Saturday, November 30, 2019

Is This the Only Way to Curb Global Warming?

Click to Enlarge.
A new report from the United Nations environment program (Unep) finds that on current pledges, the world is heading for a 3.2 degree rise.
Although G20 nations collectively account for 78 percent of all emissions, only five members have committed to a long-term emissions target.
Of these, the UK and France are the only two to have passed legislation confirming their commitments in law.
Germany, Italy and the EU28 are currently in the process of passing laws to this effect.
The UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change warned that going beyond the 1.5 degree rise agreed under the Paris Agreement in 2015 would increase the frequency and intensity of climate impacts.
UN secretary-general António Guterres said: “For ten years, the Emissions Gap Report has been sounding the alarm – and for ten years, the world has only increased its emissions.
“There has never been a more important time to listen to the science.  Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heatwaves, storms, and pollution.”
The report calls for all nations to substantially increase their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as the Paris commitments are known, in 2020.
Inger Andersen, Unep’s executive director, said: “Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions – over 7 percent each year, if we break it down evenly over the next decade.
“This shows that countries simply cannot wait until the end of 2020, when new climate commitments are due, to step up action.  They – and every city, region, business and individual – need to act now.”
According to new data from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have hit a new record high.

Read more at Is This the Only Way to Curb Global Warming?

Friday, November 29, 2019

Friday 29

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

Climate Tipping Points Are Closer Than We Think, Scientists Warn

From melting ice caps to dying forests and thawing permafrost, the risk of ‘abrupt and irreversible changes’ is much higher than thought just a few years ago.

“What we’re talking about is a point of no return, when we might actually lose control of this system,” said Will Steffen, a coauthor of a paper released ahead of the annual UN climate summit. (Credit: Ian Joughin/University of Washington APL Polar Science Center) Click to Enlarge.
Humans are playing Russian roulette with Earth's climate by ignoring the growing risk of tipping points that, if passed, could jolt the climate system into "a new, less habitable 'hothouse' climate state," scientists are warning ahead of the annual UN climate summit.

Research now shows that there is a higher risk that "abrupt and irreversible changes" to the climate system could be triggered at smaller global temperature increases than thought just a few years ago.  There are also indictations that exceeding tipping points in one system, such as the loss of Arctic sea ice or thawing of permafrost, can increase the risk of crossing tipping points in others, a group of top scientists wrote Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.

"What we're talking about is a point of no return, when we might actually lose control of this system, and there is a significant risk that we're going to do this," said Will Steffen, a climate researcher with the Australian National University and co-author of the commentary.  "It's not going to be the same conditions with just a bit more heat or a bit more rainfall.  It's a cascading process that gets out of control."

Read more at Climate Tipping Points Are Closer Than We Think, Scientists Warn

In Rural and Urban Communities Alike, Energy Costs Burden Low-Income FamiliesIn Rural and Urban Communities Alike, Energy Costs Burden Low-Income Families

Weatherization programs can help.


As the leaves turn and the temperature drops, many people worry about the cost of home heating.

Ariel Drehobl of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy says that for low-income families, it can cause stress around figuring out how to pay your bills and a tradeoff between keeping your heat on and being able to afford other necessities like food, medication, and things for your children.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy recently studied how much of their income Americans spend on energy.

“We found that low-income households in urban areas experience energy burdens three times as high as non-low-income households, and we’ve seen the same story in rural areas as well,” Drehobl says.  “This shows that energy costs are not currently equitable and affordable for all households in this country.”

Weatherizing a home can help, and there are utility and federal programs to help offset the costs.

But to prevent disparities, Drehobl says low-income communities need to be informed about these programs.  States should also set goals and track how many low-income residents participate.

“It’s really important for energy to be affordable for all families in the country in order to maintain health and economic prosperity,” she says.

Read more at In Rural and Urban Communities Alike, Energy Costs Burden Low-Income Families

UN report:  Pollution From Planned Fossil Fuel Production Would Overshoot Paris Climate Goals

To protect the climate, most coal, oil, and natural gas must be left in the ground, a recent study reported.


(Credit: yaleclimateconnections.org) Click to Enlarge.
In the 2015 international Paris Climate Agreement, nearly every country agreed to try and limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and preferably closer to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures.  Achieving these goals will require dramatic changes, as the world has already warmed 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), and temperatures, fossil fuel consumption, and carbon pollution all are continuing to rise.

