Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Nuts and Bolts Behind How the World Will Deploy a Massive Amount of Clean Energy

Participation in Clean Energy Ministerial Initiatives00 (Credit: Clean Energy Ministerial) Click to Enlarge.
Energy ministers from 23 countries and the European Commission, representing 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 90 percent of worldwide renewable power investments, will convene June 1-2 in San Francisco to encourage a new drive toward clean energy deployment, and further hasten the growing movement away from coal to the increasing use of green power.

“If you gather together a critical mass of energy leaders from the major investing nations and largest emitters of global greenhouse gases, through collaborations between and among those countries, you can end up with a lot of shared learning, and turn markets, helping to create new momentum in clean energy deployment,” said Jonathan Elkind, the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for the office of international affairs.

Elkind has been interfacing with foreign governments on clean energy issues in advance of the forum, as well as serving as an advisor to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, host of the conference and its top U.S. official representative.

The forum “can help countries around the globe accelerate how fast we deploy clean renewable energy to help meet the emissions commitments made in Paris,” Elkind said.

What is the CEM?
Begun in 2010, the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) meets annually, bringing global energy ministers together to collaborate on policies and programs promoting the transition to an international clean energy economy.  The CEM grew out of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in July 2009, which agreed to launch a global partnership to drive transformational low-carbon and climate-friendly technologies.

CEM initiatives have strong private sector links, building on the technology action plans released by the Major Economies Forum Global Partnership in December 2009.  But the CEM has adopted a “distributed leadership” approach, meaning countries are free to embrace initiatives of interest to them, but not required to participate in all of them.

This year’s meeting will focus on several issues, including follow-up actions to the agreements reached at the U.N. Paris climate conference, known as COP21.  “The emphasis of the CEM is on deployment of clean energy technologies that are in the marketplace here and now,” Elkind said.

He cited, for example, the need to rely more on super-efficient equipment and appliances, which “can help to greatly reduce electricity demand while saving consumers money,” Elkind said.  He pointed to the Super-Efficient Appliance Deployment program (SEAD), a CEM initiative in collaboration with the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC), where governments try to find ways to encourage the manufacture, purchase, and use of energy-efficient appliances, lighting, and equipment worldwide.

Read more at The Nuts and Bolts Behind How the World Will Deploy a Massive Amount of Clean Energy

The Media Are Ignoring the Most Important Part of Stephen Hawking’s Comments on Trump

In this June 19, 2006 file photo Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking speaks at an international gathering of scientists on the origins of the universe at Beijing's Great Hall of the People in China. (Photo Credit: AP/Elizabeth Dalziel-File) Click to Enlarge.
A lot of people consider astrophysicist Stephen Hawking to be the smartest man in the world.  His research and theories have explained some of the deepest mysteries of time and space.

So it’s understandable why, on Tuesday, people sort of freaked out when Hawking said there was one thing he could not explain:  the popularity of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“I can’t,” Hawking responded, when asked to explain Trump’s rise as part of an exclusive interview with British news station ITV News.  “He is a demagogue, who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator.”

But here’s the thing:  in that same interview, Hawking also said he didn’t believe Trump was the greatest threat facing America, or even the world.  The greatest threat, he said, is human-caused climate change.

“A more immediate danger is runaway climate change,” Hawking said.  “A rise in ocean temperature would melt the ice-caps, and cause a release of large amounts of carbon dioxide from the ocean floor.  Both effects could make our climate like that of Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees.”

Hawking’s comments about Trump made headlines in nearly every major American media outlet. His comments about climate change being the world’s greatest threat, however, did not make the cut.

Read more at The Media Is Ignoring the Most Important Part of Stephen Hawking’s Comments on Trump

Monday, May 30, 2016

 Monday, May 30

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Click to Enlarge.

Expert Urges Voluntary Family Planning to Mitigate Climate Change

Greenhouse gas emissions, as percentage of the world annual total. (Credit: @ The BMJ 2016) Click to Enlarge.
With climate change already close to an irreversible tipping point, urgent action is needed to reduce not only our mean (carbon) footprints but also the "number of feet" -- that is, the growing population either already creating large footprints or aspiring to do so, argues a leading physician and environmentalist in The BMJ.

Yet John Guillebaud, Emeritus Professor of Family Planning and Reproductive Health at University College London, says most climate change discussions focus only on technology and consumption.

He points out that 45% of the world lives in areas where total fertility rates range from 2.1 to 5, and 9% where they exceed 5. In the 48 countries designated by the United Nations as least developed, population is projected to triple by 2100.

