Thursday, January 19, 2017

  Thursday, Jan 19

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.

Regional Sea-Level Scenarios Will Help Northeast Plan for Faster-Than-Global Rise

Global sea level could rise by as much as 8 feet by 2100 in a worst-case scenario, according to federal report coauthored by Rutgers' Robert E. Kopp

Sea-level rise is expected to result in more frequent flooding. (Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Click to Enlarge.
Sea level in the Northeast and in some other U.S. regions will rise significantly faster than the global average, according to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Moreover, in a worst-case scenario, global sea level could rise by about 8 feet by 2100. Robert E. Kopp, an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University, coauthored the report, which lays out six scenarios intended to inform national and regional planning.

"Currently, about 6 million Americans live within about 6 feet of the sea level, and they are potentially vulnerable to permanent flooding in this century.  Well before that happens, though, many areas are already starting to flood more frequently," said Kopp, who leads Rutgers' new Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience graduate traineeship.  "Considering possible levels of sea-level rise and their consequences is crucial to risk management."

The report, Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States, provides regional sea-level rise scenarios and tools for coastal preparedness planning and risk management. It also reviews recent scientific literature on "worst-case" global average sea-level projections and on the potential for rapid ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica.

The report's authors, who also include scientists from federal agencies, Columbia University and the South Florida Water Management District, concluded that evidence supports a "worst-case" global average sea-level rise of about 8.2 feet by 2100. Recent studies on Antarctic ice-sheet instability indicate that such rises may be more likely than once thought, the report says.

Read more at Regional Sea-Level Scenarios Will Help Northeast Plan for Faster-Than-Global Rise

Pruitt Dances on Climate, Calls for Change at EPA

U.S. Environmental Protection Agnecy administrator nominee Scott Pruitt. (Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
“Restoring” trust in government.  Adhering to the “rule of law.”  Giving local officials more influence over federal regulation.  Climate change is “not a hoax,” but climate science is “subject to debate.”

These were the themes on display Wednesday during the fiery Senate confirmation hearing for Environmental Protection Agency administrator nominee Scott Pruitt. Senators questioned him intensely on his doubts about climate change and his long history of filing lawsuits against the very agency he has been nominated by President-elect Trump to lead.

Given Pruitt’s combative history toward the agency — and Trump’s promises to promote nearly unfettered fossil fuel development while wiping away regulations controlling carbon emissions — a Pruitt-led EPA could undo or weaken the Obama administration’s climate regulations that gave weight to the U.S. commitment to curb greenhouse gas pollution under the Paris Climate Agreement.  And that could undermine global progress on climate change and help obscure the threat Americans face from global warming.

In an early exchange that set the tone for Democrats’ sharp criticism of his record, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., chastised Pruitt for not recognizing how rising seas caused by climate change are harming Rhode Island’s seafood industry, which is harming fisheries off the state’s coast.

“I see nothing in your career that you will give those fishermen any confidence that you care for their wellbeing one bit,” Whitehouse said.

Like Interior Secretary nominee Ryan Zinke before him on Tuesday, Pruitt said anger among those unhappy with the federal government demands sweeping change in how it enforces regulations.

Those talking points are becoming common among Trump administration nominees who insist that Obama-era regulations have stifled economic progress, hurt jobs and need to be drastically changed, even as the economy has continued to grow and unemployment has returned to the low levels of 2008 prior to the Great Recession and Obama’s presidency.

Read more at Pruitt Dances on Climate, Calls for Change at EPA

Trump’s EPA May ‘Review’ California’s Car Pollution Rules

Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma, arrives to meet with President-elect Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan. (Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid) Click to Enlarge.
It became clear Wednesday that far-reaching car pollution rules enforced by California and a handful of other states could be jeopardized if EPA nominee Scott Pruitt is confirmed by the Senate.

After repeatedly suing the EPA as Oklahoma's attorney general over what he has characterized as federal overreach, President-elect Trump’s pick to lead the agency said during his senate hearing that he plans to review whether California will be allowed to continue operating its own pollution rules affecting vehicles.

California has long set the standard nationwide on environmental regulations, and it has been enforcing pollution rules on automakers for more than 50 years that have helped to reduce smog, slow global warming and improve mileage.

California’s rules for 2017 to 2025 require automakers to sell minimum numbers of electric vehicles, which are typically less polluting than traditional alternatives and can help slow global warming.  Motorists can recharge electric vehicles using solar and wind power, which are becoming more common and affordable.