To determine how far off track emissions are with respect to the Paris goals, groups like the International Energy Agency and Climate Action Tracker evaluate each country’s climate policies.  According to their analyses, were each country to follow through only with current policies, global temperatures would rise about 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures by the year 2100 – a level of warming that would result in severe and dangerous climate changes.

In addition, a new report produced by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, and a coalition of research organizations takes a different approach:  The report examines government plans for fossil fuel production and the amount of carbon pollution and global warming that would result if all these fuels were burned.

“Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions”, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said in a statement releasing the report.  So urgent is the need for action, he said, that “every city, region, business, and individual need(s) to act now”.

The resulting picture is indeed bleak – total carbon emissions between now and 2030 from global fossil fuel production plans are about 10% higher than those from the current climate policies that would put the world on track for 3 degrees Celsius warming by 2100.  These fossil fuel plans present a difficult impediment to meeting the Paris climate goals.

Read more at UN report: Pollution From Planned Fossil Fuel Production Would Overshoot Paris Climate Goals 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

New Report Finds Costs of Climate Change Impacts Often Underestimated

Flooding in Port Arthur, Texas during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. (Credit: yaleclimateconnections.org) Click to Enlarge.
Climate economics researchers have often underestimated – sometimes badly underestimated – the costs of damages resulting from climate change.  Those underestimates occur particularly in scenarios where Earth’s temperature warms beyond the Paris climate target of 1.5 to 2 degrees C (2.7 to 3.6 degrees F).

That’s the conclusion of a new report written by a team of climate and Earth scientists and economists from the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.  It’s a conclusion consistent with the findings of numerous recent climate economics studies.

Once temperatures warm beyond those Paris targets, the risks of triggering unprecedented climate damages grow.  However, because the rate and magnitude of climate change has entered uncharted territory in human history, the temperature thresholds and severity of future climate impacts remain highly uncertain, and thus difficult to capture in climate economics models.  Put simply, it’s difficult to project the economic impacts resulting from circumstances which are themselves unprecedented.

Read more at New Report Finds Costs of Climate Change Impacts Often Underestimated

Bloomberg Is a Climate Leader.  So Why Aren’t Activists Excited About a Run for President?

Michael Bloomberg has poured his time and hundreds of millions of dollars into projects aimed at getting the world 'beyond carbon,' but can he win the presidency?

Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, UN climate envoy and head of the C40 cities group focused on climate action, filed papers this week with the Federal Election Commission to be a Democratic candidate for president. Credit: Ole Jensen/Getty Images  Click to Enlarge.
One of the Trump administration's favorite environmental talking points is that the United States has reduced carbon emissions more than any other country.

It's not an achievement that Trump can take any credit for. But his latest potential challenger, Michael Bloomberg, arguably can take some.

As market forces and regulatory controls were driving coal from its perch as the dominant electricity fuel in the U.S., they got a big assist from the Sierra Club's multimillion-dollar Beyond Coal campaign, launched in 2012 and bankrolled by Bloomberg.

Read more at Bloomberg Is a Climate Leader.  So Why Aren’t Activists Excited About a Run for President?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Saturday 23

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

Untold Suffering Lies Ahead in Hotter World

Global heating could bring “untold suffering” for humans.  It could also mean less fresh water and less rice, though tasting more of arsenic.


A message from Germany as the climate emergency intensifies. Image: (A message from Germany as the climate emergency intensifies. (Image Credit:  Markus Spiske on Unsplash
In an unprecedented step, more than 11,000 scientists from 153 nations have united to warn the world that, without deep and lasting change, the climate emergency promises  humankind unavoidable “untold suffering”.

And as if to underline that message, a US research group has predicted that – on the basis of experiments so far – global heating could reduce rice yields by 40% by the end of the century, and at the same time intensify levels of arsenic in the cereal that provides the staple food for almost half the planet.

And in the same few days a second US group has forecast that changes to the world’s vegetation in an atmosphere increasingly rich in carbon dioxide could mean that – even though rainfall might increase – there could be less fresh water on tap for many of the peoples of Europe, Asia, and North America.

Warnings of climate hazard that could threaten political stability and precipitate mass starvation are not new:  individuals, research groups, academies, and intergovernmental agencies have been making the same point, and with increasing urgency, for more than two decades.