The UN's latest median world population projection of 11.2 billion by 2100 is predicated on continuing reductions in fertility rate, he adds.  Without them, the constant fertility variant projects to roughly 28 billion by 2100.

Studies invariably show that family planning is highly cost effective compared with other emission abatement strategies, he explains.

Read more at Expert Urges Voluntary Family Planning to Mitigate Climate Change

Indian Army Helps Battle Climate Change

India's Forest Cover (Credit: downtoearth.org.in) Click to Enlarge.
As part of its effort to improve forest cover and so soak up climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, the government in India has an unlikely partner – the Indian Army.

At the UN climate conference in Paris last December, India made enlarging and improving its forest cover a central part of its pledge on fighting climate change.

One of the many agencies – apart from the forest department – the government has recruited to carry out the work of forest improvement is a part of the Indian army known as the Eco Task Force (ETF).

According to India’s Ministry of Defence, units of the ETF have, over the last 30 years, already planted 65 million trees across the country. The ETF is also involved in rehabilitating degraded forests, conserving soils and managing water resources.

Forests act as a vital carbon sink, soaking up quantities of climate-changing carbon dioxide. When forests are destroyed, that stored CO2 is released into the atmosphere, adding to emissions of greenhouse gases and further exacerbating the problem of climate change.

Carbon sink
The total amount of CO2-equivalent at present stored in India’s forests is estimated to be more than 7 billion tonnes.  As part of its commitment to meeting the targets put forward in Paris to fight climate change, India plans to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Carbon dioxide equivalency is a simplified way to put emissions of various greenhouse gases on a common footing by expressing them in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same global warming effect (usually over a century).

Latest statistics contained in the India State of Forest Report 2015 indicate that the country has a total of just over 7 million square kilometres of forest cover – more than 21% of its geographical area.  The government says it plans to increase this figure to 33%.

Read more at Indian Army Helps Battle Climate Change

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Toon of the Week - Math Symbol for Change

Toon of the Week - Math Symbol for Change / Gov't Symbol for Climate Change (Credit: www.facebook.com/iheartcomsci)

Toon of the Week - Math Symbol for Change / Gov't Symbol for Climate Change

Read original article at 2016 SkS Weekly Digest #22

Quote of the Week - “I have never heard more contradiction in one hour than I heard in the speech”

Quote of the Week - Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club environmentalist group, was taken aback by Trump’s address.

“I have never heard more contradiction in one hour than I heard in the speech,” he told the Guardian.

“There are pools of oil industry waste water that are deeper than Trump’s grasp of energy.”

Trump gave the speech – which Brune also called “a jumbled collection of oil industry talking points that are devoid from reality in the market place” – in a packed arena that generated an atmosphere more like that of a campaign rally than a staid industry conference.

Donald Trump would allow Keystone XL pipeline and end Paris climate deal by Ben Jacobs, Guardian, May 26, 2016

Poster of the Week - I'm Not a Real Climate Scientist, but I Play One in the Blogosphere

Read original article at 2016 SkS Weekly Digest #22

 Sunday, May 29

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Click to Enlarge.

LA Times Editorial:  Climate Change Is the Most Pressing Issue of Our Time.  So Why Isn't It Getting More Play in the Election?

This Jan. 30, 2012, file photo shows the sign for the Exxon Mobil Torrance Refinery in Torrance, Calif. Exxon Mobil held its annual shareholder meeting Wednesday, May 25, 2016, as it faces volatile crude prices and investigations into what it knew and allegedly didn't disclose about oil's role in climate change. (Credit: Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
With the exception of a handful of quacks and deniers, the vast majority of scientists believe that human activity – primarily the burning of fossil fuels – is driving up temperatures around the world, and that the pace of global warming is accelerating faster than earlier believed. Warmer temperatures unleash more extreme weather systems, exacerbate drought cycles, and melt the poles and glaciers, leading to rising sea levels that in the not-distant future will have disastrous effects, such as swamping swaths of Bangladesh, submerging the Marshall Islands and flooding low-lying coasts around the U.S., including Marina del Rey and other Southern California seaside communities.

The scientific evidence is clear:  Change is already happening.  Record-high temperatures in the Arctic in January and February were described by one scientist as “startling.”  World temperatures in February set a record so far above the previous one that a researcher referred to it as a “shocking” increase.  After that March and April exceeded that record gap by even wider margins, making it nearly inevitable that 2016 will be the warmest year on record (just as 2014 and 2015 were).

