Friday, March 31, 2017

  Friday, Mar 31

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.

'Worldwide Momentum' on Climate Change Despite Trump:  U.N. Official

The Eiffel tower is illuminated in green with the words ''Paris Agreement is Done'', to celebrate the Paris U.N. COP21 Climate Change agreement in Paris, France, November 4, 2016. (Credit: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo) Click to Enlarge.
Governments have created "worldwide momentum" to slow climate change despite threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to pull out of the 2015 Paris Agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions, the U.N.'s climate chief said on Friday.

"The Paris Agreement remains a remarkable achievement, universally supported by all countries when it was adopted," Patricia Espinosa, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn, wrote in a letter to staff.

Trump, who doubts that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels are warming the planet, began undoing former President Barack Obama's policies to slow global warming this week in a shift to favor the U.S. coal industry.

He expects to decide by late May whether to carry out a campaign promise to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement, reached by almost 200 nations.  It sets a goal of phasing out greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of this century.

Espinosa listed signs of "worldwide momentum" including that "solar power capacity globally grew 50 percent in 2016 led by the United States and China" and that ever more governments were passing laws to curb global warming.

"This governmental momentum continues to be underpinned by companies, investors, cities, regions and territories including now many oil majors whose CEOs have in recent weeks publicly spoken out in support of the Paris Agreement," she said.

Read more at 'Worldwide Momentum' on Climate Change Despite Trump:  U.N. Official

‘Critical’ NASA Climate Missions Targeted in Budget Cuts

Earth as seen by the EPIC imager on the DSCOVR satellite on March 29, 2017. (Credit: NASA) Click to Enlarge.
In his most recent weekly address, President Trump praised NASA’s “mission of exploration and discovery” and its ability to allow mankind to “look to the heavens with wonder and curiosity.”  But left out of his statements was the work NASA does to peer back at our home planet and unravel its many remaining mysteries — a mission targeted for cuts in his administration’s budget outline released earlier this month.

In a budget otherwise scant on specifics, four climate-related NASA satellite missions were proposed for termination, including one already in orbit.

Those missions are aimed not only at helping scientists learn more about key parts of the climate system and how global warming is changing them, but also at practical matters such as monitoring the health of the nation’s coastal waters and providing earlier warnings of drought stress in crops.

The proposed cancellations mesh with statements made by Trump, administration officials and some members of Congress who have argued that NASA should be focused on outer space and leave the job of observing Earth to other agencies.  But NASA’s unparalleled experience and expertise in developing new observational technologies and launching satellites makes it a crucial part of the Earth science enterprise, many experts say.

“I don’t see anybody else who could fill that gap,” Adam Sobel, a Columbia University climate scientist, said.

While the budget outline is not the final say, as Congress ultimately controls the purse strings, the proposed cuts are indicative of an “undeclared war on climate,” as David Titley, director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State and a retired rear admiral in the Navy, put it.  Eliminating the proposed missions and other climate science funding to save even a few hundred million dollars is short-sighted, given the long tails of climate change’s expected impacts in the U.S. and around the world, several scientists said.

Read more at ‘Critical’ NASA Climate Missions Targeted in Budget Cuts

El Salvador Passes World’s First Total Ban on Metals Mining

El Salvador has banned all metals mining, saying it poses "a threat to the development and well-being of families." It becomes the first country to implement a blanket metals mining ban. (Credit: dw.com) Click to Enlarge.
El Salvador has become the first nation in the world to ban the mining of gold and other metals, ending a decades-long fight by activists to protect the country’s limited water resources.

Lawmakers, many with signs reading “No to Mining, Yes to Life” on their desks, voted unanimously on Thursday in favor of the ban, which will end large-scale mining activities in El Salvador immediately.  According to Mongabay, no old permits or license applications will be grandfathered in.  The federal government will grant small-scale artisanal gold miners a two-year grace period to close their operations, and will provide technical and financial support to help them do so.

Several Latin American countries have begun limiting destructive mining practices in recent years.  El Salvador, where toxic chemicals and heavy metals pollute an estimated 90 percent of surface waters, has had a moratorium on mining since 2008, The Guardian reported.  Costa Rica, Argentina, and Colombia have implemented partial bans on mining.

But activists said the new total ban is a game-changing victory.  It “makes tiny El Salvador the unlikely hero in a global movement to put the brakes on a modern day ‘gold rush’,” MiningWatch Canada wrote in a statement Thursday.

