Saturday, June 29, 2019

Saturday 29

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Wildfires and Power Cuts Plague Europeans as Heatwave Breaks Records

People cool off in a fountain in Nice as a heatwave hits much of the country (Credit: Reuters/Eric Gaillard) Click to Enlarge.
Hundreds of firefighters battled on Saturday to contain wildfires in southern France as a stifling heatwave brought record-breaking temperatures to parts of Europe, killing at least three people in Italy.

In the Gard region, where France's highest temperature on record was registered on Friday at 45.9 degrees Celsius (114 degrees Fahrenheit), scores of fires burned some 600 hectares (about 1,500 acres) of land and destroyed several houses and vehicles, emergency services said.

More than 700 firefighters and 10 aircraft were mobilized to tackle the fires in the Gard, some of which caused sections of motorways to be temporarily closed.  Several firefighters were hurt but no serious injuries were reported.

Read more at Wildfires and Power Cuts Plague Europeans as Heatwave Breaks Records

Amidst ‘high political tension’, UN chief appeals to G20 leaders for stronger commitment to climate action, economic cooperation

Presidents Xi Jinping (left) and Donald Trump (right) meet during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in December, and are set to talk again in Osaka. (Photo Credit: AP) Click to Enlarge.
“We have global warming, but we have also global political warming, and this can be seen in relation to trade and technology conflicts, it can be seen in relation to situations in several parts of the world, namely the Gulf”, he told reporters before addressing the summit, referring to recent attacks on oil tankers around the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, which have heightened tensions between Iran and the United States. 

Turning to “uncertainties about the global economy”, he pointed to trade conflicts, high debt levels, potentially unstable financial markets and the risk of global growth slowdown. 

In the UN chief’s view, it “will be very difficult to have a breakthrough in relation to some of the most difficult challenges that the international community is facing”. 

Read more at Amidst ‘high political tension’, UN chief appeals to G20 leaders for stronger commitment to climate action, economic cooperation

U.S. Medical Groups Warn Candidates: Climate Change Is a 'Health Emergency'

'I’ve seen a lot, but this scares me,' one doctor said.  Ahead of the first debates, 70-plus health groups call for moving away from fossil fuels.

The American Medical Association and other major health groups are proposing a policy agenda for reducing climate-related health risks. Those risks include extreme heat waves like the one expected in Europe this week. (Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
The nation's leading medical organizations are urging political candidates "to recognize climate change as a health emergency."  As the campaign season enters full gear, they issued a call on Monday for urgent action on "one of the greatest threats to health America has ever faced."

More than 70 health organizations signed a statement that, among other things, calls for a move away from fossil fuels.  The groups cite storm and flood emergencies, chronic air pollution, the spread of diseases carried by insects, and especially heat-related illnesses.

Europe is anticipating an intense heat wave starting this week, and parts of the U.S., where extreme heat has been the leading cause of weather-related deaths, have already experienced record-breaking heat this year.

Read more at U.S. Medical Groups Warn Candidates:  Climate Change Is a 'Health Emergency'

$4.5-Trillion:  The Price Tag of a Fossil Fuel-Free U.S.

Solar Panels (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Decarbonizing the U.S. grid and replacing fossil fuels with renewables could cost US$4.5 trillion in investments over the next 10 to 20 years, Wood Mackenzie analysts have calculated.

Such a move away from fossil fuels would require the installation of 1,600 GW of new solar and wind capacity, the research firm said.  This compares with a total capacity of 1,060 GW across the United States, of which 130 GW renewable capacity.

Yet a lot more generation capacity is not all, either.  A lot of utility-scale storage installations would also be necessary to make the power produced by solar and wind farms reliable enough to replace fossil fuels in the long run.  More precisely, Wood Mac’s analysts have calculated the storage capacity needed at 900 GW.

This sort of change has no precedent, the research firm said, and would necessitate a complete overhaul of the power generation industry.

Read more at $4.5-Trillion:  The Price Tag of a Fossil Fuel-Free U.S.