Climate change is, as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently put it, "one of the most crucial problems on Earth."   Yet the issue has been largely absent from the current presidential campaign.  We'd like to say that is surprising, but unfortunately it is to be expected.  Like many Republicans, Donald Trump denies climate change even exists, which should serve as further proof, if more is needed, that he is unqualified to run the country.  Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both believe the science and have issued detailed proposals for increasing solar and other renewable energy sources while throttling back our reliance on fossil fuels.  And they both recognize the absolute necessity for the U.S. to lead the world in efforts to limit the looming damage as much as is possible.  But they too realize that climate change is not good campaign material:  It's depressing, it's complicated, it's hard for voters to comprehend, its solutions are scary because they require lifestyles changes and personal sacrifice.
Climate change barely resonates.  An assessment in March by Media Matters found that across 20 debates among candidates in both major parties, global warming accounted for only 1.5% of the questions asked – 22 out of 1,477 questions.  Nearly a third of the questions came in two Florida debates after some of that states’ mayors asked that the issue be addressed.  And voters haven't particularly cared, either.  A February Gallup poll found climate change low on the list of issues that voters say matter to them – especially for Republicans, for whom it was the least-significant issue included in the survey.

That’s a lot of heads in the sand – dangerously so if the sand happens to be near the rising seas.

Read more at LA Times Editorial:  Climate Change Is the Most Pressing Issue of Our Time.  So Why Isn't It Getting More Play in the Election?

What Happens When Kids Ask a Climate Scientist Questions

As school kids around the country count down the days to summer vacation, educators are putting plans in place for next year.

Climate science as a curriculum gets a lot of headlines.  Fortunately, the facts are making their way into more lesson plans.

Recently a Portland, Oregon school board voted to throw out textbooks that cast doubt on climate change.  With an eye to making students more “climate literate,” schools are ditching materials that hem and haw about the human causes of global warming.

The vote could not have come any sooner.  A survey published in the journal Science found 30 percent of U.S. teachers are telling students that climate change is “likely due to natural causes,” even though 97 percent of climate scientists say humans are driving the warming trend.

Thankfully, just as schools are updating their textbooks, scientists are reaching out to students.  Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and one of the stars of Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously, recently took time out to answer kids’ questions about climate change.

The result was as instructive as it was endearing.

Read more at What Happens When Kids Ask a Climate Scientist Questions

Solar Power Is Already Saving Lives in the US. Here's How. - by David Roberts

Solar power is still a fairly tiny portion of US electricity, but it is growing incredibly fast.  This is exciting to people for all sorts of reasons — economic development, jobs, local/democratic/decentralized power, and just general tech-of-the-future gee-whizzery.

But it's worth stepping back occasionally and reminding ourselves of the original and still greatest benefit of solar:  namely, that it displaces fossil fuel electricity.  And burning fossil fuels to create electricity kills people, so displacing fossil fuel power directly saves lives.

Now a new study has taken a crack at quantifying the doesn't-kill-people benefits of US solar.
An assessment of the environmental and public health benefits of solar
The report is titled, appropriately enough, The Environmental and Public Health Benefits of Achieving High Penetrations of Solar Energy in the United States.  It's by a team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

LBNL asked three simple questions.  First, what are the cumulative environmental and public health benefits of the solar power that has been installed so far in the US, as of 2014?  Second, what benefits would be secured if Sunshot's targets for solar were hit?  And third, where would those benefits be concentrated?
1) Benefits of existing solar

Here are the annual benefits of the solar installed in the US to date:

Annual reduction of 17 million metric tons of CO2, which is, based on the central estimate of the social cost of carbon, "equivalent to an annual global benefit of $700 million." 
Annual reductions of "10,000, 10,300, and 1,200 metric tons of SO2, NOx, and PM2.5, respectively ... which provide annual domestic air quality benefits of $890 million."
 Annual water "withdrawal and consumption savings of 294 billion gallons (0.8% of power sector total) and 7.6 billion gallons (0.5% or power sector total), respectively, with much of those savings located in drought-impacted California."
 It's worth keeping in mind that the somewhat clinical phrase "domestic air quality benefits" is another way of describing fewer kids having asthma attacks, fewer adults missing workdays, and fewer people dying of respiratory and circulatory ailments.