Read more at El Salvador Passes World’s First Total Ban on Metals Mining

Japan Is Building Planes. Think Less Fuel, Like Its Cars

A model of Mitsubishi's new regional jet in its offices in Nagoya, Japan. The aircraft boasts the highest fuel efficiency and the lowest pollution of its class. (Photo Credit: Umair Irfan) Click to Enlarge.
The first airliner designed and built in Japan in more than 40 years took off for the first time here in late 2015 before hundreds of onlookers, lifted by promises of going farther with less fuel.

The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) family of aircraft, with between 70 and 100 seats, promises the highest fuel efficiency and the lowest pollution compared with its competitors in the booming regional jet market.

The first few aircraft are currently undergoing testing in the United States.
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Plane builders like Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. have already placed big bets on greater fuel efficiency with their respective A350 and 787 airliners.  Mitsubishi, along with the Japanese government, is hoping MRJ can do for the regional jet market what the larger aircraft are doing for international travel, and create a new tool in the fight against global climate change.

Read more at Japan Is Building Planes. Think Less Fuel, Like Its Cars

Removal of Energy ‘Burdens’ Could Have Huge Impacts

Renewable energy research is theatened under President Trump's proposed budget, and legal experts fear his energy independence executive order could affect the government's future support of wind, solar and other clean energy. (Credit: Jerry and Pat Donaho/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
A provision of the “energy independence” executive order signed by President Trump this week is so broad in scope that legal experts say it could affect numerous government responsibilities far beyond those that deal directly with energy and climate change.

The order, which takes steps to rescind Obama-era climate regulations, calls for each federal agency to review all of its actions that have the potential to “burden” both the development and use of domestic fossil fuels and nuclear energy in the U.S.

The review is part of the Trump administration’s broad effort to remove as many federal regulations as possible.  It means that if any federal regulation or decision, such as limiting offshore oil drilling or protecting certain scenic areas, is seen to obstruct or somehow detract from the use of fossil or nuclear energy produced in the U.S., the agency must “review” the action and develop a plan to reverse it, so long as no laws are broken.

Federal agencies have six months to send their plans to the White House.

“If you ask in the most expansive way what federal actions affect fossil fuels production, DOE’s energy support — research and development support for renewable energy — could be construed as something potentially affecting oil and gas,” said Edward A. Parson, an environmental law professor at UCLA, referring to the U.S. Department of Energy.  “The order could encompass a ton of actions in a ton of agencies that aren’t specific to climate change. ”A provision of the “energy independence” executive order signed by President Trump this week is so broad in scope that legal experts say it could affect numerous government responsibilities far beyond those that deal directly with energy and climate change.

The order, which takes steps to rescind Obama-era climate regulations, calls for each federal agency to review all of its actions that have the potential to “burden” both the development and use of domestic fossil fuels and nuclear energy in the U.S.

The review is part of the Trump administration’s broad effort to remove as many federal regulations as possible.  It means that if any federal regulation or decision, such as limiting offshore oil drilling or protecting certain scenic areas, is seen to obstruct or somehow detract from the use of fossil or nuclear energy produced in the U.S., the agency must “review” the action and develop a plan to reverse it, so long as no laws are broken.

Federal agencies have six months to send their plans to the White House.

“If you ask in the most expansive way what federal actions affect fossil fuels production, DOE’s energy support — research and development support for renewable energy — could be construed as something potentially affecting oil and gas,” said Edward A. Parson, an environmental law professor at UCLA, referring to the U.S. Department of Energy.  “The order could encompass a ton of actions in a ton of agencies that aren’t specific to climate change.”

Read more at Removal of Energy ‘Burdens’ Could Have Huge Impacts

Thursday, March 30, 2017

  Thursday, Mar 30

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.

Volkswagen Settles 10 U.S. State Diesel Claims for $157 mln

A man walks past the brands of the Volkswagen group during the annual news conference in Wolfsburg, Germany, April 28, 2016. (Credit: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch) Click to Enlarge.
Volkswagen AG said on Thursday it has agreed to pay $157.45 million to settle environmental claims from 10 U.S. states over its excess diesel emissions, as the world's largest automaker looks to move past the scandal.

The settlement covers states including New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Washington, as well as some consumer claims.  In 2016, the German automaker reached a $603 million agreement with 44 U.S. states, but that settlement did not cover claims in Thursday's announcement.

The settlement also requires Volkswagen to offer at least three new electric vehicles in the 10 states by 2020, including two SUVs.  VW agreed in December to offer the vehicles in California in the same time frame.

In total, VW has agreed to spend up to $25 billion in the United States to address claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers and to make buy-back offers.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the state's $32.5 million share of the settlement is the state's largest- ever air pollution fine and "makes clear that no company – however large or powerful – is above the law."

