Sunday, February 24, 2019

Bill McKibben:  Climate Change Is Scary—Not the Green New Deal

It’s very clear that conservatives have one plan for dealing with the popularity of the Green New Deal:  scaring the hell out of people.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey announce Green New Deal legislation in Washington on February 7, 2019. (Photo Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Myron Ebell of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, the man who led the drive to pull America out of the Paris climate accords, said the other day that the Green New Deal was a “back-to-the-dark-ages manifesto.”  That’s language worth thinking about, coming from perhaps the Right’s most influential spokesman on climate change.

Ebell’s complaint (and that of the rest of the Right) is that the set of proposals to address climate change and economic inequality put forth last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey would do too much, and cost too much.  Indeed, he describes the Green New Deal this way:  “It calls for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, ‘upgrading all existing buildings’, and replacing our vehicle fleet with electric cars and more mass transit.  And turning our energy economy upside down must be accomplished while ending historic income inequities and oppression of disadvantaged groups.”  All of which sounds good not just to me, but to most people:  Polling for the Green New Deal is through the roof, especially among young people so ably organized by the Sunrise Movement.

But even if ending historic oppression doesn’t catch your fancy, it’s not a return to the Dark Ages.

A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit:  Survivors dying in the convention center of a modern American city, locals organizing a makeshift “navy” to try to pluck people from rooftops after levees collapsed.

A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, when most of the island was literally dark for months as workers struggled to rebuild power lines.

A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in California last fall, when old people burned to death in their cars while stuck in traffic jams trying to flee deadly wildfires.

Read more at Bill McKibben:  Climate Change Is Scary—Not the Green New Deal

The 3 Big Things that People Misunderstand About Climate Change

David Wallace-Wells, author of the new book The Uninhabitable Earth, describes why climate change might alter our sense of time.

 A child sleeps on a couch in a flooded street in Chongqing, China, on July 20, 2010 (Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
The year is 2100.  The United States has been devastated by climate change.  Super-powerful hurricanes regularly ravage coastal cities.  Wildfires have overrun Los Angeles several times over.  And it is dangerous to go outside on some summer days—children and the elderly risk being broiled alive.

In such a world as that one, will we give up on the idea of historical progress?  Should we even believe in it now?  In his new book, The Uninhabitable Earth, the writer David Wallace-Wells considers how global warming will change not only the experience of human life but also our ideas and philosophies about it.  It’s possible, he told me recently, that climate change will make us believe that history is “something that takes us backward rather than forward.”

“The 21st century will be dominated by climate change in the same way that … the 19th century in the West was dominated by modernity or industry,” he said.  “There won’t be an area of human life that is untouched by it.”

I recently talked to Wallace-Wells about his new book, the difficulty of writing stories about climate change, and which science-fiction prophecy he believes came true.  Our conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Read more at The 3 Big Things that People Misunderstand About Climate Change

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Saturday 23

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Global Shipping Inches Forward on Heavy Fuel Oil Ban

The International Maritime Organization started work defining which fuels would be banned and how.  It also listed ideas to cut black carbon but didn't prioritize.

The UN's International Maritime Organization is responsible for measures to improve the safety of international shipping and to reduce pollution from ships. Members discussed a heavy fuel oil ban at a meeting this week. (Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The International Maritime Organization inched forward this week on its promises to ban the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic and reduce black carbon emissions from ships.

Meeting in London, the United Nations regulatory body's Pollution Prevention and Response subcommittee began work on defining which fuels would be banned and how.  It also came up with a list of possible measures for cutting emissions of black carbon but didn't set priorities.

An assessment of the economic, environmental, and social impacts of a ban, put in motion last year, is expected to be finished before the subcommittee's next meeting in 2020.

The Clean Arctic Alliance, a group of more than a dozen environmental organizations, issued a statement that said it "welcomes the progress" but noted that much work still must be done if the ban is to be phased in between 2021 and 2023.

Heavy fuel oil, a particularly dirty form of oil, poses a significant environmental hazard if spilled.  It also emits high levels of black carbon, a short-lived climate pollutant that also affects human health.

Read more at Global Shipping Inches Forward on Heavy Fuel Oil Ban

Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday 22

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Thursday 21

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Biodiversity Loss Is Endangering Food Security, UN Warns

Bees pollinating (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Global loss of biodiversity is threatening the security of the world’s food supplies and the livelihoods of millions of people, according to a new report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  Land-use changes, pollution, overexploitation of resources, and climate change were listed as the biggest drivers of this biodiversity loss.

“Biodiversity is critical for safeguarding global food security, underpinning healthy and nutritious diets, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities,” FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a statement.  “Less biodiversity means that plants and animals are more vulnerable to pests and diseases.  Compounded by our reliance on fewer and fewer species to feed ourselves, the increasing loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture puts food security and nutrition at risk.”

