Saturday, April 29, 2017

Trump's EPA Wins Advantage in Campaign to Dismantle Clean Power Plan

An appeals court agreed to delay ruling on the Obama plan to rein in global warming emissions.

The Clean Power Plan, designed by the Obama administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, is the centerpiece of U.S. pledges to cut emissions in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement. (Credit: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
A federal appeals court on Friday temporarily granted the Trump administration's request to defer ruling on the validity of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and said it would next consider handing the far-reaching climate rules back to the Environmental Protection Agency to be overhauled or even dismantled.

It was a significant tactical advance for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who on President Donald Trump's orders is working to undo the CPP, which would regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and is critical to meeting U.S. pledges  under the Paris climate agreement.

But the court did not give Pruitt all he wanted.  He had sought an indefinite hiatus—or "abeyance," in legal jargon—for as long as it took for him to decide what to do about controlling carbon dioxide emissions, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly found to be EPA's mandate under the Clean Air Act.

Instead, the appeals court granted an abeyance for just 60 days.  It asked the adversaries who have been fighting in court ever since the rules were proposed to submit briefs in just over two weeks on whether the painstakingly devised regulations should be "remanded"—basically sent back to EPA's drawing board.

If that happens, electric power plants, especially those burning coal, which have long produced a major proportion of U.S. greenhouse gases, would be allowed indefinitely to continue doing so largely unfettered by federal constraints.  They would be mitigated only by market forces, state and local laws, and rules governing other pollutions.

David Doniger, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the ruling disappointing, but not devastating.  He noted that if the rule is remanded to Trump's EPA, the Supreme Court stay could be lifted and the Obama version could remain in force, pending its reconsideration.

Even if the appeals court ultimately decides not to cede the field entirely to the Trump-Pruitt EPA, it's hard to see at this point how anything but delay and uncertainty lies ahead for the next few years.

Read more at Trump's EPA Wins Advantage in Campaign to Dismantle Clean Power Plan

Trump Orders Review of Obama Offshore Drilling Plan

The Ocean Star offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. (Credit: Katie Haugland Bowen/flickr)
President Trump on Friday called for the review of a five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing that the Obama administration put in place to keep large swaths of the Atlantic and Arctic off-limits to fossil fuel development.

Trump signed an executive order calling for the review during a ceremony at the White House.  It comes just before the symbolic 100-day mark of his administration and instructs the Commerce Department to also review all marine sanctuaries created or expanded in the past 10 years. The order echoes another signed earlier this week for a review of all large national monuments established since 1996 and recommending ways for Congress to shrink or abolish them.

The latest order is part of a concerted effort to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations — such as the Clean Power Plan and a moratorium on federal coal leasing — put in place in part to curb the greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of fossil fuels.  Those emissions are raising global temperatures and sea levels, as well as impacting weather patterns and the health of ecosystems.

Trump and officials in his administration, many of whom have connections to the oil and gas industry, have decried those regulations as “job killing” and preventing economic growth.  They have also cited them as a threat to national security.  Trump promised during his campaign to roll them back and bolster America’s declining coal industry as well as fully exploit the country’s fossil fuel reserves.

“This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating, energy exploration,” Trump said in remarks before the signing.  “It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban and directs Secretary Zinke to allow responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our treasury and jobs to our workers.”

The new order “puts us on track for American energy independence,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters Thursday evening.

Zinke is charged with carrying out the review of the current five-year offshore leasing plan over the next couple of years.  In the meantime, that plan “remains in existence; there is no immediate change,” Zinke said.

Under the current leasing plan, 3.8 million acres of the Atlantic and 115 million acres of the Arctic under U.S. jurisdiction are placed off-limits for leasing.  Offshore leasing accounts for about 16 percent of U.S. oil production and 5 percent of natural gas production, with about 97 percent of that activity occurring in the western Gulf of Mexico.  The plan did allow for leasing in 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea off of Alaska.

Read more at Trump Orders Review of Obama Offshore Drilling Plan

Friday, April 28, 2017

  Friday, Apr 28

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.

Sea Floor Erosion Causes Coral Reefs to Sink

Five US coral reefs are sinking beneath the waves due to the erosion of the sea floor, robbing coastal communities of their natural storm barrier.

Antler coral at the Molokini crater, near the Hawaiian island of Maui, where the sea floor is being scoured of sand and sediments. (Image Credit: Yury Velikanau via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The world’s coral reefs are not just in hot water and under threat from acid attack; they may even be getting out of their depth.  New research around five US coral reefs shows that even as sea levels rise, the sea floor around the reefs is being eroded.