It's also worth keeping in mind that none of these social benefits are priced into the cost of solar; it is not compensated for its "positive externalities."  If it were, it would knock almost 5 cents a kilowatt-hour off the price, which would mean the Sunshot cost target was already achieved.
2) Benefits of solar at Sunshot target levels

Here are the benefits of hitting the Sunshot solar penetration targets (again, as compared with a scenario in which no new solar is built):

A cumulative savings of 10 percent of power sector emissions from 2015 to 2050, which represents a $259 billion global climate benefit.
 Reductions in emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) sufficient to secure a cumulative $167 billion worth of avoided health and environmental damages.
 Reduction of power sector water withdrawals by 46 trillion gallons (4 percent of total sector withdrawals) and water consumption by 5 trillion gallons (9 percent of total sector consumption).  Importantly, water savings are concentrated in arid states.
 The climate and pollution benefits together amount to $400 billion between 2015 and 2050, measured in present-value terms and using central estimates.

3) Where the benefits are concentrated

Finally, it's interesting to note that the local benefits of solar vary significantly based on what kind of power it displaces.  In places where it pushes aside coal (as opposed to natural gas or even wind), benefits are highest.

Looks like the heavily populated Northeastern corridor could use more solar!

Read more at Solar Power Is Already Saving Lives in the US. Here's How.

As Disaster Risks Rise, 20 Nations Get Help to Prepare

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (R) and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shake hands following the closing news conference during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, May 24, 2016. (Credit: Reuters/Murad Sezer) Click to Enlarge.
A new scheme launched by U.N. agencies, the World Bank, and countries most vulnerable to climate change is seeking funding of up to $130 million to help 20 at-risk nations prepare better for natural disasters.

The Global Partnership for Preparedness, launched at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, aims to help the countries attain a basic level of readiness by 2020 for future disaster risks mainly caused by climate change. 

The money will enable the countries to access risk analysis and early warning systems, put together contingency plans, including pre-committed finance, and respond better to shocks such as floods and droughts.

"The aim is to save lives, safeguard development gains, and reduce the economic impacts of crises," said United Nations Development Program Administrator Helen Clark.  Development gains, in particular, "can otherwise be lost with each disaster", she said.

The countries will be selected from the 43 nations belonging to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group that spans Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.  Backers hope to expand the program to 50 countries within five years.

Read more at As Disaster Risks Rise, 20 Nations Get Help to Prepare

Saturday, May 28, 2016

 Saturday, May 28

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Click to Enlarge.

Trump vs. Clinton:  What the Election Could Mean for Climate Policy

Trump, Clinton (Credit: blogs.ei.columbia.edu) Click to Enlarge.
The outcome of this year’s presidential election could have far-reaching implications for the fate of our planet because the two presumptive candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, have very different ideas about climate change.

According to a March Gallup poll, 64 percent of Americans are worried about global warming, up almost 10 percent from last year.  A new report from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication found that 92 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters and 56 percent of Donald Trump supporters believe global warming is occurring; moreover supporters of both candidates are more likely to vote for a candidate who strongly supports taking action on climate change.

If elected, what, if anything, would the two candidates be likely to do about the Paris climate accord and climate change?  Two experts from the Earth Institute weigh in on the implications of Trump and Clinton’s stances and proposed policies.

Read more at Trump vs. Clinton:  What the Election Could Mean for Climate Policy

More Solar Energy Jobs Exist in U.S. than in Oil and Gas Sector

Workers install solar panels in Wayne National Forest. (Credit: Alex Snyder) Click to Enlarge.
Solar energy now supports more jobs in the U.S. than either the oil and gas industry or coal mining, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).  Solar jobs grew at a rate 12 times faster than general U.S. job market growth. Worldwide, employment in green energy grew 5 percent in 2015, to 8.1 million jobs, IRENA reported.  The 58 percent drop in oil prices since 2014 caused many fossil fuel companies to lay off workers — more than 350,000 people worldwide since the slump began.  The IRENA report says clean energy jobs could triple to 24 million by 2030 if nations follow through on the climate pledges they made in Paris last year.  “This increase is being driven by declining renewable energy technology costs and enabling policy frameworks,” said Adnan Amin, director-general of IRENA, which is based in Abu Dhabi. 

Read orignal post at More Solar Energy Jobs Exist in U.S. than in Oil and Gas Sector

10 Ways ‘Negative Emissions’ Could Slow Climate Change

“To get to net-zero emissions, we need to have some of what are called “negative emissions” technologies, or things which will suck the CO2 out of the air to compensate for the ongoing release.”

Ten options for negative emissions technologies (Credit: carbonbrief.org) Click to Enlarge.
NETs take more CO2 out of the atmosphere than they put in.  No one single technology can solve climate change, but many have been proposed that could contribute to reducing atmospheric CO2.  Some consider the notion to be a form of geoengineering, and sometimes refer to it as “CDR” (carbon dioxide removal). 