The report examined biodiversity loss in 91 countries, including the plants, animals, and microorganisms that provide critical ecosystem services, such as keeping soils fertile, pollinating crops, cleaning water, and fighting pests and diseases.  The study found that while more than 6,000 plant species have been cultivated for food, just 9 account for 66 percent of total crop production, indicating widespread monoculture on farmers’ fields.  The FAO tallied 7,745 local breeds of livestock, 26 percent of which are at risk of extinction and 67 percent whose risk status is unknown.  An estimated 24 percent of wild food species are decreasing in abundance, while the status of another 61 percent are not reported or known.

The report notes that while local, national, and international policy measures to protect biodiversity are increasing, this shift is not happening fast enough to counter the rapid rate of species loss.

Read more at Biodiversity Loss Is Endangering Food Security, UN Warns

Climate Change Stokes Mayhem in Several Ways

Three outcomes could follow if climate change stokes mayhem, conflict, and violence.  It might be helpful to think about the strains to come.

Syria: Glimpse of the future as rapid climate change continues? (Image Credit: Ahmed Abu Hameeda on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
Stand by for long hot summers marked by riot and racial tension.  As climate change stokes mayhem, global warming is likely to see a direct rise in human irritability.

Climate change accompanied by natural disaster such as flood or drought could lead to harvest failure and food and water shortages for which people must compete.

And the same natural disasters could lead to a generation of babies, children and adolescents more likely, because of disadvantage and deprivation, to become more prone to violence in adulthood.

Researchers in the US have been thinking carefully about the links between climate change and conflict.  This, they write in Current Climate Change Reports, has a long history, and a huge range of studies have addressed the hazard.

And they see more civic strife and conflict on the way.  Some of it is likely to involve climate refugees, or ecological migrants: persons driven from their homes by climate change.  The steady rise in global temperatures could also help incubate the conditions for global terrorism.

Read more at Climate Change Stokes Mayhem in Several  Ways

Swedish Student Leader Wins EU Pledge to Spend Billions on Climate

Thunberg (center) takes part in a march in Brussels for the environment and the climate organised by students. (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The European Union should spend hundreds of billions of euros combating climate change during the next decade, its chief executive said on Thursday, responding to a Swedish teen who has inspired a global movement of children against global warming.

In a speech alongside 16-year-old Greta Thunberg in Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for suggesting climate change was “invented” and “ideological”.

“In the next financial period from 2021 to 2027, every fourth euro spent within the EU budget will go towards action to mitigate climate change,” Juncker said of his proposal for the EU budget, which is typically 1 percent of the bloc’s economic output, or 1 trillion euros ($1.13 trillion) over seven years.

Read more at Swedish Student Leader Wins EU Pledge to Spend Billions on Climate

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Feeding 10 Billion People by 2050 in a Warming World

Researchers look for ways to meet rising global food demand.  The challenge:  produce 50 percent more food while reducing GHG emissions by one-third.

 Wheat silos (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Feeding the world’s rapidly expanding population – currently at 7.6 billion and expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 – without exacerbating climate change will require the closing of three significant gaps, according to a new report, Creating a Sustainable Food Future.

The gaps highlighted in a recent World Resources Institute (WRI) report involve:
  • food supply, simply producing enough to meet rising demand;
  • land for food production: The report estimates that if current production rates continue with the same yields, an additional area almost twice the size of India would be required to produce enough food; and
  • mitigating increased greenhouse gas emissions likely to be produced by the additional food production needed by 2050.
Feeding a rapidly growing population in a sustainable way is a challenge researchers have grappled with for some time.  “If you just wanted to feed the world and you didn’t worry about the environment at all, you know that’s probably not that hard because we just basically go and chop down a lot more land, a lot more forest,” says lead author Tim Searchinger.  “But the challenge is inherently producing all that more food plus not converting additional land – that’s where the challenge is.”

Searchinger is a Princeton University research scholar who collaborated with an array of international researchers over the past six years to produce the WRI report. A synthesis version was released in December 2018, and the roughly 500-page full report is to be published this spring.

Challenges in feeding 10 billion people by 2050
The synthesis report outlines a variety of options and opportunities to meet the rapidly growing need for nutrition while at the same time working to mitigate climate change. Ultimately, the authors seek to answer the question: “How can the world adequately feed nearly 10 billion people by the year 2050 in ways that help combat poverty, allow the world to meet climate goals, and reduce pressures on the broader environment?”

“If you want to solve climate change, you have to solve this question,” Searchinger says. He points to estimates that agriculture and associated land use change could make up 70 percent of “allowable emissions from all human sources” by 2050 if current practices continue.

