Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tuesday 30

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

UK Labor Party Ratchets Up Climate Fight as Green New Deal Goes Global

The party is pushing for a vote this week that would make Parliament the first national legislature in the world to declare a climate emergency.

 U.K. Labour leader Jeremey Corbyn is making climate change a key plank of his pitch to be the next prime minister. (Credit: Press Association) Click to Enlarge.
The United Kingdom’s Labor Party is ramping up its climate proposals, making the crisis a central issue amid a wave of protests and new signs that the ruling Conservative Party is failing to cut emissions fast enough. 

The opposition party, led by socialist firebrand Jeremy Corbyn, plans to force a vote this week on whether to declare climate change a national emergency.  Its officials backed the Extinction Rebellion, the grassroots climate group that blockaded four landmarks in London and threatened to disrupt public transit in a days-long civil disobedience protest last week.  And now its parliamentarians are promising a Green New Deal modeled on the movement quickly gaining steam among left-wing Democrats in the United States.

Read more at UK Labour Party Ratchets Up Climate Fight as Green New Deal Goes Global

Spain’s Socialists Win Election with Green New Deal Platform

Vote share up in mining regions after deal to transition away from coal, manifesto calls for ‘consideration of planetary limits as conditions for economic progress’

From right to left, Spain's finance minister Maria Jesus Montero, industry, commerce and tourism minister Reyes Maroto, justice minister Dolores Delgado García and minister for the ecological transition Teresa Ribera, celebrating Sunday's election win (Photo Credit: Teresa Ribera/Twitter) Click to Enlarge.
The PSOE, which campaigned on a sweeping platform of ecological transition, clinched 29% of the vote and 123 seats in the 350-seat congress.

It will need to form a coalition with populist left-wing party Unidos Podemos (UP), which has also called for a decarbonization of the economy.  Even then, it will also require the help of regional parties, or the center-right Ciudadanos, in order to govern.

Commenting on the results, political analyst Pepe Fernández-Albertos described PSOE’s gain of 6.1% as “something quite exceptional for a party in government”.  At 75.8%, attendance was also 9% higher than the previous election in 2016.

Read more at Spain’s Socialists Win Election with Green New Deal Platform

Monday, April 29, 2019

Monday 29

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Bloomberg Plugs US Funding Gap for UN Climate Body

The billionaire philanthropist has contributed $5.5 million to cover international climate negotiation costs and related initiatives in the private sector.

Michael Bloomberg (Photo Credit: Deposit Photos) Click to Enlarge.
Michael Bloomberg is contributing $5.5 million to the UN climate negotiations budget, to fill the gap left by the US administration.

The media mogul and former New York mayor made the payment on top of $4.5m last year, in a show of support for international cooperation on climate change.

Under president Donald Trump, the US is lagging behind its expected contributions to UN Climate Change – although Congress saved some funding from the axe.  It put $2.5m into the core budget in 2018 and is expected to match that in 2019.

“The United States made a promise to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement – and if the federal government won’t hold up our end of the deal, then the American people must,” said Bloomberg in a statement.

Read more at Bloomberg Plugs US Funding Gap for UN Climate Body

Fast Arctic Melt Could Cost $70 Trillion

Polar change, notably the fast Arctic melt, could impose huge costs on world economies. New evidence shows how rapidly the frozen north is changing.

The northern reaches of the planet are undergoing very rapid change:  the fast Arctic melt means the region is warming at twice the speed of the planetary average.

The loss of sea ice and land snow could tip the planet into a new and unprecedented cycle of climatic change and add yet another $70 trillion (£54 tn) to the estimated economic cost of global warming.

In yet another somber statement of the challenge presented by climate change, driven by ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from the fossil fuels that power the global economy, British, European, and US researchers took a look at two manifestations of warming.

One is the growing levels of ancient carbon now being released into the atmosphere as the Arctic permafrost begins to melt.  The other is the reduced reflection of solar radiation back into space as what had once been an expanse of snow and ice melts, to expose ever greater areas of light-absorbing blue sea, dark rock and scrubby tundra.

Abrupt surprises
The concern is with what the scientists like to call “non-linear transitions”.  The fear is not that global warming will simply get more pronounced as more snow and ice disappears.  The fear is that at some point the melting will reach a threshold that could tip the planet into a new climate regime that would be irreversible, and for which there has been no parallel in human history.