New Analysis
The only argument has been about in what form, how badly, and just when the emergency will take its greatest toll.

But the 11,000 signatories to the statement in the journal BioScience report that their conclusions are based on the new analysis of 40 years of data covering energy use, surface temperature, population growth, land clearance, deforestation, polar ice melt, fertility rates, gross domestic product, and carbon emissions.

Read more at Untold Suffering Lies Ahead in Hotter World

Friday, November 22, 2019

Could Kennedy Space Center launch Pads Be at Risk as Climate Changes?  Experts Say Yes


(Credit:  Ayurella Horn-Muller, Climate Central and Rachael Joy, FLORIDA TODAY) Click to Enlarge.
Created to propel humankind beyond the limits of Earth, Kennedy Space Center is now facing a terrestrial threat — the warming of our home planet, leading to sea level rise, erosion and catastrophic flooding — that could hinder our push to deep space.

To protect the nation’s most historic launch pads and the only place in the United States capable of launching humans to orbit, NASA is building a massive dune along the coast but experts say that isn’t enough, leaving some to consider the unthinkable:

What if Kennedy Space Center had to move to higher ground?

“It’s almost the same type of thing as saying ‘We’re going to move the White House two blocks to the left.’  You wouldn’t, right?  Because you’ve invested  in the infrastructure.  It’s the hand we’ve been dealt since the ‘60s when the pads were first built,” NASA’s Public Affairs Officer Gregory Harland said.

 Could Kennedy Space Center launch Pads Be at Risk as Climate Changes? Experts Say Yes

World’s Current Fossil Fuel Plans Will Shatter Paris Climate Limits, UN Warns

Within a decade, planned coal, oil and gas production will more than double what’s allowable to avoid 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming, and that gap only grows.

The world's top fossil fuel-producing nations are on track to extract enough oil, gas and coal to send global temperatures soaring past the goals of the Paris climate agreement, according to a United Nations report published Wednesday.

If countries follow through on their current plans, they will produce about 50 percent more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be compatible with the international goal of keeping global warming under 2 degrees Celsius, the report said. 

They would blow past the more ambitious target of keeping warming under 1.5°C, the report found, with countries poised to produce twice as much oil, gas and coal by 2030 than would be allowable to meet that goal. A UN scientific report released last year laid out the risks that would bring, including worsening droughts, heat waves and extreme rainfall and accelerating sea level rise.

Read more at World’s Current Fossil Fuel Plans Will Shatter Paris Climate Limits, UN Warns

Can America’s First Floating Wind Farm Help Open Deeper Water to Clean Energy?

The floating turbines off Maine’s coast could be operational b
"The world is awash in fossil fuels," the Production Gap report released by the United Nations on Nov. 20, 2019, says. Credit: David McNew/Getty Images Click to Enlarge.
y 2022.  The technology could be a model for other states with deep waters, and deep local opposition.

The state with perhaps the greatest untapped potential for harnessing its ocean breezes for electricity could soon have turbines spinning off its coast after years of political resistance.

It's a small project—up to two offshore wind turbines serving as many as 9,000 homes—but it would blaze a new trail:  If all goes as planned, in 2022, Aqua Ventus will become the first floating offshore wind farm in the nation.

Less than a year after Democrat Janet Mills replaced Republican Paul LePage as Maine's governor, state utility regulators approved a contract this month under which the utility Avangrid will buy the power generated by Aqua Ventus.  The vote followed legislation Mills signed this summer requiring the Public Utilities Commission to approve the pilot project, which has been six years in the making.

Read more at Can America’s First Floating Wind Farm Help Open Deeper Water to Clean Energy?

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Climate Change Threatens 60% of Toxic Superfund Sites, GAO Finds

Hundreds of polluted sites face an increased risk of inundation from sea level rise, flooding exacerbated by global warming, or wildfires, Congress’s watchdog warns.

Sixty percent of the nation's heavily polluted Superfund sites—nearly 950 of them—are at risk from the impacts of climate change, including hurricane storm surges and flooding that could spread their toxic legacies into waterways, communities and farmland, a new federal report warns.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office report, released Monday, describes the increased risk of toxic substances being washed out by floo
The Gowanus Canal, once a bustling transportation and shipping route in Brooklyn, New York, was declared a Superfund cleanup site in 2010. A new GAO report shows the polluted site is one of several that would be affected by even a Category 1 hurricane. (Photo Credit:  Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
ding at sites across the country, as well as wildfire risks that could send health-harming pollutants airborne.