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the state's $20 million share is the largest-ever state environmental civil penalty.

Read more at Volkswagen Settles 10 U.S. State Diesel Claims for $157 mln

In Setback for Exxon, Texas Judge Kicks Climate Change Case to New York

The oil company loses its home court advantage before a sympathetic judge who has voiced skepticism over the climate fraud investigations by state attorneys general.

The attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts have launched investigations into whether Exxon's climate change record amounted to fraud. (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
A federal judge handling ExxonMobil's dispute with the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts has transferred the case about climate change from his court in Texas to one in New York.  The decision marks a setback for the Dallas-based oil giant, which until recently had enjoyed a home court advantage before the bench of U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade.

Kinkeade has voiced sympathy with Exxon and skepticism over the attorneys general investigations into whether the company's climate record amounted to fraud.

The judge decided on Wednesday to send the case to New York because the foundation of Exxon's lawsuit rests on a press conference a year ago hosted by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has been investigating Exxon under the state's powerful securities laws.  At the highly publicized event, Schneiderman announced the formation of a coalition of attorneys general under the banner AGs United for Clean Power.  The intent of the coalition was to hold Exxon and the fossil fuel industry accountable for climate change.

Exxon had been under investigation by New York for six months when Schneiderman announced the coalition.  Massachusetts and the US. Virgin Islands opened investigations around the same time the coalition was formed.

Read more at In Setback for Exxon, Texas Judge Kicks Climate Change Case to New York

Climate Change's Mental Health Impacts Need Care Too, Group Says

Often overlooked, the mental part of dealing with extreme weather and other climate impacts is crucial, new report says.


The longterm impacts of climate-related events like the flooding in Louisiana in 2016 are important to address, a new report says. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
When a storm driven by climate change forces a family from its home, the impacts don't necessarily disappear once the waters recede and the damage is repaired. Though harder to spot, the impacts on people's mental health can be pervasive and enduring.

That is the thrust of a report released Wednesday by the American Psychological Association called "Mental Health and Our Changing Climate:  Impacts, Implications, and Guidance."

The report builds on previous work and examines the harm caused by the various manifestations of climate change, from extreme weather and wildfires to heat waves and the general "eco-anxiety" that comes from coping with the enormity of the climate crisis.

"We have this strange situation with climate change in our country that people don't talk about it much, and that means we don't have the opportunity to get prepared for it," said Susan Clayton, one of the report's authors.  "That makes it scarier.  It seems so amorphous."

The news about climate change can be so frightening, so overwhelming, that instead of shaking people into awareness, it can drive them toward denial.  One study cited by the report found that people who received complex information about the threat of climate change felt more helpless and more likely to want to avoid hearing about it in the future.

"Talking about it makes it more manageable and concrete.  It can also increase the political will to do something about it," said Clayton.

Read more at Climate Change's Mental Health Impacts Need Care Too, Group Says

IEEE Spectrum Commentary:  Photo Ops with Coal Miners Offer No Substitute for Fact-based Climate Policy

Photograph of President Trump shaking hand of hard-hat-wearing coal miner (Photo Credit: Ron Sachs/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
How will all of this industry action on climate balance out against a hostile U.S. administration?  Let’s take that up by correcting one more fallacy at work yesterday—one not from the Trump camp but built into yesterday’s coverage in the New York Times.

The Times ably reported on the near impossibility that the executive order would revive coal in the United States.  It overreached, however, in this damning prediction for U.S. climate action:  “Mr. Trump’s order signals that the United States will not meet its pledges under the Paris deal to cut its emissions about 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.” 

Experts contacted by IEEE Spectrum yesterday question the Times’ prognostication.  “I wouldn’t be that definitive,” says David Waskow, director of WRI’s international climate program.  Waskow says Trump’s attack will make it “much harder and more costly” for the U.S. to deliver its share of climate progress.  But he said the price of renewable energy continues to drop, and states and businesses may compensate for federal inaction. 

“It’s like you’ve got a runner on a track and now there’s somebody on the side of the track throwing obstacles in the way.  It makes it harder but the runner is continuing in the right direction,” says Waskow.

[Costa Samaras, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon] agrees.  “Most of the action climate-wise is going to be at the states and at companies. That was the case yesterday, and that’s going to be the case tomorrow,” says Samaras.  He expects to see “a little” slowing of U.S. grid decarbonization, but says there is a “good chance” that the U.S. will meet its Paris pledge, barring an unforeseen steep rise in the cost of natural gas.

