Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday 31

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

UN Report:  Extreme Weather Displaced 2 Million People in 2018

Hurricane Florence flood in South Carolina (Credit: National Guard) Click to Enlarge.
Extreme weather events impacted close to 62 million people in 2018 and displaced more than two million as of September of that year. That's just one of the alarming findings in the UN World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018.

“The physical signs and socio-economic impacts of climate change are accelerating as record greenhouse gas concentrations drive global temperatures towards increasingly dangerous levels,” the WMO wrote in a press release announcing the report Thursday.

2018 saw record sea level rise and high land and ocean temperatures, the report found. Since the WMO first began producing the report 25 years ago, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have jumped from 357 parts per million (ppm) in 1994 to 405.5 ppm in 2017.

Speaking at the launch of the report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres used the findings to call for serious decision making from world leaders at the Climate Action Summit he is convening in New York on September 23.

“Don't come with a speech, come with a plan,” he said, according to a UN press release. “This is what science says is needed. It is what young people around the globe are rightfully demanding,” he said. Two weeks ago, youth in more than 130 countries went on strike from school to protest inaction on climate change.

The report found that flooding was the climate-related disaster that impacted the largest number of people in 2018 — more than 35 million. Hurricanes Florence and Michael in the U.S. cost around $49 billion in damages and killed more than 100 people. Super typhoon Mangkhut killed at least 134 people and impacted 2.4 million, mostly in the Philippines.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said that the extremes recorded for 2018 showed no sign of reversing.

Read more at UN Report:  Extreme Weather Displaced 2 Million People in 2018

The Two Key Reasons the World Can’t Reverse Climate Emissions

New figures show we’re using more energy and still pumping out more emissions—so why aren’t we moving the dial?

The shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California (Credit: AP) Click to Enlarge.
Global energy demand and related carbon emissions both rose again in 2018, according to new figures out this week.

This comes as no surprise.  The analysis from the International Energy Agency is in line with other preliminary reports from other organizations.  But it raises an awkward question:  if renewables are growing and the prices of solar, wind, and batteries are falling, why is the world’s climate pollution still going up?

The first answer is the growing global economy, which pushed energy demand up by 2.3% last year, the IEA says.  A contributing factor was that more energy was needed for extra heating and cooling in regions hit by unusually severe cold snaps and heatwaves.  These were at least partly driven by our shifting climate.  All of that drove increases in generation from coal and natural gas, both of which spew greenhouse gases that warm the planet.

Ultimately, those fossil fuel increases outpaced sharp improvements in solar and wind generation, both of which climbed by double digits in 2018.  Even nuclear generation grew at modest levels, rising 3.3%, mainly due to new turbines in China and four reactors that went back online in Japan, according to the IEA.

But figures deeper in the report highlight a systemic issue that’s preventing us from driving down emissions in a consistent way.

From 2000 to 2018, while the portion of global electricity generation from solar and wind grew by 7%, nuclear declined by the same percentage.  Meanwhile, coal only dipped by 1% over that time, while natural gas, which emits just more than half as much carbon dioxide, climbed from 18% to 23%.

Read more at The Two Key Reasons the World Can’t Reverse Climate Emissions

Hunger Is Growing as the World Warms Faster

Climate change is speeding up, and among its malign impacts is a setback for efforts to feed the world:  hunger is growing again.

1Food aid distribution in Kenya: Hunger is on the increase. (Image Credit: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
The global threat of hunger is growing again after years of progress in reducing it, the United Nations says, because of the effects of climate change.

It says this is just one aspect of a wider acceleration in the pace of the changes wrought by the world’s unremitting consumption of fossil fuels and the consequential rise in global temperatures..

The evidence that hunger and malnutrition are once again on the rise is published in a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on the state of the global climate in 2018.

The report, drawing on material from scientists, UN agencies and countries’ own meteorological services, says the physical signs and the impacts of climate change are speeding up as record greenhouse gas concentrations drive global temperatures towards increasingly dangerous levels.

