Thursday, July 18, 2019

Thursday 19

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

June 2019 Was the Hottest June on Record Across the Globe - NOAA

Beating the heat, tubers float the Guadalupe River, in New Braunfels, Texas, on July 18. (Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
June 2019 was the hottest in 140 years, setting a global record, according to the latest monthly global climate report released on Thursday by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The report said that the average global temperature in June was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average of 59.9 degrees F (15.5 degrees Celsius) and marks the 414th consecutive month in which temperatures were above the 20th-century average.  Nine of the 10 hottest Junes over the last 140 years have occurred since 2010, NOAA said.
Heat Wave To Scorch Midwest And East Coast, Create Dangerous Conditions For Residents.

More than 100 local heat records are expected to fall Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Read more at June 2019 Was the Hottest June on Record Across the Globe - NOAA

Study Bolsters Case that Climate Change Is Driving Many California Wildfires

Earth’s Future (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Link seen to fivefold jump in area burned.

Against a backdrop of long-term rises in temperature in recent decades, California has seen ever higher spikes in seasonal wildfires, and, in the last two years, a string of disastrous, record-setting blazes.  This has led scientists, politicians and media to ponder: what role might warming climate be playing here?  A new study combs through the many factors that can promote wildfire, and concludes that in many, though not all, cases, warming climate is the decisive driver.  The study finds in particular that the huge summer forest fires that have raked the North Coast and Sierra Nevada regions recently have a strong connection to arid ground conditions brought on by increasing heat.  It suggests that wildfires could grow exponentially in the next 40 years, as temperatures continue to rise.

Read more at Study Bolsters Case that Climate Change Is Driving Many California Wildfires

Startup Aims to Tackle Grid Storage Problem with New Porous Silicon Battery

A Canadian company emerges from stealth mode to provide grid-scale energy storage with its high-density battery tech.

Christine Hallquist of Cross Border Power plans to commercialize a porous silicon battery design developed by Washington-based company XNRGI.(Photo Credit: Denial Documentary) Click to Enlarge.
A new Canadian company with roots in Vermont has emerged from stealth mode and has ambitious plans to roll out a new grid-scale battery in the year ahead. The longshot storage technology, targeted at utilities, offers four times the energy density and four times the lifetime of lithium-ion batteries, the company says, and will be available for half the price.

The new company’s CEO, a former Democratic nominee for governor of Vermont, founded Cross Border Power in the wake of her electoral loss last November. Within days after the election, she was at her computer and writing a thesis (since posted on her campaign website) that she boldly calls “[The] North American Solution to Climate Change.”

Read more at Startup Aims to Tackle Grid Storage Problem with New Porous Silicon Battery

Scotland’s Wind Farms Generate Enough Electricity to Power Nearly 4.5 Million Homes

The town of Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Scotland, surrounded by an enormous wind farm. (Credit: Vincent Van Zeijst/Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
Wind turbines in Scotland produced enough electricity in the first half of 2019 to power every home in the country twice over, according to new data by the analytics group WeatherEnergy.  The wind farms generated 9,831,320 megawatt-hours between January and June — equal to the total electricity consumption of 4.47 million homes during that same period.

The electricity generated by wind in early 2019 is enough to power all of Scotland’s homes, as well as a large portion of northern England’s.

Read more at Scotland’s Wind Farms Generate Enough Electricity to Power Nearly 4.5 Million Homes

Leaked UN Science Report Warns of Clash Between Bioenergy and Food

Models suggest large areas of land are needed for forests and biofuel crops to halt climate change, but this risks worsening hunger, draft tells policymakers.

Bioenergy crops (Photo Credit: Claire Benjamin/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Blanketing the globe with monocultures of forests and bioenergy crops is no dream fix to the climate crisis, a leaked draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns.

Models suggest large areas of land are needed to draw carbon dioxide out of the air to limit global warming to 1.5C, the most ambitious target in the Paris Agreement.

This risks worsening hunger by competing with food production for space, according to the draft summary for policymakers obtained by Business Standard.

