Wednesday, May 29, 2019

EU Plans First Satellite Fleet to Monitor CO2 in Every Country

Three orbiters will give first complete view of earth’s surface, transforming the way carbon emissions are monitored and reported.

An earlier Copernicus satellite, Sentinel-5p, prepares for launch (Photo Credit: ESA–Stephane Corvaja) Click to Enlarge.
Europe is readying a new fleet of satellites that will monitor CO2 emissions at every point on earth, creating the first worldwide system to independently track polluters.

The fleet of three satellites is slated for launch in 2025, in time to inform the UN’s global stocktake of greenhouse gas emissions three years later, the European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed to Climate Home News.

The project is well advanced.  The ESA has begun consultations with industry on building the newly-designed Sentinel 7 spacecraft, which will cost an estimated €633 million.  Funding depends on the EU’s 2021-2027 budget, which needs to be agreed by the European Parliament and member states.

Guido Levini, the manager of the ESA’s Copernicus space segment program, said he had a “high level of confidence” the funding would be secured, as the project had received blanket support from EU governments.

Once in orbit, the satellites will create the first global observation system for the gas most responsible for warming the planet.  The project has deep implications for the Paris climate agreement and the global politics of pollution.

Read more at EU Plans First Satellite Fleet to Monitor CO2 in Every Country

South Africa’s Ramaphosa Signs Carbon Tax into Law

In a first for a developing country, the coal-heavy economy will put a price on pollution, but campaigners say it is not high enough.

Arnot coal power station, Middelburg, South Africa (Picture Credit:  Wikimedia Commons/Gerhard Roux) Click to Enlarge.
Ramaphosa’s African National Congress party was returned to office with a reduced majority in an election earlier this month.  While climate change was barely mentioned in the campaign, the result allows the government to finally implement a tax that has been under discussion since 2010.

“Climate change represents one of the biggest challenges facing human kind, and the primary objective of the carbon tax is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a sustainable, cost effective and affordable manner,” the treasury said in a statement.

The tax is to start at 120 rand a tonne of CO2 ($8).  In the first phase, polluters will get 60-95% of carbon allowances free, bringing the effective tax rate down to R6-48/t.  These rates are to be reviewed before phase two, spanning 2023-30.

Read more at South Africa’s Ramaphosa Signs Carbon Tax into Law

Monday, May 27, 2019

No More Climate Change:  It’s Now a Crisis

What’s in a name?  A lot, The Guardian says:  it’s ditching mentions of climate change and switching to sterner language.

Global heating, by any other name, is just as final. (Image Credit: Ruslan Valeev on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
Talk about climate change, and there’s a good chance that people will know what you’re referring to, even if they don’t share your concerns about it.

But for one UK-based newspaper, The Guardian, “climate change” is now frowned upon, though it’s not formally banned.  The paper’s house style guide recommends that its journalists should instead use such terms as “climate crisis” and “global heating”.

The Guardian has updated the style guide to introduce terms that it thinks more accurately describe the environmental crises confronting the world.  So out goes “climate change”, to be replaced by the preferred terms, “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown”.  “Global heating” replaces “global warming”.

“We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” says the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner.  “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.”

The United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, spoke of a “climate crisis” last September, adding:  “We face a direct existential threat.”  The climate scientist Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a former adviser to Angela Merkel, the EU, and the pope, also uses the term.

In December Professor Richard Betts, who leads the UK Met Office’s climate research, said “global heating” was a more accurate term than “global warming” to describe what is now happening.  British Members of Parliament recently endorsed the opposition Labor Party’s declaration of a climate emergency.

Read more at No More Climate Change:  It’s Now a Crisis

IEA Rings Alarm Bell on Phasing Out Nuclear Energy

The flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flutters in front of their headquarters in Vienna, Austria March 4, 2019 (Credit: pictures.reuters.com0) Click to Enlarge.
A steep decline in nuclear energy capacity will threaten climate goals and power supply security unless advanced economies find a way to extend the lifespan of their reactors, the International Energy Agency said.

Nuclear is currently the world’s second-largest source of low-carbon electricity, behind hydropower, and accounting for 10 percent of global electricity generation.  But nuclear fleets in the United States and Europe are on average more than 35 years old and many of the world’s 452 reactors are set to close as cheap gas and tighter safety requirements make it uneconomical to operate them.

“Without policy changes, advanced economies could lose 25 percent of their nuclear capacity by 2025 and as much as two-thirds of it by 2040,” the IEA writes in its first major report about nuclear energy in two decades.