And coral growth simply may not be fast enough to keep up, which means that coastal communities in Florida, the Caribbean, and Hawaii could become increasingly at risk from storms, waves and erosion.

The news comes close after revelations that great tracts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, like other coral colonies, have been devastated by bleaching, as ocean temperatures rise above the levels that corals – animals that live in symbiosis with algae – can tolerate, and researchers have warned that this could soon be happening to reefs almost everywhere, every year.

Coral under threat
There is already widespread alarm among marine scientists as the seas become measurably more acidic due to an increase in levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and this too poses a threat to corals everywhere.

But while researchers in the tropics had monitored the living reefs of the surface waters, hardly anybody had paid attention to the sea floor around the reefs.

Now, scientists of the US Geological Survey report in Biogeosciences that – possibly as a consequence of the degradation of the reefs of the Florida Keys, the US Virgin Islands, and the Hawaiian island of Maui – the sea floor is being scoured of sand and sediments, just as sea levels continue to creep to a predicted rise of up to a meter by 2100.

Around Maui, they report, they measured the loss enough sand, rock and shell to fill the Empire State Building in New York 81 times over.

This means that the seas along those coasts have become unexpectedly deep.  Since tropical corals depend for nourishment on light photosynthesized by their algal partners at the surface, this raises yet another hazard:  if the sea floor is falling at the same time as the seawater ceiling is going up, can corals grow fast enough to keep up?

“Our measurements show that seafloor erosion has already caused water depths to increase to levels not predicted to occur until near the year 2100,” says Kimberly Yates, a biogeochemist at the USGS’s St Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, who led the research.

“At current rates, by 2100 sea floor erosion could increase water depths by two to eight times more than what has been predicted from sea level rise alone.”

Healthy coral reefs are among the richest and most diverse habitats on the planet.  They represent an immediate asset to human communities:  they underwrite tourism and fisheries, and they deliver protection against storm surge and tsunami for around 200 million people in low-lying coastal communities.

Sea level rise presents a threat to communities along the coasts of all the inhabited continents, and coastal flooding could by 2100 be costing the world $100 trillion a year.

One group has calculated that money spent on protecting and restoring reefs would represent a bargain, at about one-twentieth the cost of artificial breakwaters.

Read more at Sea Floor Erosion Causes Coral Reefs to Sink

The Next March Is All About Climate Change

Hundreds of thousands turned out for the People's Climate March in New York, held in September 2014. (Credit: Climate Action Network/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
For the second weekend in a row, Washington, D.C. will be home to people clamoring for policies based on science.  But unlike the March for Science, this weekend’s People’s Climate March will be overtly political and put a sharp focus on climate change and justice.

The march builds on a 2014 landmark event that drew hundreds of thousands to the streets around the globe.  Then, the push was for the world to deliver a climate deal, a goal achieved a year later in Paris.

The climate action landscape has changed a lot since then, most notably by the election of President Trump.  While some of his policies may be driving people to the streets on Saturday, Paul Getsos, the national march coordinator, said he wasn’t the initial impetus for the march.

“We were ready to be active with the next administration when we thought it was Hillary Clinton,” Getsos said.  “Our steering committee was working together (last year) to figure out how to make the next president, who we thought was going to be Clinton, be bigger and bolder on climate.”

Nonetheless, Trump’s election has changed the focus a bit.  Organizers and other climate advocates are now trying to prevent the U.S. from backsliding on its recent climate action progress.

The Trump administration has walked back a number of climate policies enacted under President Obama and proposed cutting the budget of a number of climate and energy programs.  A number of cabinet members have also expressed views far outside established climate science.

The march is slated for Trump’s 100th day in office.  Organizers chose the date because the first 100 days is a measuring stick for the president’s priorities.  Executive orders aiming to roll back climate policies are among the few tangible goals Trump can point to.

Read more at The Next March Is All About Climate Change

A New Kind of Street Tree Grows in Newton MA

Scott Carlin planted a spring snow crabapple along Hyde Avenue in Newton. (Credit: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff) Click to Enlarge.
The Northeast has already seen a rise in temperature of roughly 2 degrees over the past 100 years, according to the federal National Climate Assessment released in 2014.

Along with rising sea levels and increased precipitation, the region is expected to experience more frequent, longer, and hotter heat waves, leading to increased drought risk.

A study released in March by the Woods Hole Research Center predicted that 40 tree species in the eastern United States will not be able to adapt to warming temperatures, including some varieties of birch, maple, fir, and cherry.

Researchers reviewed conditions at national parks and recreational areas in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Virginia. While park rangers can fight invasive species and pests, researchers said the underlying causes of climate change need to be addressed.