“Widespread use at the scale of several millions of km2 globally” of tree-planting and bioenergy crops could have “potentially irreversible consequences for food security and land degradation”, the report said.

Intensifying the production of bioenergy crops through the use of fertilizers, irrigation and monocultures could also erode soil and its capacity to soak up carbon in the long run.

Read more at Leaked UN Science Report Warns of Clash Between Bioenergy and Food

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wednesday 18

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

California Energy Commission Awards Nearly $70M to Replace Diesel School Buses with Electric School Buses Throughout State

Electric Bus (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The California Energy Commission approved nearly $70 million in funding to replace more than 200 old diesel school buses with all-electric buses that will reduce school children’s exposure to harmful emissions and help the state reach its climate and air quality goals.

School buses are by far the safest way for kids to get to school.  But diesel-powered buses are not safe for kids’ developing lungs, which are particularly vulnerable to harmful air pollution.  Making the transition to electric school buses that don’t emit pollution provides children and their communities with cleaner air and numerous public health benefits.

—Energy Commissioner Patty Monahan

The Energy Commission’s School Bus Replacement Program is providing more than $94 million to public school districts, county offices of education, and joint power authorities to help transition from diesel school buses to zero- or low-emissions vehicles.  Together with the newly approved funding, the Energy Commission has awarded $89.8 million of the program’s funds to schools in 26 California counties.

The electric buses approved today will eliminate nearly 57,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides and nearly 550 pounds of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions annually.

Diesel buses emit harmful pollutants, including fine particles that can lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream.  Because children’s lungs are still developing, and due to their faster breathing rate and other factors, children are more susceptible to the adverse health effects linked to air pollution including lung damage and asthma attacks.  Scientists have found that these fine particles can cause asthma in healthy children.

Read more at California Energy Commission Awards Nearly $70M to Replace Diesel School Buses with Electric School Buses Throughout State 

Days of Extreme Heat Will Become Weeks as Climate Warms, U.S. Study Warns

Even regions of the U.S. where extreme heat and humidity have been rare should expect significant increases in the number of hot days by mid-century.

Outdoor laborers and the elderly are among those most at risk as global temperatures rise. (Credit: Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star News via Getty Images)  Click to Enlarge.
Nearly every part of the United States will face a significant increase in extremely hot days by mid-century, even if some action is taken to reduce greenhouse emissions, a new study says.  If nothing is done to rein in climate change, it warns, the impact will be worse.

Large parts of the Central and Eastern U.S. will get a taste of what that feels like over the coming days as a muggy heat wave settles in.

The study, published in a peer-reviewed journal and as a longer report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, used 18 climate models to predict changes in the heat index—the mix of heat and humidity that reflects how hot it feels—across the contiguous U.S. as global temperatures rise over the coming decades.

Read more at Days of Extreme Heat Will Become Weeks as Climate Warms, U.S. Study Warns

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Glacial Melting in Antarctica May Become Irreversible

Thwaites glacier is likely to thaw and trigger 50cm(1.6ft) sea level rise, US study suggests.

Antarctica (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
An aerial view of Thwaites glacier, which shows growth of gaps between the ice and bedrock.

Antarctica faces a tipping point where glacial melting will accelerate and become irreversible even if global heating eases, research suggests.

A NASA-funded study found instability in the Thwaites glacier meant there would probably come a point when it was impossible to stop it flowing into the sea and triggering a 50cm sea level rise.  Other Antarctic glaciers were likely to be similarly unstable.

Read more at Glacial Melting in Antarctica May Become Irreversible

Public Clean Energy R&D Is Overlooked and Underfunded.

The climate change policy with the most potential is the most neglected.

Funding innovation to develop cheaper clean energy technology will help all countries reduce their emissions. (Credit: Consumers Energy, via Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The leading international body of climate change researchers released a major report [last] Sunday night on the impacts of global warming and what it would take to cap rising temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels — a goal that’s exceedingly difficult, but not impossible.

The report is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international consortium of hundreds of climate researchers convened by the United Nations.  Authors presented their findings in Incheon, South Korea after a week of discussion.