“That would basically leave almost no room for any other emissions, so it would basically make solving climate change impossible,” he says. “So we have to figure out a way to do both and figure out a way to produce 50 percent more food with [approximately] two-thirds fewer emissions – so that’s the challenge.”

Read more at Feeding 10 Billion People by 2050 in a Warming World

Paris Agreement Has Gone Up In Smoke, New Paper Says

Deforestation in Brazil (Credit: Hans Silvester / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Forget about us only having “12 years to reverse climate change” — the slogan picked up from a recent report — a new paper says that we are already too late to stop 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.  That is, if we’re hoping countries somehow live up to the commitments made under the Paris climate agreement.

And while that’s no big surprise to climate wonks, it nonetheless ranks high in the most-depressing-things-ever contest.

The paper in Nature Climate Change focuses on the Paris agreement’s targets for “land use change.”  Translation: farming in ways that sequester carbon, growing new trees and stopping deforestation.  This stuff really matters because lots of countries’ pledges depend on these efforts.  The European Union’s member states, for instance, rely on land use change for “up to 40 percent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030,” the authors pointed out.

(Just as an aside, this paper was published as a “perspective,” which means it’s more of an evidence-based viewpoint.  It’s not all-caps FACT, but it is a persuasive argument by scientists backed up with tons of citations.)

It’s no surprise that the voluntary commitments made in 2015 might not save the world.  And commitments on land use are especially tricky because they take a long time to work.

It takes decades to grow a forest.  And the authors of this paper point out that it also takes a long time to put policies in place and get the locals who manage the land to sign on.  For instance, Brazil’s low-carbon agriculture program has only gotten 0.5 percent of that country’s farms to sign up since 2010.

Even when land managers do sign on and make changes, there are unintended consequences.  Farmers around the world have begun growing corn, soy, sugar, and palm oil to turn into biofuels that replace petroleum.  But this “fix” has led to increased deforestation, in some cases doing more harm than good.

Finally, the authors argue, there’s the inescapable fact that since the Paris agreement, deforestation has increased in many places that promised steep reductions.  Deforestation “increased by 29 percent between 2015 and 2016 in Brazil and by 44 percent in Colombia.”  Even worse::  “The rates of primary forest loss in the Congo and Indonesia are now 1.5 and 3 times the rate in Brazil,” they note.

The authors argue that we need to replace the Paris Agreement with an international climate policy that can lead, or even supersede the policies of individual countries.  How would we get this global supergovernment?  Is this where the nightmares of right-wing extremists come true?  Would it be like a bigger European Union?  The authors don’t elaborate.

But it would presumably take a helluva lot of climate-related catastrophes to motivate its creation.  Like we said at the top, depressing!

Read original at Paris Agreement Has Gone Up In Smoke, New Paper Says

Planting 1.2 Trillion Trees Could Cancel Out a Decade of CO2 Emissions, Scientists Find

Fox Maple Woods in Wisconsin. (Credit: Joshua Mayer / Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
There is enough room in the world’s existing parks, forests, and abandoned land to plant 1.2 trillion additional trees, which would have the CO2 storage capacity to cancel out a decade of carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new analysis by ecologist Thomas Crowther and colleagues at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university.

The research, presented at this year’s American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, D.C., argues that planting additional trees is one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gases.

Trees are “our most powerful weapon in the fight against climate change,” Crowther told The Independent. Combining forest inventory data from 1.2 million locations around the world and satellite images, the scientists estimate there are 3 trillion trees on Earth — seven times more than previous estimates. But they also found that there is abundant space to restore millions of acres of additional forests, not counting urban and agricultural land.

“There’s 400 gigatons [of CO2 stored] now in the 3 trillion trees,” Crowther said. “If you were to scale that up by another trillion trees, that’s in the order of hundreds of gigatons captured from the atmosphere – at least 10 years of anthropogenic emissions completely wiped out.”

Tree planting is becoming an increasingly popular tool to combat climate change. The United Nations’ Trillion Tree Campaign has planted nearly 15 billion trees across the globe in recent years. And Australia has announced a plan to plant a billion more by 2050 as part of its effort to meet the country’s Paris Agreement climate targets.

Read more at Planting 1.2 Trillion Trees Could Cancel Out a Decade of CO2 Emissions, Scientists Find

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday 20

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Climate Change Makes Summer Weather Stormier Yet More Stagnant

Study finds rising temperatures feed more energy to thunderstorms, less to general circulation.

Summer Cyclone (Credit: MIT) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change is shifting the energy in the atmosphere that fuels summertime weather, which may lead to stronger thunderstorms and more stagnant conditions for midlatitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including North America, Europe, and Asia, a new MIT study finds.

