Friday, September 20, 2019

Friday 20

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Kids Face Rising Health Risks from Climate Change, Doctors Warn as Juliana Case Returns to Court

A federal appeals court heard arguments as the government tried again to get the children’s climate lawsuit dismissed.


Young plaintiffs in the children's climate lawsuit are already feeling the effects of climate change. Public health experts, including major health organizations and former U.S. surgeons general, warn the health risks will only get worse. (Credit: Robin Loznak) Click to Enlarge.
The 21 children and young adults suing the federal government over climate change argue that they and their generation are already suffering the consequences of climate change, from worsening allergies and asthma to the health risks and stress that come with hurricanes, wildfires and sea level rise threatening their homes.
With the case back in court on Tuesday, some of the heaviest hitters in the public health arena—including 15 major health organization and two former U.S. surgeons general—have been publicly backing them up.


Today's children will feel the health impacts of climate change into adulthood if the federal government doesn't transition away from fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, public health experts wrote in a letter published May 30 in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), echoing a larger court brief signed onto by major health organizations.

Read more at Kids Face Rising Health Risks from Climate Change, Doctors Warn as Juliana Case Returns to Court

With Greenland's Extreme Melting, a New Risk Grows:  Ice Slabs that Worsen Runoff

More meltwater is now pouring off these hardened surfaces and toward the ocean, a new study finds. That will have an impact on sea level rise.


Meltwater pools form on Greenland's surface as temperatures rise and feed into rivers that funnel water toward the ocean. New research shows ice slabs are now forming in areas where water used to sink into the snow layer, increasing runoff. (Credit: Dave Walsh/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Scientists have added a new item to the long list of Greenland Ice Sheet woes.  Along with snow-darkening algae and increasing rainfall, giant slabs of ice have been thickening and spreading under the Greenland snow at an average rate of two football fields per minute since 2001, new research shows.

The slabs prevent surface meltwater from trickling down and being absorbed by the snow.  Instead, more water pours off the surface of the ice sheet and into the ocean.

That's speeding Greenland's contribution to sea level rise, said University of Liege climate researcher Xavier Fettweis, a co-author of a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.  "It is very likely that the current climate models overestimate the meltwater retention capacity of the ice sheet and underestimate the projected sea level rise coming from Greenland ... by a factor of two or three," he said.

Read more at With Greenland's Extreme Melting, a New Risk Grows:  Ice Slabs that Worsen Runoff

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thursday 19

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Trump:  We're Stripping California’s Right to Set Tougher Auto Standards

Auto industry experts say the uncertainty would likely dampen the market for electric vehicles.  Nine other states could lose their tougher rules, too.


Coupled with the administration's plan to freeze fuel-economy improvements, President Trump's move against California's auto standards would negate one of the largest steps any nation has made to cut carbon emissions. (Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that his administration would strip California of its authority to enact the nation's toughest auto pollution standards, setting the stage for an epic legal battle that could squelch the nascent U.S. market for petroleum-free vehicles at a critical time.

The long-anticipated move, which Trump touted on Twitter just days before a United Nations summit on climate change, could prove to be his administration's most consequential policy retreat from efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.  When coupled with the administration's planned freeze on fuel-economy improvements, it will negate one of the largest steps that any nation has made to cut carbon emissions.

California has led the nation in a slow, but steady move toward electric vehicles—a turnover that experts believe is essential for gaining control of rising U.S. carbon emissions from transportation.  Nine other states have adopted its rules requiring automakers to sell a certain number of electric cars and trucks, based on each manufacturer's overall in-state sales.

But California and those other states could now lose the power to enforce those zero-emissions vehicle requirements—at least temporarily.

Auto industry experts and analysts expect the uncertainty that would create would dampen the market for zero-emissions vehicles.

Improvements in U.S. fuel economy so far have not been sufficient to curb carbon emissions from transportation, which grew 1.2 percent in 2017 even as the nation's overall carbon emissions fell 0.5 percent, according to the latest figures from the Environmental Protection Agency.

As long as more consumers are driving more miles each year, only electric and other zero-emissions vehicles can reverse the trend that has made transportation the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

"You can't get serious about climate change unless you get serious about vehicle emissions," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday at a news conference in Sacramento.  "This is such a pivotal moment in the climate change debate, not just for California, but for our leadership around the world.  It is a legacy moment."

Newsom vowed to fight the Trump administration's move in court.  "We will prevail," he said.  "It may take years, more uncertainty and more anxiety."