It recommends that the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the federal Superfund program, start providing clear, agency-wide instructions on how its officials should incorporate climate change into Superfund site risk assessments and response decisions. 

That would be a change for the current administration.   Currently, the EPA does not include climate change in its agency-wide goals and objectives, preventing the agency from addressing the added risks at contaminated sites across the country as the planet warms, the report concluded.

Read more at Climate Change Threatens 60% of Toxic Superfund Sites, GAO Finds

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Climate Science Is Clear:  It's Now or Never to Avert Catastrophe - by Bill McKibben

Disastrous global heating will soon become irrevocable – but despite politicians’ inaction millions are taking to the streets to fight the planet’s fever.

(Illustration Credit: Francisco Navas/Guardian Design) Click to Enlarge.
The one thing never to forget about global warming is that it’s a timed test.

But the climate crisis doesn’t work like that.  If we don’t solve it soon, we will never solve it, because we will pass a series of irrevocable tipping points – and we’re clearly now approaching those deadlines.  You can tell because there’s half as much ice in the Arctic, and because forests catch fire with heartbreaking regularity and because we see record deluge.  But the deadlines are not just impressionistic – they’re rooted in the latest science.

In the aftermath of the Paris climate accords in 2015, for instance, many researchers set 2020 as the date by which carbon emissions would need to peak if we were to have any chance of meeting the accord’s goals.  Here’s an example of the math, from Stefan Rahmstorf and Anders Levermann.  Under the most plausible scenario, they wrote, “even if we peak in 2020 reducing emissions to zero within 20 years will be required,” and that is an ungodly steep slope.  But if we wait past 2020 it’s not a slope at all – it’s just a cliff, and we fall off it.  As the former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres put it when she launched Mission 2020, “Everyone has a right to prosper, and if emissions do not begin their rapid decline by 2020, the world’s most vulnerable people will suffer even more from the devastating impacts of climate change.”

Here’s another way of saying it:  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported last autumn that if we hadn’t managed a fundamental transformation of the planet’s energy systems by 2030, our chance of meeting the Paris temperature targets is slim to none.  And anyone who has ever had anything to do with governments knows: if you want something big done by 2030, you better give yourself a lot of lead time.  In fact, it’s possible we’ve waited too long:  the world’s greenhouse gas emissions spiked last year, and – given Trump, Bolsonaro and Putin - it’s hard to imagine we won’t see the same depressing thing this year.

Which is why, I guess, it’s a good thing that 2020 is an election year in the US, and that the Democratic party finally seems willing to talk seriously about climate change.  If it nominates Sanders or Warren, maybe the kind of aggressive approach that shakes things up is possible.  But America is just one country; we also need to pressure our real global government, which has its headquarters not in Washington but in Wall Street.  Last year banks increased their already staggering lending to the fossil fuel industry; if that continues there’s no chance of turning this round in time.

If you’re looking for optimism, at least we come into 2020 on a roll.  The great climate strikes of this September were the largest demonstration of climate activism in history, with 7 million people in the street.  And April 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day – it could be a day for an even more massive outpouring.

Read more at The Climate Science Is Clear: It's Now or Nver to Avert Catastrophe - by Bill McKibben

The Climate Science Is Clear:  It's Now or Never to Avert Catastrophe - by Bill McKibben

Disastrous global heating will soon become irrevocable – but despite politicians’ inaction millions are taking to the streets to fight the planet’s fever.
(Illustration Credit: Francisco Navas/Guardian Design) Click to Enlarge.
The one thing never to forget about global warming is that it’s a timed test.
...
But the climate crisis doesn’t work like that.  If we don’t solve it soon, we will never solve it, because we will pass a series of tipping points – and we’re clearly now approaching those deadlines.  You can tell because there’s half as much ice in the Arctic, and because forests catch fire with heartbreaking regularity and because we see record deluge.  But the deadlines are not just impressionistic – they’re rooted in the latest science.