Scientists report that rising global temperatures, particularly in the Arctic, are redistributing the energy in the atmosphere:  More energy is available to fuel thunderstorms and other local, convective processes, while less energy is going toward summertime extratropical cyclones — larger, milder weather systems that circulate across thousands of kilometers.  These systems are normally associated with winds and fronts that generate rain.

“Extratropical cyclones ventilate air and air pollution, so with weaker extratropical cyclones in the summer, you’re looking at the potential for more poor air-quality days in urban areas,” says study author Charles Gertler, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS).  “Moving beyond air quality in cities, you have the potential for more destructive thunderstorms and more stagnant days with perhaps longer-lasting heat waves.”

Gertler and his co-author, Associate Professor Paul O’Gorman of EAPS, are publishing their results this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more at Climate Change Makes Summer Weather Stormier Yet More Stagnant

For a Warming World, a New Strategy for Protecting Watersheds

In increasingly arid regions such as the western U.S., water managers are learning that careful management and restoration of watershed ecosystems, including thinning trees and conducting prescribed burns, are important tools in coping with a hotter, drier climate.

 A fire crew hikes past McClure Reservoir in New Mexico en route to conducting a prescribed burn. (Credit: Alan W. Eckert) Click to Enlarge.
Long before an aspen tree fell on a power line in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains in June 2011, triggering the biggest wildfire in the state’s history, fire managers knew that New Mexico’s forests were vulnerable.  Climate change-induced drought and higher temperatures had dried out the trees and soil.  And after more than a century of fire suppression, areas that supported 40 trees per acre in the pre-European era now were blanketed with up to a hundred times as many.  This profusion of trees — as many as one per square yard — weakened all of them, and rendered them defenseless against megafires.

Even so, the fire managers weren’t prepared for the astonishing power of the 2011 conflagration, known as the Las Conchas Fire.  During its first 14 hours, it sent walls of flame hundreds of feet high as it consumed nearly an acre of forest per second and threatened the city of Los Alamos.  By the time it was extinguished five weeks later, it had burned an area nearly three times as big as the state’s largest fire before it, and left behind nearly 100 square miles so severely burned that even seeds to regenerate the forest were destroyed.

But the fire’s full impact didn’t register until nearly two months later, when a thunderstorm in the Jemez Mountains washed tons of ash and debris into the Rio Grande River, the water source for half of New Mexico’s population and for a major agricultural area.  Only an inch of rain fell, but the debris flows the storm generated turned the river black and dumped ash, sediment, and tree and shrub remnants into a major reservoir, requiring a costly cleanup.

To ward off damage to equipment, water treatment plants in Albuquerque and Santa Fe closed for 40 days and 20 days respectively while they drew down precious stores of groundwater.  Farmers found that the polluted water clogged the nozzles of their drip irrigation systems, rendering them useless.  Even worse, the most severely burned portions of the watershed continued discharging debris and sediment into water channels long afterward; a heavy rainstorm two years later generated enough sediment to entirely plug the Rio Grande.

What has unfolded in New Mexico is far from unique.  In the last two decades, megafires in similarly dry and overgrown watersheds have ended up contaminating downstream water supplies in numerous areas throughout the western United States, including Phoenix; Denver; Flagstaff, Arizona; and Fort Collins, Colorado.  Downstream water managers serving millions of urban residents have learned that the security of their water supplies is tied to the health of upland watersheds that may be hundreds of miles away.

Read more at For a Warming World, a  New Strategy for Protecting Watersheds

Arctic Bogs Hold Another Global Warming Risk that Could Spiral Out of Control

As warming brings earlier spring rains in the Arctic, more permafrost thaws, releasing more methane in a difficult-to-stop feedback loop, research shows.

Alaskan wetlands (Credit: S Hillebrand/USFWS) Click to Enlarge.
Increasing spring rains in the Arctic could double the increase in methane emissions from the region by hastening the rate of thawing in permafrost, new research suggests.

The findings are cause for concern because spring rains are anticipated to occur more frequently as the region warms.  The release of methane, a short-lived climate pollutant more potent than carbon dioxide over the short term, could induce further warming in a vicious cycle that would be difficult if not impossible to stop.

"Our results emphasize that these permafrost regions are sensitive to the thermal effects of rain, and because we're anticipating that these environments are going to get wetter in the future, we could be seeing increases in methane emissions that we weren't expecting," said the study's lead author, Rebecca Neumann, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Washington.  The study appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Scientists specializing in the thawing of the permafrost have been warning for years that this kind of feedback loop, which both results from and accelerates global warming, has not been taken into account in the comprehensive climate assessments that drive worldwide climate policies.