A return to the pricey natural gas of decades past appears unlikely.  Why?  Thanks to President Trump and GOP efforts to ease federal restrictions on gas production. 

Coal miners should read the fine print on the President’s executive order.  While Trump’s coal-boosting boasts grabbed yesterday’s headlines, his order calls for “particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.”

America’s dirtiest energy source is third in line, right behind natural gas.

Read more at Commentary:  Photo Ops with Coal Miners Offer No Substitute for Fact-based Climate Policy

China, EU Reaffirm Climate Action After Trump Retreats

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks between Vice President Mike Pence (L) and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt prior to signing an executive order on ''energy independence,'' eliminating Obama-era climate change regulations, during an event at the Environmental Protection Agency. (Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria) Click to Enlarge.
Nations led by China and the European Union rallied around a global plan to slow climate change on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump began undoing Obama-era plans for deep cuts in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump's order on Tuesday, keeping a campaign promise to bolster the U.S. coal industry, strikes at the heart of an international Paris Agreement in 2015 to curb world temperatures that hit record highs in 2016 for the third year in a row.

Many nations reacted to Trump's plan with dismay and defiance, saying a vast investment shift from fossil fuels to clean energy such as wind and solar power is underway with benefits ranging from less air pollution to more jobs.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, whose government cooperated closely with former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration on climate change, said all countries should "move with the times".

"No matter how other countries' policies on climate change, as a responsible large developing country, China's resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change," he said.

Read more at China, EU Reaffirm Climate Action After Trump Retreats

Policy Shift Helps Coal, but Other Forces May Limit Effect - The New York Times

A 2014 photo showing rail cars filled with coal in Wyoming and sprayed with a topper agent to suppress dust. (Credit: Ryan Dorgan/Casper Star-Tribune, via Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Many fossil fuel executives are celebrating President Trump’s move to dismantle the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.  But their cheers are muted, because market forces and state initiatives continue to elevate coal’s rivals, especially natural gas and renewable energy.

In coal’s favor, there is the new promise that federal lands will be open for leasing, ending an Obama-era moratorium.  Easing pollution restrictions could delay the closing of some old coal-fired power plants, slowing the switch by some utilities to other sources.

And with the government pendulum swinging from environmental concerns back to job creation and energy independence, share prices of many energy companies, particularly coal producers, soared Tuesday on the news.

For coal executives, however, optimism and expansion plans remain guarded.  Regulatory relief could restore 10 percent of their companies’ lost market share at most, they say — nowhere near enough to return coal to its dominant position in power markets and put tens of thousands of coal miners to work.

Read more at Policy Shift Helps Coal, but Other Forces May Limit Effect

Dead Sea Warns of Unprecedented Drought

A 30-meter layer of salt discovered beneath the Dead Sea reveals drought worse than any in human history – and it could happen again.

Tristramits survey the Dead Sea, the deepest saline lake in the world. (Image Credit: Yair Aronshtam via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Far below the Dead Sea, between Israel, Jordan and Palestinian territory, researchers have found evidence of a drought that has no precedent in human experience.

From depths of 300 meters below the landlocked basin, drillers brought to the surface a core that contained 30 meters of thick, crystalline salt:  evidence that 120,000 years ago, and again about 10,000 years ago, rainfall had been only about one fifth of modern levels.

Climate change
The cause in each case would have been entirely natural.  But, in the region where human civilization began, already in the grip of its worst drought for 900 years, it is a reminder of how bad things could get, and, less certainly, a guide to how much worse human-induced climate change could become.

“All the observations show this region is one of those most affected by modern climate change, and it’s predicted to get dryer.  What we showed is that even under natural conditions, it can become much drier than predicted by any of our models,” says Yael Kiro, a geochemist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in the US.

Read more at Dead Sea Warns of Unprecedented Drought

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

  Wednesday, Mar 29

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.

Making Cows More Environmentally Friendly

An important discovery surrounding plants used to feed livestock has been released by scientists.  They report that plants growing in warmer conditions are tougher and have lower nutritional value to grazing livestock, potentially inhibiting milk and meat yields and raising the amount of methane released by the animals.


Regions in light grey are currently unsuitable for ruminant livestock, and regions beyond the range of the dataset are shaded dark grey. (Credit: Dr Mark Lee) Click to Enlarge.
Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, Frankfurt have published a paper revealing an important discovery surrounding plants used to feed livestock; that plants growing in warmer conditions are tougher and have lower nutritional value to grazing livestock, potentially inhibiting milk and meat yields and raising the amount of methane released by the animals.    Higher amounts of methane are produced when plants are tougher to digest -- an effect of a warmer environment.  Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, around 25 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.  More than 95% of the methane produced by cows comes from their breath through eructation (belching) as they "chew the cud.