Why examine the prospects for limiting global warming to 1.5°C?  Because under the Paris agreement, countries agreed that the goal should be to limit warming to below 2°C by 2100, with a nice-to-have target of capping warming at 1.5°C.

The report finds that it would take a massive global effort, far more aggressive than any we’ve seen to date, to keep warming in line with 1.5°C.  Without such effort, we will continue at our current trajectory toward 3°C of warming.  What’s more, even if we hit the 1.5°C goal, the planet will still face massive, devastating changes.  So it’s pretty grim.

But the report is also a thunderous call to action, laying out what tools we have at our disposal (we have plenty) to mitigate global warming and to accelerate the turn toward cleaner energy.   Let’s walk through the basics.

Read more at Public Clean Energy R&D Is Overlooked and Underfunded.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Saturday 13

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Flood Risks from All Sides:  Barry's Triple Whammy in Louisiana

With climate change loading the dice for disaster, a storm fueled by warmer-than-normal Gulf water is headed for a Mississippi River already swollen with floodwater.

The rain-swollen Mississippi River was already flooding walkways and steps near a New Orleans levee when Barry became the second named storm of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season on July 11. (Credit: Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The Gulf Coast is about to be pummeled by a three-punch combo:  Flooding from heavy rains over the winter and spring has been sending record floodwaters coursing down the Mississippi River, pushing the river close to the top of its protective levees in Louisiana.  Now a cyclone fueled by warm offshore waters is threatening downpours in the same area and a storm surge up the bayous at the river's mouth.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned residents this week to be prepared for flooding from two sides—both the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River.

It's the kind of compounding of risks that scientists have been warning about as the climate changes.  Climate change has loaded the dice for this kind of coincidence, scientists say.

It was the water, rather than the wind, that was causing the most intense concern as Tropical Storm Barry gained strength and disaster declarations and evacuations began.

Like Hurricane Florence in North Carolina last year and the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, which sat over Houston for days in 2017, Barry was moving slowly, creating a threat of days of heavy rainfall and flooding on the coast and lower Mississippi Valley, the National Hurricane Center wrote on Friday.

In Louisiana's rivers, with water levels already high, Barry's expected storm surge of 3 feet or more would push the water even higher.

Read more at Flood Risks from All Sides:  Barry's Triple Whammy in Louisiana

Volkswagen Zooms Ahead in Extension of Alliance with Ford to Electric, Automated Cars

Volkswagen's CEO Herbert Diess speaks ahead of Volkswagen Group's annual general meeting in Berlin, Germany, May 14, 2019. (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) said they will spend billions of dollars to jointly develop electric and self-driving vehicles, deepening a global alliance to slash development and manufacturing costs while positioning VW as the initial winner.

How soon those investments will pay for themselves is an open question across the global auto industry.

Ford and VW executives said the latest collaborations could save hundreds of millions of dollars for each company.  But the projects would take time to develop, and the size and timing of the payoffs were unclear.

The latest iteration of the Ford-VW alliance suggests the German automaker may hold the more lucrative cards - for now.

Read more at Volkswagen Zooms Ahead in Extension of Alliance with Ford to Electric, Automated Cars

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Big Insurer Ditches Coal Coverage in Win for Climate Action Groups

Chubb becomes first major U.S. insurance company to restrict coverage for coal, citing the threat of climate change.

(Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Climate advocates have been pressuring U.S. insurance companies to end their support for the dirty energies driving the global crisis, and on Tuesday they claimed their first big win. 

Chubb Ltd., one of the nation’s largest commercial insurance companies, announced it will move away from insuring and investing in coal.  It becomes the first major U.S. insurance company to take such action, joining more than a dozen European and Australian insurers that have already adopted similar policies.

Read more at Big Insurer Ditches Coal Coverage in Win for Climate Action Groups

Alaska Chokes on Wildfires as Heat Waves Dry Out the Arctic

Fires are spreading farther north, burning more intensely and starting earlier, in line with what scientists have warned would happen with climate change.