Over the past 20 years, wind and solar capacity has increased by 580 gigawatt GW in advanced economies.  Despite that, however, IEA estimates that the 36 percent share of clean energy sources in global power supply in 2018 was the same as two decades ago because of the decline in nuclear.

In order to offset the expected decline of nuclear in the next two decades, renewables investment would have to grow fivefold, but that would not only be hugely expensive, but would also hit public resistance and require major power grid investment, IEA said.

IEA director Fatih Birol said on a webcast that the agency is not asking countries who have exited nuclear to reconsider, but said that countries who did decide to keep nuclear should do more to support the industry.

Birol said the low-carbon nature of nuclear and its role in energy security are currently not sufficiently valued for existing nuclear plants to operate profitably and that new nuclear projects have been plagued by cost overruns.

“Without action to provide more support for nuclear power, global efforts to transition to a cleaner energy system will become drastically harder,” Birol said.

Read more at IEA Rings Alarm Bell on Phasing Out Nuclear Energy

Sweden's Thunberg Demands Climate Action on Day of Global School Strikes

Demonstrators call for action on global warming during a protest in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Friday. Similar protests were held around the world. (Credit: AFP-JIJI} Click to Enlarge.
Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg urged European politicians on Friday to focus on a climate crisis instead of “bickering”, as children walked out of classes around the world to back her demands for urgent action to curb carbon emissions.

Thunberg, 16, said the threat of societal breakdown posed by runaway climate change should overshadow every other campaign issue in the European Union’s parliamentary elections this week.

“If the EU were to decide to seriously fight the climate crisis, it would mean a decisive global change.  And the EU election should reasonably only be about this.  But it isn’t,” Thunberg told thousands gathered in Kungstradgarden square in Stockholm’s banking district.

By 2200 GMT more than 1.8 million people in 2,350 cities across 125 countries had joined the strike, according to a tally on the Facebook page of the Fridays for Future movement, a network of young climate protesters.

An estimated 1.5 million young people took part in a previous global school strike on March 15.

In New York, several hundred children and teenagers marched from Columbus Circle to Times Square, shouting their support for a “Green New Deal” proposed in Congress that calls among other things for 100 percent of U.S. power demand to be met though renewable energy sources within 10 years.

Read more at Sweden's Thunberg Demands Climate Action on Day of Global School Strikes

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Saturday 25

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

3 Things to Know About the Memorial Day Heat Wave in the Southeast

Memorial Day temperatures in the Southeast. (Credit: NWS) Click to Enlarge.
Such extreme heat is not normal for this time of year.  If you are thinking, "isn't it a bit early to see heat this extreme?"  The answer is yes.  Legendary South Carolina meteorologist Jim Gandy tweeted, 

Eight days ago was only the second 90-degree day of the year. It has been 90+ every day since with today the hottest so far this year.  Now we are in a heat wave that will see record high temperatures next week.

Gandy pointed out that the average temperature for this time of year is 86 degrees F in Columbia, South Carolina.  The National Weather Service office in the Atlanta area also sounded the alarm about the potential for broken records.  The Saturday morning forecast discussion read:

Temperatures will continue to be the big story with highs a bit higher than Friday with mid 90d across the metro and around 100 across the SE portion of the area. Outside shot of all time May record in Atlanta for today but more likely for Macon with 99 degrees forecast.
Clearly, weather patterns explain this heat wave. I often cringe when people use a "cold day" to refute climate change. I also point out that "one hot" day or week doesn't necessarily affirm it either. However, there is plenty of evidence that climate change is happening so resist the urge to use one day. The 2018 National Climate Assessment report (and most studies or statements from credible science organizations) released by the Trump Administration highlighted that extreme heat will become a "new normal." For example, the figure below illustrates that the number of nighttime temperatures above 75 degrees F has increased dramatically. This is far more worrisome than daytime temperatures from the standpoint of human health according to scientific and health experts. The report points out:

Sixty-one percent of major Southeast cities are exhibiting some aspects of worsening heat waves, which is a higher percentage than any other region of the country. Hot days and warm nights together impact human comfort and health and result in the need for increased cooling efforts. Agriculture is also impacted by a lack of nighttime cooling.

Read more at 3 Things to Know About the Memorial Day Heat Wave in the Southeast

Top GOP Pollster Finds Overwhelming Support for Carbon Tax by Millennial Republicans

“This is the first time we’ve polled a climate plan that has real positive appeal across Republicans and Democrats.”