Carbon Brief takes a closer look – in alphabetic order – at 10 of the most frequently proposed NETs, which you can also see in the infographic at the top of the page.

Read more at 10 Ways ‘Negative Emissions’ Could Slow Climate Change

In-Depth:  Experts Assess the Feasibility of ‘Negative Emissions’

Small pieces of clouds (cumulus clouds) moving towards a convergence zone near the horizon (Credit: islam-guide.com) Click to Enlarge.
To limit climate change to “well below 2C”, as nations agreed to do in Paris last December, modeling shows it is likely that removing carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere later on this century will be necessary.

Scientists have imagined a range of “negative emissions” technologies, or NETs, that could do just that, as explained by Carbon Brief yesterday.  But are any of them realistic in practice?
David Keith (Credit: carbonbrief.org) Click to Enlarge.
David Keith, Harvard University – “I am skeptical that BECCS should be used beyond narrow niches…Instead, I would focus on accelerated weathering and air capture which could, in principle, be scaled to many gigatonnes per year with low land footprint.”

Read more at In-Depth:  Experts Assess the Feasibility of ‘Negative Emissions’

Global Warming Threatens the World’s Special Places

Visitor boat dock damage from Sandy viewed from the Statue of Liberty's crown. (Credit: NPS Sandy Response/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The most precious places on the planet are under siege by climate change.  From Venice being slowly consumed by the sea to rising temperatures stressing out Uganda’s famous gorillas, history and the natural world are facing a threat unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before.

On the eve of Memorial Day and the unofficial start to summer tourism season, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the United Nations have put out a report chronicling the risks climate change poses to cultural and natural treasures around the planet.

The report looks at a handful of the 981 World Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO as having exceptional cultural or natural value.  In all cases, climate change is exerting pressures that could permanently alter some of the most spectacular places on earth unless carbon emissions are cut.

“We say we want to preserve these sites for the future of humankind, but unless we act, they will be destroyed by our own hands,” Adam Markham, the deputy director of the UCS climate and energy program who led the report, said.

It’s not just about losing places, either.  It’s about losing tourism dollars that are vitally important to the communities living around these places, particularly in developing countries.  Tourism accounts for 9 percent of the global GDP.  In the U.S., tourism to National Parks pumped $15.7 billion into local economies in 2014.

Read more at Global Warming Threatens the World’s Special Places

Warming Warning Is a Burning Issue

CO2-attributable warming as a function of cumulative CO2-attributable warming as a function of cumulative CO2 emissions, and the resulting ratio of warming to emissions for CMIP5 ESMs and EMICs. emissions, and the resulting ratio of warming to emissions for CMIP5 ESMs and EMICs. Click to Enlarge.
Global warming could have even more devastating consequences than anybody so far has predicted.  New calculations suggest that if humans go on burning all known fossil fuel reserves at the present rate, global average temperatures could rise by 8°C by 2300, and the Arctic could become 17°C warmer.

Since the worst predictions for the immediate future put global average warming at 4°C by the end of the century, and 195 nations have pledged to try to constrain temperature rise to an average of less than 2°C, the new set of projections by Canadian scientists is a reminder that global action is urgent.

Katarzyna Tokarska, a climatologist at the University of Victoria, and colleagues report in Nature Climate Change that they looked once again at the long-term relationship between greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere and global average temperatures.

Previous studies have confirmed that the link holds – in scientific language, the connection is linear – all the way up to the combustion equivalent of two trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Read more at Warming Warning Is a Burning Issue

What Does the Paris Agreement Mean for the Oceans?

The world’s oceans absorb about a quarter of the CO2 and more than 90% of the heat that accumulates in the atmosphere because of human activity, modulating the climate changes we see at the surface.  But they do so at huge cost.

The excess heat and CO2 alters the physics, chemistry and ecology of the oceans, as well as affecting valuable ecosystem services such as fisheries, coastal tourism and coastal protection.

Some impacts are already visible, with reef-building corals and bivalves in mid-latitudes at particularly high risk.  How serious will the impacts of climate change be on the oceans by the end of the century?  The answer to this question strongly depends on the pathway we choose for our greenhouse gas emissions between now and then.

In our new study, published Monday in Nature Climate Change with colleagues from The Oceans 2015 Initiative, we examine what the world’s current level of commitment to tackling climate change is likely to mean for the oceans.