“We need to cut our fossil fuel emissions and stop warming. There’s no getting around that,” said Woods Hole scientist Brendan Rogers in a statement.

The future of Newton’s urban canopy is being shaped in part nearly 500 miles to the west, at Schichtel’s Nursery in Springville, N.Y. It’s where the city gets many of its trees, and growers there worry that the heat will bring drought, threatening trees like sugar maples, said James Kisker, the nursery’s sales manager.

Kisker said the nursery provides trees for more than 150 American cities, including Milwaukee and Minneapolis, and closer to home, Boston, Lexington, Arlington, and Cambridge.

He compared climate change’s predicted impact on some trees to the harm caused by Dutch elm disease to the American elm decades ago, or the Asian longhorned beetle, which wiped out troves of pines in the United States, including in Worcester.

“We’ve seen this pattern before,” he said.

The nursery has been encouraging city foresters to plant several varieties of trees that can handle drought and pollution, Kisker said. And they should be diverse enough to prevent insects and disease from decimating a community’s trees.

Marc Welch, director of the city’s urban forestry division, said the city’s tree program, which began plantings in 2015, is expected to add a total of 1,100 new trees by the end of 2017.

In addition to beautifying public spaces, he said, they offer shade, clean the air, and reduce stormwater runoff.

Specimens are chosen from among 20 to 30 different varieties, depending on the location. Where trees could bump into power lines, crabapple or cherry are being planted. Taller types — oak, for example — are being added where height won’t be an issue, he said.

“They are one of the few public assets, as they grow, they appreciate in value,” Welch said.

Read more at A New Kind of Street Tree Grows in Newton

Thursday, April 27, 2017

  Thursday, Apr 27

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.

The Clean-Energy Transition Is Powering the U.S. Economy

National Mall (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The federal government has an important role facilitating the acceleration of a clean, modern 21st century energy system.  Ignoring that role or diminishing its effectiveness go against the tide of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that is creating U.S. jobs and helping the economy flourish.

Companies, states, and cities are all pursuing clean energy and energy efficiency because it makes economic sense.  The federal government needs to encourage this innovation, not try to slow it down.

Consider that clean energy is the fastest growing energy sector in the United States. Renewables have accounted for more than half of new U.S. power capacity for the past three years in a row.  Thanks to market forces, including falling prices for renewables and relatively low and stable prices for natural gas, the U.S. energy system is getting cleaner.

The drive for clean energy and sustainability is also putting Americans to work.  The latest U.S. Department of Energy report shows the solar workforce increased by 25 percent to about 374,000 in 2016, while wind employment increased by 32 percent to about 102,000.  Almost 2 million Americans are employed in the design, installation, and manufacture of energy-efficiency products and services.  The U.S. nuclear industry directly employs about 50,000, and growing global demand could generate thousands of U.S. industry jobs.

Read more at The Clean-Energy Transition Is Powering the U.S. Economy

American Climate Refugees Could Flee Inland

The population of inland American cities will alter drastically if predictions of dramatic sea level rises by 2100 are correct, new report suggests.

More on its way … flooding in Ukiah, California, January 2017. (Image Credit: Bob Dass via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
If humans go on burning ever greater volumes of fossil fuel, then dramatic rises in sea levels could turn 13 million US citizens into climate refugees and send them fleeing inland – many of them to Atlanta, Houston, and Phoenix.

This latest study, in Nature Climate Change, builds on an earlier assessment of what could happen in 319 American coastal counties if sea levels rise 1.8 meters by 2100.

American refugees
The calculation at the time was that overall sea level rise could threaten the properties of 13.1 million people.  This raised the question:  where could they all go?

“We typically think about sea level rise as a coastal issue, but if people are forced to move because their houses become inundated, the migration could affect many landlocked communities as well,” says the study’s author, Mathew Hauer, a population scientist in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia.  He also led the original county-by-county estimates of the numbers at risk.

Worldwide, around 1 billion people live in low-lying coastal zones, and an estimated 180 million are at risk.  The latest study is claimed as the first attempt to use mathematical simulations to calculate not just the attrition on the coasts, but the long-term consequences for landlocked communities, which will have to accommodate a new class of incomer:  the climate refugee.

In December 2015, more than 195 nations agreed in Paris to attempt to contain global warming to 1.5°C by drastically reducing fossil fuel emissions.  But even if such promises are fulfilled, European cities could face sea level rises of more than 50cm (1.6 ft) by 2100, enough to put properties and lives at risk in cases of extreme storms and tidal surges.

Richer populations are assumed to be more likely to invest in coastal defenses and some coastal communities will be less at risk than others, yet the cost of what Dr Hauer calls “adaptive infrastructure” in the US could reach $1 trillion.

