings would be on the move by then.

Currently, forecasts vary from 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis, with 200 million being the most widely cited estimate, according to a 2015 study carried out by the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University.

“This figure equals the current estimate of international migrants worldwide.”

Other specialised sources estimate that “every second, one person is displaced by disaster.” On this, the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports that in 2015 only, more than 19.2 million people fled disasters in 113 countries. “Disasters displace three to ten times more people than conflict and war worldwide.”

One Person Displaced Every Second
As climate change continues, adds NRC, it will likely lead to more frequent and severe natural hazards; the impact will be heavy, warns this independent humanitarian organisation providing aid and assistance to people forced to flee.

“On average, 26 million people are displaced by disasters such as floods and storms every year.  That’s one person forced to flee every second.”

For its part, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) also forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis.  Many of them would be coastal population.

In an interview to IPS, the IOM Director General William Lacy Swing explained that political crises and natural disasters are the other major drivers of migration today.
“We have never had so many complex and protracted humanitarian emergencies now happening simultaneously from West Africa all the way to Asia, with very few spots in between which do not have some issue.”
The UN specialized body’s chief added “We have today 40 million forcibly displaced people and 20 million refugees, the greatest number of uprooted people since the Second World War.”

Read more at Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050

California’s Car Culture Is Slowing the State's Emissions Cuts

The state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions are falling while its economy grows, but longer commutes and cheap gas are boosting vehicle emissions.

Emissions from Cars on the Rise  (Credit: Paul Horn / InsideClimate News) Click to Enlarge.
California has been a model for the nation when it comes to cutting climate-warming emissions without sacrificing economic growth, but a new report shows that the state's car culture is presenting a challenge to continuing progress.

Even as fuel efficiency has improved and electric cars have begun catching on, Californians as a whole are driving more, pushed by lower gas prices and longer commutes, according to a report published Tuesday by Next 10, a California-based think tank, and Beacon Economics, an independent research firm.  Emissions from the transportation sector rose in 2015, slowing the state's overall emissions reductions to just 0.34 percent that year, the most recent year with complete data.

The findings highlight the challenge the state faces, said F. Noel Perry, Next 10's founder, as it will need to cut emissions by about 5 percent per year for a decade beginning in 2020 to hit its climate goals.

"California is facing a very important and critical moment," he said. "We need probably a new set of policies to push us even stronger, faster and more efficiently to reduce these transportation emissions."

After California passed its signature climate change legislation in 2006 establishing a cap-and-trade carbon market, gross domestic product grew by nearly $5,000 per person through 2015, even as emissions fell by 12 percent, according to the report.  That economic growth was nearly twice the national average, and job growth in California also outpaced the nation as a whole.  Put another way, California produced nearly twice as much economic output per unit of energy than the rest of the country.

Decoupling Economic Growth from Emissions
Historically and in much of the world, emissions have climbed inexorably with economic growth, so this "decoupling" is critical to meeting the ambitious goals of the Paris climate agreement.  California has been a beacon for the possibility, and it's not alone.  A December report from the Brookings Institution found that more than 30 states have cut emissions while expanding their economies, many at even higher rates than California.

Even as President Donald Trump begins to unravel federal efforts to cut emissions, political leaders in California have sought to strengthen the state's climate policies.  In July, state lawmakers passed a bill extending the state's cap-and-trade system through 2030.

So far, California has largely remained on track to meet its ambitious climate goals, which aim to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 40 percent below that by 2030.  Renewable energy sources accounted for 27 percent of electricity generation last year, ahead of a required 25 percent.  And the 2020 emissions target is well within reach.  But the cuts will need to accelerate dramatically after 2020.  And now, thanks mostly to cars, they're moving in the opposite direction.

The transportation sector now accounts for nearly 40 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions, with most of that coming from passenger vehicles.  Californians drove an additional 2.7 billion miles in 2015, overwhelming any gains made in fuel efficiency.  Housing costs are pushing people to move farther from work, the report says, and public transportation ridership was down across the state and the nation as a whole.  Nationally, the Trump administration has begun the process of reviewing federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. California has its own fuel efficiency standards, but they require a federal waiver.

Electric Cars Hold Potential, but Charging Network Lags 
State officials are hoping that electric cars may help reverse the growth in vehicle emissions. They've set a goal of getting 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles on the road by 2025 and have implemented a $133 million rebate program.  As of the end of last year, California accounted for more than half of all zero-emissions vehicles sales in the country, according to the report. And in the first three months of this year, they made up 5 percent of all auto sales in the state.