On current pledges alone, our work suggests that present day risks to the ocean and society posed by climate change will more than double by 2100.
Risks to the ocean and society from climate change: present day (black solid line), RCP2.6 (white solid line), 2.7C warming above preindustrial by 2100 (long dashes), same for 3.5C (medium dashes) and RCP8.5C (short dashes). Colours denote very high risk (purple) through to white (undetectable). [Source Credit: Magnan et al., (2016)] Click to Enlarge.
Moving from a 2C scenario (RCP2.6) to 2.7C of warming sees the risk to mangroves increase from undetectable to moderate, as you can see in the graph ... taken from our paper.  The risk to mid-latitude seagrass, bivalve fisheries and aquaculture moves from moderate to high, and the risk to warm water corals rises from high to very high, for example.

Read more at What Does the Paris Agreement Mean for the Oceans?

Friday, May 27, 2016

 Friday, May 27

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Click to Enlarge.

Donald Trump’s “America-First Energy Plan” Shows He Knows Virtually Nothing About the Issue - MIT Technology Review

In typical fashion, Trump used simplistic promises as the basis for lavish claims about revitalizing the energy industry and showering the American people with riches.

Donald Trump (Credit: technologyreview.com) Click to Enlarge.
Donald Trump outlined a sketchy, at times contradictory, energy plan that would scrap virtually all of President Barack Obama’s signature climate protection policies. Calling his vision the “America-First Energy Plan,” Trump said he would immediately cancel all of Obama’s executive orders designed to restrict the burning of fossil fuels and lower emissions from power plants. 

“We will rescind all these job-destroying President Obama executive actions,” Trump declared.

If elected president, he promised to lift restrictions on natural gas production using fracking, offshore oil drilling, and oil and gas production on federal lands.  He would immediately cut off all U.S. funding for United Nations climate programs and cancel U.S. agreements under the Paris accord.  Trump claimed his plan would eliminate America’s reliance on foreign sources of energy, restore the coal industry to its former glory, and avoid the loss of “millions of jobs and trillions of dollars” of wealth that would be destroyed under the climate change policies of his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

“Every dollar of energy we don’t explore here [in America] is a dollar that makes someone else rich,” Trump said.

But Trump’s proclamations don’t pass even cursory inspection.  If Trump were to succeed in driving large increases in domestic natural gas production, for example, it would accelerate the decline in coal burning that has devastated the coal industry.  He can’t save the coal industry, and he certainly can’t do it while pumping more gas.

Read more at Donald Trump’s “America-First Energy Plan” Shows He Knows Virtually Nothing About the Issue

'Honeymoon Over', Rules for U.N. Climate Pact May Take Two Years

Men fish next to cracked ground as the Atibainha dam lake dries up due to a prolonged drought in Nazare Paulista, Sao Paulo state, October 17, 2014. (Credit: Reuters/Nacho Doce/Files) Click to Enlarge.
A first United Nations meeting on implementing a 2015 global agreement to combat climate change showed it could take two years to work out a detailed rule book for a sweeping shift from fossil fuels, delegates said.

The May 16-26 talks marked a return to technical work and the end of a "honeymoon period" since the Paris Agreement was worked out by almost 200 nations in December to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit rising temperatures.

"My bet is 2018, everything will be done (in) a maximum two years," Laurence Tubiana, France's climate ambassador, told Reuters when asked how long it would take to negotiate a set of rules. Several other delegates gave similar estimates.

Tubiana said the Bonn talks had not exposed big, unexpected problems with the Paris text that could mean an even longer haul.  "There was no shouting, no crying," she said.

Details left vague by the 31-page Paris Agreement include how countries will report and monitor their domestic pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to changes such as more floods, storms, desertification and rising seas.

Under the Paris deal, most countries' goals for combating climate change are for the years from 2020-2030.

Read more at 'Honeymoon Over', Rules for U.N. Climate Pact May Take Two Years

Thursday, May 26, 2016

 Thursday, May 26

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Click to Enlarge.

Rift Emerges over Exxon:  Engage or Divest?

A protester held a splattered Exxon Mobil Corp. sign as shareholders debated resolutions yesterday calling on the oil company to recognize climate change and work on global emissions-cutting goals. (Photo Credit: Mike Lee) Click to Enlarge.
Stockholders at Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest private-sector oil company, passed a proposal yesterday to nominate outside candidates to the board, a move that could affect the company's decisions on climate change.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, the fiduciary for New York city's five public pension funds, which invests about $150 billion, filed the proxy access resolution, which received 62 percent support.

The nonbinding resolution is the first measure opposed by Exxon's board to pass since 2006, according to Stringer's office.  It allows investors who hold 3 percent or more of company stock for at least three years to nominate directors; similar resolutions have passed at dozens of other companies.