Rally to support the federal carbon tax in canada outside the Osgoode Hall courthouse in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, ON April 15, 2019.)Credit: Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./Nurphoto via Getty Images.) Click to Enlarge.
A new survey finds Republicans under 40 support a carbon tax 7-to-1.  And a remarkable 85% of Republican millennials are concerned that “the current Republican position on climate change is hurting the party with younger voters.”

But what makes this result so striking is that the survey was conducted by Frank Luntz, a top GOP strategist and pollster.  Luntz wrote an infamous memo in 2002 detailing the exact words conservatives should use if they want to sound like they care about climate change without actually doing anything about it.

Luntz, for instance, is the one who urged Republicans to use the phrase “climate change,” arguing that it is “less frightening” than “global warming.”

Significantly, Luntz’s firm, which has been polling this issue for decades, reported this week that a Carbon Dividend Plan — which charges fossil fuel companies for their carbon emissions and rebates the money directly back to the public — is uniquely popular.

“This is the first time we’ve polled a climate plan that has real positive appeal across Republicans and Democrats,” Nick Wright, a partner at Luntz Global, told Axios.

Most GOP leaders, however, still only offer climate plans built around Luntz’s 2002 recommendations, which means repeating the poll-tested words “technology” and “innovation” over and over while never committing to anything that might actually start reducing emissions now as the science advises in order to avoid catastrophe.

Read more at Top GOP Pollster Finds Overwhelming Support for Carbon Tax by Millennial Republicans

In the Warming Arctic, a Promising Solution to Climate Change

Sea ice age (Credit: NOAA) Click to Enlarge.
Arctic sea ice is highly reflective; the oldest ice boomerangs 80 percent of solar radiation back into space.  (Scientists say it has “high albedo.”)  As it melts, that reflective shield gives way to exposed ocean surface, which absorbs and traps the sun’s heat.  The more ice melts, the more heat the ocean absorbs, melting even more ice.  Scientists call this vicious circle an “ice-albedo feedback loop.”

Before humans started messing with the climate, most of the Arctic ice pack withstood consecutive darkness-free summers without melting.  Now this “multi-year” ice is almost completely gone:  95 percent of the oldest, most reflective Arctic ice has melted.  (You can watch it go in this terrifying video.)  “First-year ice” is far thinner, more delicate, and less reflective.  It’s also prone to melting entirely in the spring and summer months, which are getting warmer by the year.

If the entire Arctic ice pack should melt, scientists predict that we’d see an “unmitigated disaster.”  Without the planet’s Arctic heat shield, the ice-albedo feedback loop would quickly usher in an additional half-degree Celsius of warming worldwide, and with it, widespread global damage.  That would lead to more rapid melting of the Arctic permafrost, releasing vast amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas that, for its first 20 years in the air, traps 84 times more heat than carbon dioxide.

It’s a nightmarish thought.  But that’s where Dr. Leslie Field’s work comes into the picture.

Field’s “inconvenient hobby,” as she describes it, which has now turned into full-time-plus work for her and the Ice911 team, began with experiments carried out with buckets of water set out on her sunny, Bay Area deck.  She tried spreading reflective sheets on Lake Tahoe and on lake ice in the Sierras.  Then she began experimenting with tiny, hollow microbeads made mostly of silica, a type of sand made of quartz rock.  (Unlike the plastic nanobeads found in cosmetics, which have become a scourge on the world’s waterways, the silica microbeads are safe for animals, aquatic life, and ecosystems.)

When spread across ice, these beads become a reflective shield against the sun, enhancing the ice’s natural albedo.  They’re buoyant, so they float on melt ponds and slushier patches of sea ice.  Spread these beads across strategic areas of Arctic ice, Field thought, and more of it might survive through the summers, keeping reflectivity high and short-circuiting that vicious ice-albedo feedback loop.

Field and her team have tested the microbeads across more than three football fields’ worth of lake ice at the Barrow Arctic Research Center/Environmental Observatory since 2016.  Buoys designed and placed by the Ice911 team since 2010 send data wirelessly from various test sites back to the organization’s labs in Sunnyvale and Redwood City, California, so that researchers can measure ice growth, reflectivity, weather, and water currents.  They use satellite imagery and aerial photos taken by Maverick, their line-of-sight drone, to compare the reflectivity of treated ice to untreated ice.