Unfortunately, the report says, the required charging network is not keeping pace:  California has one of the lowest ratios of charging outlets to vehicles in the nation.  Utility companies, pushed by state mandates, are planning $1 billion in spending to improve the situation.

Electrification of the transportation sector, of course, will require a huge build-out and improvement of the grid, too, but the report says the state is well on its way.  Since 2010, state regulators have adopted programs to boost the energy storage capacity that's needed to handle intermittent power from wind and solar, and in 2013 required that utilities install 1.3 gigawatts of storage capacity by 2020.

Read more at California’s Car Culture Is Slowing the State's Emissions Cuts

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

  Tuesday, Aug 22

Global surface temperature relative to 1880-1920 based on GISTEMP analysis (mostly NOAA data sources, as described by Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change. Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004.  We suggest in an upcoming paper that the temperature in 1940-45 is exaggerated because of data inhomogeneity in WW II. Linear-fit to temperature since 1970 yields present temperature of 1.06°C, which is perhaps our best estimate of warming since the preindustrial period.

Judge Criticizes FERC Environmental Review in Out-of-State Pipeline Case

The ruling on the Southeast Market Pipelines Project is the second federal court decision this month to conclude climate impacts must be taken into account.

(Photo Credit: Randall K. Wolf/The News Leader) Click to Enlarge.
A U.S. Court of Appeals judge ruled Tuesday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) did an inadequate job evaluating the environmental effects of an unrelated natural-gas pipeline project a few hundred miles south of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's projected route.

FERC's environmental impact statement "did not contain enough information on the greenhouse-gas emissions that will result from burning the gas that the pipelines will carry," wrote Judge Thomas Griffith, of the District of Columbia Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, in the court's opinion on the case between FERC and the Sierra Club.

The case concerns the Southeast Market Pipelines project, which is made up of three natural-gas pipelines now under construction in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

Griffith added that, "in all other respects, we conclude that FERC acted properly," but because FERC didn't adequately address the question of greenhouse-gas emissions, the court ordered the agency to prepare an environmental impact statement "that is consistent with this opinion."

Read more at Judge Criticizes FERC Environmental Review in Out-of-State Pipeline Case

As US Coal Exports Swell, Trump Admin Facilitates Major Deal with Ukraine

Export levels of coal produced in the U.S. shot up earlier this year, as President Donald Trump assumed the White House, in what his administration has dubbed the age of “energy dominance.”

Export levels of coal produced in the U.S. shot up earlier this year, as President Donald Trump assumed the White House, in what his administration has dubbed the age of “energy dominance.” (Image Credit: U.S. Embassy in Ukraine) Click to Enlarge.
For the first quarter of 2017, export levels grew 58 percent compared to the same quarter last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The news comes as the Trump administration recently helped broker a major coal export deal between Pennsylvania-based coal production company Xcoal Energy and Ukranian company Centrenergo PJSC. 

That deal, which will see 700,000 tons of thermal coal shipped from XCoal's mines to Centrenergo power plants in Ukraine, was applauded by both U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

Although Trump's presidential campaign is under scrutiny for its potential connections to Russian operatives, Ross praised the coal deal in the name of fending off Kremlin influence.

“Today’s announcement will allow Ukraine to diversify its energy sources ahead of the coming winter, helping bolster a key strategic partner against regional pressures that seek to undermine U.S. interests,” Ross stated in a press release.  “In the past, Russia has tried to choke off opposition to its ambitions by restricting the flow of natural gas to its western neighbors.”

Perry also lauded the deal as a way of beating back Russian energy dominance in that region. Russian-backed separatist rebels currently occupy Ukraine's coal-rich region and have commandeered the mines, making coal extraction in the area currently untenable. 

“In recent years Kiev and much of Eastern Europe have been reliant on and beholden to Russia to keep the heat on.  That changes now,” stated Perry.  “The United States can offer Ukraine an alternative, and today we are pleased to announce that we will.  U.S. coal will be a secure and reliable energy source for Centrenergo and its electricity customers.”

According to the joint Commerce Department/Energy Department press release, shipments of coal to Ukraine will begin in late August and early September in time to stockpile for the winter season.  Those shipments, according to Kyiv Post, will come mostly via the Port of Baltimore.

Read more at As US Coal Exports Swell, Trump Admin Facilitates Major Deal with Ukraine