"If this company is to properly address fundamental long-term risks like climate change, its board of directors must be diverse, independent and accountable," Stringer said in a statement.

The vote touched off a debate among activists about the best way to get Exxon to change its approach to climate risks in the wake of last year's revelations that the company may have suppressed evidence on climate science.

Investors like the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the country's largest, have taken an incremental approach.  Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) -- along with many of the 60 to 70 protesters who picketed the meeting -- wants pension funds to divest from Exxon, and some critics want to see Exxon face civil or criminal penalties.

Exxon faced 11 shareholder resolutions at yesterday's annual meeting.  The majority related to climate change and Exxon's business plans to address climate change and greenhouse gas regulations.  All but the proxy access resolution were defeated.

Read more at Rift Emerges over Exxon: Engage or Divest?

Feeding Antibiotics to Farm Animals May Worsen Climate Change

California rancher Nathan Carver delivers hay to feed his herd of beef cattle on his ranch on the outskirts of Delano, in California's Central Valley, on Feb. 3, 2014. (Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
There may be another reason to discourage farmers from feeding antibiotics to livestock:  global warming.

A study published this week finds that when cattle were fed a common antibiotic, their manure produced even more methane than normal — a potent global warming gas.

The antibiotics do this by killing off bacteria that compete with methane-producing microbes, the researchers report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of antibiotics increasing methane emissions," the team wrote.

Farmers have already been asked to stop feeding so many antibiotics to their livestock.  The drugs make the animals grow faster and bigger — for reasons that are not fully understood.  But many studies have now shown that the practice has helped drive the rise of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs."

Read more at Feeding Antibiotics to Farm Animals May Worsen Climate Change

Africa’s Most Vulnerable Face an Even Hotter Future

Livestock drink from a drying river outside Utrecht, a small town in the northwest of KwaZulu-Natal, on Nov. 8, 2015. (Credit: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) Click to Enlarge.
Already home to some of the most environmentally vulnerable populations on the planet, Africa looks to increasingly feel the sting of climate change through more frequent, widespread and intense heat waves.

Extreme heat that would be considered unusual today could become a yearly occurrence there by mid-century, one new study suggests, and the trend will emerge earlier there — and in the rest of the tropics — before it does in more temperate areas, another finds.

The studies, both detailed this month in the journal Environmental Research Letters, emphasize the undue burden that some of the poorest populations on the planet — often those that have contributed least to global warming — will face from climate change, the authors say.

“They don’t have the capacity to respond to such heat waves,” lacking the kind of warning systems and regular access to health care that help those in wealthier countries cope, said Jana Sillman, a co-author of the first study, and a climate researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway.

An increase in extreme heat is one of the clearest implications of the overall warming that has resulted from decades of unabated emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Warming has been shown to increase the odds of such extreme events already today, and heat waves are expected to become increasingly intense and frequent at all regions across the planet as temperatures continue to rise.

Read more at Africa’s Most Vulnerable Face an Even Hotter Future

Global Food and Beverage Companies Call On House Lawmakers For Urgent Action On Climate Change

Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, Kellogg Company, Mars Incorporated, PepsiCo, Stonyfield, Unilever to highlight impact of climate change on their supply chains

In the wake of the Earth Day signing of the historic global climate agreement, more than a half-dozen leading food and beverage companies converged on Capitol Hill Wednesday to press U.S. House lawmakers for federal action on climate change.

Members of BICEP include Kellogg's (Credit: ceres.org/bicep) Click to Enlarge.At a congressional briefing, top executives from Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, Kellogg Company, Mars Incorporated, PepsiCo, Stonyfield, and Unilever discussed how climate change is disrupting global food supplies and their own supply chains.  They called on lawmakers to acknowledge the ways in which rising temperatures are impacting their businesses and to act swiftly to reach bipartisan solutions to tackle this threat.

“At Kellogg, we know people care about where food comes from, who grows and makes it, and that there is enough for everyone,” said Diane Holdorf, Chief Sustainability Officer, Kellogg Company.  “Climate change can impact both food security and our business by posing risks to the long-term health and viability of the ingredients we use in our foods.”

The briefing was organized by the sustainability nonprofit group, Ceres, and led by climate action supporters, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. and Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.  Last September, Gibson with 10 of his republican colleagues in the House introduced a promising resolution, urging lawmakers to act on climate change.