Their findings so far:  Ice treated with silica microbeads grows thicker and more reflective with each application.  Ice911 modeling suggests that spreading the beads in only a few strategic areas, like the Beaufort Gyre or the Fram Strait, could reverse melting across the Arctic.

“By using just a tiny amount of material, you end up making young ice seem more like multiyear ice, and that changes the radiative balance in the Arctic back to where it was,” Field said.  “You think, those are pretty humble goals — is it going to be enough?  As it turns out, it’s enough.  This material makes a very large impact on regrowing ice and preventing further temperature rise in the Arctic.”

Field connected with the Foundation for Climate Restoration, which became a supporter of Ice911’s work.  Founding Executive Director Ilan Mandel says:  “Rebuilding Arctic ice became one of the three pillars of Climate Restoration, along with removing a trillion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere and transitioning to renewable energy.  And slowing the Arctic’s contribution to global warming could buy time for other actions to restore our climate.”

Ice911 is currently raising money to fund more of its work, and Field predicts she’ll have the permits necessary to start testing her solution on sea ice within one to three years.  Ultimately, she hopes to hand over her technology to organizations like the United Nations or a consortium of Arctic-facing nations.

Read more at In the Warming Arctic, a Promising Solution to Climate Change

Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday 24

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Teenage Activists Demand Climate Action on Eve of Global School Strike

Teenage Activists Demand Climate Action on Eve of Global School Strike. (Credit: Reuters  Click to Enlarge.
With coordinators expecting more than a million youths to join protests in at least 110 countries, students inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg are demanding politicians and business leaders act quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“We seem to have this amazing capability of forgetting horrible things and going on with our daily lives, but adults need to start acting,” said Helena Marschall, 16, who is coordinating a strike in the German financial capital Frankfurt.

“If we don’t act now we will soon reach crucial tipping points of our climate system, meaning after that there’s no way out anymore,” Marschall said, taking a break from lobbying Deutsche Bank executives to divest from polluting industries at the company’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

Since Thunberg began a single-handed climate protest outside the Swedish parliament in August, the Fridays for Future school strike movement has grown exponentially, with groups of friends inspired by her example rapidly clustering into larger, self-organizing networks connected across time zones by social media.

Teenage Activists Demand Climate Action on Eve of Global School Strike

Rising Sea Levels Could Swamp Major Cities and Displace Almost 200 Million People

With a "business as usual" approach 1to carbon emissions, the world's oceans could plausibly rise two meters by the end of the centur.y

There are more residents living in high-risk flood zones in New York City than in any other U.S. city. (Credit: Ron Antonelli / Bloomberg via Getty Images file) Click to Enlarge.
The risk posed by rising seas may be even more dire than we thought.

A provocative new study suggests that as Earth’s climate continues to warm and the planet’s ice sheets continue to melt, seas could inundate coastal cities around the world, submerging vast swaths of land and displacing almost 200 million people by the end of the century.

If we continue to take a “business as usual” approach to carbon emissions, sea level rise could plausibly exceed two meters (about seven and a half feet) by 2100, the study showed. A rise of that magnitude — which is more than twice as high as the upper limit predicted in a 2013 U.N. climate assessment — would have “profound consequences for humanity,” the scientists behind the new research concluded.

New York, New Orleans, Miami, Shanghai, Mumbai, and some island nations could become permanently flooded, according to that scenario, disrupting economies and displacing up to 187 million people. Almost 1.8 million square kilometers (about 700,000 square miles) of land, including some used for farming, could be permanently flooded.

“It really is pretty grim,” study co-author Jonathan Bamber, a professor of physical geography at the University of Bristol in England, told CNN. “Two meters is not a good scenario.”

Read more at Rising Sea Levels Could Swamp Major Cities and Displace Almost 200 Million People

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday 19

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Car Giant Plumps for Carbon Neutrality

Germany’s major automotive supplier chooses to go for carbon neutrality as it joins the climate change fast lane.

Robert Bosch Gmbh Ceo Volkmar Denner (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Bosch, the German engineering conglomerate which is the world’s largest supplier to the car industry, says it is aiming for full carbon neutrality by next year, in order to meet the challenge posed by climate change.

Volkmar Denner, Bosch’s chief executive, says it’s vital that companies act now in order to stop the planet from overheating and endangering global stability.

“Climate change is not science fiction; it’s really happening”, Denner said in a statement reported by Reuters news agency.

“If we are to take the Paris Agreement seriously, then climate action needs to be seen not just as a long-term aspiration.  It needs to happen here and now.”