Read more at Hunger Is Growing as the World Warms Faster

Friday, March 29, 2019

Friday 29

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Polar Warning:  Even Antarctica’s Coldest Region Is Starting to Melt

Melting ice on the coast of Adélie Land in East Antarctica. (Credit: Reuters/Pauline Askin) Click to Enlarge.
No place on Earth is colder than East Antarctica.  Home to the South Pole and making up two-thirds of the southernmost continent, the vast ice sheets of East Antarctica — formed over tens of millions of years — are nearly three miles thick in places.  The temperature commonly hovers around -67 degrees Fahrenheit (-55 degrees Celsius); in 2010, some spots on East Antarctica’s polar plateau plunged to a record-breaking -144 degrees F.

Now, however, parts of the East Antarctic are melting.

Research into what’s happening in East Antarctica is still in its early stages.  It’s hard to decipher what exactly is taking place on a gigantic continent of ice with just a few decades of satellite data and limited actual measurements of things like snowfall and ocean temperatures.  But according to one controversial paper released earlier this year, East Antarctica is now, in fact, shrinking, and is already responsible for 20 percent of the continent’s ice loss.

For decades, researchers considered this portion of the continent to be stable.  While warming sea and air temperatures have caused ice shelves and glaciers in the lower-altitude, warmer western regions of the Antarctic to melt and collapse, the larger, colder East had seemed an untouchable behemoth.  If anything, climate change was expected to bring more snow to its interior, making its ice sheets grow in size.

But that picture is starting to change.  Scientists are seeing worrying signs of ice loss in the East Antarctic.  Glaciers are starting to move more quickly, dumping their ice into the Southern Ocean; in satellite images, depictions of the fast-moving ice light up in red, like a panic sign.  The biggest and most obvious, the Totten Glacier, alone contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 12.6 feet.  “That’s the big red bullseye,” says Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center.  The most recent data shows that Totten isn’t alone.

A melting East Antarctic is deeply worrying.  The Antarctic as a whole contains about 90 percent of the planet’s ice — enough in theory to raise global sea levels an average of roughly 200 feet should it all melt.  The eastern half is the big player in this game:  it holds 10 times more ice than the West — enough, on its own, to raise sea levels by 170 feet.  The full force of a melting Antarctic might not be felt for many thousands of years, but the continent could add a foot to sea level by 2100, says University of Massachusetts, Amherst geoscientist Robert DeConto, and possibly more than 3 feet by the mid-22nd century.  Combined with melting mountain glaciers, the thawing Greenland Ice Sheet, and the expansion of water as it gets warmer, global sea levels could rise as much as 6 feet by the end of this century, swamping low-lying islands as well as large sections of coastline in places like Florida.

Read more at Polar Warning:  Even Antarctica’s Coldest Region Is Starting to Melt

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Thursday 28

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Worsening Algae Blooms Could Significantly Increase Global Methane Emissions

Water flowing into a eutrophic lake from agricultural fields. (Credit: John A. Downing/Minnesota Sea Grant) Click to Enlarge.
Population growth and climate change over the next century will lead to a major rise in the number and severity of algae blooms in the world’s lakes, increasing global methane emissions by 30 to 90 percent, according to a new study led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, examined the impacts of global population growth (an estimated 50 percent by 2100), climate change-induced flooding and runoff, and rising global temperatures on nutrient levels in the world’s lakes.  It found that the extra sewage, fertilizers, and other nutrients entering waterways will increase the eutrophication of the world’s lakes by as much as 200 percent by 2050, then double or quadruple by 2100.

“It is really surprising how much eutrophication could increase in the next 50 to 100 years,” John Downing of the University of Minnesota Sea Grant program, a co-author of the new study, said in a statement.  “People do four important things that affect eutrophication:  they eat, they excrete, they make more people who eat and excrete, and they alter landscapes and climate.”

Eutrophication — or excess nutrient levels — causes dense algae blooms to form, which can ruin drinking water supplies and create hypoxic “dead zones” that suffocate marine life.  These algae blooms are also a major source of global methane emissions — a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term.  An estimated two-thirds of Lake Erie’s 130,000 kilograms of methane emitted daily during summer months, for example, is the result of algae blooms.