And if so, the costs in terms of climate disruption, heat waves, rising sea levels, harvest failures, more violent storms, and more devastating floods and so on could start to soar.

The scientists report in the journal Nature Communications that if the nations of the world were to keep a promise made in Paris in 2015 to contain planetary warming to “well below” 2°C above the average for most of human history by the year 2100, the extra cost of Arctic ice loss would still tip $24 tn.

But on the evidence of national plans tabled so far, the world seems on course to hit 3°C by the century’s end, and the extra cost to the global economies is estimated at almost $70 tn.

Read more at Fast Arctic Melt Could Cost $70 Trillion

China Talks the Talk…

President of China Xi Jinping (Photo Credit: Kremlin) Click to Enlarge.
It is arguably the most consequential event of 2019 for the climate:  China’s belt and road summit.  How Beijing invests its billions abroad will make or break the global carbon budget.

In recent years China has gone on a coal power plant spree, with alarming environmental consequences.

Official documents are ramping up the green rhetoric, but will it be reflected in the closed-room deals with foreign leaders?

Read more at China Talks the Talk…

North American Drilling Boom Threatens Big Blow to Climate Efforts, Study Finds

A depot in Gascoyne, North Dakota. The extension to the Keystone pipeline has aroused opposition that Donald Trump has vowed to sweep aside. (Photograph Credit: Andrew Cullen/Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
  • More than half the world’s new pipelines in the US and Canada
  • Pipelines ‘locking in huge emissions for 40 to 50 years at a time’
More than half of the world’s new oil and gas pipelines are located in North America, with a boom in US oil and gas drilling set to deliver a major blow to efforts to slow climate change, a new report has found.

Of a total 302 pipelines in some stage of development around the world, 51% are in North America, according to Global Energy Monitor, which tracks fossil fuel activity.  A total of $232.5bn in capital spending has been funneled into these North American pipeline projects, with more than $1tn committed towards all oil and gas infrastructure.

If built, these projects would increase the global number of pipelines by nearly a third and mark out a path of several decades of substantial oil and gas use.

In the US alone, the natural-gas output enabled by the pipelines would result in an additional 559m tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide each year by 2040, above 2017 levels, according to Global Energy Monitor, citing International Energy Agency figures.

This surge in emissions is set to take place at a time when scientists have warned of punishing heatwaves, floods and economic damage if greenhouse gases are not drastically cut.  A landmark UN report released last year warned that global emissions must be halved by 2030 and essentially nullified by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

“This is a whole energy system not compatible with global climate survival,” said Ted Nace, co-author of the Global Energy Monitor report.  “These pipelines are locking in huge emissions for 40 to 50 years at a time, with the scientists saying we have to move in 10 years.  These pipelines are a bet that the world won’t get serious about climate change, allowing the incumbency of oil and gas to strengthen.”

New gas pipelines outnumber oil pipelines by about four to one, bolstered by a glut of abundant natural gas that is swiftly replacing coal as the leading electricity source for US homes and businesses.
International goals to limit global warming to 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times will be “difficult or impossible to achieve” with the completion of the new pipelines, according to Heidi Peltier, an energy expert at the University of Massachusetts, who was not involved in the new research.

“From a climate perspective, this is very bad news,” she said.  “What we need is increased investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, not increased investments in fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Read more at North American Drilling Boom Threatens Big Blow to Climate Efforts, Study Finds

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Saturday 27

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

What Will a Jones Act Waiver Mean for Puerto Rico’s 100% Renewable Energy Goal?

Shipping containers (Credit: anucha sirivisansuwan / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Will Puerto Rico have to keep up with the Joneses — by which, of course, we mean the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a.k.a. the Jones Act?  That’s the question with which President Donald Trump is currently grappling, and it could have major implications for the U.S. territory’s goal of a 100 percent renewable future.

The Jones Act is an almost century-old law that requires that only U.S.-flagged vessels move goods — like natural gas — from American ports to/from Puerto Rico and the Northeast.  The goal is to keep the American maritime industry booming by limiting competition from foreign goods and vessels.  But the act has drawbacks when, you know, you want to get stuff moved quickly or inexpensively between the island and the mainland.  And right now, the Trump administration is interested in making Puerto Rico a cheap natural gas hub, according to Bloomberg.