But population change is inevitable.  Miami, in Florida, could lose 2.5 million residents, and, altogether, nine states could see a population decline in response to a sea level rise of 1.8 meters (5.9 ft).  Texas, however, could gain 1.5 million citizens, demonstrating, says Dr Hauer, “that the sheer magnitude of places affected could alter the US population landscape”.

Read more at American Climate Refugees Could Flee Inland

Ocean Warming to Cancel Increased Carbon Dioxide-Driven Productivity

Sea grass. (Credit: © Richard Carey / Fotolia) Click to Enlarge.
University of Adelaide researchers have constructed a marine food web to show how climate change could affect our future fish supplies and marine biodiversity.

Published today in Global Change Biology, the researchers found that high CO2 expected by the end of the century which causes ocean acidification will boost production at different levels of the food web, but ocean warming canceled this benefit by causing stress to marine animals, preventing them using the increased resources efficiently for their own growth and development.  The result was a collapsing food web.

Read more at Ocean Warming to Cancel Increased Carbon Dioxide-Driven Productivity

Trump's Climate Cuts Could Result in Half-Billion Extra Tons of CO2 in the Air

A new analysis quantifies the 'Trump Effect' on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, finding emissions begin to flatten or increase by 2020 under his policy plans.

President Trump's efforts to roll back existing climate change policies will have a delayed but prolonged effect, according to a new analysis. (Credit: Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
President Donald Trump's planned climate change policies could lead to an extra half a billion tons of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2025, according to a new analysis.  That is equal to the annual electricity emissions of 60 percent of U.S. homes.

Climate Advisers, a Washington consultancy, predicts that U.S. carbon emissions, which have been falling, will begin to flatten or increase by 2020 if the Trump administration succeeds in repealing the Clean Power Plan and other Obama-era regulations.

In other words, decisions made today will have a delayed effect—but a prolonged one.

"We found that the 'Trump Effect' really begins to bite into the U.S. emissions trajectory in 2025—since many of the factors influencing today's emissions trajectory can't be reversed quickly," the report said.

The analysis assumes that some regulations are more vulnerable than others to rollbacks. The Clean Power Plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants, methane rules covering the oil and gas industry and a handful of efficiency regulations are "highly vulnerable" in the consulting firm's view, either because they're high profile or because they haven't been fully implemented.  If these are the only rules the Trump administration is able to repeal, it would erase 332 million metric tons of carbon pollution cuts, Climate Advisers projected.

If, however, the Trump administration succeeds also in eliminating "moderately vulnerable" rules—those controlling landfill emissions, potent refrigeration gases such as HFCs and several energy efficiency standards—another 229 million tons of projected emissions cuts would not happen, the report finds.

Read more at Trump's Climate Cuts Could Result in Half-Billion Extra Tons of CO2 in the Air

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

  Wednesday, Apr 26

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.

Environmental Rules Played Minor Role in Coal’s Decline

A coal-fired power plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. (Credit: TVA/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Environmental and climate regulations that cut pollution from coal-fired power plants have played only a minor role in the decline of the coal industry, which has been hurt mainly by expanding use of natural gas and less demand for electricity, according to a Columbia University report published this week.

U.S. coal use fell by about 30 percent between 2011 and 2016.  The paper attributes about half of that decline to low natural gas prices, 26 percent to falling demand for electricity and 18 percent to growth in renewable energy such as wind and solar.  Only 3.5 percent of the coal industry’s decline is due to environmental and climate regulations that took effect prior to 2016.

The paper is among the first analyses to attribute specific factors in the decline of the coal industry in terms of percentages.  Its conclusions contradict Trump administration claims that Obama-era climate and environmental regulations are the main reason the coal industry has declined in recent years.

Trump and other lawmakers have said President Obama’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions amount to a “war on coal” and have put coal miners out of work and prevented the country from being energy independent.

Yet, the U.S. is among the world’s largest producers of fossil fuel.  It is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, second-largest producer of crude oil, and third-largest coal producer. The coal industry is also becoming increasingly automated, reducing the need for workers.

Read more at Environmental Rules Played Minor Role in Coal’s Decline

How Trump’s Monuments Review Could Impact Climate

The Toadstools section of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is being reviewed by the Trump administration for a reduction in size or abolishment. (Credit: James Marvin Phelps/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
President Trump has directed the Interior Department to “review” all large national monuments created since 1996 to recommend ways for Congress to shrink or abolish them.

The directive came in the form of an executive order signed by the president Wednesday morning.  It requires the department to make preliminary recommendations within 45 days and affects only those monuments that are larger than 100,000 acres.