Microbes Hold the Balance in Climate Crisis

You need powerful microscopes to see microbes.  Few microbiologists claim to know much about most of them.  But they are vital in the climate crisis.

The green and blue swirls of a phytoplankton bloom off the coast of Alaska as seen by a NASA satellite. These microorganisms help pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Norman Kuring; USGS) Click to Enlarge.
Thirty scientists from nine nations have issued a challenge to the rest of climate science:  don’t forget the microbes.

They argue that research is ignoring the silent, unseen majority that makes up the microbial world.  Lifeforms that add up to a huge proportion of living matter on the planet are being largely left out of climate calculations.

Microbes have been around for 3.8 billion years, manipulating sunlight and turning carbon dioxide into carbon-based living tissue, and the mass of all the microbes on the planet probably contains 70 billion tonnes of carbon alone.

They are biodiversity’s bottom line.  They are the arbiters of the planet’s resources.  They were the first living things on the planet, and will almost certainly be the last survivors.

They are the only living things at vast depths and colossal pressures.  Far below the planetary surface, many survive at temperatures beyond boiling point, in lakes composed of alkali, and some can even digest radioactive material.

Read more at Microbes Hold the Balance in Climate Crisis

Electricity Demand Will Soar as Households Try to Cope with Hotter Temperatures

Air Conditioners (Credit: Zeevveez/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Global energy use could increase by as much as 58 percent by 2050 as communities and industries use more air conditioning to cope with rising global temperatures, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications.  This increased energy use will disproportionately affect low-income households, the scientists said, and will also increase greenhouse gas emissions even more, further exacerbating climate change.

Whereas previous studies focused largely on energy use for a single country, continent, or sector, this new research is a global analysis using projections from 21 climate models, as well as population and economic projections for five socioeconomic scenarios.  The scientists found that global energy demand will increase 11 to 27 percent by 2050 with modest global warming, and 25 to 58 percent with more severe warming.  The tropics, southern Europe, China, and the United States will all experience the greatest increases in demand.

The higher temperatures climb and the more air conditioning families need to keep cool, the more expensive utility bills will become — a situation that the scientists point out will be especially damaging to low-income households, who already spend a larger portion of their monthly budget on utilities than higher-income homes.

Read more at Electricity Demand Will Soar as Households Try to Cope with Hotter Temperatures

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

New York State Reaches Landmark Deal on Green New Deal-Style Climate Bill

If enacted, the bill would make New York the second big state — after California — to go for 100 percent carbon neutrality by midcentury.

The Manhattan skyline peers over a rooftop covered with solar panels at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. (Credit: Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
New York lawmakers reached a deal late Sunday night to pass one of the most ambitious climate bills in the nation, setting the Empire State on a course to shape what the Green New Deal could look like at a state level.

The agreement to pass the so-called Climate & Communities Protection Act calls for New York to eliminate 85% of its overall planet-warming emissions by 2050, while offsetting or capturing the other 15%.  The deal mandates 35% of state energy funding go to low-income, polluted communities, but sets a goal of investing 40%.  The final legislation requires all state-financed energy projects to pay union wages. 

Read more at New York State Reaches Landmark Deal on Green New Deal-Style Climate Bill

Farm-ageddon:  Tariff-Slammed Farmers Now Battling Climate Change Flood Hell

Planting season is the slowest in decades as farmers grapple with floods, rains and sodden fields.

(Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Panicked farmers throughout the Midwest are facing the increasing probability that vast tracts of fields will remain unplanted or crops will fail this year as much of their land remains under water or too sodden for farm equipment and plants.

The crushing weather conditions come on top of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China that has already triggered a record number of farm bankruptcies.

Read more at Farm-ageddon:  Tariff-Slammed Farmers Now Battling Climate Change Flood Hell

More than Half the World Could See ‘Record-Setting Heat’ Every Year by 2100

Quezon City Philippines-a resident throws a bucket of water on himself to ease the extreme heat as he tries to put out a fire at a residential area in  Quezon City the Philippines (Credit roue) Click to Enlarge.
More than half of the world could see new temperature records set in every single year by the end of the century if global warming is not curbed, a study finds.