Read more at Global Food and Beverage Companies Call on House Lawmakers for Urgent Action on Climate Change

Exxon’s CEO Just Won:  His Shareholders Rejected Climate Change Proposals

Environmentalist rallied outside an Exxon shareholders' meeting on May 25.(Credit: RL Miller/Climate Hawks Vote) Click to Enlarge.
After a long battle to even get on the agenda for ExxonMobil’s 2016 Annual Meeting, the company’s shareholders on Wednesday voted against four initiatives to address climate change, even while the company is facing an investigation for its climate denial activities.

Investors were hoping to force Exxon to add a climate expert to its board, to enact a policy to avoid 2°C warming, to increase capital distributions (with the understanding that continued investment in assets likely to be stranded is not a good long-term strategy), and to report on the impact climate change policies worldwide to the company’s bottom line.

Each shareholder proposal failed.

“We know the path that Exxon is on, and the business strategy as it exists today, and as it existed for the last 50 years, is not a business strategy that is going to work in the 21st century,” Natasha Lamb, Arjuna Capital’s director of equity research and shareholder engagement, told ThinkProgress after the meeting.  “It is not in line with a low carbon scenario where we limit the burning of fossil fuels.”

Throughout the meeting, it was clear that Exxon’s idea of tackling climate change was not in line with the view of the vast majority of the world.

Read more at Exxon’s CEO Just Won:  His Shareholders Rejected Climate Change Proposals

Climate Change Is Making Food More Toxic

Risk Maps for Aflotoxin Contamination in Maize at Harvest in Three Different Climate Senarios (Credit: Batttlani et al 2016) Click to Enlarge.
Coming soon to a cereal bowl near you:  Mycotoxins!

Mycotoxins are much scarier than a horror movie.  They are poisons produced by fungi and can cause cancer, suppress immune systems, and straight up kill you. They’re already in a quarter of the world’s cereals, but mycotoxins mostly affect people living in the tropics, where warmer weather allows for fungal growth.  They haven’t posed a major problem in the cooler latitudes of the northern grain belt.  But if you are reading this you’ve probably already guessed: Climate change could change that.

Aflatoxins are one kind of mycotoxin.

A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme identifies toxic crops as a growing threat, driven by climate change.  The UNEP has a map showing how mycotoxin exposure could spread north into Europe.  If you want to visualize a similar map for North America, just remember that Washington D.C., and San Francisco are near the same latitude as southern Greece. 
There are ways of adapting.  To combat mycotoxins, the UNEP report recommends breeding fungi-resistant crops, drying seeds properly, and testing for contamination.  Drought-resistant and disease-resistant crops would help prevent the accumulation of other toxins.  Climate change will introduce these problems to the wealthier northern countries, but in poorer southern countries people are already suffering from the effects of toxic crops.  Steps to fight mycotoxins, and other forms of toxicity, can’t come soon enough.

Read more at Climate Change Is Making Food More Toxic

New Tar Sands Impact on Climate, Air Quality Found

An open pit where tar sands are mined, with a heavy hauler truck that is used to transport oil sand to processing facilities. (Credit: Environment Canada) Click to Enlarge.
In one of the first studies of its kind, scientists have found that tar sands production in Canada is one of North America’s largest sources of secondary organic aerosols — air pollutants that affect the climate, cloud formation, and public health.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, showed that the production of tar sands and other heavy oil — thick, highly viscous crude oil that is difficult to produce — are a major source of aerosols, a component of fine particle air pollution, which can affect regional weather patterns and increase the risk of lung and heart disease.

Aerosols from the production of heavy oil is a growing climate and pollution concern because new tar sands developments are on the drawing board in Venezuela, Utah and elsewhere, the study says.  Today, heavy oil accounts for 10 percent of global crude oil production worldwide, mostly in Canada, which produced about 1.1 billion barrels of oil in 2014.

“The results indicate that the environmental impacts of Canadian tar sands are much larger than previously recognized,” said Allen Robinson, a mechanical engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who is unaffiliated with the study.  “What is so novel about this paper is that tar sands were not on anybody’s radar as a major source of aerosol.”
In a separate study published Wednesday, researchers at the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Japan, said aerosols in the Arctic have a “profound” impact on the global climate system.  Climate models often underestimate the extent to which aerosols from industrial air pollution — especially those containing black carbon — warm the atmosphere because they assume Arctic air is cleaner than it actually is, the study said.

Black carbon contained within some aerosols can be deposited on Arctic ice sheets and mountain snowpack.  The black carbon spread across the ice darkens its color, absorbing more heat and causing the ice to melt more quickly.  Less ice and snow on the earth’s surface reduces the earth’s ability to reflect sunlight, increasing surface temperatures.

Read more at New Tar Sands Impact on Climate, Air Quality Found