As a result, they say, the Paris climate agreement signed in 2015 was probably not ambitious enough in its goals for avoiding the worst effects of warming.

Read more at Arctic Bogs Hold Another Global Warming Risk that Could Spiral Out of Control

Monday, February 18, 2019

Monday 18

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Cheers 'Beginning of Great Changes' as Climate Strike Goes Global

Because "present and future on this planet are at stake," say teen climate activists, "we won't be silent any longer"

Students in Melbourne take part in a school strike for climate on November 30, 2018. (Photo Credit: julian meehan/flickr/cc) Click to Enlarge.
The world may be edging toward "environmental breakdown"—but 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg sees signs for hope.

Pointing to global walkouts planned for March 15, Thunberg—whose "school strikes for climate" helped galvanized similar actions worldwide—said, "I think what we are seeing is the beginning of great changes and that is very hopeful."

"I think enough people have realized just how absurd the situation is," she told the Guardian.  "We are in the middle of the biggest crisis in human history and basically nothing is being done to prevent it."

In a sign of that realization, thousands of students from dozens of communities across the United Kingdom skipped class on Friday to join the ranks taking part in the weekly climate actions.

In fact, it's "incredible" that the movement "has spread so far, so fast," she told "Good Morning Britain."

Read more at 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Cheers 'Beginning of Great Changes' as Climate Strike Goes Global

Predicting Climate Change

Understanding carbon cycle feedbacks to predict climate change at large scale.

Data Enables Understanding of Carbon Cycle Feedbacks to Predict Climate Change at a Large Scale. (Credit:  Andrew Coelho, Unsplash Photography) Click to Enlarge.
Thomas Crowther identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.  He will describe how there is room for an additional 1.2 trillion new trees around the world that could absorb more carbon than human emissions each year.  Crowther also describes data from thousands of soil samples collected by local scientists that reveal the world's Arctic and sub-Arctic regions store most of the world's carbon.  But the warming of these ecosystems is causing the release of this soil carbon, a process that could accelerate climate change by 17%.  This research is revealing that the restoration of vegetation and soil carbon is by far our best weapon in the fight against climate change.

Read more at Predicting Climate Change

Toon of the Week - Global... Climate... Change... Is... A... Hoax

2019 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #7

Poster of the Week - Adults Keep Saying We Owe It To The Young People To Give Them Hope, But I Don't Want Your Hope.

“Yes, we are failing, but we can still turn this around,” Thunberg concludes. “We can still fix this. We still have everything in our own hands.”  “We have not come here to beg world leaders to care,” she says. “You have ignored us in the past, and you will ignore us again. We have run out of excuses and we have run out of time. We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.” / Greta Thunberg

2019 SkS Weekly Digest #7

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday 17

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Is This the Tipping Point for Electric Vehicles?

Tesla Model 3's charging (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
A new report by McKinsey forecasts a rapid switch from gas guzzlers to electric vehicles on the world's roads will be boosted by the plummeting costs of owning a battery powered vehicle.

The consulting firm's 2019 Global Energy Perspective report foresees a two-thirds drop in the cost of EV battery packs by 2030.  The tipping point at which EVs will be cheaper to own than internal combustion engine-powered vehicles is forecast to be reached in the early 2020s:

The timing of total cost of ownership (TCO) parity in the U.S. and China is comparable to Europe, with China slightly earlier and the U.S. slightly later, reflecting differences in fuel taxation and subsidies for electric vehicles.

After this tipping point, "economic considerations alone" would be sufficient to accelerate the growth of EV sales, says McKinsey.  Car sharing and autonomous driving will add further incentives to go electric.  Improving battery technologies will mean that even long-haul trucks could be economically electrified during the second half of the next decade.

Read more at Is This the Tipping Point for Electric Vehicles?

6 Compelling Reasons Climate Change Might Be a National Emergency

Weather and climate disasters (Credit: NOAA/NCEI) Click to Enlarge.
There is talk of a national emergency declaration.  The National Emergencies of 1976 spells out the broad powers and limitations of such an executive declaration.
If a precedent is being set for national emergencies, there is a compelling argument for a future leader to consider climate change.  Here are six reasons why.

National security.  Numerous reports by military entities note the immediate threats of climate change to national security.  The American Security Project website compiles a good list of recent reports and articles on this topic.  A 2019 Defense Department report stated:
The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense (DoD or the Department) missions, operational plans, and installations.
Public Health.  An array of public health concerns can be linked to climate change: increased heat related illness, vector-borne diseases in places they have traditionally not thrived, water-borne disease in flood waters, cardiovascular stress, injuries from extreme weather events, respiratory problems, and so forth.