Read more at Worsening Algae Blooms Could Significantly Increase Global Methane Emissions

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Wednesday 27

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

China and India Are Making a Greener Earth

Human efforts are producing a greener Earth. But the news is not all good, because some of the greening comes from fertiliser pollution.

2Bali ricefields (Photo Credit: Claudia Fernández Ortiz (@killpeopleinyourmind) on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
Despite climate change, water scarcity, and the many ills affecting the planet, this generation is living on an increasingly greener Earth.

Measurements from space show that some parts of the northern hemisphere, notably China and India, are a lot greener than they used to be, which is potentially very good news for the climate.

Growing vegetation takes up a great deal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so the more that plants and trees can use, the greater the chance of slowing global warming.

Read more at China and India Are Making a Greener Earth

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tuesday 26

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Renewables Cheaper Than 75 Percent of U.S. Coal Fleet, Report Finds

Hunter Power Plant, a coal-fired power station, in Castle Dale, Utah. (Credit: )Arby Reed / Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Nearly 75 percent of coal-fired power plants in the United States generate electricity that is more expensive than local wind and solar energy resources, according to a new report from Energy Innovation, a renewables analysis firm.  Wind power, in particular, can at times provide electricity at half the cost of coal, the report found.

By 2025 enough wind and solar power will be generated at low enough prices in the U.S. that it could theoretically replace 86 percent of the U.S. coal fleet with lower-cost electricity, The Guardian reported.

“We’ve seen we are at the ‘coal crossover’ point in many parts of the country, but this is actually more widespread than previously thought,” Mike O’Boyle, the co-author of the report for Energy Innovation, told The Guardian.  “There is a huge potential for wind and solar to replace coal, while saving people money.”

Using public financial filings and data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, O’Boyle and his colleagues analyzed the cost of coal-fired power plants compared with wind and solar options within a 35-mile radius.  The report found that North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Texas have the greatest amount of coal capacity currently at risk of being outcompeted by local wind and solar.  By 2025, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin will be in a similar situation.

“Coal’s biggest threat is now economics, not regulations,” O’Boyle told CNN Business.

Coal currently makes up just 28 percent of total U.S. power generation, down from 48 percent in 2008.  Renewables, meanwhile, now account for 17 percent of electricity generation, dominated by hydro and wind, with solar capacity quickly growing.

Read original at Renewables Cheaper Than 75 Percent of U.S. Coal Fleet, Report Finds

Gulf Stream Slowdown May Bring Later Cold

The Gulf Stream is weakening, and Europe could expect a prolonged cold spell as the world warms – but not the day after tomorrow.

Greenland cooled by at least 6°C as the cycle began. (Image: Credit: Christine Zenino from Chicago, US, via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
As the Gulf Stream weakens in a rapidly warming world, north-western Europe could paradoxically become cooler.  There is, however, a time lag between those two climate change-related events, and US scientists now think they know how long that could be.
 It could be as much as 400 years.

They know this because the world has warmed and cooled before, and as the difference between tropics and Arctic narrows, there is a change in the so-called Atlantic conveyor, an important part of the climate machine.

This vast Atlantic current carries a steady flow of warm water to the far north, making north-western Europe up to 5°C warmer than its latitude would otherwise dictate.  Then, as it meets colder, denser Arctic waters, it dives, to carry its burden of surface carbon to the depths, and then flows southwards again.

This phenomenon, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, is in effect Europe’s bespoke heating system:  Britain’s chief scientific adviser once calculated that it delivers to the UK alone the warmth of 27,000 power stations.

Read more at Gulf Stream Slowdown May Bring Later Cold

Monday, March 25, 2019

Monday 25

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

New Wind and Solar Power Is Cheaper than Existing Coal in Much of the U.S., Analysis Finds

Coal-fired power plants in the Southeast and along the Ohio River stand out for the higher cost of coal-fired power compared to building new wind or solar nearby.

Nearly three-fourths of the country’s coal-fired power plants already cost more to operate than if wind and solar capacity were built in the same areas to replace them, a new analysis says. (Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Not a single coal-fired power plant along the Ohio River will be able to compete on price with new wind and solar power by 2025, according to a new report by energy analysts.