Trump seems to be in favor of the waiver amid mounting pressure from Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Roselló, and the oil industry to relax shipping requirements.  But while the president is thinking in terms of easing the flow of natural gas, many of the island’s officials say they are primarily interested in the waiver to make it easier to build up Puerto Rico’s renewable energy infrastructure.  Earlier this year, Roselló passed a bill that is being touted, perhaps incorrectly, as a “Green New Deal.”  The bill commits to set a target of 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

“There are two paths here,” said Ruth Santiago, a lawyer who works with environmental groups throughout Puerto Rico.  “Rather than just that perpetuating fossil fuel generation, we should be going directly to a lot more renewable energy.”

If you look at the island’s current energy portfolio, it’s already pretty mixed:  In 2017, 47 percent came from petroleum, 34 percent from natural gas, 17 percent from coal, and only 2 percent came from renewable energy.  Judith Enck, a senior advisor at the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, pointed out that waiving the Jones Act could benefit renewable energy efforts.  “The Jones Act adds a huge and unnecessary economic cost to the residents of Puerto Rico and should have been repealed decades ago,” Enck said in an email to Grist.  “That will help with importing wind turbines, solar equipment, geothermal equipment, energy efficiency items, etc.”

But even if Trump and Roselló actually kind of agree that the waiver is a good thing, it’s far from a done deal:  According to Bloomberg, some oil industry leaders argue that waiving the Jones Act would undermine Trump’s American “energy dominance” agenda by encouraging foreign imports of oil and gas.  And Matt Woodruff, chairman of the American Maritime Partnership, stressed that the move is not in line with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” philosophy.

“American maritime is the quintessential ‘America First’ industry,” Woodruff said in a statement.  “We are confident President Trump, who has championed and supported our American shipyards, mariners, and industrial base, would not start us down a path now that would cripple our national security.’’

Further complicating matters, some climate advocates say the waiver could compromise Puerto Rico’s renewable goals, which are primarily focused on solar and wind.  “While there’s a lot of talk about renewables by the governor, the actions that are being taken are towards the gas projects,” Santiago said.

The news also comes as Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority — PREPA, for short — is moving towards privatization, which will not only complicate the transition to renewable energy but could also result in higher electricity costs.

The president has previously waived the Jones Act in the short-term, including after Hurricane Maria so fossil fuels could be moved more quickly among U.S. states and to Puerto Rico after the storm.

Read more at What Will a Jones Act Waiver Mean for Puerto Rico’s 100% Renewable Energy Goal?

Solar Energy Capacity in U.S. Cities Has Doubled in the Last 6 Years

Solar panels on a senior housing facility in Boulder, Colorado. (Credit: Dennis Schroeder / NREL) Click to Enlarge.
Solar power capacity has more than doubled in 45 of America’s 57 largest cities over the past six years, according to a recent report by the non-profit Environment America Research & Policy Center.  And one-third of U.S. cities as much as quadrupled their photovoltaic capacity, including New York City, Seattle, and Dallas.

“Cities are rapidly adopting solar energy and driving the renewable energy transition across the country, bringing pollution-free power to our homes, schools, and workplaces,” Bret Fanshaw, Go Solar campaign director with Environment America, said in a statement.

Honolulu is the top U.S. city for solar capacity per resident, with 646 watts per person, evidence of progress in Hawaii’s goal to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.  Los Angeles ranks No. 1 for overall installed capacity, with 420 megawatts, its fifth time in the top spot since the survey began six years ago.  San Diego ranked second nationally in both solar PV per capita and overall installed solar capacity.

Read more at Solar Energy Capacity in U.S. Cities Has Doubled in the Last 6 Years

Indigenous Group in Ecuador Vows to Save Amazon from Oil Drilling

Oil tanks (Credit: Petro Ecuador) Click to Enlarge.
The Waorani people of the Amazon in Ecuador have renewed their vow to continue their fight to keep their ancestral land off limits for oil drilling, threatening to defend their jungle, spears and poisoned blowguns in hand, from oil companies and government plans to expand exploration areas for drilling in the rainforest.

Ecuador plans to auction land in the Amazon for oil concessions, hoping to revive oil exploration and production and boost government revenues amid a sluggish economy.

In the provincial capital Puyo, a judge is scheduled to rule on Friday if a legal challenge by the Waorani indigenous people against the government plans has merit, the AFP reports.

Earlier this year, the Waorani people filed a lawsuit against the Ecuadorian Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources, the Secretary of Hydrocarbons, and the Ministry of Environment, seeking to protect their lands from oil auctions.