Bosch says that at present it emits around 3.3 million tonnes of climate-changing carbon dioxide each year, while its annual energy consumption is equivalent to the combined total of the power used by all private households in the cities of Berlin and Munich.

Read more at Car Giant Plumps for Carbon Neutrality

Hayhoe:  Climate Hope Comes from People

 Katharine Hayhoe (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Professor Katharine Hayhoe is visiting the UK and delivering a lecture as part of the Cambridge Climate Lecture Series on the 15th may at 3pm.  The lecture is open to the public and can also be watched live online.  Nick Breeze caught up with her before the event. 

Nick Breeze (NB):  Here in the UK, in the last month or two, hundreds of people have been arrested and climate change is in the news.  In some ways that is good but it also creates another polarity because some people don’t agree with the methods. 

How do we get past this impasse of what is a social system of high carbon consumption, that people are protesting against, and the overwhelming desire to just stop making climate change worse?

Katharine Hayhoe (KH): Yes, the level of concern and urgency is growing with the Extinction Rebellion and the children’s climate strikes.  It is because the urgency is growing to the point where we scientists are standing up and saying we need to do something about it. 

And then, there was the 1.5-degree report where it is shown that even a 0.5 degree of change carries quantifiable impacts that should be avoided.  The scientific urgency has increased and our personal experience of the impacts has changed rapidly in the last decade, and I think that is even more important.

The vast majority of people surveyed in the US agree that climate is changing, plants and animals will be affected, future generations will be affected, even people in the developing countries will be affected.  But then you say, ‘do you think climate change will affect you personally?’  And the majority still answer ‘no’. 

It is up to 41 per cent saying yes though, and it has gone up from 30 per cent to 40 per cent in the last 10 years.  And this year we saw the biggest jump in that number.  And that is because we are experiencing impacts in the places where we live, and we are recognizing that it really does affect us and we do need to fix it. 

NB: Ok, and you think it is the tangible impacts that are really contributing now to the dialogue?

KH: I think so, I think it is the tangible impacts coupled with the increasing clarity of the scientific messaging and also, the involvement of so many different voices.  So, in the UK as well as around the world, we see voices from the business sector, we see voices talking about divestment from the fossil fuel sector. 

You know, the Rockefeller Foundation divested for climate change reasons away from fossil fuels.  We see countries like Norway taking tremendous steps forward.  We see faith leaders of all kinds from the Anglican Church across the spectrum speaking about climate change. 

We are starting to see these discussions happening in almost every sphere, so climate change is no longer considered to be an environmental issue that only environmentalists care about.  And of course, climate change is a human issue.  We already have all the values we need to care about it. 

So we are starting to see these discussions in many different places where we didn’t see it before and that is also contributing to this growing awareness and groundswell of demand for meaningful action.

Read more at  Hayhoe:  Climate Hope Comes from People

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Saturday 18

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Air Pollution, Diseases, Drought, Climate Change, and Earthquakes Are Creating Risks "in a Way that We Have Not Anticipated"

Agiro Cavanda looks at his flooded home in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth, at Wimbe village in Pemba, Mozambique, April 29, 2019. (Credit: Reuters/Mike Hutchings) Click to Enlarge.
Increasingly complex, growing and related risks, from global warming to pollution and epidemics, threaten human survival if left to escalate, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.

A biennial assessment report on how the world is dealing with disasters said the past could no longer be relied on as a guide to the future, with new risks emerging "in a way that we have not anticipated".

It identified a range of major threats to human life and property, including air pollution, diseases, earthquakes, drought, and climate change.

There is also growing potential for one type of disaster to produce or exacerbate another, as when heavy rains trigger mudslides after wildfires, warned the report launched at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva.

"If we continue living in this way, engaging with each other and the planet in the way we do, then our very survival is in doubt," said Mami Mizutori, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for disaster risk reduction.

Extreme weather events have doubled over the last 20 years, causing economic losses that are making it "an uphill battle" to maintain development gains in low and middle-income countries, she added in a statement.

Meanwhile, the gap between how well rich and poor cope with wild weather and other threats is widening due to poorly planned urbanization, environmental degradation, and population growth.

That "complex cocktail of risk" is destroying homes and displacing people, or pushing them to migrate in search of a better life, Mizutori said.