Alaska Army National Guard helicopter crews fought a wildfire on July 4, 2019. This state is suffering through heat waves that have melted sea ice weeks early and dried vegetation, fueling one of Alaska's biggest fire years on record to this date. (Credit: Spc. Michael Risinger/U.S. Army National Guard) Click to Enlarge.
Under the choking black smoke from the bog and forest fires in Siberia and Alaska, it can feel like the Earth itself is burning.  The normally moist, black organic peat soil and lush forests have been drying, and when they catch fire, they burn relentlessly.

Global warming has been thawing tundra and drying vast stretches of the far-northern boreal forests, and it also has spurred more thunderstorms with lightning, which triggered many of the fires burning in Alaska this year, said Brian Brettschneider, a climate scientist with the International Arctic Research Center who closely tracks Alaskan and Arctic extreme weather.

So far this year, wildfires have scorched more than 1.2 million acres in Alaska, making it one of the state's three biggest fire years on record to this date, with high fire danger expected to persist in the weeks ahead.

Several studies, as well as ongoing satellite monitoring, show that fires are spreading farther north into the Arctic, burning more intensely and starting earlier in the year, in line with what climate models have long suggested would happen as sea ice dwindles and ocean and air temperatures rise.

Read more at .Alaska Chokes on Wildfires as Heat Waves Dry Out the Arctic

EVs Make Up Half of New Car Sales in Norway So Far This Year

Electric cars at charging station in Storgata, T√łnsberg, Norway. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
Nearly half of the new cars sold in Norway in 2019 have been electric vehicles, up from just 25 percent during the same period last year, Reuters reported.  The sales, which exclude hybrids, keep Norway in the top spot globally for EV adoption and mark a major milestone in the country’s effort to end the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2025.

In March alone, EVs accounted for more than 58 percent of vehicle purchases in Norway, outselling gas and diesel cars for the first time ever, according to the Norwegian Road Federation.  The Nordic country has encouraged the switch to electric transportation by making battery-driven cars tax exempt and offering incentives such as toll-free travel, bus-lane access, privileged parking, and an extensive charging infrastructure.

While Norway remains well ahead of the rest of the world in terms of EV sales per capita, other countries are also seeing robust growth.  In the United States, for example, the number of EV cars in Maryland grew so rapidly in the last year that the state’s tax credit program — which has a $3 million annual budget — ran out of money seven months before the end of the fiscal year.  According to The Baltimore Sun, “the number of EVs registered in Maryland doubled from 2017 to 2018, and reached more than 18,000 as of February.”

Read more at EVs Make Up Half of New Car Sales in Norway So Far This Year

Trump Drops Attempts to Add Census Citizenship Question.  Here’s Why that’s a Climate Win.

(Credit: AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite) Click to Enlarge.
President Trump announced on Thursday that he will drop efforts to get a citizenship question on the 2020 census.  The news comes hours after administration officials told reporters the president was considering a hail mary attempt to add the question via executive order after being denied by the Supreme Court two weeks ago.  The apparent end of Trump’s attempts to add the question to the census is big news — not just for immigration advocates, but for environmental agencies that use census data for U.S. disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.

Upon first glance, the proposed question didn’t seem to have any bearing on disaster funding.  It would have asked, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”  (There were multiple proposed response options but only one for “not a citizen,” which did not specify whether a person is in the U.S. legally or not.)  While many disaster programs don’t consider the question of citizenship when it comes to recovery efforts, a citizenship question could have caused undocumented immigrants’ not to fill out the survey at all, leading to a census undercount in immigrant-heavy communities.

That wouldn’t have been good especially considering many of those are climate-vulnerable areas, and census data plays a vital role in determining funding levels for countless federal programs — including disaster recovery.

Faced with increasingly severe weather and natural events in a warming world, federal, state, and local agencies rely on census data to inform rigorous preparations and evacuation efforts, rapid response, and long term recovery for affected communities.  According to the Census Bureau’s own website, census data is so essential to emergency preparedness and disaster recovery efforts that representatives from the agency now serve on Federal Emergency Management Agency committees.)