Each of the monuments in the crosshairs was created using the Antiquities Act, a 1906 law that allows a president to unilaterally give national monument status to federal public land without congressional action.  Historically, many monuments created using the act were later upgraded by Congress to become national parks.

“The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it is time we ended this abusive practice,” Trump said before signing the order, singling out the new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah as an example. “I’m directing (Interior) Secretary (Ryan) Zinke to end these abuses and return control to the people — the people of Utah, the people of all the states, the people of the United States.”

In reality, the monuments are public land and most of them were public prior to being designated as national monuments.  Federal law requires the government to include the public in many decisions about how the land is managed.

Zinke said Tuesday that the size of new monuments has been increasing in recent years, and the review is designed to investigate if they’ve been made too large without sufficient public input.  He is expected to issue preliminary recommendations for Congressional actions to Trump within 45 days followed by a final report in four months.

National monuments play a role in America’s response and contribution to climate change because many of them harbor vast reserves of fossil fuel and timber, which are mostly made off limits to development when a monument is created.  The monuments protect ecosystems vulnerable to climate change, store atmospheric carbon in dense forests and, in some cases, serve as sources of water for nearby communities.

Read more at How Trump’s Monuments Review Could Impact Climate

Chomsky on the GOP:  Has Any Organization Ever Been So Committed to Destruction of Life on Earth?

As President Trump prepares to mark 100 days in office, we spend the hour with the world-renowned linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky.  Amy Goodman spoke to him on Monday night at the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The conversation addressed climate change, nuclear weapons, North Korea, Iran, the war in Syria and the Trump administration’s threat to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.  Amy Goodman began by asking him about the Republican Party.

Watch: Noam Chomsky & Amy Goodman in Conversation (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about this comment that you made that the Republican Party, you said, is the most dangerous organization in world history. Can you explain?

NOAM CHOMSKY: I also said that it’s an extremely outrageous statement.  But the question is whether it’s true.  I mean, has there ever been an organization in human history that is dedicated, with such commitment, to the destruction of organized human life on Earth?  Not that I’m aware of. Is the Republican organization—I hesitate to call it a party—committed to that? Overwhelmingly.  There isn’t even any question about it.

Take a look at the last primary campaign—plenty of publicity, very little comment on the most significant fact.  Every single candidate either denied that what is happening is happening—namely, serious move towards environmental catastrophe—or there were a couple of moderates, so-called—Jeb Bush, who said, "Maybe it’s happening.  We really don’t know.  But it doesn’t matter, because fracking is working fine, so we can get more fossil fuels."  Then there was the guy who was called the adult in the room, John Kasich, the one person who said, "Yes, it’s true.  Global warming’s going on.  But it doesn’t matter."  He’s the governor of Ohio. "In Ohio, we’re going to go on using coal for energy, and we’re not going to apologize for it." So that’s 100 percent commitment to racing towards disaster. 

Then take a look at what’s happened since.  The—November 8th was the election.  There was, as most of you know, I’m sure, a very important conference underway in Morocco, Marrakesh, Morocco.  Almost roughly 200 countries at the United Nations-sponsored conference, which was—the goal of which was to put some specific commitments into the verbal agreements that were reached at Paris in December 2015, the preceding international conference on global warming.  The Paris conference did intend to reach a verifiable treaty, but they couldn’t, because of the most dangerous organization in human history.  The Republican Congress would not accept any commitments, so therefore the world was left with verbal promises, but no commitments.  Well, last November 8th, they were going to try to carry that forward.  On November 8th, in fact, there was a report by the World Meteorological Organization, a very dire analysis of the state of the environment and the likely prospects, also pointed out that we’re coming perilously close to the tipping point, where—which was the goal of the—the goal of the Paris negotiations was to keep things below that—coming very close to it, and other ominous predictions.  At that point, the conference pretty much stopped, because the news came in about the election.

And it turns out that the most powerful country in human history, the richest, most powerful, most influential, the leader of the free world, has just decided not only not to support the efforts, but actively to undermine them.  So there’s the whole world on one side, literally, at least trying to do something or other, not enough maybe, although some places are going pretty far, like Denmark, couple of others; and on the other side, in splendid isolation, is the country led by the most dangerous organization in human history, which is saying, "We’re not part of this.  In fact, we’re going to try to undermine it."  We’re going to maximize the use of fossil fuels—could carry us past the tipping point.  We’re not going to provide funding for—as committed in Paris, to developing countries that are trying to do something about the climate problems.  We’re going to dismantle regulations that retard the impact, the devastating impact, of production of carbon dioxide and, in fact, other dangerous gases—methane, others.