Dr Mark Lee, a research fellow in Natural Capital & Plant Health at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew who led the research says; "The vicious cycle we are seeing now is that ruminant livestock such as cattle produce methane which warms our planet.   This warmer environment alters plants so they are tougher to digest, and so each mouthful spends more time in the animals' stomach, producing more methane, further warming the planet, and the cycle continues.  We need to make changes to livestock diets to make them more environmentally sustainable."

Read more at Making Cows More Environmentally Friendly

Long Legal Battles Ahead Over Trump’s Climate Order

Obama's Clean Power Plan would limit greenhouse gas pollution from the power setor beginning in 2022. (Credit: Oran Viriyincy/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Environmental groups and progressive states are vowing to battle President Trump in court over his push to repeal federal climate protections, and experts are warning that the battles ahead will be slow and protracted.

An executive order on energy regulations signed by Trump on Tuesday takes direct aim at President Obama’s landmark climate rule, the Clean Power Plan, which would limit greenhouse gas pollution from power plants beginning in 2022.

“It’s a more cautious and well thought-out executive order than the ones we’ve seen from Trump so far,” said Michael Wara, an energy and environmental expert at Stanford Law School.

Trump’s order doesn’t eliminate the power plant rules, instead directing the Environmental Protection Agency to review them and suspend or rescind or propose changes to any that “burden” energy production from coal and other fossil fuels.  It requires similar reviews of other energy industry rules.

“It doesn’t actually do anything,” Wara said.  “What it sets in place is a process to review the rules promulgated by the Obama administration.”

The main legal challenges anticipated in the months ahead relate to an existing lawsuit over the Clean Power Plan.

The administration is expected to abandon the previous administration’s defense of the rules, which were challenged by 24 states with the support of the coal industry and some utilities. The high-profile case is being considered by a federal appeals court.  The Supreme Court issued a rare stay on the rules a year ago while the lawsuit is heard.

The change in position by the Trump administration could leave attorneys for progressive states, green groups, and other organizations fighting for the right to defend the federal rules despite a federal government no longer wanting them.

“We’re anticipating that the Trump administration will now file some sort of motion with the court asking the court to not decide these cases,” said Joanne Spalding, an attorney with the nonprofit Sierra Club.  “So we plan to oppose that.”

Other legal challenges are anticipated as the EPA and other agencies start complying with the new executive order by moving to revoke and revise climate regulations.

“If the Trump Administration decides to dismantle these carbon pollution standards and then either chooses not to limit carbon pollution from power plants, or chooses to do it in a way that is ineffective and weak, then, yes, you can expect to see challenges,” Spalding said.

A coalition of 24 states, cities and counties issued a joint statement on Tuesday vowing a similar fight. The coalition is being led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

“We won’t hesitate to protect those we serve — including by aggressively opposing in court President Trump’s actions that ignore both the law and the critical importance of confronting the very real threat of climate change,” the statement said.

Many of the looming legal challenges will revolve around debates about how far the Clean Air Act, which was approved by Congress long before climate change was considered a pressing issue, requires the government to go in regulating heat-trapping pollution.

Read more at Long Legal Battles Ahead Over Trump’s Climate Order

Canada's Climate Change Policies Keep Its Paris Commitments Out of Reach

With no rollback in Alberta tar sands production, Canada's emissions remain on an upward slope, a new report says.


2Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not discuss climate change in his meeting with President Trump earlier this month, but his country's climate policies show a lack of progress even without U.S. involvement. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Canada probably will fail to meet its international commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under even the best-case scenario, according to a new report by the Canadian government.

The country, which continues to expand oil and gas production in Alberta's oil sands despite its stated ambitions to curtail emissions, will make little to no progress towards ambitious emissions reductions targets pledged in December 2015 under the Paris agreement.  That's the conclusion of a report published earlier this month by Environment and Climate Change, a federal agency tasked with reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.
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The report only models policies in place up to last Nov. 1. Since then, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made a number of significant climate policy changes through the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, an agreement between federal, provincial, and territorial governments to reduce emissions published on December 9.

Read more at Canada's Climate Change Policies Keep Its Paris Commitments Out of Reach

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

  Tuesday, Mar 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.

Planned Rollback of Climate Rules Unlikely to Achieve All Trump’s Goals - The New York Times

A shuttered coal mining site in Letcher County, Ky. (Credit: nytimes.com) Click to Enlarge.
President Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday to roll back most of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, celebrating the move as a way to increase the nation’s “energy independence” and to restore thousands of lost coal mining jobs.