The same is true for every coal plant in a swath of the South that includes the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.  They're part of the 86 percent of coal plants nationwide that are projected to be on the losing end of this cost comparison, the analysis found.

The findings are part of a report issued Monday by Energy Innovation and Vibrant Clean Energy that shows where the shifting economics of electricity generation may force utilities and regulators to ask difficult questions about what to do with assets that are losing their value.

The report takes a point that has been well-established by other studies—that coal power, in addition to contributing to air pollution and climate change, is often a money-loser—and shows how it applies at the state level and plant level when compared with local wind and solar power capacity.

Read more at New Wind and Solar Power Is Cheaper than Existing Coal in Much of the U.S., Analysis Finds

Collaborating for a More Resilient Energy Future in Puerto Rico

At a critical juncture, the island has an opportunity for more affordable, more reliable energy.

Solar Panels (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) this week unveiled a vision to collaborate with communities, technical experts, businesses, and investors to build low-carbon microgrids in Puerto Rico, and bring reliable, clean and affordable electricity to rural areas of the island.  As described at the “BlackStart 2019: Future of Energy Summit” in San Juan, the new initiative will help modernize Puerto Rico’s electric grid and improve the system’s resilience.

“Rebuilding Puerto Rico’s electricity system can help protect the island from future storms, improve the lives of its residents and strengthen its economy — but it must be done with respect,” said Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund.  "We will listen to the people of Puerto Rico and bring communities and partners together in a transformational effort to give the island the clean energy future it deserves.  By building low-carbon microgrids in rural places that were hardest hit by Hurricane Maria, we can keep the lights on when the next storms strike.”

As the frequency and severity of storms become more common, Puerto Rico needs a new approach to electricity – one that can provide dependable power while reducing pollution to address climate change.  Low-carbon microgrids can play an important role in the island’s energy future.  These systems can fuel up on solar power, store it in batteries and deliver affordable, clean and reliable energy where people need it most.  They can connect to the larger grid and also disconnect during blackouts to keep electricity flowing to hospitals, traffic lights, schools, and other critical services.

Krupp expressed a sense of urgency to find a lasting solution to Puerto Rico’s energy crisis.  He outlined the organization’s all-inclusive approach to making these solutions both sustainable and scalable by combining technology and energy reform with public grants, philanthropic funds and impact-focused private capital.

BlackStart 2019, which was organized by the Center for a New Economy, is the first in a series of multi- annual events designed to provide the platform necessary for thinking, imagining and planning to fulfill a vision for Puerto Rico’s energy future.

Read original at Collaborating for a More Resilient Energy Future in Puerto Rico

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday 24

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

New York Governor Cuomo Unveils $30 Million Zero-Carbon Buildings Initiative

New York City Buildings (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched an initiative to advance the design, construction and operation of low- or zero-carbon emitting buildings in the state.

The launched $30 million "Buildings of Excellence" competition is part of efforts by the state to convert New York's entire building stock to be carbon neutral

The aim is to reduce consumer energy bills and the state's carbon emissions whilst providing residents with healthy and affordable living and working spaces.

The launch comes at a time New Yorkers pay about $35 billion annually for electricity and heating fuels, and buildings account for 59% of statewide greenhouse gas emissions

The program supports the governor's Green New Deal formed to increase the state's clean energy portfolio and jobs.

New York has set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels and to generate 70% of its total energy from renewables by 2030.

Read more at New York Governor Cuomo Unveils $30 Million Zero-Carbon Buildings Initiative

Poll Shows Americans Support Global Warming Action

The most recent opinion poll on climate change attitudes shows that the public may be more aware of climate issues than many think.  Support for international treaties to limit greenhouse gas emissions approaches 80%.  While 60% of respondents believe the government should be doing more regarding global warming.  Only 10% of those surveyed believed the government was doing much to stem the adverse influence of global warming.

This poll represents a collaborative effort of ABC News, Stanford University’s Political Psychology Research Group, and the environmental think tank, Resources for the Future.  This study extends twenty years of opinion data regarding attitudes on global warming.