In August, four automakers, comprising 30 percent of the market, struck a deal with California to voluntarily implement annual fuel economy improvements across their fleets if the federal rules were weakened.

Under that agreement, made in anticipation of Trump's action, Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen would continue to improve gas mileage—although at a slower rate than under the Obama administration's rules.  The deal, which served to isolate the Trump administration in its battle with California, reportedly enraged the president.  And although California has continued talks with the remaining automakers, the Trump Justice Department has been using the threat of antitrust enforcement to dissuade automakers from cooperating with the state, Newsom said.

"The innovation genie is out of the bottle," the governor said.  "Every single one of these companies knows where the country is going, and where the world is going ... and that's the elimination of the internal combustion engine."

Read more at Trump:  We're Stripping California’s Right to Set Tougher Auto Standards

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wednesday 18

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Cutting Air Pollution Would Not Cause ‘Near-Term Spike’ in Global Warming

(Credit: CCO Public Domain) Click to Enlarge.
A reduction in air pollution brought about by shifting away from fossil fuels would not inadvertently cause a short-term acceleration of global warming, a new study says.

Earlier modeling work using scenarios where fossil-fuel burning ends instantaneously had suggested that a rapid decline in aerosol emissions could remove their cooling impact on the climate and cause a spike in warming.

However, the new study, published in Nature, finds that “even the most aggressive” shift from fossil fuels to clean alternatives to limit warming to 1.5C “provides benefits for climate change mitigation and air quality” at all timescales.

The study makes the “clear and important point” that “aerosol cooling is no reason not to mitigate our emissions”, another scientist tells Carbon Brief, but “we need to be mindful of the potential regional climate implications of rapid removal of air pollution”.

Read more at Cutting Air Pollution Would Not Cause ‘Near-Term Spike’ in Global Warming

Carbon Emitters Face Higher Legal Risks

 Emitters and investors share responsibility for climate change. (Image Credit: Agustín Lautaro on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change risk for big companies − and their investors − is often seen in terms of physical risk:  sea level rise, temperature increases, or extreme weather events.  But a spate of court cases around the world has highlighted a different kind of risk.  Carbon emitters, and the big investors that support them, could find themselves on the wrong end of the law if they don’t take action on climate change.

18 September, 2019 − When, two weeks ago, a New Zealand environmental activist started court action against our top carbon emitters, Kiwi companies became just the latest to find themselves under fire for not doing enough to stop climate change.

Mike Smith, chair of the Climate Change Kiwi Leaders Group, hopes to force Fonterra, Genesis Energy, NZ Steel, NZ Refining, Z Energy, Dairy Holdings, and BT Mining to reduce their total net greenhouse gases by 50 percent by 2030.  Then he wants them to get them to zero by 2050.

Smith’s action follows a case in Australia last year where a 23-year-old ecology graduate is suing his superannuation provider − $A50 billion fund REST − for not telling him what it’s doing to protect his savings from the impact of climate change.

The year before, two Commonwealth Bank of Australia shareholders launched court action against the bank for not adequately disclosing climate change risks in its 2016 annual report.

In the US a group of fishing companies are suing oil giant Chevron and others for their contribution to climate change.  And the state of New York is suing Exxon Mobil for misleading investors over the company’s climate change risks.

And these are not isolated cases.

In its climate change litigation update, released earlier this year, the US’ second largest law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright, said the number of climate change-related cases has now reached more than 1300.

The majority of these are against governments, and so affect business only indirectly.

But increasingly, companies are also being taken to court.

Read more at Carbon Emitters Face Higher Legal Risks

September, 2019:  A Tipping Point Moment for the Earth?

Stop Fossil Fuels. Build 100% Renewables. (Credit: 350.org) Click to Enlarge.
Now, thanks to the unceasing efforts of people like Bill McKibben, Michael Mann, Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion, the Sunrise Movement, and many others, there is a sense that attitudes toward global warming and climate change may be shifting.

The Los Angeles Times this week published a story entitled “The Climate Apocalypse Is Here.  You Have One Last Chance To Stop It.”  We can’t reprint the graphic that accompanies that story, but we can show you the tweet Bill McKibben published to promote the story.  It’s a pretty bold graphic.

McKibben, who founded 350.org, has been busy bringing his patented brand of distressing climate news wrapped in easy to swallow format to mainstream news outlets like The New Yorker and most recently Time Magazine.  His latest essay for Time is entitled “Hello From the Year 2050. We Avoided the Worst of Climate Change — But Everything Is Different.”  It offers a sort of sci-fi analysis of how global warming was tamed and the changes that process brought to the environment and human society.