Air Pollution, Diseases, Drought, Climate Change and Earthquakes Are Creating Risks "in a Way that We Have Not Anticipated"

‘Extraordinary Thinning’ of Ice Sheets Revealed Deep Inside Antarctica

New research shows affected areas are losing ice five times faster than in the 1990s, with more than 100m of thickness gone in some places.

The Antarctic’s Thwaites glacier. More than 50% of the Pine Island and Thwaites glacier basins have been affected by thinning in the past 25 years. (Photograph Credit: PA) Click to Enlarge.
Ice losses are rapidly spreading deep into the interior of the Antarctic, new analysis of satellite data shows.

The warming of the Southern Ocean is resulting in glaciers sliding into the sea increasingly rapidly, with ice now being lost five times faster than in the 1990s.  The West Antarctic ice sheet was stable in 1992 but up to a quarter of its expanse is now thinning.  More than 100 meters of ice thickness has been lost in the worst-hit places.

A complete loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet would drive global sea levels up by about five meters, drowning coastal cities around the world.  The current losses are doubling every decade, the scientists said, and sea level rise are now running at the extreme end of projections made just a few years ago.

Read more at ‘Extraordinary Thinning’ of Ice Sheets Revealed Deep Inside Antarctica

U.S. Democratic Hopeful Inslee Unveils Second Climate Change Plan

U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and Governor Jay Inslee participates in a moderated discussion at the We the People Summit in Washington, U.S., April 1, 2019. (Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria) Click to Enlarge.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender whose campaign is focused on climate change, unveiled a plan to invest $9 trillion in 10 years in modern manufacturing and green infrastructure to “revitalize America’s economy for the 21st century.”

This is the second plank of Inslee’s broader “Climate Mission” agenda, which sets a goal of achieving 100 percent zero-emission electricity by 2035.

The 38-page plan calls for $300 billion in average annual federal spending to leverage around $600 billion more each year to invest in industries and manufacturing, infrastructure, and skilled labor, which it estimates would create 8 million jobs.

“America must rise to this 21st century challenge with a bold plan to:  create jobs; protect workers’ rights; repower the economy; rebuild our infrastructure; and reinvest in innovation,” according to his proposed strategy.

Read more at U.S. Democratic Hopeful Inslee Unveils Second Climate Change Plan

California Threatens Gasoline Car Ban

(Credit: Click to Enlarge
California might ban gasoline-powered cars if the federal government goes ahead with a plan to relax emission and fuel economy standards, Bloomberg reports, citing the chair of the California Air Resources Board.

“CARB will be exploring ways to ensure communities get the reductions of air pollution they so desperately need to keep the air clean and breathable -- and continue to fight climate change,” Mary Nichols said.  “That might mean, for example, tougher requirements for low-carbon fuels, looking at tighter health-protective regulations on California refineries, doubling down on our enforcement efforts on mobile and stationary sources -- and might lead to an outright ban on internal combustion engines.”

The fight over fuel economy standards has been going on since the Trump administration said it planned to freeze the standard at 2020 levels and is part of a wider confrontation between the state and the federal administration that has since Trump’s inauguration seen California file as many as 49 lawsuits against the federal government.  Of these, almost half, or 24, are against policies by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Read more at California-Threatens-Gasoline-Car-Ban.html

A Quarter of West Antarctica’s Ice Now Considered Unstable, Scientists Find

 An iceberg in the process of calving off the Getz Ice Shelf, West Antarctica in 2016. (Credit: NASA/Jeremy Harbeck) Click to Enlarge.
Rising temperatures have sped up the melting of West Antarctica’s ice fivefold in the past 25 years, resulting in a quarter of the region’s glaciers being classified as unstable, according to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet have thinned by as much as 400 feet since 1992, with some of the most dramatic changes happening to the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers.  According to Earther, West Antarctica has shed enough ice over the past quarter-century to fill Lake Erie 12 times over.

The study, led by scientists at the University of Leeds in the UK, used more than 800 million satellite measurements of Antarctic ice height taken between 1992 and 2017.  Those measurements provide a detailed picture of ice loss and snow accumulation.

“We can see clearly now that a wave of thinning has spread rapidly across some of Antarctica’s most vulnerable glaciers, and their losses are driving up sea levels around the planet,” Andy Shepherd, director of the UK Center for Polar Observation and Modeling and lead author of the new study, said in a statement.  “Altogether, ice losses from East and West Antarctica have contributed 4.6 mm to global sea level rise since 1992.”