And new heat records could be set in two-thirds of the world’s least developed countries each year by 2100 under the same scenario, the research adds.

Limiting global warming to below 2C above pre-industrial levels could reduce the extent of land seeing record-setting heat by almost three quarters, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

The research “nicely illustrates the pace of change”, another scientist tells Carbon Brief.  However, it is worth noting that there are limitations to using climate models to project future temperature extremes, he adds.
Heating up
Climate change is causing unprecedented heat extremes worldwide.  The past four years have been the warmest on record – with 2016 being the hottest year ever recorded.

Read more at More than Half the World Could See ‘Record-Setting Heat’ Every Year by 2100

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sunday 16

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Some Compelling Reasons Not to Give Up on Solving Climate Change

Reports that say we’re all doomed in the face of the climate crisis ignore a history of survival—and the opportunity to make the future better.

(Credit: Benjamin Lee / EyeEm / Getty) Click to Enlarge.
In March, paleoecologist Jacquelyn Gill wrote a tweet containing possibly the most radical emotion a scientist can have about the climate crisis right now:  optimism.

Gill’s research at the University of Maine looks to the past to understand how species will respond to global changes.  She speculated that it was this long-term perspective that allowed her to notice a legacy of adaptation and resilience.  “With the fossil record, the Earth is literally teaching us how to get through this,” she wrote.  “That makes me want to roll up my sleeves.”

Her position flies in the face of a recent report by the Breakthrough National Center for Climate Restoration, a think-tank in Melbourne, Australia, which predicted a future in which human life would end by 2050.  Its conclusions were modeled on a worst-case scenario if we continue to barrel forward with current levels of carbon and methane emissions.  Others have echoed that doom:  that the Arctic's warming is now inevitable, and that our carbon levels have reached a point of no return.

The end is nigh-type rhetoric can make us want to throw up our hands.  But scientists who study the past have a unique case for the kind of pragmatic optimism that Gill speaks of.  She and other paleoscientists and archaeologists scour the past for clues to help drive our future, and are finding a history of survival among people and animals alike.

Their version of hope acknowledges that climate change is real, man-made, and an emergency.  But despite it all, it reassures us:  We’re not starting from scratch.  “We can use this tremendous wealth of information that we have, and this tremendous ingenuity, and make really good evidence-based informed plans for how to move forward,” Gill said.  “We have the tools and the capacity to move forward.  We just need the will.”

That latter point—about needing the will—is a nice way of saying that we need city planners and policymakers to pay attention and take these things into consideration.  Lucky for them, and for future generations, scientists are laying out exactly what they need to know:

Positive change has come out of past climate crises
In the tens and hundreds of thousands of years that came before us, there were fluctuations in climate that humans and animals had to deal with.  People confronted droughts, floods, extinctions, and collapses of entire civilizations.  Their experiences can provide a kind of guidebook, or at least, a picture of what’s to come.

From the fossil record, Gill said that she can see that some species are more adaptable than others in the face of climate change.  They migrate or find ways to live in new ecosystems.  Humans share a lot of traits with the past survivors of mass extinctions—we are adaptable, we are mobile, and we are able to modify our environments to be better for us.  And learning from these periods in history could help us implement the solutions.

Read more at Some Compelling Reasons Not to Give Up on Solving Climate Change

Climate Change Could Mean More Kids, Not Less

The effects will vary across the globe and could worsen inequality.

(Photo Credit: Getty / Brasil2) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change threatens to affect every inch of life as we know it.  Some impending disasters are obvious:  rising sea levels will cause flooding, droughts will restrict access to water, and intense storms will destroy our homes and properties.

But there’s also the impact it will have on our bodies.  A new paper in Environmental Research Letters, published last week, looked at one aspect of this:  how global warming will influence fertility.