In the aftermath of the Paris climate accords in 2015, for instance, many researchers set 2020 as the date by which carbon emissions would need to peak if we were to have any chance of meeting the accord’s goals.  Here’s an example of the math, from Stefan Rahmstorf and Anders Levermann.  Under the most plausible scenario, they wrote, “even if we peak in 2020 reducing emissions to zero within 20 years will be required,” and that is an ungodly steep slope.  But if we wait past 2020 it’s not a slope at all – it’s just a cliff, and we fall off it.  As the former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres put it when she launched Mission 2020, “Everyone has a right to prosper, and if emissions do not begin their rapid decline by 2020, the world’s most vulnerable people will suffer even more from the devastating impacts of climate change.”

Here’s another way of saying it:  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported last autumn that if we hadn’t managed a fundamental transformation of the planet’s energy systems by 2030, our chance of meeting the Paris temperature targets is slim to none.  And anyone who has ever had anything to do with governments knows:  if you want something big done by 2030, you better give yourself a lot of lead time.  In fact, it’s possible we’ve waited too long:  the world’s greenhouse gas emissions spiked last year, and – given Trump, Bolsonaro and Putin - it’s hard to imagine we won’t see the same depressing thing this year.

Which is why, I guess, it’s a good thing that 2020 is an election year in the US, and that the Democratic party finally seems willing to talk seriously about climate change.  If it nominates Sanders or Warren, maybe the kind of aggressive approach that shakes things up is possible.  But America is just one country; we also need to pressure our real global government, which has its headquarters not in Washington but in Wall Street.  Last year banks increased their already staggering lending to the fossil fuel industry; if that continues there’s no chance of turning this round in time.

If you’re looking for optimism, at least we come into 2020 on a roll.  The great climate strikes of this September were the largest demonstration of climate activism in history, with 7 million people in the street.  And April 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day – it could be a day for an even more massive outpouring.

Read more at The Climate Science Is Clear:  It's Now or Never to Avert Catastrophe - by Bill McKibben

U.S. Electric Bus Demand Outpaces Production as Cities Add to Their Fleets

Cities are still working through early challenges, but they see health and climate benefits ahead.  In Chicago, two buses save the city $24,000 a year in fuel costs.


China's BYD electric bus company has a factory in Lancaster, California. While the vast majority of the world's electric buses are in China, the U.S. numbers are growing. (Credit: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
In the coastal city of Gulfport, Mississippi, the state's first fully-electric bus will soon be cruising through the city's downtown streets.

The same goes for Portland, Maine—it just received a grant to buy that state's first two e-buses, which are set to roll out in 2021.  And Wichita expects to have Kansas' first operating electric bus picking up passengers as early as this month after receiving a federal grant.

As cities and states across the country set ambitious mid-century climate change goals for the first time and as prices for lithium-ion batteries plummet, a growing number of transit agencies are stepping up efforts to replace dirtier diesel buses with electric ones.

Nearly every state has a transit agency that now owns—or will soon own—at least one electric bus, according to a recent report from CALSTART, a clean transportation advocacy group.

Read more at U.S. Electric Bus Demand Outpaces Production as Cities Add to Their Fleets

Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday 15

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

The Climate Change Health Risks Facing a Child Born Today:  A Tale of Two Futures

The latest Countdown report from the medical journal Lancet lays out the risks ahead, from womb to adolescence.

A child born today faces two possible futures.  In one, the world continues to burn fossil fuels, making the child more likely to develop asthma from air pollution, at greater risk of vector-borne diseases, and more vulnerable to anxiety as extreme weather events threaten his community.

In the other, those risks are diminished because the world has responded quickly and adequately to climate change, with a large-scale shift away from fossil fuels.

These two, starkly different paths are the focus of a report published Wednesday by the medical journal The Lancet that shows how the future health of a child born today will be intrinsically linked to climate change, from womb to adolescence.

"Without accelerated intervention, this new era will come to define the health of people at every stage of their lives," the authors write.

Read more at The Climate Change Health Risks Facing a Child Born Today:  A Tale of Two Futures

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday 13

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

‘Profound Shifts’ Underway in Energy System, Says IEA World Energy Outlook

Click to Enlarge.
The world’s CO2 emissions are set to continue rising for decades unless there is greater ambition on climate change, despite the “profound shifts” already underway in the global energy system.