Emergency managers preparing for future disasters can look at demographic, socioeconomic and housing data to pinpoint what kind of resources an area needs.  For example, evacuation plans, require detailed, accurate census information to identify populations without sufficient resources to evacuate.  If, say, the area has a large population of Spanish speakers, the agency knows it will need to deploy more Spanish-speaking staff.

Accessing disaster recovery funding is also census-guided.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program uses data about local populations to effectively distribute and allocate funds to low-income communities.  Plus, census data can help planning for future emergencies by making sure health care infrastructure and other necessary institutes and equipped and ready to handle an emergency.

Even though Trump has abandoned his plans to ask about citizenship via the census, the battle over the issue isn’t necessarily over.  Trump said he is “not backing down” from efforts to count the number of citizens and non-citizens in the U.S. via other means.

Read all at Trump Drops Attempts to Add Census Citizenship Question.  Here’s Why that’s a Climate Win.

AOC, Sanders Call for ‘Climate Emergency’ Declaration in Congress

The resolution echoes the core ideas of the Green New Deal, saying global warming demands a massive mobilization of resources on par with the U.S. response to WWII.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, shown here at a news conference in June, introduced a resolution on July 9, 2019, along with Rep. Earl Blumenauer, calling on Congress to declare a climate emergency. (Credit: Saul Loeb/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a resolution Tuesday asking Congress to declare that global warming is an emergency demanding a massive mobilization of resources to protect the U.S. economy, society, and national security.

Over two dozen lawmakers, including most of the senators currently running for president, signed on as co-sponsors.

The resolution, introduced by Sanders (I-Vt.), Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), calls for "a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States at a massive-scale to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for the consequences of the climate emergency and to restore the climate for future generations."

The sponsors described a need for a mobilization of the nation's resources and labor on par with when the country entered World War II.

Read more at AOC, Sanders Call for ‘Climate Emergency’ Declaration in Congress

Thursday 11

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Restoring Forests Could Help Put a Brake on Global Warming

Researchers found that Earth could support an additional 2.5 billion acres of forestland. (Credit Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times) Click to Enlarge.
Parts of the study — led by researchers at ETH Zurich, a university that specializes in science, technology and engineering — were immediately criticized.

The critics did not dispute that 200 gigatons of carbon could be absorbed by trees if you planted them on every space of land available.  They disputed the implications.

The study’s authors asserted that, under their model, forest restoration could absorb two-thirds of historic emissions.  Zeke Hausfather, an analyst for the climate science website Carbon Brief, said the true figure would be closer to one-third.  That’s because part of the emissions absorbed by the additional trees would have been absorbed by the soil or the seas anyway.

“That’s not to say that reforestation is not an important mitigation strategy, just to caution that like every other climate solution, it’s part of a larger portfolio of strategies rather than a silver bullet,” Mr. Hausfather said.

Pep Canadell, director of the Global Carbon Project, an Australia-based scientific group that produces global carbon budgets, said that reforestation “won’t fix the climate problem, albeit it should be part of the solution.”

Read more at Restoring Forests Could Help Put a Brake on Global Warming

New Solar + Battery Price Crushes Fossil Fuels, Buries Nuclear

The new project will join the current large Barren Ridge solar panel array in Kern County, California. (Photo Credit: George Rose/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Los Angeles Power and Water officials have struck a deal on the largest and cheapest solar + battery-storage project in the world, at prices that leave fossil fuels in the dust and may relegate nuclear power to the dustbin.

Later this month the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners is expected to approve a 25-year contract that will serve 7 percent of the city's electricity demand at 1.997¢/kwh for solar energy and 1.3¢ for power from batteries.

"This is the lowest solar-photovoltaic price in the United States," said James Barner, the agency's manager for strategic initiatives, "and it is the largest and lowest-cost solar and high-capacity battery-storage project in the U.S. and we believe in the world today.  So this is, I believe, truly revolutionary in the industry."