The researchers came to some surprising, and disturbing, conclusions.  They found that global warming will increase the number of children people have, while lowering the value of education—but only in certain, vulnerable parts of the world.  This would deepen already-existing inequalities between wealthy and poor nations, and the inequality between men and women in those communities.

Read more at Climate Change Could Mean More Kids, Not Less

Friday, June 14, 2019

Friday 14

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Pope Backs Carbon Pricing to Stem Global Warming and Appeals to Deniers

Pope Francis said on Friday that carbon pricing is “essential” to stem global warming - his clearest statement yet in support of penalizing polluters - and appealed to climate change deniers to listen to science.

Read more at Pope Backs Carbon Pricing to Stem Global Warming and Appeals to Deniers

The Problem with Biden’s Plan to Push China on Climate

Biden and Jinping meet in 2013. (Credit: Lintao Zhang / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
When former Vice President Joe Biden released his climate policy plan last week, he was the first presidential candidate to vow to use U.S. foreign policy to address the climate crisis.  In his 22-page climate plan, Biden dedicates section three to “Rallying the rest of the world to address the grave climate threat.”

But he seems less concerned with “the rest of the world” as he does one particular country.  Biden’s plan mentions China by name 13 times.

The following day Washington Governor Jay Inslee, fellow-2020 hopeful and self-proclaimed climate candidate, released part three of his exhaustive green policy plan (which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has deemed the “gold standard” thus far).  Inslee’s 50-page “Global Climate Mobilization” document is dedicated solely to how America can use its influence to incorporate green goals into, well, everything:  trade, migration, humanitarian aid, energy subsidies, and future summits.

Not to be outdone, his plan mentions China 21 times.  To be fair, Inslee also addresses the U.S.’ relationship with other major polluters, like India.  Biden doesn’t mention India once.

Chris Nelson, executive director of the Harvard-China Project, thinks he knows at least one reason for the focus — and it’s clearly something our current president has figured out.  “It’s politically advantageous to be tough on China, even within the Democratic party,” he told Grist.

Both Biden’s and Inslee’s plans essentially call for the U.S. to become the world’s climate hype man.  On the agenda:  Pushing for more aggressive targets than agreed upon in Paris; ending fossil fuel subsidies worldwide; setting a carbon tax on goods imported into the U.S.; and, yes, wrangling China.  China as a competitor in developing green tech, as a big bad polluter, as a partner in averting the climate crisis.

Read more at The Problem with Biden’s Plan to Push China on Climate

Renewable Energy Capacity Now Exceeds Coal in U.S.

A wind farm in Power County, Idaho. U.S. (Credit: Department of Energy) Click to Enlarge.
Renewable energy now generates more electricity in the United States than coal.  Solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal totaled 21.56 percent of U.S. generating capacity as of April, according to a report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  Coal, meanwhile, accounted for just 21.55 percent of capacity, down from 23.04 percent last year.

As Engadget reports, this gap is likely to widen in the coming months.  FERC notes that renewable energy has added 1 percentage point to its share of U.S. installed capacity every year, and says that sector could account for 25 percent by 2022.  A total of 186,000 megawatts of proposed wind and solar projects are expected to go online in the next four years.

Coal capacity has dropped to its lowest level in 40 years.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than half of the U.S. coal mines operating in 2008 — when coal production peaked — have since closed.  Natural gas, however, continues to grow, accounting for more than 44 percent of U.S. total energy capacity in April.

Read original at Renewable Energy Capacity Now Exceeds Coal in U.S.

3 Republican Former EPA Heads Rebuke Trump EPA on Climate Policy & Science

In a Capitol Hill hearing, they urged Congress to provide stronger oversight of the Trump EPA and raised concerns about the agency's ties to industries it regulates.