That is one of the key messages from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2019, published today.  This year’s 810-page edition is notable for its renamed central “Stated Policies Scenario” (STEPS), formerly known as the “New Policies Scenario”.

In this scenario, which aims to mirror the outcome of policies already set out by governments, a surge in wind and solar power would see renewable sources of energy meeting the majority of increases in global energy demand.  But a plateau for coal, along with rising demand for oil and gas, would mean global emissions continue to rise throughout the outlook period to 2040.

In contrast, the report’s “Sustainable Development Scenario” (SDS) sets out what would be required to give a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.65C, which the IEA describes as “fully in line with the Paris Agreement”.

It says the SDS would require a “significant reallocation” of investment away from fossil fuels towards efficiency and renewables, as well as the retirement of around half the world’s fleet of coal-fired power stations and other changes across the global economy.

The IEA has this year also explored, but not modeled in detail, what it would take to limit warming to no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures, the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement.

Read more at ‘Profound Shifts’ Underway in Energy System, Says IEA World Energy Outlook

Tuesday 12

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

Friday, November 08, 2019

The Paris Climate Problem:  A Dangerous Lack of Urgency

Most countries aren’t cutting emissions fast enough, and their pledges for the next 10 years fall far short of what's needed, a new analysis warns.


"The current pledges, even if fully implemented, are placing us on a pathway to a world 3 to 4 degrees Celsius warmer—a world that would have devastating impacts on food and water security, human health, displacement of people, and loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services,” said former IPCC Chair Robert Watson. (Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
While nearly all of the world's countries have pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, the reductions they're planning in the short term—over the next 10 years—aren't nearly enough, leading scientists warn in a new report.

Nearly two-thirds of the pledges under the Paris climate agreement are "totally insufficient" to meet critical climate targets, the report by scientists who have been involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found.

To keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F) compared to pre-industrial times, the IPCC has found that global greenhouse gas emissions need to fall by about half by 2030 and then reach net zero by mid-century.  The longer countries stall, the steeper the necessary emissions cuts become.

Read more at The Paris Climate Problem:  A Dangerous Lack of Urgency.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Thursday 7

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

Despite a Warmer, Wetter World, There May Be Less Water Available for Human Use, Study Finds

Water on Leaf (Credit: e360.yale.edu) Click to Enlarge.
In a warmer world, plants could consume more water than they currently do, leaving less for human consumption and activities, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience.  This future shortage is despite an increase in precipitation in places like the United States and Europe.

As carbon dioxide gathers in the atmosphere, plants have the ability to photosynthesize the same amount while partially closing the pores on their leaves, meaning less plant water loss to the atmosphere and more water left in the land.  As a result, scientists have long expected that an increase in CO2 concentrations would lead to more freshwater availability.

But the new research, led by scientists at Dartmouth College and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, found that as global temperatures increase, growing seasons are becoming longer, lengthening the time that plants have to grow and consume water.  Ultimately, this could leave less for the land, and less for human use.

“Approximately 60 percent of the global water flux from the land to the atmosphere goes through plants, called transpiration,” Justin Mankin, a climate scientist at Dartmouth College and lead author of the new study, said in a statement.  “Plants are like the atmosphere’s straw, dominating how water flows from the land to the atmosphere.  So vegetation is a massive determinant of what water is left on land for people.  The question we’re asking here is, how do the combined effects of carbon dioxide and warming change the size of that straw?”

Read more at Despite a Warmer, Wetter World, There May Be Less Water Available for Human Use, Study Finds

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

New Land Height Metric Raises Sea Level Rise Risk

Millions of us now live in danger:  we could be at risk from future high tides and winds, says a new approach to measuring land height.


The reality of coastal flooding in Jakarta. (Image Credit: Kompas/Hendra A Setyawan, via Climate Visuals) Click to Enlarge.
Researchers have taken a closer look at estimates of coastal land height – and found that the numbers of people already at risk from sea level rise driven by global heating have multiplied threefold.

More than 100 million people already live below the high tide line, and 250 million live on plains that are lower than the current annual flood heights.  Previous estimates have put these numbers at 28 million, and 65 million.

And even if the world takes immediate drastic action and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century, at least 190 million people will find themselves below sea level.

If the world’s nations continue on the notorious business-as-usual track and go on burning ever greater volumes of fossil fuels, then around 630 million will, by the year 2100, find themselves on land that will be below the expected annual flood levels.