But energy economists say the expected order falls short of both of those goals — in part because the United States already largely relies on domestic sources for the coal and natural gas that fires most of the nation’s power plants.

“We don’t import coal,” said Robert Stavins, an energy economist at Harvard University.  “So in terms of the Clean Power Plan, this has nothing to do with so-called energy independence whatsoever.”

Read more at Planned Rollback of Climate Rules Unlikely to Achieve All Trump’s Goals

The Dark Legacy of China’s Drive for Global Resources

As China pursues a startling array of energy, mining, logging, agricultural, and infrastructure projects on virtually every continent, it is having an unprecedented environmental impact on the planet.


Timber being trucked through the northern Laos province of Louang Namtha on its way to the Chinese border. (Credit: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Across the globe, on nearly every continent, China is involved in a dizzying variety of resource extraction, energy, agricultural, and infrastructure projects — roads, railroads, hydropower dams, mines — that are wreaking unprecedented damage to ecosystems and biodiversity.  This onslaught will likely be made easier by the Trump administration’s anti-environmental tack and growing disengagement internationally. 

To be fair, China is also engaged in green activities, such as investing heavily in solar and wind energy, cracking down on its notorious air pollution, and replanting millions of acres of its denuded lands.  And it’s in the process of banning the domestic sale of ivory, which should slow the epic slaughter of Africa and Asia’s elephants.  But China’s burnishing of its green credentials is in many ways being overwhelmed by the sheer scale of environmental degradation that its policies and corporations are causing worldwide.

The country’s international resource push began in earnest in 1999, when China’s “Going Global Strategy” liberalized investment policies and provided financial incentives to encourage overseas investments and contracts.  Bulging with foreign reserves and with Chairman Deng Xiaoping’s official blessing that “to become rich is glorious,” China’s international investments — and their impact on the natural world — exploded.  

China’s most profound environmental impacts revolve around its drive to acquire minerals, fossil fuels, agricultural commodities, and timber from other nations.  This often involves deals to build large-scale roads, railways, and other infrastructure to move natural resources from interior areas to coastal ports for export.  The rapid pace of such activities continues despite a recent slowdown in the Chinese economy, with major projects now being planned in the developing world.

From 2004 to 2014 the China Export-Import Bank played a leading role in funding $10 billion in East African railway projects, many of which were constructed by Chinese corporations.  The Chinese are now helping fund and build major rail networks in Kenya and Uganda, one leg of which is planned to pass through Nairobi National Park.

Even in the remote interior of the Congo Basin, Chinese companies are heavily involved in road-construction, mining, and logging projects, as I recently observed in Cameroon and the Republic of Congo. China also is proposing a 3,000-mile railway that would slice completely across South America, cutting through remote forests and savannas to transport soy, timber, and other goods to the Pacific coast, where they can be shipped to China.  The $60 billion price tag has given Peru pause, but the project is still under discussion.

Read more at The Dark Legacy of China’s Drive for Global Resources

Hundreds of Clean Energy Bills Have Been Introduced in States Nationwide This Year

State-by-state look at proposals dealing with renewable energy reveals bipartisan collaboration for cleaner electricity, as Republican backlash in Washington grows.


Under a proposal introduced in the California legislature, the state's electricity would come entirely from renewable sources, like this Oakland wind farm, by 2045. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Lawmakers in state legislatures across the nation have proposed hundreds of bills this year relating to clean energy.  While many propose to grow alternative energy resources, others work to impede them, creating a chaotic map of countervailing efforts.

State politicians have introduced measures to dramatically expand renewable electric power in nearly a dozen states in the first three months of 2017, some as ambitious as aiming to run entirely on renewables within a few decades; some would launch smaller-scale community solar ventures, like a pilot in Virginia; others would add tax breaks for solar users in South Carolina and Florida.

But other state legislatures are resisting the advance of clean power as it begins to transform the energy landscape.  Less a new assault inspired by the Republican-led backlash against green energy under way in Washington, D.C., it's the continuation of campaigns by conservative groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity and the Heartland Institute with ties to the fossil fuel billionaires, the Koch brothers.  Members of traditional energy companies, including utilities and fossil fuel companies, have also supported some attacks.

There are proposals to end the popular solar financial arrangement known as net metering in Indiana, Missouri and elsewhere.  There are moves afoot to roll back statewide clean energy targets in North Carolina, New Hampshire and Ohio.  There was even a bill to effectively outlaw utility-scale wind and solar in Wyoming, and a defiant measure seeking a two-year moratorium on new wind projects in North Dakota.