To us this polling data revealed three concerns.  First acknowledgement of a general global warming trend and its potential adverse consequences.  Second, profound concern that these efforts, no matter how well intentioned, would raise prices on gasoline and electricity.  Third, public confidence in government efforts to check the advance of global warming was also quite low at 20%.

For political leaders this is an interesting dilemma.  Global warming is an issue acknowledged by the majority of the citizenry that no one wants to pay for via direct taxes or conservation.  In addition, public confidence in potential governmental climate remedies is quite low.  Only 19% of respondents were “very confident” that government efforts would actually reduce global warming.  This lack of confidence also contributes to an absence of urgency.

Public support was high, 68% in favor, of taxing corporations based on their level of greenhouse gas emissions.  Support was even greater for taxes on all imported fuels.  Tax breaks for renewables are also very popular.

Perhaps most interesting was a bipartisan agreement critical of the oil industry.  The majority believing the industry had aggressively covered up its connection to global warming trends.

In the electric utility area, respondents by a slight majority (51%) expressed a preference for power plants reducing emissions of GHGs and public support for renewables in general remains high.

Political partisanship plays a large role in beliefs about climate change.  Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to believe that the government should do something and that global warming is a “very serious” problem.  Young people take the issue more seriously than older people, as do non-whites vs whites and non-religious vs white evangelical Protestants.

This survey has collected data since 1997.  Popular belief in the existence of global warming has barely changed over that entire period.  Three quarters of those surveyed have consistently believed in the phenomenon this entire period.

Politicians have been behind their constituents on this issue.  But subsidies for cleanup of manufacturing processes, coal plant scrubbers and for renewables are the easiest measures to support.  Smokestack industries would get a temporary reprieve.

In sum, the vast majority of Americans agree global warming is an issue and a problem.  But a majority also expressed low confidence in proposed government solutions.  And this lack of confidence in potential government climate solutions may help explain some of the absence of urgency in climate related issues.

Read more at Poll Shows Americans Support Global Warming Action

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Saturday 23

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Climate Change Could Make Insurance Unaffordable for Most People

Homes in Santa Rosa, California destroyed by the Tubbs Fire in 2017. (Credit: Santa Rose Fires / Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Insurers have warned that climate change could make coverage for ordinary people unaffordable after the world’s largest reinsurance firm blamed global warming for $24 billion of losses in California’s recent wildfires.

Ernst Rauch, Munich Re’s chief climatologist, told The Guardian that the costs could soon be widely felt, with premium rises already under discussion with clients holding asset concentrations in vulnerable parts of the state.

“If the risk from wildfires, flooding, storms, or hail is increasing, then the only sustainable option we have is to adjust our risk prices accordingly.  In the long run it might become a social issue,” he said after Munich Re published a report into climate change’s impact on wildfires.  “Affordability is so critical [because] some people on low and average incomes in some regions will no longer be able to buy insurance.”

The lion’s share of California’s 20 worst forest blazes since the 1930s have occurred this millennium, in years characterized by abnormally high summer temperatures and “exceptional dryness” between May and October, according to a new analysis by Munich Re.

Wetter and more humid winters spurred new forest growth which became tinder dry in heatwave conditions that preceded the wildfires, the report’s authors said.

After comparing observational data spanning several decades with climate models, the report concluded that the wildfires, which killed 85 people, were “broadly consistent with climate change.”

Nicolas Jeanmart, the head of personal insurance, general insurance, and macroeconomics at Insurance Europe, which speaks for 34 national insurance associations, said the knock-on effects from rising premiums could pose a threat to social order.

“The sector is concerned that continuing global increases in temperature could make it increasingly difficult to offer the affordable financial protection that people deserve, and that modern society requires to function properly,” he said.

Munich Re’s insurance cover in hurricane-prone regions such as Florida is already higher than in northern Europe, by an order of magnitude.