Read more at New Land Height Metric Raises Sea Level Rise Risk

Tuesday 5

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Study: Here’s What Oil Giants Need to Do to Avoid Climate Catastrophe

Exxon Station (Credit: Eric Thayer / Stringer / Getty Images)  Click to Enlarge.
The world’s largest oil and gas companies need to slash their production by more than a third by 2040 to meet global climate targets, according to a new report.

The seven listed oil majors — including ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell — would need to cut the total amount of oil and gas they produce every day by 35 percent to avoid driving temperatures 1.5 degrees C higher than pre-industrialized levels.

Global governments would also need to stop issuing new oil and gas licenses for fossil fuel exploration, according to the report.

The study was produced by Carbon Tracker, a financial think tank, using publicly available oil company data to measure their carbon footprints today and by 2040.

It showed that global oil projects that have already been approved are almost enough to meet demand in a 1.6 degrees C scenario and there is “very little headroom for new fossil fuel projects.”

Mike Coffin, an analyst at Carbon Tracker, said:  “The industry is trying to have its cake and eat it — reassuring shareholders and appearing supportive of Paris, while still producing more fossil fuels.

“If companies and governments attempt to develop all their oil and gas reserves, either the world will miss its climate targets or assets will become ‘stranded’ in the energy transition, or both.  This analysis shows that if companies really want to both mitigate financial risk and be part of the climate solution, they must shrink production.”

U.S. supermajors ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, and ConocoPhillips would need to make the most ambitious oil and gas cuts to fall in line with global climate targets.

But European oil firms such as Shell and BP, considered the greenest of the world’s major oil companies, would also need to make a step-change in their business models to avoid contributing to a climate catastrophe.

The report found that all major oil companies would need to cut their fossil fuel production below 2019 levels by 2040:

Read more at Study: Here’s  What Oil Giants Need to Do to Avoid Climate Catastrophe

Friday, November 01, 2019

Friday 1

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020<

Spain Steps Up for Cop25

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said Spain's offer to host Cop25 highlighted the "spirit of multilateralism" (Photo Credit: UN Climate Change) Click to Enlarge.
It’s 31 days until climate delegates from around the world will gather in… Madrid.

In breaking news, UN Climate Change has confirmed the event will move from Santiago, Chile to the Spanish capital.

Quite how Spain will pull it off is anyone’s guess.  Shifting the climate talks to a new continent with just over four weeks to go is a massive logistical puzzle.  Meanwhile, Spain has a general election on the 10 November.

It seems likely the consequence will be a scaled down conference, which raises questions over who will be left out.  Will we see the normal business and civil society jamboree?  African and Asian delegates are worried about access to EU visas.  How can South American NGOs, strapped for cash, afford to attend the fifth European climate talks in seven years (and next year in Glasgow on top)?

It is clear Spain didn’t know the answers to these questions when it threw itself forward.

The UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa was quick to frame the offer as an example of nations coming together.  On the face of it, it is an astonishing gesture, demonstrating the radical fraternity so often absent from climate talks and wider diplomacy.

Read more at Spain Steps Up for Cop25 

In the Fight Against Climate Change, Not All Forests Are Equal

Damage to jungle caused by illegal mining in southeastern Peru earlier this year. A new report suggests that gradual incursions on intact forests may have greater climate consequences than previously thought. (Credit: Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Forests are a great bulwark against climate change, so programs to reduce deforestation are important.  Those efforts usually focus on stopping the destruction in areas where it is already occurring.

But a new study suggests these programs would do well to also preserve forests where deforestation and degradation haven’t begun.  Gradual loss of these largely pristine, intact forests has a much greater climate impact than previously accounted for, the researchers said.

Globally, forests take more than a quarter of the carbon emissions from human activities out of the atmosphere every year.  Intact forests are especially effective at storing carbon — although only about 20 percent of tropical forests are considered relatively pristine, they are responsible for about 40 percent of carbon storage in the tropics.

The study, by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland in Australia and other institutions, analyzed carbon emissions from the loss of intact tropical forests worldwide from 2000 to 2013.