The Centers for Disease Control website says:
Climate change, together with other natural and human-made health stressors, influences human health and disease in numerous ways.  Some existing health threats will intensify and new health threats will emerge.  Not everyone is equally at risk.  Important considerations include age, economic resources, and location.
Sea Level Rise.  According to NOAA, nearly 40% of the U.S. population lived in counties bordering shorelines in 2010.  By 2020 that number could be closer to 50%.  A NOAA Ocean Services website is clear:
Scientists have determined that global sea level has been steadily rising since 1900 at a rate of at least 0.04 to 0.1 inches per year.  Sea level can rise by two different mechanisms with respect to climate change.  First, as the oceans warm due to an increasing global temperature, seawater expands—taking up more space in the ocean basin and causing a rise in water level.  The second mechanism is the melting of ice over land, which then adds water to the ocean.
Food supply and agricultural productivity.  Scientific studies suggest that agricultural productivity is extremely vulnerable to climate change.  The executive summary of a 2013 U.S.Department of Agriculture report led with the following statement:
Increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), rising temperatures, and altered precipitation patterns will affect agricultural productivity.  Increases in temperature coupled with more variable precipitation will reduce productivity of crops, and these effects will outweigh the benefits of increasing carbon dioxide.  Effects will vary among annual and perennial crops, and regions of the United States; however, all production systems will be affected to some degree by climate change.
Infrastructure.  This is an area where there is likely potential room for bipartisan collaboration in the political world.  Everyone recognizes the importance of roads, bridges, electrical grids, railways, and buildings.  However, the 2014 National Climate Assessment offered a dire warning:
Sea level rise, storm surge, and heavy downpours, in combination with the pattern of continued development in coastal areas, are increasing damage to U.S. infrastructure including roads, buildings, and industrial facilities, and are also increasing risks to ports and coastal military installations.  Flooding along rivers, lakes, and in cities following heavy downpours, prolonged rains, and rapid melting of snowpack is exceeding the limits of flood protection infrastructure designed for historical conditions.  Extreme heat is damaging transportation infrastructure such as roads, rail lines, and airport runways.
 Changes in the Colorado River (1994 to 2014) (Credit: NASA) Click to Enlarge.
Water.  We can't survive without water.  Period.  It is that simple.  This is arguably the greatest threat of all.  Much of the world is already water-stressed and in recent decades, this problem has not been restricted to the developing world.  Parts of the southern and western United States are struggling with water issues.  The EPA website suggests that:
In many areas, climate change is likely to increase water demand while shrinking water supplies.  This shifting balance would challenge water managers to simultaneously meet the needs of growing communities, sensitive ecosystems, farmers, ranchers, energy producers, and manufacturers.  In some areas, water shortages will be less of a problem than increases in runoff, flooding, or sea level rise.  These effects can reduce the quality of water and can damage the infrastructure that we use to transport and deliver water.

Read more at 6 Compelling Reasons Climate Change Might Be a National Emergency

Climate Damages:  Uncertain but Ominous, or $51 per Ton?

EPA Logo (Credit: EPA) Click to Enlarge.
According to scientists, climate damages are deeply uncertain, but could be ominously large (see the previous post).  Alternatively, according to the best-known economic calculation, lifetime damages caused by emissions in 2020 will be worth $51 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, in 2018 prices.

These two views can’t both be right.  This post explains where the $51 estimate comes from, why it’s not reliable, and the meaning for climate policy of the deep uncertainty about the value of damages.
How much can we afford?
As explained in the previous post in this series, deep uncertainty about the magnitude and timing of risks stymies the use of cost-benefit analysis for climate policy.  Rather, policy should be set in an insurance-like framework, focused on credible worst-case losses rather than most likely outcomes.  Given the magnitude of the global problem, this means “self-insurance” – investing in measures that make worst cases less likely.

How much does climate “self-insurance” – greenhouse gas emission reduction – cost? 
Several early (2008 to 2010) studies of rapid decarbonization, pushing the envelope of what was technically feasible at the time, came up with mid-century carbon prices of roughly $150 – $500 per ton of carbon dioxide abated.[1]  Since then, renewable energy has experienced rapid progress and declining prices, undoubtedly lowering the carbon price on a maximum feasible reduction scenario.

Even at $150 to $500 per ton, the cost of abatement was comparable to or lower than many of the worst-case estimates of the SCC, or climate damages per ton.  In short, we already know that doing everything on the least-cost emission reduction path will cost less, per ton of carbon dioxide, than worst-case climate damages.