Read more at September, 2019:  A Tipping Point Moment for the Earth?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Tuesday 17

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Naomi Klein:  ‘We Are Seeing the Beginnings of the Era of Climate Barbarism’

Naomi Klein (Image Credit: Mariusz Kubik, mariuszkubik.pl, via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
Read an extract from Naomi Klein’s new book, On Fire:  The Burning Case for a Green New Deal here.

Why are you publishing this book now?
I still feel that the way that we talk about climate change is too compartmentalised, too siloed from the other crises we face.  A really strong theme running through the book is the links between it and the crisis of rising white supremacy, the various forms of nationalism and the fact that so many people are being forced from their homelands, and the war that is waged on our attention spans.  These are intersecting and interconnecting crises and so the solutions have to be as well.

The book collects essays from the last decade, have you changed your mind about anything?
When I look back, I don’t think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left.  It’s more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, that’s always looking to split the difference.  But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.

What’s stopping the left doing this?
In a North American context, it’s the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits.  You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal – they are coming after your hamburgers!  It cuts to the heart of the American dream – every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours.  When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, we’ve got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage what’s left, we’ve got to share equitably – it is a psychic attack.  And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, we’re not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits.  And there are going to be benefits:  we’ll have more livable cities, we’ll have less polluted air, we’ll spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways.  But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.

Read more at Naomi Klein:  ‘We Are Seeing the Beginnings of the Era of Climate Barbarism’

Deforestation Is Getting Worse, 5 Years After Countries and Companies Vowed to Stop It

As fires in the Amazon draw attention to the problem, critics say big agribusinesses aren't doing enough to stop deforestation in their supply chains.


The cutting and burning of tropical forests, especially mature tropical forests like much of the Amazon rainforest, is particularly damaging because of the carbon storage lost and the contribution to climate change. (Credit: Raphael Alves/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Five years after joining in a historic commitment to stop cutting the world's forests, governments and companies are not only failing to slow deforestation, they are rapidly driving the disappearance of more trees.

As fires consume Amazonian forests, stoking global concern about the loss of a vital ecosystem and climate regulator, a new report published Thursday finds that forests continue to be cleared at an alarming rate, driven mostly by agricultural expansion and demand for beef, palm oil and soy.

"We're losing the battle, so to speak, on stopping deforestation," said Craig Hanson, a vice president at the World Resources Institute.  "This is a clarion call."

Read more at Deforestation Is Getting Worse, 5 Years After Countries and Companies Vowed to Stop It

Highlights:  The Net-Zero Climate Change Conference in Oxford

University of Oxford (Credit: CarbonBrief.org) Click to Enlarge.
This week, the city of Oxford played host to an international conference on “achieving net-zero”.  The event follows hot on the heels of the UK becoming the first major economy to set a net-zero climate target.

The conference was organised by the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, which hosted a conference on the 1.5C warming limit in 2016.

Spread across three days, the conference attracted a varied mix of around 160 science and policy researchers, energy experts, and industry representatives.

It was modeled loosely on the Talanoa Dialogue structure adopted at UN climate talks, addressing the questions “where are we?”, “where do we want to get to?” and “how do we get there?”.

Carbon Brief was at the conference to hear all the talks and ask a range of participants on camera (see below) about their priorities for achieving net-zero.

Read more at Highlights:  The Net-Zero Climate Change Conference in Oxford

China Is Doing a Lot Better on Climate Action than Most People Realize

Chinese Road (Picture Credit: Government of China) Click to Enlarge.
The first is that the air was clean and the sky was blue.  While my friend was there during the cleaner air summer rather than the winter when the air quality is typically at its worst, the improvement in air quality in Chinese cities has been extraordinary over the past decade.

The second was that the streets were incredibly quiet, much quieter than the streets of Vancouver outside the coffee shop we were in as he told me about his trip.  It wasn’t that the streets were empty.  Quite the opposite.  They were packed with cars and people.  But virtually all the vehicles were electric. No engine noise. No diesel trucks rumbling past.  No motorcycles revving.  Just tire noise, which at the lower speeds typical to city streets is very quiet.

So clean air and quiet streets in the capital of China, a city of almost 22 million people.  And that’s true of most other major Chinese cities as well.  But a lot of people’s perspectives on China are stuck in the past, on this subject as on many others.