OK.  So the conference kind of pretty much came to a halt.  The question—it continued, but the question was:  Can we salvage something from this wreckage?  And pretty amazingly, the countries of the world were looking for salvation to a different country:  China.  Here we have a world looking for salvation to China, of all places, when the United States is the wrecking machine that’s threatening destruction, in—with all three branches of government in the hands of the most dangerous organization in human history.

And I don’t have to go through what’s happened since, but the—in general, the Cabinet appointments are designed to—assigned to people whose commitment and beliefs are that it’s necessary to destroy everything in their department that could be of any use to human beings and wouldn’t just increase profits and power.  And they’re doing it very systematically, one after another.  EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, has been very sharply cut.  Actually, the main department that’s concerned with environmental issues is the Department of Energy, which also had very sharp cuts, particularly in the environment-related programs.  In fact, there’s even a ban on posting and publishing information and material about this.

Read more at Chomsky on the GOP:  Has Any Organization Ever Been So Committed to Destruction of Life on Earth?

Energy Secretary Rick Perry Supports Paris Climate Agreement, but Wants to Tweak It

Perry delivered a fiery speech in support of Trump’s rollback of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan last month (Credit: Carlos Barria / Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry supports remaining in the Paris climate agreement, but wants the United States to renegotiate its terms, he said Tuesday.

That puts him on one side of a schism forming within President Donald Trump’s White House over how to handle the historic 195-country deal to slash emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, senior adviser Jared Kushner, support remaining in the agreement; chief strategist Steve Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt ― two of the more radical, far-right voices in the White House ― want Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to exit the agreement.

Perry, in a Tuesday morning speech at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference, tempered his view.  He touted decreasing emissions last year in the U.S. and China ― the world’s top polluters ― and criticized European countries, such as Germany, for not doing enough to shrink their own carbon footprint.

“There’s a lot of cheerleading the Paris accord and keeping the United States involved in that,” Perry said.  “But the two countries that are making the real impact on emissions are the U.S. and China.  So, I’m looking over at my friends in Germany and France going, ‘What are you all doing?’”

It’s true that German emissions rose by 0.7 percent last year, driven largely by an increase in vehicles on the road and the continued use of coal to generate about 40 percent of the country’s electricity.  The numbers stand in stark contrast to Germany’s hard-line policy supporting renewable energy, which now produces 30 percent of its electricity.  The country plans to shutter all its nuclear power plants by 2022 as part of its energiewende, or energy transition, policy.

“You have Germany, for instance, who has made the decision to go away from coal, to get out of the nuclear business, to double down, to hear them tell it, on renewables,” Perry said.  “But the fact is their emissions have gone up because they’re using more coal, and they’re using coal that is not clean technology.”

“My point is, don’t sign an agreement and then expect us to stay in an agreement if you’re not going to really participate and be part of it,” he added.  “The United States has taken actions to affect in a positive way. I’m not going to tell the president of the United States, ‘Let’s just walk away from the Paris accord,’ but we probably need to renegotiate it and they need to get serious about it.”

Read more at Energy Secretary Rick Perry Supports Paris Climate Agreement, but Wants to Tweak It

Millions of Colombians at Risk to Climate Change:  Minister

Colombia's Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development Luis Gilberto Murillo speaks during an interview with Reuters in Bogota, Colombia April 24, 2017. (Credit: Reuters/Jaime Saldarriaga) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change has put nearly 12 million Colombians at risk from natural disasters like flooding and landslides, which could kill hundreds and cause serious infrastructure damage, the environment minister said on Tuesday.

Recent heavy rains have endangered residents in dozens of towns and cities, especially in neighborhoods of makeshift construction on deforested slopes of the Andes mountains.  Deadly avalanches and flooding in the cities of Mocoa and Manizales killed more than 330 people this month.

At-risk cities in the Andean country, which has a population of 49 million, are typically located along riverbeds or in mountainous areas, Environment Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo told Reuters in an interview.

Disaster prevention efforts include relocation of high-risk neighborhoods and construction of retaining walls to hold back landslides, Murillo said.

"Colombia is very vulnerable to phenomena of extreme climate variability and climate change," Murillo said, adding that around 500 municipalities are constantly in medium or high alert for flood and landslide risks.

"We have to move toward a culture of prevention and response to early warnings. Close to 12 million people are in high-risk conditions," said the minister, a former mining engineer.

Read more at Millions of Colombians at Risk to Climate Change:  Minister

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

  Tuesday, Apr 25

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.