That’s it:  end of economic story about evaluating climate policy.  We don’t need more exact, accurate SCC estimates; they will not be forthcoming in time to shape policy, due to the uncertainties involved.  Since estimated worst-case damages are rising over time, while abatement costs (such as the costs of renewables) are falling, the balance is tipping farther and farther toward “do everything you can, now.”  That was already the correct answer some years ago, and only becomes more correct over time.

Read more at Climate Damages:  Uncertain but Ominous, or $51 per Ton?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Saturday 16

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Putting the Sun in Sunshine State?  Florida’s About-Face on Solar Power

Solar power has long been a pet issue for progressives and environmentalists.  But in Florida, utilities are starting to embrace the technology for economic reasons.

Workers put the final touches on Florida Power & Light's newest solar farm (Credit: Alfredo Solsa/Staff) Click to Enlarge.
There’s a new crop sprouting in southern Florida.  Amid fields of sweet corn, squash, and okra dotting the landscape outside Miami, rows and rows of solar panels now soak up the Florida sunshine.  Azure skies tinge the deep black solar cells blue.  They stand like silent sentinels awaiting activation.

On a windy day in mid-January, only some panels are turning the golden rays into electricity for testing.  Elsewhere in the 465-acre field, construction workers in fluorescent vests and hard hats step through weeds to reach clusters of wires dangling at the ends of each row, waiting to be connected to the rest of the facility.

Despite being the Sunshine State, Florida has long lagged when it comes to tapping into the abundant rays overhead.  But now that is changing as utility companies in the state have begun to recognize solar power as a vital component of a diverse energy future.

“The utilities are putting out solar like you wouldn’t believe,” says James Fenton, director of the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center.

Florida power companies haven't always been so solar-friendly.  In 2016 the industry spent $20 million on a ballot initiative that could have undercut the expansion of residential solar power.  But as solar has become more economically viable, the state’s utility companies now see opportunity more than competition in the technology.

Florida utilities’ newfound embrace for solar power echoes trends seen across the country, as the renewable energy source has shifted from a fringe indulgence for wealthy environmentalists to becoming a conventional part of power production.

“Five years ago it was more of an emerging technology,” says Maggie Clark, senior manager of state affairs for the Southeast region at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).  “As it’s become a mainstream energy resource,” she says, “there’s an element of comfort with it [for utilities,] as just any other generating asset.”

With abundant sunshine, Florida ranks ninth in the United States for solar potential.  But as recently as 2015, just one-tenth of a percent of the state’s power came from the sun.

But something recently shifted.

Read more at Putting the Sun in Sunshine State?  Florida’s About-Face on Solar Power

Democrats Look to Declare National Emergency over Climate Change, Not a ‘Fake Crisis’

Rep. Earl Blumenauer plans an emergency resolution on global warming in response to Trump’s action over a border wall.

 Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) swung back at President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on Friday over a border wall by announcing plans to introduce a similar resolution for a crisis that scientists around the world warn we are running out of time to address ― climate change.

“If Trump can call a national emergency for a fake crisis at the border, then surely Congress should call a national emergency for a REAL crisis,” Blumenauer said in a statement. 

During a press conference on Friday, Trump admitted that the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border did not warrant such a declaration.  “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” he said.

In a related letter to congressional colleagues, Blumenauer called Trump’s decision “profoundly disturbing” and urged them to join him in co-sponsoring his emergency resolution on climate change. 

“What our country should be doing right now is focusing on addressing a real national emergency and one of the most pressing issues of our time:  the climate crisis,” Blumenauer wrote.  “If Donald Trump wants to start declaring national emergencies for fake crises, Congress should address the real ones, starting with climate change.”

With his controversial decision, Trump may have opened the door to a broader use of emergency declarations. 

“We should do something about the actual emergencies that plague our nation — like climate change or health care access — not playing politics in order to build a wasteful border wall,” Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), one of several Democratic presidential candidates, tweeted on Friday.

Read more at Democrats Look to Declare National Emergency over Climate Change, Not a ‘Fake Crisis’

Cost of Climate Change:  Nuisance Flooding Adds Up for Annapolis’ Historic City Dock

Sea level rise is eating into the revenue of this quaint coastal business district.  An innovative new study estimates the economic costs.

Businesses in Annapolis' City Dock neighborhood face dozens of days of nuisance flooding every year. A new study estimates the economic impact. (Credit: Matt Rath/Chesapeake Bay Program) Click to Enlarge.
The City Dock neighborhood of Annapolis, Maryland, is a quaint cluster of colonial brick buildings nestled around a small inlet of the Severn River.  Just uphill is Maryland's historic State House, where George Washington resigned his post as general of the Continental Army after defeating the British.  Much of the architecture remains untouched since then, but the waters of the inlet have risen well over a foot, and today the waterfront floods frequently.