Right now, the US is embroiled in a trade war with China, with President Trump frequently attacking China.  Infamously, he tweeted that “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”  One of the key arguments many climate change deniers return to over and over again, when all of their other arguments are rapidly debunked, is that it doesn’t matter what the US does because China is the largest emitter of CO2 in the world and is still opening up coal plants.

And that’s not just a Republican or climate change denier talking point.  Joe Biden’s climate change action plan spends most of its foreign policy section pointing fingers at China, from its Belt and Road Initiative to its coal subsidies.
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But there’s another story on China, one consistent with my friend’s observations, and one that’s not being told in its entirety or understood in the west.  China is likely on track to achieve its (relatively light) emissions targets a decade early.  It’s bending the curve on emissions faster than any country in history, just as it ramped them up faster than any country in history.

Read more at China Is Doing a Lot Better on Climate Action than Most People Realize

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Amazon Employees Will Walk Out Over the Company’s Climate Inaction

Amazon in Seattle (Credit: Nikki Kahn / The Washington Post via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Over 900 Amazon employees have signed an internal petition pledging to walk out over their employer’s lack of action on climate change.  The demonstration, scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time on September 20, will mark the first time in Amazon’s 25-year history that workers at its Seattle headquarters have walked off the job, though many are taking paid vacation to do so.  Most of the workers who have signed on so far work in Seattle, but employees in other offices, including in Europe, have indicated an interest in the event as well.  The protest is part of a global general strike led by 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg taking place ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23.

WIRED spoke with three Amazon employees who signed the petition and plan to join the walkout.  “It’s incredibly important that we show up and support the youth who are organizing this kind of thing, because I think it’s really important to show them, hey, you have allies in tech,” says Weston Fribley, a software engineer who has worked at Amazon for over four years.

“I have a chance here to influence Amazon to become a climate leader, and I think that’s the biggest impact that I personally can bring to the fight,” says Maren Costa, a principal UX designer who has worked at Amazon for over 15 years.

Read more at Amazon Employees Will Walk Out Over the Company’s Climate Inaction

Climate Change May Cut Soil's Ability to Absorb Water

IIncreased irrigation by sprinklers at the konza prairie biological station in the flint hills of northeastern Kansas altered the soil pore system of a prairie soil. (Credit: Edouard Sagues) Click to Enlarge.
Rutgers-led study shows how increased rainfall can reduce water infiltration in soils.

Coasts, oceans, ecosystems, weather and human health all face impacts from climate change, and now valuable soils may also be affected.

Climate change may reduce the ability of soils to absorb water in many parts of the world, according to a Rutgers-led study.  And that could have serious implications for groundwater supplies, food production and security, stormwater runoff, biodiversity, and ecosystems.

The study is published in the journal Science Advances.

"Since rainfall patterns and other environmental conditions are shifting globally as a result of climate change, our results suggest that how water interacts with soil could change appreciably in many parts of the world, and do so fairly rapidly," said co-author Daniel Giménez, a soil scientist and professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.  "We propose that the direction, magnitude, and rate of the changes should be measured and incorporated into predictions of ecosystem responses to climate change."

Water in soil is crucial for storing carbon, and soil changes could influence the level of carbon dioxide in the air in an unpredictable way, according to Giménez, of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.  Carbon dioxide is one of the key greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

Read more at Climate Change May Cut Soil's Ability to Absorb Water

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Wednesday 11

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Preparations for the Climate Crisis Will Save Trillions, Commission Finds

Every $1 spent on climate adaptation could see between $2 and $10 of net economic benefit, but current investments are lagging way behind.


A 24-hour warning system of a coming storm or heat wave could reduce ensuing damage by 30%, according to a report by the Global Commission on Adaptation. (Photo Credit: Sino-German Urbanisation Partnership/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Preparing for the impacts of climate change can pay back the initial investment as much as ten times over, saving trillions of dollars by 2030.

That is according to a new report published on Tuesday by the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), led by former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, businessman Bill Gates, and CEO of the World Bank Kristalina Georgieva.

The report gives concrete examples of the ways costs and losses associated with climate risks can be avoided.

For instance, a 24-hour warning system for a coming storm or heat wave could reduce ensuing damage by 30%, according to the report.  Investing $800 million on warning systems in developing countries could avoid losses of up to $16 billion per year.

Most efforts to tackle climate change have focused on emissions reduction.  Christiana Figueres, former head of the UN Climate Change, called the report a “breakthrough”.
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Failing to adapt agriculture practices to climate change could cause growth in global agriculture yields to reduce by up to 30% by 2050, affecting small farmers the most and putting increasing pressure on ways to feed the growing global population.