China to Boost Non-Fossil Fuel Use to 20 Percent by 2030:  State Planner

China aims for non-fossil fuels to account for about 20 p
Employees row a boat as they examine solar panel boards at a pond in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, China, in this March 16, 2016 file photo. (Credit: Reuters/Stringer/Files) Click to Enlarge.
ercent of total energy consumption by 2030, increasing to more than half of demand by 2050, its state planner said on Tuesday, as Beijing continues its years-long shift away from coal power.

In a policy document, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will peak by 2030 and total energy demand will be capped at 6 billion tons of standard coal equivalent by 2030, up from 4.4 billion tons targeted for this year.

The NDRC said it wants to increase oil and underground natural gas storage facilities, but it did not give any further details.

The statement largely reiterated previous pledges contained in five-year plans and other policy documents and aimed at boosting wind and solar power usage.

Read more at China to Boost Non-Fossil Fuel Use to 20 Percent by 2030:  State Planner

Extreme Arctic Melt Is Raising Sea Level Rise Threat; New Estimate Nearly Twice IPCC's

Trajectory of dramatic climate change in the Arctic is locked in through 2050, but what happens after that depends largely on our choices today, report says.

The Arctic has been one of the regions hardest hit by climate change and the effects on worldwide sea level rise are now expectetd to be worse than thought. (Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Global sea level rise could happen at nearly twice the rate previously projected by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even under the best scenario, according to a new report.

By the end of this century, as some glaciers disappear completely, the Arctic's contribution to global sea level rise will reach at least 19 to 25 centimeters (7.5 to 10 inches), according to the report by the Arctic Council's Arctic Monitoring Assessment Program (AMAP).

Factoring those numbers into projections about other sources of sea level rise results in a minimum of 52 centimeters (20 inches) of sea level rise by 2100 under a best-case scenario and 74 centimeters (29 inches) under business as usual.  "These estimates are almost double the minimum estimates made by the IPCC in 2013," the authors wrote.

The report, called "Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic 2017," takes a comprehensive look at the changes already underway in the Arctic, as well as what's in store. It was one of a handful of reports examining climate change in the Arctic and its effect on communities there that were released by AMAP in advance of this week's International Conference on Arctic Science and the Arctic Council ministerial in May, when the U.S. will hand off the Council chairmanship to Finland.

Read more at Extreme Arctic Melt Is Raising Sea Level Rise Threat; New Estimate Nearly Twice IPCC's

Arctic Thaw Quickening Threatens Trillion-Dollar Costs - Report

Residents view the first iceberg of the season as it passes the South Shore, also known as 'Iceberg Alley', near Ferryland Newfoundland, Canada April 16, 2017. (Credit: Reuters/Greg Locke/File Photo) Click to Enlarge.
The Arctic's quickening thaw is melting the permafrost under buildings and roads from Siberia to Alaska, raising world sea levels and disrupting temperature patterns further south, an international study said on Tuesday.

The frigid region's shift to warmer and wetter conditions, resulting in melting ice around the region, may cost the world economy trillions of dollars this century, it estimated.

The report by 90 scientists, including United States experts, urged governments with interests in the Arctic to cut greenhouse gas emissions.  U.S. President Donald Trump doubts that human activities, led by use of fossil fuels, are the main driver of climate change.

"The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth, and rapidly becoming a warmer, wetter and more variable environment," according to the study, which updates scientific findings from 2011.

"Increasing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the primary underlying cause," they wrote in the study commissioned by the Arctic Council grouping the United States, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

Arctic warming could have cumulative net costs from 2010-2100 of between $7 trillion and $90 trillion, it said, with harm exceeding benefits such as easier access for oil and gas exploration and shipping, it said.

The period 2011-2015 was the warmest since records began in 1900.  Sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, which shrank to a record low in 2012, could disappear in summers by the 2030s, earlier than many earlier projections, it said.

Read more at Arctic Thaw Quickening Threatens Trillion-Dollar Costs - Report

Pollution from Canada’s Oil Sands May Be Underreported

A Suncor Energy oil sands plant near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. (Credit: Suncor/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Canadian scientists have found that the standard way of tallying air and climate pollution from Alberta’s oil sands vastly understates pollution levels there — by as much as 4.5 times, according to a Canadian government study published Monday.

The study shows that air samples collected using aircraft may be a more accurate way to tally air and climate pollution from oil and gas production than using industry estimates.

Accurate accounting of the oil and gas industry’s pollution is critical for scientists to understand how fossil fuel production affects the climate and to find ways to cut the pollution to address air quality and climate change, said Allen Robinson, director of the EPA-funded Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions at Carnegie Mellon University, who is unaffiliated with the study.

Both the U.S. and Canadian governments rely on energy companies’ self-reported emissions estimates in order to count all the pollution from oil and gas operations.  Few actual pollution measurements are taken.