It's half the estimated cost of power from a new natural gas plant.

Read more at New Solar + Battery Price Crushes Fossil Fuels, Buries Nuclear

Planting More Trees Could Cut Carbon by 25%

Scientists now know where to start restoring the forests to soak up carbon and cool the planet, by planting more trees on unused land.

Best chances for restoring forests lie in the tropical lowlands. (Image Credit: K8 on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
Swiss scientists have identified an area roughly the size of the United States that could be newly shaded by planting more trees.  If the world’s nations then protected these 9 million square kilometers of canopy over unused land, the new global forest could in theory soak up enough carbon to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas by an estimated 25%.

That is, the extent of new tree canopy would be enough to take the main driver of global heating back to conditions on Earth a century ago.

And a second study, released in the same week, identifies 100 million hectares of degraded or destroyed tropical forest in 15 countries where restoration could start right now – and 87% of these hectares are in biodiversity hotspots that hold high concentrations of species found nowhere else.

The global study of the space available for tree canopy is published in the journal Science.  Researchers looked for land not used for agriculture or developed for human settlement.  They excluded wetlands and grasslands already fulfilling important ecological functions.

Huge canopy increase
They left existing forests out of their calculations.  And they identified enough degraded, wasted, or simply unused land to provide another 0.9 billion hectares – that is, 9 million square kilometers – of tree canopy.

Such new or restored forest could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon.  This is about two-thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of extra carbon humans have pumped into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago.

“We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be.  Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today,” said Tom Crowther of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, now known as ETH Zurich.

“But we must act quickly, as new forests will take decades to mature and achieve their full potential as a source of natural carbon storage.”

Read more at Planting More Trees Could Cut Carbon by 25%

Europe ‘Could Get 10 Times’ Its Electricity Needs from Onshore Wind, Study Says

An increased rollout of onshore wind turbines across Europe could technically provide the continent with more than 10 times its existing electricity needs, according to a new paper.

To make their estimate, a team of German researchers took into account changing wind speeds, all the available land and, crucially, futuristic turbine designs that are already coming onto the market.

While they note that generating 100% of Europe’s power from wind would not actually be feasible due to social, economic, and political constraints, the scientists say their estimate gives a “significantly higher” figure than most previous assessments of wind potential.

Their paper, published in the journal Energy, also suggests that, as technology advances, the cost of the resulting electricity will be cheaper than previous studies have estimated.

Read more at Europe ‘Could Get 10 Times’ Its Electricity Needs from Onshore Wind, Study Says

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Thursday 4

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Great Plains’ Ecosystems Have Shifted 365 Miles Northward Since 1970

Native prairie in North Dakota. (Credit: Rick Bohn/USFWS) Click to Enlarge.
Ecosystems in North America’s Great Plains have shifted hundreds of miles northward in the past 50 years, driven by climate change, wildfire suppression, energy development, land use changes, and urbanization, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The northernmost ecosystem boundary of the Great Plains, for example, has moved more than 365 miles north since 1970, or 8 miles every year.  The region’s southernmost ecosystem boundary has shifted 160 miles north, or 4 miles a year.

The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, used bird distribution data as an indicator of shifting ecosystem boundaries.  Researchers analyzed 46 years’ worth of data for 400 bird species across a 250-mile-wide transect stretching from Texas to North Dakota.  The researchers organized the bird species into groups by body mass and looked for gaps in spatial distribution, allowing them to define the boundaries of various ecosystems.  They then tracked how the birds’ distributions changed as a measure of how these ecosystems were shifting.

The scientists concluded that climate change has been a major driver of these ecosystem shifts since the 1970s, but said that several other factors — such as wildfire trends, land use changes, and invasion of tree species into grassland habitat — also played a role.  “Like most things in ecology, (these shifts) likely have multiple causations,” Craig Allen, an ecologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and co-author of the new study, said in a statement.  “And I think it’s fairly intractable to try to separate, say, tree invasion from climate change, because it has to do with fire but also with changing climate.  All of these things are highly related.”