More efficient water allocation is also expected to become vital to economic growth.  The economic growth of India, China, and Central Asia could be 7 to 12% lower without such measures, and much of African countries would see their GDP reduce by 6% by 2050.

The report warned that the preparations were “not happening at nearly the pace and scale required”, because climate impacts and risks are not yet adequately factored into decision-making and that those most affected by climate change were not given a voice.

“Much of the adaptation money doesn’t come close to the communities affected and that needs to stand on its head,” said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute.  “We are calling for a radical overhaul of how money is being spent.”

Done right, adaptation will benefit the most vulnerable people the most, he added.

Read more at Preparations for the Climate Crisis Will Save Trillions, Commission Finds

No More Burgers and Coke?  Climate Fears Hit Meat, Drink Sales

Consumers worried about the environment are cutting their spending on meat and bottled drinks and trying to reduce plastic waste, and this trend is set to accelerate as climate concerns mount, a global survey showed on Tuesday. (Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
Consumers worried about the environment are cutting their spending on meat and bottled drinks and trying to reduce plastic waste, and this trend is set to accelerate as climate concerns mount, a global survey showed on Tuesday.

About a third of people surveyed in 24 countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia are alarmed about the environment, with half of those - or 16% of the global total - taking active steps to reduce their imprint.

Read more at No More Burgers and Coke?  Climate Fears Hit Meat, Drink Sales

Toon of the Week - Cone of Uncertainty


Poster of the Week: Climate Science Denial Is Deadly




2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #36

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Tuesday 10

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

An Increasingly Urbanized Latin America Turns to Electric Buses

From Colombia to Argentina, major cities in Latin America are starting to adopt electric bus fleets.  In a region with the highest use of buses per person globally, officials believe the transition will help meet climate targets, cut fuel costs, and improve air quality.


An electric bus in service on the streets of Medellín, Colombia. (Credit: Metro de Medellín) Click to Enlarge.
In Medellín, Colombia, passengers cram aboard a battery-powered bus during the morning commute.  Inside, the vehicle is a respite from the crush of cars, taxis, and motorcycles winding through traffic outside.  The driver, Robinson López Rivera, steers the bus up a steep ramp, revealing views of hillsides covered with rooftops of tile and tin.  The bus dashboard indicates that the batteries are mostly charged, with enough power to last through the evening rush hour.

“It’s a little smoother and more comfortable to drive.  And there’s hardly any noise,” López Rivera says from behind the wheel.  He gently brakes as a street vendor pushes a fruit cart across the dedicated bus lane.  At night, the bus will return to a parking lot by the airport, recharging its 360-kilowatt battery pack while the city sleeps.

The other 77 buses in the city’s bus rapid transit system, called Metroplús, run on natural gas and move about 251,000 passengers daily.  Thousands more privately owned coaches and minibuses burn diesel as they traverse the sprawling metropolitan area of 3.7 million people, with older models leaving a trail of sour-smelling smoke.  Faced with chronic air pollution and concerns about climate change, Medellín is now trying to move quickly to electrify its entire mass transit network.

Metroplús launched its first electric bus in April 2018. Another 64 battery-powered buses will hit the streets later this year, having recently arrived on a ship from Shanghai. The new units will make Medellín the second-largest electric bus fleet in Latin America, after Santiago, Chile.

Read more at An Increasingly Urbanized Latin America Turns to Electric Buses

Monday, September 09, 2019

Mississippi Beaches Have Been Vacant for Two Months As a Toxic Algae Bloom Lurks Offshore

An algal bloom in the Gulf is devastating coastal businesses.


An empty beach in Waveland, Mississippi on Sept. 6, 2019. (Credit: Janet Densmore) Click to Enlarge.
Ship Island Excursions has survived hurricanes, global recessions, a world war, and a host of economic challenges since the ferry company began taking passengers to the barrier islands that dot coastal Mississippi in the 1920s.  But this year a new threat has emerged:  an explosion of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, that has shut down virtually all of Mississippi’s beaches since July 4. 

No one knows when the algae will disappear, and many wonder how many businesses that operate in the region will survive the hit. 

“Beach vendors have been wiped out,” said Louis Skrmetta, operations manager for Ship Island Excursions.  “I’ve never seen something so dramatic.  It’s very similar to the BP oil spill…people are frightened to just walk in the sand.