Last year, Ecuador’s Minister of Hydrocarbons announced an auction of 16 new oil concessions covering nearly seven million acres of predominantly forest land in the territories of the Shuar, Achuar, Kichwa, Waorani, Shiwiar, Andoa, and Sápara nations.

“The region is home to some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet,” says campaign group Amazon Frontlines, which supports the Waorani lawsuit.

The lawsuit of the Waorani claims that their rights to free, prior, and informed consultation were violated because of an improper consultation process.  

Read more at Indigenous Group in Ecuador Vows to Save Amazon from Oil Drilling

Airlander 10 Takes Step Toward Electric Propulsion; Project E-HAV1

The 92-meter long, 43.5-meter wide Airlander 10 is considered the world's longest aircraft. (Picture Credit:  AFP/Justin Tallis Source:AFP) Click to Enlarge.
A partnership of Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV); Collins Aerospace, a unit of United Technologies Corp; and the University of Nottingham (UoN) has won grant funding in excess of £1 million (US$1.29 million) from the UK Aerospace Research and Technology Program to develop electric propulsion technologies using Airlander 10 as the initial platform.

The project, named E-HAV1, will deliver a full-sized prototype 500 kW electric propulsor for ground testing and technologies ready for future productionisation.  These technologies will be directly applicable to a future Airlander 10, with the goal of replacing its fuel-burning forward engines as the first step towards an all-electric version of the aircraft.

Utilizing a combination of buoyant lift from helium, aerodynamic lift, and vectored thrust, Airlander 10 already operates with a significantly lower fuel burn than other aircraft of similar capability.  The integration of electric forward propulsors will increase this advantage.

Airlander 10’s ability to support a broad range of activities from passenger travel to fisheries protection makes it the ideal platform for pioneering electric propulsion in civil aircraft.

Project E-HAV1 will address key goals of the UK Aerospace Technology Strategy: strengthening the UK’s aerospace capabilities, positioning the UK for developing future generations of civil aircraft, and advancing a new generation of efficient propulsion technologies.  Each of the three partners is a leader in their sector:  HAV in whole-aircraft design capability, Collins in electric power system development, and UoN in electric propulsion research and testing.

Reducing our carbon footprint is one of the biggest challenges facing aviation today.  While Airlander 10 is already helping customers Rethink the Skies with incredible efficiency, we have to find ways of further reducing the impact we have on our environment.  This project will move us closer to our goal of zero-carbon aviation.

Read more at Airlander 10 Takes Step Toward Electric Propulsion; Project E-HAV1

Friday, April 26, 2019

Electrify America Collaborating with Nine Additional Companies to Host More than 30 Ultra-Fast Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Electrify America to install ultra-fast chargers at 100+ Walmart stores (Credit: treehugger.com) Click to Enlarge.
Electrify America announced collaborations with nine additional companies to host more than 30 ultra-fast electric vehicle charging stations across the US.  The companies, ranging from popular grocery store chains to retail shopping centers, will help expand the availability of electric vehicle DC fast charging for customers who drive or are considering purchasing an EV.

Electrify America’s charging stations will be installed at a variety of locations including leading grocery chains Kroger and The Save Mart Companies; real estate investment trusts (REIT) including Federal Realty Investment Trust, Fulcrum Property, ShopCore Properties, ValueRock Realty Partners, The Macerich Company and Washington Prime Group; and Pan-Cal Corporation, a real estate development and investment company.

More than 20 of the new charging sites will be located in California.  Other charging sites will be built at locations in six additional states including Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Washington.

Electrify America plans to install or have under development 484 charging station sites featuring more than 2,000 ultra-fast chargers by July 2019. 

In the first two phases of the company’s investments ending December 31, 2021, Electrify America’s DC fast charging stations are expected to be located in 29 metro areas, along high-traffic corridors in 46 states including the District of Columbia and two cross-country routes.

The company is investing $2 billion over ten years in electric vehicle infrastructure and education.

Electrify America’s chargers range in power from 150 kilowatts (kW) up to 350kW, which can charge capable vehicles at speeds up to 20 miles per minute.  The chargers are also compatible with many of today’s electric vehicles that are capable of charging at speeds up to 150kW.

Read original at Electrify America Collaborating with Nine Additional Companies to Host More than 30 Ultra-Fast Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Climate Change’s Deadliest Effects Are Unfolding Under the Sea

Fish and Rays (Credit: Jeff Lemelin / EyeEm / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Sea animals like crabs, lobster, and fish are dying off at twice the rate of land animals, according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday.