Read more at A Quarter of West Antarctica’s Ice Now Considered Unstable, Scientists Find

Thursday, May 16, 2019

IEA:  Low-Carbon Spending Must ‘More than Double’ to Meet Climate Goals

Thailand has an installed capacity of 223MW, including the Theppana wind farm (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Investment in low-carbon energy sources, such as wind, solar and nuclear, must more than double by 2030 if the world is to meet its Paris Agreement climate goals, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

This is one of the many insights to emerge from the agency’s latest World Energy Investment report, which is published today.  Besides the trend in low-carbon spending, the analysis shows that overall energy investment is also not keeping up with consumption trends.  [Carbon Brief also covered the IEA’s reports in 2017 and 2018.]

Global investment in low-carbon energy and electricity networks needs to rise significantly if the world is to meet the IEA’s sustainability benchmark, known as the Sustainable Development Scenario. In this chart, low-carbon energy investment includes energy efficiency, renewable power, renewables for transport and heat, nuclear, battery storage and carbon capture utilisation and storage. Source: IEA.
Here, Carbon Brief has picked out key charts to illustrate these trends, as well as some of the IEA’s findings on everything from electric car sales to the spread of air conditioning units and battery storage.

Missing sustainability targets
Overall, the research found that global investment in all forms of energy supply and demand stabilized in 2018 at around $1.85tn, after three years of decline.  Within that total, investment in low-carbon energy was also stable at around $620bn, as the chart below shows.

Read more at IEA:  Low-Carbon Spending Must ‘More than Double’ to Meet Climate Goals

European Forests Could ‘Live Fast and Die Young’ in a Warming Climate

Lake Teletskoye is located in the south of Western Siberia (Altai Republic). It is the fifth deepest lake in Russia (maximum depth – 325 meters).
Climate change could cause trees to grow faster, accelerating the rate at which they absorb carbon from the atmosphere.  But these trees may be likely to die sooner, a study finds.

The research, conducted in high-altitude conifer forests in Spain and Russia, suggests that climate change could cause the trees to “live fast and die young”, the authors say – reducing the ability of these forests to act as a carbon sink over long timescales.

The findings show that planting forests to soak up greenhouse gas emissions could have more limited potential than previously thought, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

The research is “impressive”, but may be too “bold” in its conclusions, another scientist tells Carbon Brief.

Going green
When humans release CO2 into the atmosphere, around one quarter of it is absorbed by plants.

Plants use CO2 during photosynthesis to create new materials, such as leaves, shoots and roots.  Because of this, forests act as “carbon sinks” – storing vast amounts of carbon over long timescales.

Climate change is likely to increase the rate at which trees grow.  The study focuses on one reason for this, which is that warming temperatures may increase the overall length of the growing season in temperate regions, explains Prof Ulf Büntgen, a researcher of environmental systems analysis from the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study published in Nature Communications.  He tells Carbon Brief:
“The common belief is that in a warmer and a more CO2-enriched world, trees will uptake more carbon from the atmosphere.  Based on this, people are starting political actions to plant trees.  What we are adding to this debate, is to say:  ‘This is correct but it’s only half of the story.’

“What is neglected is the ‘carbon residence time’ – how long the carbon taken up by terrestrial vegetation is actually captured. In our study, we show that faster growing trees and other types of vegetation will die younger.  By doing that, they are going to release all of the carbon that they have sequestered.”

Read more at European Forests Could ‘Live Fast and Die Young’ in a Warming Climate

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday 15

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

New Map Shows All the Cities Leading the World in Climate Action

Have you heard about the A list?  It’s harder to clinch a spot on it than it is to score an invite to the Met Gala.  And your city may be on it.

An environmental impact nonprofit called the CDP (formerly known as the carbon disclosure project) just released a list of cities that led the world in environmental performance last year.  Only 43 metropolises got As in the organization’s first-ever assessment, and nearly half of them are in the United States!

Twenty-one cities in the United States made the list.  And a whopping nine cities in the San Francisco Bay area got As, too — making up 21 percent of all the cities on the list. Cities all across the map — like Cape Town, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Paris — qualified as A-listers, as well.

So what kind of policies get you on the A list?  Five of the U.S. cities are on the path to carbon neutrality by 2050 — a target that is emerging as the gold standard of decarbonization:  Boston; Indianapolis; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and West Palm Beach, Florida.  Those cities may be leading the charge, but they are not alone:  the Sierra Club’s Ready For 100 campaign has calculated that more than 90 U.S. cities have set or are in the process of setting 100 percent renewable energy targets.