Read more at Climate Change Could Make Insurance Unaffordable for Most People

EIA Projects US Energy-Related CO2 Emissions to Remain Near Current Level Through 2050; Increased Natural Gas Consumption

USenergy-related carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel energy consumption. (Source Credit: US Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, Annual Energy Outlook 2019 Reference case) Click to Enlarge.
Carbon dioxide emissions from S energy consumption will remain near current levels through 2050, according to projections in EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2019.  The AEO2019 Reference case, which reflects no changes to current laws and regulations and extends current trends in technology, projects that US energy-related CO2 emissions will be 5,019 million metric tons in 2050—4% below their 2018 value—as emissions associated with coal and petroleum consumption fall and emissions from natural gas consumption rise.
Energy-related CO2 emissions generally follow energy consumption trends.  In the United States emissions associated with the consumption of petroleum fuels—motor gasoline, distillate, jet fuel, and more—have consistently made up the largest portion of CO2 emissions.  In 2018, the transportation sector’s consumption accounted for 78% of US CO2 emissions from petroleum and more than one-third of all US energy-related CO2 emissions.
Petroleum emissions from other sectors have fallen in recent years as equipment and processes that use petroleum fuels have been replaced by those using other fuels, in particular, natural gas.
In the transportation sector, consumption and emissions trends in the past have been driven by changes in travel demand, fuel prices, and fuel economy regulations.  In EIA’s AEO2019 Reference case projection, current fuel economy standards stop requiring additional efficiency improvements in 2025 for light-duty vehicles and in 2027 for heavy-duty vehicles, reflecting existing regulations.  As travel demand continues to rise, transportation consumption and emissions increase.

Read more at EIA Projects US Energy-Related CO2 Emissions to Remain Near Current Level Through 2050; Increased Natural Gas Consumption

Editorial Cartoonists Lampoon, Praise Green New Deal


Friday, March 22, 2019

Friday 22

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Climate Change's Fingerprints Are on U.S. Midwest Floods:  Scientists

Lanni Bailey and a team from Muddy Paws Second Chance Rescue enter a flooded house to pull out several cats during the flooding of the Missouri River near Glenwood, Iowa, on March 18, 2019. (Credit: Passport Aerial Photography/Handout via Reuters
Climate change played a hand in the deadly floods in the U.S. upper Midwest that have damaged crops and drowned livestock, scientists said on Thursday, while a Trump administration official said more homework was needed before making that link.
The “bomb cyclone” that dumped rain on Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri and killed at least four people now threatens a wider region downstream of swollen rivers and smashed levees.

Manmade greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, warming the oceans and making the air above them more humid, scientists said.  When a storm picks up and eventually spits out that moisture, it can be devastating for people caught below.

“The atmosphere is pretty close to fully saturated, it’s got all the water it can take,” said Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Big storms like the bomb cyclone and Hurricane Harvey, which smacked Houston in 2017 with record downpours, are where the impact of climate change can most clearly be seen, he said, adding that climate change’s fingerprints were all over the recent storm.

Read more at Climate Change's Fingerprints Are on U.S. Midwest Floods:  Scientists

Rivers Gain Legal Protection from Misuse

Several countries are ensuring their rivers can gain legal protection, a move akin to treating them as people, which could help nature more widely.

The Whanganui river, now – legally – a person. (Image Credit: Ang Wickham / Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
So Old Man River is getting a day in court:  a growing international initiative is seeing to it that rivers gain legal protection against pollution and other forms of exploitation, in a move which insists that they have rights just as people do.

There are hopes that protecting rivers (and one lake) in this way could in time be extended to living species and to other features of the natural world.

The first river to win this legal safeguard is the Whanganui in New Zealand, which in March 2017 gained recognition as holding rights and responsibilities equivalent to a person.  (The country had in 2014 already granted legal personhood to a forest.)  The river – or rather, those acting for it – will now be able to sue for protection under the law.

The Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017 recognizes the river and all its tributaries as a single entity, Te Awa Tupua, which has rights and interests and is the owner of its own river bed.  The river can both sue and be sued.  The Act also acknowledges the river as a living whole that stretches from the mountains to the sea.

Read more at Rivers Gain Legal Protection from Misuse

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Thursday 21

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

U.S. Judge Blocks Drilling over Climate Change, Casting Doubt on Trump Agenda

An oil well pump jack is seen at an oil field supply yard near Denver, Colorado, U.S., Feb. 2, 2015. (Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking) Click to Enlarge.
A U.S. judge has blocked oil drilling planned in Wyoming because the government failed to adequately consider its impact on global warming - a decision that could complicate President Donald Trump’s broader efforts to expand oil, gas and coal output on America’s public lands.
The ruling, by Judge Rudolph Contreras of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was issued late on Tuesday, according to court documents.