The researchers looked at more than 400 cold-blooded animals on land and sea, including lizards, dragonflies, lobsters, and mussels.  They found that creatures that people rely on for food (fish, mollusks, shellfish) are among the most vulnerable, especially in the developing world, where many rely on them for a regular protein source.

So what’s going on here?  Part of the explanation is that cold-blooded marine species have a higher sensitivity to warming, and many are already living at the edge of their species’ heat tolerance, according to the scientists.  This is especially true for fish in tropical zones near the equator, where they are an important local food source.

Another problem is that sea creatures have just one option for refuge if they’ve reached their capacity for heat:  seek deeper, colder water.  And as the ocean continues to absorb extra heat from carbon pollution, finding cold water will only get more difficult.  Cold-blooded land animals, while also in danger, can save themselves by crawling under a rock, for example, or seeking out the shade of a forest.

Some species that can move to cooler zones have already done so, like the summer flounder off the coast of North Carolina, Malin Pinksy, one of the study’s lead authors, told Inside Climate News.  The flounder have moved so far north that some fishermen have to travel up to 600 miles to catch the same fish.  But not all shallow-dwelling creatures can move hundreds of miles in search of a similar but cooler habitat, nor can all creatures travel through deep water seeking the shallows that is their habitat.

Others, like sea anemones or coral, can’t move at all, so are likely to go extinct when the ocean gets too warm for them, the study said.

Read original at Climate Change’s Deadliest Effects Are Unfolding Under the Sea

Alarming Rate of Forest Loss Threatens a Crucial Climate Solution

The global loss of tree cover has continued even as more corporations and countries make commitments to preserve tropical forests.

Areas of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest have been clear-cut for soybean fields, cattle grazing and infrastructure. The 2018 report suggests deforestation may be on the rise there again. (Credit: Ricardo Beliel/Brazil Photos/LightRocket via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The world's forests continue to disappear at an alarming rate, threatening a resource that scientists say is a crucial "natural solution" for controlling climate change on an urgently short timescale.

Last year, the planet saw its fourth-highest level of tropical tree loss since the early 2000s—about 30 million acres, according to a new analysis published Thursday.

Those losses have continued even as more corporations and countries made commitments to preserve forests, and as scientists emphasized that maintaining forests must be a global priority—as crucial to staving off the worst risks of climate change as cutting fossil fuel use.

Read more at Alarming Rate of Forest Loss Threatens a Crucial Climate Solution

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wednesday 23

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Electric Vehicle Study Sees Opportunity for Utilities

A Tesla electric car supercharger station is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. August 2, 2018. (Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) Click to Enlarge.
Increasing demand for electric vehicles in the United States over the next decade will create revenue opportunities for electric utilities that invest in greater grid capacity and offer EV charging and related services, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The study, by the Boston Consulting Group, assumes a significant leap in consumer demand for electric vehicles, which continue to account for only a fraction of U.S. vehicle sales.

BCG estimates that 20 to 30 percent of all U.S. new car sales by 2030 will be electric or hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles.  Last year, plug-in hybrids and pure EVs accounted for just 2 percent of total U.S. car sales, according to the website InsideEVs.com.

BCG predicted that up to 12 percent of all vehicles on U.S. roads will be plug-in hybrid or pure electric by 2030, stretching “the capacity of the current grid” when charging in certain locations or at certain times of day.

The study’s authors suggested that utilities consider expanding their range of services and explore such options as subscription services that impose a flat EV charging fee while providing customers with a free home charger that automatically charges a vehicle overnight and during periods of off-peak demand.

Read more at Electric Vehicle Study Sees Opportunity for Utilities

Losing Arctic Ice and Permafrost Will Cost Trillions as Earth Warms, Study Says

Thawing permafrost releases greenhouse gases in a climate change feedback loop that worsens over time, fueling more warming and costly damage around the world.

Thawing permafrost releases methane and carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases that further exacerbate global warming. (Credit: National Park Service) Click to Enlarge.
Arctic warming will cost trillions of dollars to the global economy over time as the permafrost thaws and the sea ice melts—how many trillions depends on how much the climate warms, and even a half a degree makes a difference, according to a new study.

If nations don't choose more ambitious emission controls, the eventual damage may approach $70 trillion, it concluded.