But many clean energy policy experts and advocates told InsideClimate News that despite the challenges, they remain encouraged by the conversations playing out at the state level.  That's because they are seeing examples of bipartisan collaboration for clean energy and polls showing widespread support for cutting emissions from the electric grid.  And there is widespread business support for a cleaner energy marketplace and for the Paris climate agreement generally.

"I would say that bills like the ones in Wyoming and North Dakota that are trying to fight wind are more the outlier," said J.R. Tolbert, vice president of state policy at the research and lobbying group Advanced Energy Economy.  "The policy debate [in states] is actually a healthy debate that's going on across the country right now."

The tumult at the state level will help resolve the direction the nation takes at a time when the world's progress toward meeting long-term climate goals appears to be in jeopardy.

The direction states are taking, however, is not always driven by which party is in power.  Other factors like local geography, resources, politics, legal codes and competing public interests complicate the picture.

Based on conversations with more than a dozen clean energy analysts and supporters, InsideClimate News has identified the top five emerging trends related to state legislation on clean energy to watch this year:

Read more at Hundreds of Clean Energy Bills Have Been Introduced in States Nationwide This Year

Scott Pruitt’s Top Five Fibs on Obama’s Climate Rules

As Trump prepares to issue a memorandum spelling out an agenda favoring coal and other fossil fuels, the EPA chief has been test-driving some questionable judgments.


Scott Pruitt (Credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has for weeks been developing his arguments for the Trump Administration's climate-policy rollback.  There will be more to come with the release on Tuesday of a long-promised executive order from the White House aimed at undermining Obama-era action on climate change.

Pruitt's recent denial of mainstream climate science was not his only false note.  In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, he made several pronouncements that don't stand up well to scrutiny.

Here are five of them:

Read more at Scott Pruitt’s Top Five Fibs on Obama’s Climate Rules

Communities Retreat as Oceans Swell, Coasts Erode

An estimated 200,000 homes are being built in the Phillipines to house residents who lived within 130 feet of battered coasts when Typhoon Haiyan hit in 2013. (Credit: UNDP/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Erosion, rising seas, ferocious storms and other coastal perils have prompted the resettlement of more than 1 million people worldwide, with an exhaustive new analysis highlighting an emerging migration crisis that’s worsening as global warming overwhelms shorelines.

Researchers scoured journal papers, government reports and news articles for examples of what experts call “managed retreat,” analyzing 27 rules, programs and decisions that have led to the abandonment of homes and homelands from Louisiana, New York, and Alaska to Thailand, Brazil, and Australia.

“For a long time, the instinct has been to protect everything in place,” said Miyuki Hino, a PhD candidate at Stanford who led the research, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.  “It’s only recently that we’re seeing a significant increase in societies in various forms deciding that isn’t the right choice for them.”

Coastal communities facing worsening flooding are responding in different regions by raising roads, rebuilding sand dunes, restoring marshes, upgrading building codes and elevating houses.

Compared to those options for adapting to a harsher climate, each of which can be expensive, the prospect of abandoning developed land can be particularly painful, vexing and divisive.

“Large migrations in response to climatic shifts are well-documented historically,” said Solomon Hsiang, a University of California, Berkeley researcher who has studied how communities and climates interact.  He wasn’t involved with the new analysis. “It wouldn’t be surprising for populations to begin moving around today as climate change significantly affects livelihoods.”
...
Seas rose 5 inches in the 20th century and are projected to rise by several feet this century. A Climate Central analysis in late 2015 concluded that high future warming rates would eventually submerge land currently home to more than 470 million people.

Read more at Communities Retreat as Oceans Swell, Coasts Erode

Threatened U.S. Pullout Might Help, Not Hobble, Global Climate Pact

The Eiffel tower is illuminated in green with the words ''Paris Agreement is Done'', to celebrate the Paris U.N. COP21 Climate Change agreement.    (Credit: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen)
A 2015 global pact for fighting climate change will benefit in some ways at least if U.S. President Donald Trump carries out a threat to pull out, backers say, in a shift from gloom about the fate of a deal that took two decades to negotiate.

The Paris Agreement requires consensus for all decisions, meaning the withdrawal of a recalcitrant United States would make it easier for emitters such as China and the European Union to design details of a trillion-dollar shift from fossil fuels.
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In a step to undo environmental regulations introduced under former President Barack Obama, Trump will sign an order on Tuesday aimed at making it easier for companies to produce energy in the United States.

"There will be some advantages for other countries and there will also be extraordinary disadvantages," if the U.S. ends up quitting Paris, said Christiana Figueres, an architect of the agreement who was the U.N.'s climate chief in Paris.