It blocked drilling on more than 300,000 acres (121,400 hectares) in Wyoming until the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management conducts further analyses about how the development would impact climate change.

“Having reviewed the record and the relevant law, the Court concludes that - withholding judgment on whether BLM’s leasing decisions were correct - BLM did not sufficiently consider climate change when making those decisions,” Judge Contreras wrote in the order.

Read more at U.S. Judge Blocks Drilling over Climate Change, Casting Doubt on Trump Agenda

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

New Global Standard Counts the Cost of Environmental Damage

Coal mining, air transport, fossil power plant operation, and agricultural pesticide use are examples of activities where the new ISO-standard can help to valuate resulting environmental damage in monetary terms. (Credit: Yen Strandqvist/Chalmers University of Technology) Click to Enlarge.
Environmental damage costs society enormous amounts of money - and often leaves future generations to foot the bill.  Now, a new ISO standard will help companies valuate and manage the impact of their environmental damage, by providing a clear figure for the cost of their goods and services to the environment.

We know what goods and services cost us, but what does the environment pay?  For many years now, this question has been the focus of several global companies and researchers at the Swedish Life Cycle Center, a competence center hosted by Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.  For as long as 30 years, they have been using the so-called 'EPS tool ' to place a monetary value on environmental damage.

Over the past three years, Bengt Steen, Professor Emeritus at Chalmers, has led the development of a new ISO standard for monetary valuation.  The work has been in collaboration with AB Volvo, Essity, Nouryon (formerly Akzo Nobel Specialty Chemicals), and the IVL Swedish Environmental Institute.  The initiative was taken by Swedish Life Cycle Center.

Read more at New Global Standard Counts the Cost of Environmental Damage

Monday, March 18, 2019

Monday 18

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Shell Outlines First Short-Term Carbon Emission

Royal Dutch Shell (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Royal Dutch Shell has set its first-ever short-term goals to cut the carbon footprint of its operations and product sales as the oil and gas industry is under intense investor and shareholder pressure to address to climate change.

In its annual report published on Thursday, Shell said that in early 2019, it had decided to set a “Net Carbon Footprint target” for 2021 to lower its carbon footprint by 2-3 percent compared to the 2016 Net Carbon Footprint of 79 grams of CO2 equivalent per megajoule. 

Shell’s approach to the Net Carbon Footprint targets includes not only emissions directly from Shell operations, such as extraction, transportation, and processing of raw materials, and transportation of products, but also emissions generated by third parties who supply energy to Shell for production, and Shell’s customers’ emissions from their use of the energy products that the company sells.

In December last year, in an industry first, Shell said that it plans to set short-term targets for reducing the net carbon footprint of the energy products it sells, and to link those targets with executive remuneration.

Read more at Shell Outlines First Short-Term Carbon Emission

Toon of the Week - Off to Save the Planet

Toon of the Week - Off to Save the Planet

Poster of the Week - Only Mad Men Would Deny Climate Change

Poster of the Week - Only Mad Men Would Deny Climate Change (Hat tip to Stop Climate Science Denial)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday 17

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Is 3-5C of Arctic Warming Now ‘Locked In’?

Scientists fear Arctic heating could trigger a climate ‘tipping point’. (Photograph Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
A new UN Environment report on the Arctic was released last week, which covered a broad range of changes to the region’s climate, environment, wildlife, and epidemiology.

The accompanying press release focused on the report’s section about climate change.  It warned that, “even if the Paris Agreement goals are met, Arctic winter temperatures will increase 3-5C by 2050 compared to 1986-2005 levels” and will warm 5-9C by 2080.

The report was covered by a number of news outlets, including the Guardian, Wired, Hill, CBC, and others.  Media coverage focused on the idea – promoted in the press release – that large amounts of Arctic warming is “locked in”, “inevitable”, or “unavoidable”.