Read more at New Map Shows All the Cities Leading the World in Climate Action 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tuesday 14

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Australia's Islanders Complain to U.N. over Australia's Climate Change Inaction

Jaran Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Dance Company (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
A group of islanders off Australia’s north coast filed a human rights complaint to the United Nations against the Australian government on Monday over inaction on climate change, which they say is threatening their homes, their lawyers said.

The complaint by eight Torres Strait Islanders marks the first climate change litigation brought against Australia based on human rights, said ClientEarth, the UK-based environmental law charity handling the complaint.

“We’re currently seeing the effects of climate change on our islands daily, with rising seas, tidal surges, coastal erosion and inundation of our communities,” said Kabay Tamu, one of the eight islanders bringing the case.

Torres Strait Islanders are part of Australia’s indigenous population, along with Aborigines, who live on small islands dotted between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The Australian government is investing A$3 million in environmental management for the Torres Strait Islands and would invest a further A$3.5 billion to help cut Australia’s carbon emissions if re-elected on May 18, Environment Minister Melissa Price’s spokesman said in emailed comments.

The claimants, backed by U.S. environmental group, also launched a petition highlighting they want the Australian government to commit at least A$20 million ($14 million) for measures such as seawalls to shield the islands from rising sea levels.
The complaint is the latest in a string of climate change cases worldwide targeting companies and governments, which lawyers expect will proliferate.

“I think that probably these types of actions will fail initially,” said Andrew Korbel, a partner at law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

Read more at Australia's Islanders Complain to U.N. over Australia's Climate Change Inaction

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monday 13

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Joe Biden’s Rivals in Democratic Race Reject His ‘Middle Ground’ on Climate Policy

Former Vice President Joe Biden listens to voter in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The vice president is reportedly preparing a climate plan that he believes can appeal to blue-collar Trump voters. (Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS/JAE C. HONG)) Click to Enlarge.
Three of former Vice President Joe Biden’s rivals in the Democratic presidential race took issue with his approach to combating climate change following a Friday report that he plans to pursue a “middle ground” to reduce carbon emissions.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), who has staked his candidacy on addressing climate change, was the first to explicitly argue against Biden’s approach.  He issued a statement on Friday calling for “a bold climate plan for our future.”

“Facing a crisis does not permit half-measures,” he said.  “Half measures mean full extinction of millions of species and full economic damage to communities across America.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who polls second behind Biden in most polls on the Democratic race, also counts climate change as an area of significant disagreement with Biden.

“Joe talks about a ‘middle road’ on climate change,” Sanders said on MSNBC’s “Politics Nation with Al Sharpton” on Saturday.  “Well, I think climate change is an existential threat to our planet.  And the scientists tells us we’ve got 12 years to aggressively transform our energy system before we have irreparable harm to our country and the planet.

“We have real differences,” he added.  “I like Joe,  I respect Joe, and I look forward to an issue-oriented campaign.”

Sanders’ remarks followed a Friday afternoon tweet he posted that, without naming Biden, criticized the idea of a “middle ground” on climate change policy.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also dismissed the idea of an approach to climate change that tries to split the difference between inaction and the most ambitious proposals for change.

Asked by reporters after a campaign event in Warner, New Hampshire, on Saturday what she thought of Biden’s reported plans, GIllibrand replied, “I disagree.”

She continued,  “Global climate change is the greatest threat to humanity that exists today, and we need solutions that are as bold and as urgent as the problem we actually face.”

Gillibrand went on to discuss her support for the Green New Deal, a plan popular among progressives that would use massive infrastructure investments to transition the economy to entirely renewable energy within a decade.  (She also supports re-entering the Paris climate accords and enacting a carbon tax.)

Read more at Joe Biden’s Rivals in Democratic Race Reject His ‘Middle Ground’ on Climate Policy

U.N. Secretary-General Warns World 'Not on Track' to Limiting Temperature Rise to 1.5 Percent

Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaks to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (not pictured) during their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, April 26, 2019. (Credit: Parker Song/Pool via Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the world was “not on track” to limiting global temperature rises to 1.5%, TVNZ reported on Sunday, during his visit to New Zealand.

Speaking to the media in Auckland alongside New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Guterres warned about the dangers of not addressing climate change.

“Climate change is running faster than what we are ... the last four years have been the hottest registered,” TVNZ quoted Guterres as saying.

Read more at U.N. Secretary-General Warns World 'Not on Track' to Limiting Temperature Rise to 1.5 Percent