Scientists have never seen anything like this before in the ocean off’s Mississippi coast ― blue-green algal blooms are normally confined to fresh-water species.  Mississippi officials say the bloom is the result of record flooding this year in the Midwest, which has pushed a deluge of polluted, nitrogen-rich water down the Mississippi River.  It has forced state officials to issue water and health advisories warning people to stay out of the water and to avoid contaminated seafood. 
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Mississippi business and fishery experts say they’ve never seen such a massive algal bloom spread in coastal waters.  Many blame the record ten trillion gallons of Mississippi River water that the Army Corps of Engineers diverted from the flooding New Orleans area.  The Corps opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway twice for a record 123 days, pouring fertilizer and industrial waste-laden river water into Lake Pontchartrain, which drains into the Mississippi Sound. 

State marine officials say the diversion has killed sensitive oyster reefs, wiped out brown shrimp and crab catches, and altered the salinity levels of the entire Mississippi coastal estuarine area.  While salinity levels are finally returning to normal, water health advisories for blue-green algae remain on state beaches. 

Hotels, restaurants and other coastal businesses who depend on summer tourism to get through the year are facing big losses, said Coastal Mississippi, an organization that tracks business development. 

Read more at Mississippi Beaches Have Been Vacant for Two Months As a Toxic Algae Bloom Lurks Offshore

Are We Overestimating How Much Trees Will Help Fight Climate Change?

This tree trunk section, or cookie, shows a large hollow in the center. Marra argues that traditional methods can miss such decay, and therefore overestimate how much forests will contribute to storing carbon. (Credit: Jan Ellen Spiegel Click to Enlarge.
Bob Marra navigated his way to the back of a dusty barn in Hamden, Connecticut, belonging to the state’s Agricultural Experiment Station.  There, past piles of empty beehives, on a wall of metal shelves, were stacks of wooden disks — all that remains of 39 trees taken down in 2014 from Great Mountain Forest in the northwest corner of the state.

These cross-sections of tree trunks, known as stem disks — or more informally as cookies — are telling a potentially worrisome tale about the ability of forests to be critical hedges against accelerating climate change.  As anyone following the fires burning in the Amazon rainforest knows by now, trees play an important role in helping to offset global warming by storing carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide — a major contributor to rising temperatures — in their wood, leaves, and roots.  The worldwide level of CO2 is currently averaging more than 400 parts per million — the highest amount by far in the last 800,000 years.

But Marra, a forest pathologist at the Experiment Station with a PhD in plant pathology from Cornell University, has documented from studying his fallen trees that internal decay has the capacity to significantly reduce the amount of carbon stored within.

His research, published in Environmental Research Letters late last year and funded by the National Science Foundation, focused on a technique to see inside trees — a kind of scan known as tomography (the “T” in CAT scan).  This particular tomography was developed for use by arborists to detect decay in urban and suburban trees, mainly for safety purposes.  Marra, however, may be the first to deploy it for measuring carbon content and loss associated with internal decay.  Where there is decay there is less carbon, he explains, and where there is a cavity, there is no carbon at all.

“What we’re suggesting is that internal decay in trees has just not been properly accounted for,” says Marra.

Read more at Are We Overestimating How Much Trees Will Help Fight Climate Change?

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Bill McKibben:  This Climate Strike Is Part of the Disruption We Need

“It can’t just be young people.  It needs to be all of us.”


Because we burn so much coal and gas and oil, the atmosphere of our world is changing rapidly, and that atmospheric change is producing record heat. (YES! illustration Credit: Jennifer Luxton) Click to Enlarge.
Business as usual is what’s doing us in.

We live on a planet that finds itself rather suddenly in the midst of an enormous physical crisis.  Because we burn so much coal and gas and oil, the atmosphere of our world is changing rapidly, and that atmospheric change is producing record heat.  July was the hottest month we’ve ever recorded.  Scientists predict with confidence that we stand on the edge of the sixth great extinction event of the last billion years.  People are dying in large numbers and being left homeless; millions are already on the move because they have no choice.

And yet we continue on with our usual patterns.  We get up each morning and do pretty much what we did the day before.  It’s not like the last time we were in an existential crisis, when Americans signed up for the Army and crossed the Atlantic to face down fascism and when the people back home signed up for new jobs and changed their daily lives.

That’s why it’s such good news that the climate movement has a new tactic.  Pioneered last August by Greta Thunberg of Sweden, it involves disrupting business as usual.  It began, of course, in schools:  Within months, millions of young people around the world were striking for days at a time from their classes.  Their logic was impeccable:  If the institutions of our planet can’t be bothered to prepare for a world we can live in, why must we spend years preparing ourselves?  If you break the social contract, why are we bound by it?