For tens of thousands of years, grasses, other plants, and dead animals have become frozen in the Arctic ground, building a carbon storeroom in the permafrost that's waiting to be unleashed as that ground thaws.

It's considered one of the big tipping points in climate change: as the permafrost thaws, the methane and CO2 it releases will trigger more global warming, which will trigger more thawing.  The impacts aren't constrained to the Arctic—the additional warming will also fuel sea level rise, extreme weather, drought, wildfires and more.

Read more at Losing Arctic Ice and Permafrost Will Cost Trillions as Earth Warms, Study Says

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Story of the Week - Satellite confirms key NASA temperature data:  The planet is warming — and fast

The temperature hovered around 100 degrees at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., in July 2016. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
Story of the Week - Satellite confirms key NASA temperature data:  The planet is warming — and fast

New evidence suggests one of the most important climate change data sets is getting the right answer.

New evidence suggests one of the most important climate change data sets is getting the right answer.

A high-profile NASA temperature data set, which has pronounced the last five years the hottest on record and the globe a full degree Celsius warmer than in the late 1800s, has found new backing from independent satellite records — suggesting the findings are on a sound footing, scientists reported Tuesday.

If anything, the researchers found, the pace of climate change could be somewhat more severe than previously acknowledged, at least in the fastest warming part of the world — its highest latitudes.

“We may actually have been underestimating how much warmer [the Arctic’s] been getting,” said Gavin Schmidt, who directs NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which keeps the temperature data, and who was a co-author of the new study released in Environmental Research Letters

Read original at https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/04/17/satellite-confirms-key-nasa-temperature-data-planet-is-warming-fast/

Toon of the Week - I don't care how many have come forward, they’re all lying!!! / Climate Scientists

Toon of the Week - I don't care how many have come forward, they’re all lying!!!  / Climate Scientists

Poster of the Week - As we sow, so shall we reap.

Jay Inslee’s Pitch for All-Climate Change Debate Gains Traction

Environmental groups say Americans have a right to know how Democrats plan to address climate change before the 2020 voting.

Gov. Jay Inslee (Credit: governor.wa.gov) Click to Enlarge.
A proposal from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to have a presidential debate focused on climate change gained steam on Wednesday with backing from a rival 2020 candidate and a coalition of environmental groups.

Inslee on Tuesday called on the Democratic National Committee to host an all-climate debate during the 2020 primary campaign season.  The governor, who is centering his presidential campaign around climate change, said in an email to supporters that the Democratic nominee selected to challenge President Donald Trump needed to have a “concrete plan to address” the phenomenon, and that American’s deserved to hear it in advance of the primaries.

“Climate change is at the heart of every issue that matters to voters, and voters deserve to hear what 2020 presidential candidates plan to do about it,” Inslee wrote in the email, first reported by The Daily Beast.

Most Democrats in the crowded field have made climate change a core tenet of their campaigns, in direct opposition to Trump’s climate-denying policies.  The White House has dramatically rolled back many environmental regulations and moved to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement as Trump himself has mocked the science around the issue.

Read more at Jay Inslee’s Pitch for All-Climate Change Debate Gains Traction

Saving Ecosystems to Protect the Climate, and Vice Versa:  a Global Deal for Nature

A new study combines two approaches: protecting ecosystems like forests and tundra to combat climate change, and fighting climate change to protect ecosystems.

The Arctic tundra is among several key ecosystems that store large amounts of carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere, but that are under increasing pressure as global temperatures rise. (Credit: Dave Walsh/VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
For years, experts in conservation and climate science have urgently pursued two parallel paths—one to interrupt a large-scale extinction event, the other to avert a runaway climate crisis.

Now, an international group of scientists is proposing a third way that marries the two in an ambitious plan they hope will save the species that make our planet so rich—including ourselves.

They set out their timetable in a paper released Friday in the journal Science Advances calling for a "Global Deal for Nature."  Its unified objective: protect the ecosystems to combat climate change; combat climate change to protect the ecosystems.

It aims to set aside 30 percent of the planet's lands for various degrees of protection from development and destruction by 2030, with additional protections for another 20 percent.  It also sets goals for conservation in oceans and freshwater ecosystems.