However, an investigation by Carbon Brief has found that the section of the report on climate change erroneously conflates the Paris Agreement target – which is to limit warming to “well below” 2C by the end of the century relative to pre-industrial levels – with a scenario that has much more modest emission reductions which result in around 3C of global warming.

In climate-model runs using a scenario limiting global warming to below 2C, the Arctic still warms faster than the rest of the world.  But future Arctic winter warming will be around 0.5-5C by the 2080s compared to 1986-2005 levels, much lower than the 5-9C values stated in the report.

This means that much of the future warming in the Arctic will depend on our emissions over the 21st century, rather than being “locked in”, as the report claims.

Read more at Is 3-5C of Arctic Warming Now ‘Locked In’?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saturday 16

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

The Rapid Decline of the Natural World Is a Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change

A three-year UN-backed study from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has grim implications for the future of humanity.

Left top: A durian plantation in Raub, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Soaring demand for durians in China is being blamed for a new wave of deforestation in Malaysia.  Right top: A palm oil plantation encroaches on a wildlife reserve in Sabah, Malaysia.  Left bottom: The Kinabatangan River flows through a wildlife reserve in Sabah, Malaysia. The overuse of pesticides during the heavy equatorial rains creates a deadly runoff into the fragile river and its tributaries.  Right bottom: A palm oil plantation and factory in Sabah, Malaysia. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
Nature underpins all economies with the “free” services it provides in the form of clean water, air and the pollination of all major human food crops by bees and insects.  In the Americas, this is said to total more than $24 trillion a year.  The pollination of crops globally by bees and other animals alone is worth up to $577 billion. 

The final report will be handed to world leaders not just to help politicians, businesses, and the public become more aware of the trends shaping life on Earth, but also to show them how to better protect nature.

“High-level political attention on the environment has been focused largely on climate change because energy policy is central to economic growth.  But biodiversity is just as important for the future of earth as climate change,” said Sir Robert Watson, overall chair of the study, in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

“We are at a crossroads.  The historic and current degradation and destruction of nature undermine human well-being for current and countless future generations,” added the British-born atmospheric scientist who has led programs at NASA and was a science adviser in the Clinton administration.  “Land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change are three different faces of the same central challenge:  the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment.”

Around the world, land is being deforested, cleared, and destroyed with catastrophic implications for wildlife and people.  Forests are being felled across Malaysia, Indonesia, and West Africa to give the world the palm oil we need for snacks and cosmetics.  Huge swaths of Brazilian rainforest are being cleared to make way for soy plantations and cattle farms, and to feed the timber industry, a situation likely to accelerate under new leader Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist.

Read more at The Rapid Decline of the Natural World Is a Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change

Tesla Unveils Model Y as Electric Vehicle Race Heats Up, Price Starts at $39,000

Tesla's Model Y will first debut in a long-range version with a range of 300 miles (482 kilometers) priced at US$47,000. A standard version, to be available sometime in 2021, will cost US$39,000, with a 230-mile range. (Photo Credit: Tesla/Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
Tesla Inc unveiled its Model Y electric sports utility vehicle on Thursday evening in California, promising a much-awaited crossover that will face competition from European car makers rolling out their own electric rivals.

Chief Executive Elon Musk said the compact SUV, built on the same platform as the Model 3, would first debut in a long-range version with a range of 300 miles (482 km) priced at $47,000 (€41,500).

A standard version, to be available sometime in 2021, would cost $39,000 (€34,000), with a 230-mile range.  The vehicles can be configured to include 7 seats for an additional $3,000.

After the event, Tesla's website included a page to "design and order" the more expensive, long range version of the vehicle with rear-wheel drive, available next year.  Ordering the car requires a $2,500 refundable deposit.

Musk unveiled the vehicle at a short 40-minute event at Tesla's design studio in Hawthorne, outside Los Angeles, that was streamed live online.  (

Each of Tesla's vehicles, from the Roadster to the latest Semi, were driven onstage before the blue Model Y appeared.

Small SUVs are the fastest-growing segment in the United States and China, the world's largest auto market, where Tesla is building a factory, making the Model Y well positioned to tap demand.

Read more at Tesla Unveils Model Y as Electric Vehicle Race Heats Up, Price Starts at $39,000