Flooding in the Annapolis area is so common, in fact—63 times in 2017 by one measure—that it's beginning to have a noticeable impact on local businesses by driving away customers.

"They can't drive near it, they can't park near it, they can't walk to it," said Nancy McPherson, who manages a City Dock gallery where the sidewalk outside floods regularly, preventing customers from reaching the front door.  "Unless they're local and they know they can get in from behind us, they just see it's flooded and they go away."

In a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances, a group of researchers from Stanford University put numbers to the economic impact, estimating that flooding robbed the area's businesses of nearly 3,000 customers in 2017, a nearly 2 percent hit. In terms of direct costs, the flooding already costs the businesses roughly 1 percent of annual revenue, the study says.

While that may seem small, the problem will grow precipitously worse unless something's done to protect the area. Just 3 more inches of water rise would double the number of customers lost, the researchers estimated, while 1 foot of sea level rise—expected in a matter of decades as the planet continues to warm—would mean a loss of about a quarter of the businesses' annual customers.

Read more at Cost of Climate Change:  Nuisance Flooding Adds Up for Annapolis’ Historic City Dock

Youth-Led Climate Protests Sweep Across Europe

Thousands of youth strikers gather in Parliament Square in central London to protest the government's lack of action on climate change.  (Credit: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Thousands of young people in the U.K. are up in arms — not about Brexit, or the latest royal family gossip, but about climate change.

Students walked out of schools today in cities across the U.K., and other parts of Europe — the latest demonstration in what has become a global youth climate strike.  This movement started six months ago when Swedish teen Greta Thunberg began leaving school every Friday to protest on the steps of her country’s parliament.  Thunberg’s environmental activism is still going strong, and she has delivered powerful speeches to both the U.N. and the World Economic Forum on the urgency of climate change.  This is week 26 of her climate strike.  But she’s no longer in it alone.

Thousands and thousands of young people just unexpectedly spilled onto the road in one of the largest youth protests against climate change in history. #Climatestrike

These kids aren’t just hooting and hollering, either.  The U.K. Student Climate Network, a group that helped coordinate some of the biggest protests in London, Brighton, Oxford, and Exeter, has four very specific demands.

They want leaders in government to:
  • Declare a climate emergency and take “active steps to achieve climate justice”
  • Adjust curriculum to make the ecological crisis a priority in public education
  • Do more to communicate the severity of the problem to the general public
  • Lower the voting age to 16, so that young people can have a voice in determining their future
Alexandria Villasenor ‏HEY New York City and the @UN! I HAVE COMPANY! #ClimateStrike #SchoolStrike4Climate @GretaThunberg TY Ella, Maria, Cleo, Kate & Aya from The Institute for Collaborative Education for joining me today! More coming next week! @UKSCN1 @climatestrikeUS @StrikeClimate @greenpeaceusa Click to Enlarge.
Don’t worry if you’re feeling left out in the U.S.  The climate strike is spreading stateside as well, with a major national action planned for Friday, March 15.  And some young American activists, like Alexandria Villasenor, have already been at it for weeks.

Next month’s climate march is expected to galvanize not only students from around the globe, but also major environmental groups like, Extinction Rebellion, and the Sunrise Movement.

If one teen can spark a movement this size, we’d better be keeping an eye on all these youngsters.  Who’s telling what they might do next — save the world, maybe?

Read more at Youth-Led Climate Protests Sweep Across Europe

Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday 15

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

BP:  Renewables to Become Largest Source of Power by 2040

BP logo (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Renewable energy will be the fastest-growing source of energy in the world through 2040, penetrating the energy system “more quickly than any fuel in history” to become the largest source of power by 2040, oil and gas supermajor BP said in its annual BP Energy Outlook on Thursday.

Renewables are expected to account for some two-thirds of the rise in power generation globally, and their share in the global power sector will grow to around 30 percent by 2040, up from around 10 percent now.  The European Union (EU) will continue to lead among the regions in terms of renewables penetration.  The share of renewables in the EU power market is set to jump to more than 50 percent by 2040, according to BP.

The global share of coal, on the other hand, will drop significantly and will be surpassed by renewables as the primary source of energy in the power sector by 2040, BP said.

Oil demand will rise during the first half of the outlook to 2040, but at a much slower pace than in the past, “before plateauing in the 2030s,” the oil and gas major said.
Compared to last year’s outlook, BP’s largest revisions were in renewable energy and in China’s energy consumption.  BP revised up its renewable energy estimated by 9 percent, while it revised down by 7 percent the expected Chinese energy consumption, “reflecting the pace at which China is adjusting to a more sustainable pattern of economic growth.”

Read more at BP:  Renewables to Become Largest Source of Power by 2040