Read more at Saving Ecosystems to Protect the Climate, and Vice Versa:  a Global Deal for Nature

Friday, April 19, 2019

Electric Cars Could Be as Affordable as Conventional Vehicles in Just Three Years

 A BMW electric vehicle at a road-side charging station in Budapest, Hungary. (Credit: Albert Lugosi/Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
Electric vehicles will be cost-competitive with combustion-engine cars by 2022, according to a new report by transportation analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).  The trend is due to the plunging price of EV batteries.  Batteries made up 57 percent of an electric vehicle’s total costs in 2015.  Today, that number is down to 33 percent, and it is expected to drop to 20 percent by 2025.

The new forecast highlights the rapid development of EV technologies globally.  BNEF first suggested in 2017 that electric cars would become cost-competitive with conventional cars in 2026.  A year later, BNEF changed it to 2024.  The analysts argue that this competitive pricing will allow customers to make a choice between a combustion or electric car based on style, performance, and preference — not cost.

BNEF also notes that the cost of electric powertrain systems is also dropping.  By 2030, costs for motors, inverters, and power electronics could be 25 to 30 percent cheaper than today.  The affordability of EVs will also be helped by a modest rise in costs for combustion vehicles as they utilize lighter-weight materials or other technologies to meet fuel efficiency targets.

And as Nathaniel Bullard, an analyst with BNEF, writes on Bloomberg Opinion, cheaper electric vehicle batteries don’t “just mean cheaper electric passenger cars.  It also means all sorts of other vehicles that weren’t previously practical to electrify now are.”  Bullard points to a new all-electric excavator developed by Komatsu Ltd., Asia’s top construction equipment maker.

Read more at Electric Cars Could Be as Affordable as Conventional Vehicles in Just Three Years

Climate Science Supports Youth Protests

The youth protests urging political action on climate change have won strong global backing from climatologists, as over 6,000 scientists express their support.

Youth take to the streets to urge new climate priorities. (Image Credit: politico.eu) Click to Enlarge.
The global youth protests demanding action on climate change are having a marked effect.

In their thousands, concerned climate scientists, backed by colleagues from other disciplines, are voicing support for the school students and other young people who are staying away from lessons to urge more resolute political action to protect the climate.

The campaign to support the protesters has been launched by an international group of 22 scientists spanning a range of disciplines; several of them are renowned climate specialists.

They include Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, US, Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester, UK, and Stefan Rahmstorf.

Read more at Climate Science Supports Youth Protests

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thursday 18

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Extreme Heat Is Growing Threat to Harvests

A warmer world means more chance of extreme heat in more than one continent at the same time, and a rising threat to global food security.

Parched crops will become a commoner sight as the heat rises. (Credit: Irina Iriser on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
Ever-higher average global temperatures mean more intense extreme heat over ever-wider regions.

When the planet becomes on average 1.5°C warmer than it was for most of human history, then for two out of every three years, one-fourth of the northern hemisphere will experience the kind of blistering heat waves recorded in 2018.

And should planetary average temperatures creep up by 2°C – the maximum proposed by 195 nations at the global climate conference in Paris in 2015 – then the probability rises to 100%.  That is, extreme heat over a large area of the hemisphere will be guaranteed every summer.

Heat extremes are all too often accompanied by devastating thunderstorms or extended drought and massive outbreaks of wildfire, with potentially disastrous consequences for harvests in the blighted regions.

Read more at Extreme Heat Is Growing Threat to Harvests

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Wednesday 17

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Electric Vehicle Registrations in US Hit Record High in 2018

2Tesla Model-3 (Credit: oilprice.com) Click to Enlarge.
New registrations of fully electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States hit a record 208,000 cars in 2018, more than double the new registrations in 2017, business intelligence firm IHS Markit said in a new analysis.

Loyalty rates among EV owners also grew last year, as almost 55 percent of all new EV owners returned to buy or lease another EV in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from the 42 percent of new owners who returned to purchase an EV in the third quarter, IHS Markit said.  

“As more new models enter the market, we anticipate an even further increase in loyalty to these vehicles,” Tom Libby, loyalty principal at IHS Markit, said, commenting on the analysis.

Unsurprisingly, 59 percent of new EV registrations last year were in California and other states that have adopted zero emission vehicle (ZEV) standards, IHS Markit said.  California alone accounted for almost 46 percent of all new EV registrations in the U.S. last year with 95,000 EV registrations.

The other ZEV states that added to California to help drive EV registrations last year include Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont, the intelligence firm noted.  