And now those young people have asked the rest of us to join in.  After the last great school strike in May, they asked adults to take part next time.  The date is Sept. 20, and the location is absolutely everywhere.  Big trade unions in South Africa and Germany are telling workers to take the day off.  Ben and Jerry’s is closing down its headquarters (stock up in advance), and if you want to buy Lush cosmetics, you’re going to be out of luck.  The largest rally will likely be in New York City, where the U.N. General Assembly begins debating climate change that week—but there will be gatherings in every state and every country.  It will almost certainly be the biggest day of climate action in the planet’s history.  (If you want to be a part—and you do want to be a part—go to globalclimatestrike.net.)
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But it can’t be just young people.  It needs to be all of us—especially, perhaps, those of us who have been placidly operating on a business-as-usual basis for most of our lives, who have rarely faced truly serious disruptions in our careers and our plans.  Our job is precisely to disrupt business as usual.  When the planet leaves its comfort zone, we need to do the same.  See you on the streets on Sept. 20!

Read more at Bill McKibben:  This Climate Strike Is Part of the Disruption We Need

113 Animals Killed After Shocking Storm Surge Hit Bahamas Shelter in Hurricane Dorian

Six people and more than 150 cats and dogs survived after a “raging river” of water overwhelmed the Humane Society of Grand Bahama.


The primary animal shelter in Grand Bahama was hit with deadly storm surge nearing 20 feet high. Five feet of floodwaters filled the Humane Society of Grand Bahama as Hurricane Dorian devastated the island. More than 100 dogs and cats died. (Credit: Miami Herald) Click to Enlarge.
As the scale of Hurricane Dorian’s devastation in the Bahamas comes into focus and the number of known deaths rises, an animal shelter on the island of Grand Bahama has also gotten a clearer picture of its losses from the storm.

A nearly 20-foot storm surge overwhelmed the Humane Society of Grand Bahama in Freeport on Monday night, causing destruction and flooding that killed 113 dogs and cats, executive director Tip Burrows told the Miami Herald.  Burrows had not expected the shelter, which is 10 feet above sea level, to be hit so brutally.
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Though hurricanes have long been a threat in the region, a warming climate is contributing to their increased intensity.  Atmospheric scientist Jennifer Francis explained to The Washington Post that warming ocean temperatures essentially give hurricanes more fuel, with warmer air holding more moisture that results in heavier rainfall from the storms.  Rising sea levels also lead to higher storm surges and worsened flooding.

Additionally, scientists have found that it’s becoming increasingly common for hurricanes to stall over a particular location for longer periods of time ― as Dorian did in the Bahamas and 2017′s Hurricane Harvey did in Texas ― battering one place with unrelenting rain for a longer period of time.  NASA scientist Tim Hall told the Post that researchers are examining the relationship between a warming climate and these slower moving hurricanes.

Read more at 113 Animals Killed After Shocking Storm Surge Hit Bahamas Shelter in Hurricane Dorian

Climate Gentrification:  Coming To a Community Near You

(Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
In just the last two years, climate change has brought on an onslaught of disasters:  more than 4 feet of rain in south Texas, 90 degree days in Alaska, and record-breaking wildfires that have destroyed homes and upended communities.  But now, an unexpected threat from climate change is looming on the horizon:  gentrification.

“Climate gentrification is when the response to climate impacts indirectly increases disparities in communities,” Jennie Stephens, director for strategic research collaborations at Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute, says.  Wealthy people seeking refuge from the effects of climate change are starting to move into neighborhoods that were once considered undesirable.  The term is fairly new, but there are already examples of this new kind of gentrification taking place — and not just in coastal areas.  “It can happen and it is happening in all kinds of communities,” Stephens says.

Norfolk, Virginia, is one of the country’s most climate-vulnerable areas, and an example of what happens when city officials attempt to adapt to the rising seas from climate change at the expense of the poor.  The city, which sits at the junction of the Chesapeake Bay and Elizabeth River, is home to nearly 245,000 people and regularly floods on rainy days and even on sunny days during high tide.  By 2050 NOAA predicted Norfolk will have 170 sunny-day floods a year.

Local leaders came up with a strategy last year to reinvest in low-income neighborhoods and protect vulnerable ones from constant flooding.  St. Paul’s redevelopment plan will tear down several public housing complexes in the low-lying neighborhood and replace the decrepit buildings with a mixed-income development while ceding the most vulnerable areas to the sea.