Read more at Great Plains’ Ecosystems Have Shifted 365 Miles Northward Since 1970

U.S. Mayors Pressure Congress on Carbon Pricing, Climate Lawsuits, and a Green New Deal

The U.S. Conference of Mayors opposed any limits on suing fossil fuel companies over climate change, which would rule out a carbon tax plan supported by industry.

Mayors LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans and Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles were among the leaders attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The group, representing hundreds of U.S. cities, voiced support for several climate change-related resolutions. (Credit: U.S. Conference of Mayors) Click to Enlarge.
The mayors of hundreds of U.S. cities called on Congress this week to pass legislation to put a price on carbon emissions, citing the financial and social strains their communities are already experiencing because of climate change.

After some contention, they also voiced opposition to any congressional action that would limit cities' ability to sue fossil fuel companies for damage linked to climate change.  That vote marked a stand by the mayors against one of the key policy trade-offs sought by big oil companies that have backed the idea of carbon pricing.

The carbon pricing resolution, introduced by Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, calls for a price "sufficient enough to reduce carbon emissions in line with ambitions detailed in the Paris Agreement on climate change."

"We need our elected leaders in Washington to do what many of us as mayors are already doing at home:  Move swiftly to adopt policies to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure the long-term health of our environment," Biskupski said in a statement.

Read more at U.S. Mayors Pressure Congress on Carbon Pricing, Climate Lawsuits, and a Green New Deal

Climate Change Made European Heatwave at Least Five Times Likelier

(Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The record-breaking heatwave that struck France and other European nations in June was made at least five – and possibly 100 – times more likely by climate change, scientists have calculated.

Such heatwaves are also about 4C hotter than a century ago, the researchers say.  Furthermore, the heatwaves hitting Europe are more frequent and more severe than climate models have predicted.

Last month was the hottest June since 1880, both in Europe and around the world, according to separate data released on Tuesday by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.  In Europe the temperature was 3C above the June average a century ago, and globally it was more than 1C higher.

Read more at Climate Change Made European Heatwave at Least Five Times Likelier

Climate Change Blamed as Chennai Runs Dry

The monsoon’s failure and government mismanagement in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu are being blamed as Chennai runs dry.

In 2015 Chennai had too much rain: Now there’s not enough. (Image Credit: Indian Navy, via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
Some of the poorest people of India’s sixth largest city are having to spend half their weekly income on water as Chennai runs dry:  its four reservoirs lie empty and the government’s relief tankers cannot keep up with demand from citizens.

Despite government claims that there is no water crisis, the taps are empty and many of Chennai’s nine million people are queuing from early morning, awaiting what water the tankers can deliver.

Monsoon rains have failed for the last two years, leaving the city enduring a heat wave with no water.  The government is delivering 10 million liters daily by train from 200 kilometers away in a bid to provide enough water for the poor to survive.  In the richer areas private water tankers are maintaining supplies, charging double the normal rate to fill a roof tank.

Businesses, particularly restaurants, have been forced to close, and children are not attending school because they are spending all day queuing for water for their families.

Although it is clear that climate change is affecting the monsoon’s pattern and it may be October before Chennai gets enough water to restore supplies to normal, government mismanagement is also being blamed.

Read more at Climate Change Blamed as Chennai Runs Dry

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Saturday 29

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Wildfires and Power Cuts Plague Europeans as Heatwave Breaks Records

People cool off in a fountain in Nice as a heatwave hits much of the country (Credit: Reuters/Eric Gaillard) Click to Enlarge.
Hundreds of firefighters battled on Saturday to contain wildfires in southern France as a stifling heatwave brought record-breaking temperatures to parts of Europe, killing at least three people in Italy.

In the Gard region, where France's highest temperature on record was registered on Friday at 45.9 degrees Celsius (114 degrees Fahrenheit), scores of fires burned some 600 hectares (about 1,500 acres) of land and destroyed several houses and vehicles, emergency services said.

More than 700 firefighters and 10 aircraft were mobilized to tackle the fires in the Gard, some of which caused sections of motorways to be temporarily closed.  Several firefighters were hurt but no serious injuries were reported.