Lee M. Thomas, EPA administrator in 1985-1989 under President Ronald Reagan, described some of his concerns about the Trump EPA during a congressional hearing, saying, "I believe there is a need for rigorous oversight by the committee of the agency’s capacity for sound decisions." (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Three former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrators who served under Republican presidents urged Congress to ramp up its oversight of the Trump EPA on Tuesday, expressing distress at the agency's attempts to mislead the public on the risks of climate change and brush aside science in decision-making.

They were joined by Democrat Gina McCarthy, the agency's chief under President Barack Obama, illustrating that these are bipartisan sentiments.

"I find it disconcerting," McCarthy told a congressional hearing, that "this collection of past EPA Administrators feel obligated to testify together and individually to make the case that what is happening at EPA today is, simply put, not normal, and to solicit your help to get it on a more productive path."

Read more at 3 Republican Former EPA Heads Rebuke Trump EPA on Climate Policy & Science

Climate Change Could Trigger Global Financial Crisis

Stock Exchange (Credit: Click to Enlarge.5
A top U.S. financial regulator is worried that climate change could threaten global financial markets.

Rostin Behnam, a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), said that the financial system was at risk from the growing frequency and severity of storms.  “The impacts of climate change affect every aspect of the American economy – from production agriculture to commercial manufacturing and the financing of every step in each process,” Behnam said at the meeting of the CFTC’s market risk advisory committee on Wednesday.  “As most of the world’s markets and market regulators are taking steps towards assessing and mitigating the current and potential threats of climate change, we in the U.S. must also demand action from all segments of the public and private sectors, including this agency.”

He added:  “Our commodity markets and the financial markets that support them will suffer if we do not take action to mitigate the risk of contagion.”

The message is not necessarily a new one, but it is significant since it comes from the CFTC, which is not exactly a hippy enclave.  Also of significance is the fact that Behnam was appointed to the CFTC by President Trump, although by law the vacancy that he filled had to be a Democrat.

Read more at5 Climate Change Could Trigger Global Financial Crisis

Climate Change Will Increase Risk of Violent Conflict, Researchers Warn

Stanford convened top experts in climate and conflict with a wide range of views to see where they agree about climate change’s impact on global security.

It's hard to separate the forces that fuel armed conflicts within a countries, but the U.S. military and intelligence agencies have long considered climate change and its effects, such as drought, a threat multiplier. (Credit: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Worsening climate change will increase the risk of future violent conflict within countries, a group of top researchers representing an array of viewpoints said Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.

The study, "Climate as a risk factor for armed conflict," tries to address some longstanding disagreements among climate scientists, political scientists, historians, and other experts about what role, if any, climate change has played in internal conflicts over the last 100 years.  Stanford researchers took the unusual step of convening 11 of the most experienced and cited experts on the topic to resolve their assessments of climate change's impact on global security.

Working together, the experts concluded that climate change so far has not played a large role in stoking conflict, overshadowed instead by other factors such as poor governance and weak economic development.  But they agreed that climate change will play a far greater role in destabilizing countries as the planet warms.

Read more at Climate Change Will Increase Risk of Violent Conflict, Researchers Warn

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

African City Heat Is Set to Grow Intolerably

Up to a third of urban dwellers could soon face extreme African city heat and humidity.  Risks could at worst multiply 50-fold.

Freetown in Sierra Leone: Already hot and humid. (Image Credit: David Hond, via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
An entire continent faces lethal conditions for many of its people: by 2090, one person in three can expect African city heat in the great conurbations severe enough to expose them to potentially deadly temperatures.

That is:  the number of days in which the apparent temperature – a notional balance of thermometer-measured heat and maximum humidity – could reach or surpass 40.6°C will increase dramatically, and the days when individuals could be at risk could in some scenarios multiply 50-fold.

The scientists selected this “apparent” temperature of 40.6°C because it is significantly beyond the natural temperature of the human body, which must then be kept cool by perspiration.  This is possible in arid climates.

But as humidity goes up – and with each 1°C rise in temperature, the capacity of the air to hold moisture rises by 7% – cooling by perspiration becomes less efficient.