Going forward, IHS Markit expects that new EVs sales in the United States will exceed 350,000 units in 2020, accounting for 2 percent of America’s car fleet.  Further out in time, in 2025, new EV sales in the U.S. are forecast to jump to more than 1.1 million for a market share of 7 percent.

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Why Green Pledges Will Not Create the Natural Forests We Need

Nations around the globe have pledged to increase their forest cover by planting millions of trees.  But new research shows much of this growth would be in monoculture plantations that would be quickly cut down and do little to tackle climate change or preserve biodiversity.

A eucalyptus plantation in Thailand where trees are harvested to make pulp for paper. (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
Experts agree:  Reforesting our planet is one of the great ecological challenges of the 21st century.  It is essential to meeting climate targets, the only route to heading off the extinction crisis, and almost certainly the best way of maintaining the planet’s rainfall.  It could also boost the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of inhabitants of former forest lands.

The good news is that, even as deforestation continues in many countries, reforestation is under way in many others.  From India to Ethiopia, and China to Costa Rica, there are more trees today than there were 30 years ago, saving species, recycling rain, and sucking carbon dioxide from the air.  The Bonn Challenge, an international agreement struck eight years ago to add 1.35 million square miles of forests (an area slightly larger than India) to the planet’s land surface by 2030, is on track.

But what kind of forests are they?

A damning assessment published earlier this month in the journal Nature brought bad news.  Forest researchers analyzed the small print of government declarations about what kind of forests they planned to create.  They discovered that 45 percent of promised new forests will be monoculture plantations of fast-growing trees like acacia and eucalyptus, usually destined for harvesting in double-quick time to make pulp for paper.

Such forests would often decrease biodiversity rather than increase it, and would only ever hold a small fraction of the carbon that could be captured by giving space for natural forests.  Another 21 percent of the “reforestation” would plant fruit and other trees on farms as part of agroforestry programs; just 34 percent would be natural forests.

Read more at Why Green Pledges Will Not Create the Natural Forests We Need

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tuesday 16

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Elizabeth Warren Comes Out with Big Public Lands Proposal.  Who’s Next?

 Elizabeth Warren (Credit: Drew Angerer / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
For all her experience and name recognition, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is being out-fundraised by relative newcomers like Texas’ Beto O’Rourke and Indiana’s Pete Buttigieg this quarter.  But when it comes to policy proposals, the Democrat is still outpacing most of her rivals in the 2020 Democratic primary.

On Monday, Warren released a proposal that promises, among other things, an executive ban on new offshore leases and drilling on government-owned lands on her first day in office.  It marks her sixth policy plan in three and a half months, and is one of the primary field’s first climate proposals that touches on the themes laid out in the Green New Deal.

Warren’s proposal includes free access to national parks for American citizens and pledges to restore protections to national monuments like Bears Ears that were rolled back by the Trump administration.  Most interestingly, she introduces the framework for the kind of conservation workforce that would put a smile on FDR’s face.

The 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps, as she describes it, “will create job opportunities for thousands of young Americans caring for our natural resources and public lands.”  The idea is to house the new corps under the umbrella of Americorps — the voluntary civil society program funded by the federal government.

If you squint you can see some similarities between Warren’s notion of putting 10,000 young Americans and veterans to work in conservation and the federal jobs guarantee laid out in the Green New Deal, which promises a family-sustaining wage to every American.  The two plans, of course, borrow from Franklin Roosevelt’s economic stimulus package post-Depression in both name and content.

The centerpiece of the larger proposal is two-pronged: a moratorium on new drilling on federal lands with “a goal of providing 10% of [the nation’s] overall electricity generation from renewable sources offshore or on public lands.”  Her idea effectively swaps oil and gas for renewable energy projects on public lands.

While some regions across the country have taken it upon themselves to impose their own temporary or permanent fossil fuel moratoriums, doing it on a federal level across all American public lands — more than 25 percent of the country’s total land — is unprecedented.  Obama, in his last year as president, accomplished a portion of his (now partially dismantled) climate legacy through executive action.  His administration removed certain areas of the country from oil and gas drilling, such as parts of the Atlantic Coast and Alaska, but also encouraged natural gas development as part of its “all-of-the-above” energy policy.

Warren’s public lands proposal contains seeds of what could grow into a full-fledged Green New Deal if the senator manages to clinch the presidency next year.  Regardless of where she ends up, her plan is ambitious enough that her fellow 2020 contenders will likely feel the need to produce their own climate and environment proposals lickity-split.

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