Immediate clearing of intact forests, what might be considered “classic” deforestation, over that period accounted for about 3 percent of global emissions from deforestation in all tropical forests, the researchers said.  But when they looked at other, more gradual types of loss and disturbance — forests that had been opened to selective logging for firewood, for example, or road-building that exposed more trees to drying or windy conditions — they found that the carbon impact increased sixfold over the period.

Read more at In the Fight Against Climate Change, Not All Forests Are Equal

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Bill McKibben Fears Parts Of California Are Now Uninhabitable

As with so many things, Californians are going first where the rest of us will follow.


The San Francisco skyline is shrouded in smoke from wildfires in the north part of the state. (Photograph Credit: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Three years in a row feels like – well, it starts to feel like the new, and impossible, normal.  That’s what the local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, implied this morning when, in the middle of its account of the inferno, it included the following sentence:  the fires had “intensified fears that parts of California had become almost too dangerous to inhabit”.  Read that again: the local paper is on record stating that part of the state is now so risky that its citizens might have to leave.

On the one hand, this comes as no real surprise.  My most recent book, Falter, centered on the notion that the climate crisis was making large swaths of the world increasingly off-limits to humans.  Cities in Asia and the Middle East where the temperature now reaches the upper 120s – levels so high that the human body can’t really cool itself; island nations (and Florida beaches) where each high tide washes through the living room or the streets; Arctic villages relocating because, with sea ice vanished, the ocean erodes the shore.

But California?  California was always the world’s idea of paradise (until perhaps the city of that name burned last summer).  Hollywood shaped our fantasies of the last century, and many of its movies were set in the Golden state.  It’s where the Okies trudged when their climate turned vicious during the Dust Bowl years – “pastures of plenty”, Woody Guthrie called the green agricultural valleys.  John Muir invented our grammar and rhetoric of wildness in the high Sierra (and modern environmentalism was born with the club he founded).

Read more at Bill McKibben Fears Parts Of California Are Now Uninhabitable

Demand for SUVs a Major Contributor to the Increase in Global CO2 Emissions

(Credit: Justin S. Campbell/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Growing demand for SUVs was the second largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions from 2010 to 2018, an analysis has found.  In that period, SUVs doubled their global market share from 17 percent to 39 percent and their annual emissions rose to more than 700 megatons of CO2, more than the yearly total emissions of the UK and the Netherlands combined.

No energy sector except power drove a larger increase in carbon emissions, putting SUVs ahead of heavy industry (including iron, steel, cement and aluminum), aviation, and shipping.  “We were quite surprised by this result ourselves,” said Laura Cozzi, the chief energy modeler of the International Energy Agency, which produced the report.

The recent dramatic shift towards heavier SUVs has offset both efficiency improvements in smaller cars and carbon savings from electric vehicles.  As the global fleet of SUVs has grown, emissions from the vehicles have increased more than four-fold in eight years.  If SUV drivers were a nation, they would rank seventh in the world for carbon emissions.

“An SUV is bigger, it’s heavier, the aerodynamics are poor, so as a result you get more CO2,” said Florent Grelier from the campaign group Transport & Environment.

Read more at Demand for SUVs a Major Contributor to the Increase in Global CO2 Emissions

15 Canadian Kids Sue Their Government for Failing to Address Climate Change

The young plaintiffs are already dealing with effects of wildfires, flooding, and thawing permafrost. They say the government is contributing to the climate crisis.


"We want our voices to be heard, and we want our climate to be protected for us in the future,” said Sierra Robinson, 17, one of the plaintiffs in the children's climate lawsuit filed Oct. 25, 2019, in Canada. (Credit: Robin Loznak) Click to Enlarge.
Fifteen children and teenagers from across Canada sued their government on Friday for supporting fossil fuels that drive climate change, which they say is jeopardizing their rights as Canadian citizens.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Vancouver, is the latest from young climate advocates around the globe who are increasingly leading public protests and filing legal challenges to make their concerns about their future in a warming world heard.

"The federal government is knowingly contributing to the climate crisis by continuing to support and promote fossil fuels and through that they are violating our charter rights," said Sierra Robinson, 17, a youth climate activist and plaintiff in the case from Vancouver Island, Canada.  

"Our natural resources are at risk because of climate change, and as a young person my rights are being violated disproportionately compared to older generations," she said.  "Since we can't vote, we have to seek protection from the courts."

Read more at 15 Canadian Kids Sue Their Government for Failing to Address Climate Change