If official tallies underestimate the actual emissions, climate models will likewise underestimate the extent to which fossil fuel pollution is contributing to climate change, Robinson said.  The Canadian research shows that the energy industry has been underreporting its emissions and it highlights the challenges the industry faces in accurately estimating emissions from very complex equipment.

Read more at Pollution from Canada’s Oil Sands May Be Underreported

The Fingerprints of Global Warming on Extreme Weather

Residents who refused to be evacuated sit on makeshift boats during evacuation operations of the Villeneuve-Trillage suburb of Paris on June 3, 2016. (Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann) Click to Enlarge.
When climate scientists examine whether the warming of the Earth has made extreme weather events such as heatwaves or downpours more likely, they generally do it on a case-by-case basis.  But a group led by Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh has aimed to develop a more global, comprehensive approach to investigating how climate change has impacted such extremes.

With a new framework they developed, Diffenbaugh’s team found that heat records were made both more likely and more severe for about 80 percent of the area of the globe with good observational data.  For precipitation records, that percentage was about half.

The team also examined a few particular events, finding, for example, that warming was clearly linked to the record-low summer Arctic sea ice extent of 2012.

Given the findings of previous so-called attribution studies as well as long-term warming trends, those results aren’t surprising, but they do show how much human-caused global warming has affected weather extremes already, the study authors and outside experts said.

And while several outside researchers quibbled with some aspects of the study, they said it provided a new tool that could help researchers more easily and uniformly probe what ingredients of a particular extreme event exhibit a climate change signal.

“The overall message — that changes in extremes worldwide can be attributed to human-induced climate change — is not new, but this paper adds another piece of relevant evidence to bolster that conclusion,” Peter Stott, a UK Met Office climatologist who conducted the 2003 study that kicked off the attribution sub-field, said in an email.

The idea behind extreme event attribution studies is to gain a better handle on how warming is changing the risk of different types of extreme weather in different areas.  Because extremes have some of the biggest impacts on people, infrastructure and the economy, understanding how those risks are changing can help government officials and businesses better plan for the future.

Most of these studies, though, are generally case studies of specific events, often ones that happen in scientists’ backyards.  While informative, they lead to what scientists call “selection bias,” meaning they aren’t taking in the full scope of how warming is affecting extreme weather.

Diffenbaugh and his colleagues, who have done several attribution case studies, particularly on the California drought, sought to get a broader view by using existing attribution methods to look at particular climate measures across a broader swath of the planet.  These included the hottest day, hottest month, driest year and the wettest five-day period.

The results, detailed Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that heat records in 80 percent of the study area were more likely affected by climate change than not, Diffenbaugh said.

This suggests that the world is not quite at the point where every single record-setting heat event has a discernable climate change influence, “but we are getting close,” he said.

Read more at The Fingerprints of Global Warming on Extreme Weather

Monday, April 24, 2017

  Monday, Apr 24

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.

China, India Become Climate Leaders as West Falters

Click enlarged image to jump to your region: United States | Canada | EU | Australia | Russia | India | China | Amazon | Southeast Asia | Congo Basinn(Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Less than two years after world leaders signed off on a historic United Nations climate treaty in Paris in late 2015, and following three years of record-setting heat worldwide, climate policies are advancing in developing countries but stalling or regressing in richer ones.

In the Western hemisphere, where centuries of polluting fossil fuel use have created comfortable lifestyles, the fight against warming has faltered largely due to the rise of far-right political groups and nationalist movements.  As numerous rich countries have foundered, India and China have emerged as global leaders in tackling global warming.

Nowhere is backtracking more apparent than in the U.S., where President Trump is moving swiftly to dismantle environmental protections and reverse President Obama’s push for domestic and global solutions to global warming.

The U.S. isn’t alone in its regression.  European lawmakers are balking at far-reaching measures to tackle climate change.  Australian climate policy is in tatters.  International efforts to slow deforestation in tropical countries are failing.

While global emissions of heat-trapping pollution appear to be stabilizing, they have not shown any signs of decreasing, which would be necessary to slow climate change.  Rising temperatures are worsening floods, storms and wildfires around the world.

“Right now, when you sum the actions of all countries, even under the Paris agreement, it’s insufficient to mitigate dangerous, human-caused climate change,” said Matto Mildenberger, a political scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“Different countries move forward on climate issues with their own rhythm in response to domestic political factors,” Mildenberger said.  “It’s naive to think that pro-climate forces will be in power across the world at the same time.”

Here’s a trip around the world, assessing how pro-climate and anti-climate forces are faring in key nations and regions and showing how recent developments are affecting the languishing fight against global warming.

Read more at China, India Become Climate Leaders as West Falters