Read more at Wildfires and Power Cuts Plague Europeans as Heatwave Breaks Records

Amidst ‘high political tension’, UN chief appeals to G20 leaders for stronger commitment to climate action, economic cooperation

Presidents Xi Jinping (left) and Donald Trump (right) meet during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in December, and are set to talk again in Osaka. (Photo Credit: AP) Click to Enlarge.
“We have global warming, but we have also global political warming, and this can be seen in relation to trade and technology conflicts, it can be seen in relation to situations in several parts of the world, namely the Gulf”, he told reporters before addressing the summit, referring to recent attacks on oil tankers around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, which have heightened tensions between Iran and the United States. 

Turning to “uncertainties about the global economy”, he pointed to trade conflicts, high debt levels, potentially unstable financial markets and the risk of global growth slowdown. 

In the UN chief’s view, it “will be very difficult to have a breakthrough in relation to some of the most difficult challenges that the international community is facing”. 

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U.S. Medical Groups Warn Candidates: Climate Change Is a 'Health Emergency'

'I’ve seen a lot, but this scares me,' one doctor said.  Ahead of the first debates, 70-plus health groups call for moving away from fossil fuels.

The American Medical Association and other major health groups are proposing a policy agenda for reducing climate-related health risks. Those risks include extreme heat waves like the one expected in Europe this week. (Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The nation's leading medical organizations are urging political candidates "to recognize climate change as a health emergency."  As the campaign season enters full gear, they issued a call on Monday for urgent action on "one of the greatest threats to health America has ever faced."

More than 70 health organizations signed a statement that, among other things, calls for a move away from fossil fuels.  The groups cite storm and flood emergencies, chronic air pollution, the spread of diseases carried by insects, and especially heat-related illnesses.

Europe is anticipating an intense heat wave starting this week, and parts of the U.S., where extreme heat has been the leading cause of weather-related deaths, have already experienced record-breaking heat this year.

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$4.5-Trillion:  The Price Tag of a Fossil Fuel-Free U.S.

Solar Panels (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Decarbonizing the U.S. grid and replacing fossil fuels with renewables could cost US$4.5 trillion in investments over the next 10 to 20 years, Wood Mackenzie analysts have calculated.

Such a move away from fossil fuels would require the installation of 1,600 GW of new solar and wind capacity, the research firm said.  This compares with a total capacity of 1,060 GW across the United States, of which 130 GW renewable capacity.

Yet a lot more generation capacity is not all, either.  A lot of utility-scale storage installations would also be necessary to make the power produced by solar and wind farms reliable enough to replace fossil fuels in the long run.  More precisely, Wood Mac’s analysts have calculated the storage capacity needed at 900 GW.

This sort of change has no precedent, the research firm said, and would necessitate a complete overhaul of the power generation industry.

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Microbes Hold the Balance in Climate Crisis

You need powerful microscopes to see microbes.  Few microbiologists claim to know much about most of them.  But they are vital in the climate crisis.

The green and blue swirls of a phytoplankton bloom off the coast of Alaska as seen by a NASA satellite. These microorganisms help pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Norman Kuring; USGS) Click to Enlarge.
Thirty scientists from nine nations have issued a challenge to the rest of climate science:  don’t forget the microbes.

They argue that research is ignoring the silent, unseen majority that makes up the microbial world.  Lifeforms that add up to a huge proportion of living matter on the planet are being largely left out of climate calculations.

Microbes have been around for 3.8 billion years, manipulating sunlight and turning carbon dioxide into carbon-based living tissue, and the mass of all the microbes on the planet probably contains 70 billion tonnes of carbon alone.

They are biodiversity’s bottom line.  They are the arbiters of the planet’s resources.  They were the first living things on the planet, and will almost certainly be the last survivors.

They are the only living things at vast depths and colossal pressures.  Far below the planetary surface, many survive at temperatures beyond boiling point, in lakes composed of alkali, and some can even digest radioactive material.

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