“The crown jewel of the re-imaged St. Paul’s neighborhood will be the transformation of the low-lands area that is often devastated by flooding into a water eco-center comprised of great parks, green spaces,” the city’s official website reads.  The lowlands that routinely flood will be transformed into parks and green spaces.  In May, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that Norfolk was chosen for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, a $30 million competitive grant that the city will use to help pay for the project.

Read more at Climate Gentrification:  Coming To a Community Near You

Pope Says Deforestation Must Be Treated as a Global Threat

Pope Francis meets Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina in Antananarivo (Credit: © Reuters/Baz Ratner) Click to Enlarge.
Pope Francis said on Saturday rapid deforestation and the loss of biodiversity in individual countries should not be treated as local issues since they threaten the future of the planet.

Francis made his appeal on a visit to Madagascar, the world’s fourth-largest island, which research institutes and aid agencies say has lost about 44% of its forest over the past 60 years, abetted by illegal exports of rosewood and ebony.

Francis zeroed in on endemic corruption, linking it with persistent, long-term poverty as well as poaching and illegal exports of natural resources.

Addressing Madagascar’s president, Andry Rajoelina, his cabinet and other officials, Francis said some people were profiting from excessive deforestation and the associated loss of species.

“The deterioration of that biodiversity compromises the future of the country and of the earth, our common home,” he said.

Read more at Pope Says Deforestation Must Be Treated as a Global Threat

Big Oil Undermines U.N. Climate Goals with $50 Billion of New Projects

Comparison of 1.5C Pathways to Post-FID Oil Production (Credit: IPCC, Rystad Energy, IEA^, CTI analysis) Click to Enlarge
Major oil companies have approved $50 billion of projects since last year that will not be economically viable if governments implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, think-tank Carbon Tracker said in a report published on Friday.

The analysis found that investment plans by Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), BP (BP.L), and ExxonMobil (XOM.N) among other companies will not be compatible with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5 degree Celsius world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals,” said report co-author Andrew Grant, a former natural resources analyst at Barclays.

Read more at Big Oil Undermines U.N. Climate Goals with $50 Billion of New Projects:  Report

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Putting a Price on Carbon Pollution Alone Unlikely to Help Reach Climate Goals

Putting a price on carbon pollution must become part of a set of actions to future-proof our economies and societies. (Image Credit: Reuters/Stringer) Click to Enlarge.
A new study by Imperial College London researchers shows that carbon taxes, which are the currently favored system for reaching this target, will not be enough to avoid catastrophic climate change.

They instead suggest that alongside carbon taxes, which put a price on emissions, there also need to be incentives for strategies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  They say this will encourage these strategies to be implemented at a commercial scale in order to reach the Paris Agreement goals.  The study is published in Joule.

Study lead author Habiba Daggash, from the Center for Environmental Policy at Imperial, said:  "The current system of penalizing greenhouse gas emissions through carbon taxes is not sufficient to avoid catastrophic climate change, even if very high taxes are enforced.  Therefore, using this strategy alone, the Paris Agreement that most countries have committed to could not be delivered.

"The system needs to be adapted to recognize that not only do emissions need to be penalized, but actions that result in permanent removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere must also be credited."

Read more at Putting a Price on Carbon Pollution Alone Unlikely to Help Reach Climate Goals

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Wednesday 4

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Chinese Belt and Road Plan ‘May Result in 2.7C Warming’

 Without green policy controls, $12tn programme could promote development that would compromise the goals of the Paris Agreement, report finds.


Port Qasim coal plant, Pakistan, is one of many financed by China worldwide (Photo Credit: Twitter/Developing Pakistan) Click to Enlarge.
China’s multi-trillion dollar global investment plans could blow the 2C warming limit set by the Paris Agreement without curbs on pollution, a new study said on Monday.

The 126 countries in the Belt and Road region now account for 28% of global emissions, but on their current trajectory, that could rise to 66% by 2050, researchers, led by Ma Jun, a special advisor to China’s central bank, said.

That could mean global carbon levels would rise to nearly double the level needed to keep temperature increases to below 2C, a major goal of the Paris Agreement.

“If B&RCs (Belt and Road countries) follow historical carbon-intense growth patterns… it may be enough to result in a 2.7 degree path, even if the rest of the world adheres to 2 degree levels of emissions,” the report said.                                                                                                                       
Read more at Chinese Belt and Road Plan ‘May Result in 2.7C Warming’