"It's not a black and white scenario," she said.

She said the ideal outcome, both for the United States and other nations, was for Washington to stay and make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.  There were better investment prospects for renewable energies such as solar power than coal, she added.

The fear has long been that a pullout of the world's top economy would drain other nations' willingness to cut greenhouse gas emissions under an agreement ratified by nations as diverse as China, Saudi Arabia and African countries.

But there is an emerging rival view that Paris might be better off.

Achilles Heel
"The Achilles heel of the Paris Agreement is that it's built on consensus," said Johan Rockstrom, director of the Stockholm Resilience Center at Stockholm University.

"It's very difficult to have a negative giant in the room" able to obstruct all decisions, he said, adding that he had swung in recent weeks to reckon that a U.S. pullout would be better overall from an earlier view that it would be a "big failure".

The Paris Agreement has few binding obligations.  It lets all nations set their own goals for fighting climate change and has no penalties for non-compliance.

Governments have set a 2018 deadline to work out a rule book for the Paris Agreement, filling in details, for instance, of how nations will report and monitor their curbs on emissions.

Read more at Threatened U.S. Pullout Might Help, Not Hobble, Global Climate Pact

Brazilian Amazon to Ditch Diesel for Clean Energy

Amazonas has some of the dirtiest and most expensive electricity in the country (Pic Credit: Flickr/Monica Posada) Click to Enlarge.
Although the Amazon region is home to dozens of big hydroelectric dams, their energy is sent thousands of miles south to power the homes and factories in the big cities, or to feed electricity-intensive industries, many of them foreign-owned aluminium smelters.

Very little of it stays within the region which generates it. Instead the seven states that make up Brazil’s huge Amazon region rely on diesel-fueled power plants, which together emit annually 6 million tons of CO2, double the emissions produced by vehicles in São Paulo, the country’s biggest city.

Now the government has finally begun to tackle the problem, spurred on by the need to meet its Paris Agreement targets.

The environment minister, José Sarney Filho, says:  “We took on ambitious targets under the Paris Agreement, and to meet them we need to expand the use of renewable sources of energy.”

The first step is a program to provide alternative energy sources for 55 towns with a combined population of about half a million people, replacing 255 diesel plants with ones using renewable energy.

Bids have been invited for an energy auction, to be held in May, and 54 have already been submitted.  Solar, wind, and any other renewable fuels are all eligible.  Successful bids will receive subsidized loans from Brazil’s development bank, the BNDES, which has stopped funding coal- and oil-fueled plants and switched to renewables.

Read more at Brazilian Amazon to Ditch Diesel for Clean Energy

Monday, March 27, 2017

  Monday, Mar 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.

Weather Extremes:  Humans Likely Influence Giant Airstreams

On the left is an image of the global circulation pattern on a normal day. On the right is the image of the global circulation pattern when extreme weather occurs. The pattern on the right shows extreme patterns of wind speeds going north and south, while the normal pattern on the left shows moderate speed winds in both the north and south directions. (Credit: Michael Mann / Penn State) Click to Enlarge.
The increase of devastating weather extremes in summer is likely linked to human-made climate change, mounting evidence shows.  Giant airstreams are circling the Earth, waving up and down between the Arctic and the tropics.  These planetary waves transport heat and moisture.  When these planetary waves stall, droughts or floods can occur.  Warming caused by greenhouse-gases from fossil fuels creates favorable conditions for such events, an international team of scientists now finds.

"The unprecedented 2016 California drought, the 2011 U.S. heatwave, and 2010 Pakistan flood as well as the 2003 European hot spell all belong to a most worrying series of extremes," says Michael Mann from the Pennsylvania State University in the U.S., lead-author of the study now published in Scientific Reports.  "The increased incidence of these events exceeds what we would expect from the direct effects of global warming alone, so there must be an additional climate change effect.  In data from computer simulations as well as observations, we identify changes that favor unusually persistent, extreme meanders of the jet stream that support such extreme weather events.  Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity."

How sunny days can turn into a serious heat wave
"If the same weather persists for weeks on end in one region, then sunny days can turn into a serious heat wave and drought, or lasting rains can lead to flooding", explains co-author Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany.  "This occurs under specific conditions that favor what we call a quasi-resonant amplification that makes the north-south undulations of the jet stream grow very large.  It also makes theses waves grind to a halt rather than moving from west to east.  Identifying the human fingerprint on this process is advanced forensics."

Read more at Weather Extremes:  Humans Likely Influence Giant Airstreams