Pruitt said he would review a federal waiver provided to California that allows it to operate clean car standards that are more stringent than federal rules.  Pruitt said “we shouldn’t prejudge the outcome” of his review.

Federal standards are silent on electric vehicles.  Under a longstanding provision of the Clean Air Act, Massachusetts and some other states are allowed to enforce California’s vehicle regulations instead of federal ones.

Pruitt’s statement triggered alarm among climate experts and activists who already fear that the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress will go further than merely ending federal leadership on climate action — and preemptively prevent cities and states from taking action on their own.

“The current federal regulations, while great, are not going to be aggressive enough,” said Andrew Linhardt, a car pollution expert with the nonprofit Sierra Club.  Revoking California’s waiver “would really be a setback for the fight for a clean environment and for mitigating the worst of climate change.”

Read more at Trump’s EPA May ‘Review’ California’s Car Pollution Rules

  Wednesday, Jan 18

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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How Far Can Technology Go to Stave Off Climate Change?

With carbon dioxide emissions continuing to rise, an increasing number of experts believe major technological breakthroughs —such as CO2 air capture — will be necessary to slow global warming.  But without the societal will to decarbonize, even the best technologies won’t be enough.

The Petra Nova facility in Texas will capture more than 1 million tons of CO2 annually. (Credit: NRG Energy) Click to Enlarge.
In a world with thousands of coal-fired power plants, nearly 2 billion cars and trucks, and billions of tons of coal, oil, and natural gas mined and combusted, it is no surprise that some 40 billion metric tons of CO2 are discharged into the atmosphere annually.  

The oceans and the world’s plants absorb some, yet concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere inexorably rise year by year, climbing in 2016 past 400 parts per million, compared to 280 before the Industrial Revolution.  This is setting off changes from a meltdown in the Arctic, to thawing glaciers worldwide, to weird weather and rising seas. Indeed, the atmosphere has now accumulated enough CO2 to stave off the next ice age for millennia, and every person on Earth now breathes air unlike that inhaled by any previous member of our species, Homo sapiens. 

To have any hope of slowing such pollution and, ultimately, reversing it, will require an energy revolution and some game-changing technological breakthroughs.  After all, it took the advent of cheap methods to fracture underground shale rock with high-pressure water and sand — the technique known as fracking — to free natural gas and make it cheap enough to begin to kill coal in the U.S.  As a result of this cheap natural gas freed by fracking, U.S. emissions of CO2 are now back down to levels last seen in the last decade of the 20th century.  Of course, natural gas is still a fossil fuel and fracking generates sizable leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.  So even though fracked natural gas is an improvement over coal, it still adds to the relentless buildup of CO2. 

The key question is:  Can engineers and entrepreneurs invent and deploy enough technologies — and the world’s governments adopt the right incentives and policies to eliminate carbon from the global economy — all in time to avert major upheaval from climate change?  Already, technological advances are making clean energy sources such as solar and wind more efficient and cheaper, leading to steady growth in their deployment.  But renewable energy increases are still being outrun by even-faster increases in fossil fuel consumption as the economies of developing nations like China and India grow and developed nations, such as the U.S., do far too little to wean themselves off oil, coal, and natural gas. 

This lack of progress underscores the urgent need for technological innovations, although deploying technologies at the scale needed to significantly slow climate change will require major government expenditures and, hence, a massive dose of global will that has so far been lacking.  Some of these technologies may not even be on the horizon, but one tool that many experts say will have to be used is the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Read more at How Far Can Technology Go to Stave Off Climate Change?

2016 Warmest Year on Record Globally, NASA and NOAA Data Show

Third record-breaking year in a row for average surface temperatures

 The planet's long-term warming trend is seen in this chart of every year's annual temperature cycle from 1880 to the present, compared to the average temperature from 1880 to 2015. Record warm years are listed in the column on the right. (Credit: NASA/Joshua Stevens, Earth Observatory) Click to Enlarge.
Globally-averaged temperatures in 2016 were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit (0.99 degrees Celsius) warmer than the mid-20th century mean.  This makes 2016 the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures.

The 2016 temperatures continue a long-term warming trend, according to analyses by scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.  NOAA scientists concur with the finding that 2016 was the warmest year on record based on separate, independent analyses of the data.

Because weather station locations and measurement practices change over time, there are uncertainties in the interpretation of specific year-to-year global mean temperature differences.  However, even taking this into account, NASA estimates 2016 was the warmest year with greater than 95 percent certainty.

"2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series," said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.  "We don't expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear."

Read more at 2016 Warmest Year on Record Globally, NASA and NOAA Data Show