So at this notionally-defined apparent temperature, people who cannot retreat to air-conditioned or cooler, shadier places could die.  Heat kills:  researchers recently counted 27 ways in which extreme temperatures could claim lives.

Read more at African City Heat Is Set to Grow Intolerably

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tuesday 10

Atmospheric CO2 and Global Surface Temperature 800 to 2020

Thirty Years to Climate Meltdown – or Not?

Impatience grows at this German climate protest. (Image Credit:  Markus Spiske on Unsplash) Click to Enlarge.
How much of a threat is climate meltdown?  Should we treat it as the biggest danger to life in the 21st century, or as one of many problems − serious, but manageable?

A new study says human civilization itself could pass the point of no return by 2050.  The Australian climate think-tank Breakthrough:  National Center for Climate Restoration says that unless humanity takes drastic and immediate action to save the climate, a combination of unstable food production, water shortages, and extreme weather could lead to the breakdown of global society.

One renowned US climate scientist, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, says that Breakthrough is exaggerating and its report could be counter-productive.

In the UK, though, Mark Maslin of University College London says the report underlines the deep concerns expressed by some security experts.

Act together
Chris Barrie, a retired Royal Australian Navy admiral and former Chief of the Australian Defense Force, is now an honorary professor at the Australian National University, Canberra.

In a foreword to the Breakthrough study he writes:  “We must act collectively.  We need strong, determined leadership in government, in business and in our communities to ensure a sustainable future for humankind.”

David Spratt, Breakthrough’s research director and a co-author of the study, says that “much knowledge produced for policymakers is too conservative,” but that the new paper, by showing the extreme end of what could happen in just the next three decades, aims to make the stakes clear.  “The report speaks, in our opinion, a harsh but necessary truth,” he says.

“To reduce this risk and protect human civilization, a massive global mobilization of resources is needed in the coming decade to build a zero-emissions industrial system and set in train the restoration of a safe climate,” the report reads.  “This would be akin in scale to the World War II emergency mobilization.”

Breakthrough acknowledges that the worst possibility it foresees − the total collapse of civilization by mid-century − is an example of a worst-case scenario, but it insists that “the world is currently completely unprepared to envisage, and even less deal with, the consequences of catastrophic climate change.”

The picture of the possible near future it presents is stark.  By 2050, it says, the world could have reached:
  • a 3°C temperature rise, with a further 1°C in store
  • sea levels 0.5 meters above today’s, with a possible eventual rise of 25m
  • 55% of the world’s people subject to more than 20 days a year of heat “beyond the threshold of human survivability”
  • one billion people forced to leave the tropics
  • a 20% decline in crop yields, leaving too little food to feed the world
  • armed conflict likely and nuclear war possible.
The report’s authors conclude:  “The scale of destruction is beyond our capacity to model, with a high likelihood of human civilization coming to an end.”

Read more at Thirty Years to Climate Meltdown – or Not?

Breathe Easier:  States Are Passing a Buttload of Clean-Energy Bills

Representative Dominique Jackson and Senator Angela Williams High five after Governor of Colorado Jared Polis signs a climate action bill into law. (Photo Credit:  Joe Amon / MediaNews Group / The Denver Post via Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Climate victories are thundering down from statehouses like hail in a spring storm.

Two weeks ago, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed 11 carbon-pollution slashing bills and rolled out his plan to get the state to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2050.  The week before that, Maryland and New Jersey each passed laws requiring those states to get half of their electricity from renewables by 2030 while studying a path to get all of its energy from carbon-free sources in the following decades.  Meanwhile, Oregon appears to be welding down a carbon cap of its own.  And all this comes on the heels of laws passed over the past year in Washington, Nevada, New Mexico, and California to squeeze all the greenhouse gases from their electrical systems.

It’s a remarkable pileup.

“We couldn’t update our maps fast enough,” said Ryan Fitzpatrick deputy director of the clean energy Program at the think tank Third Way.  “These states know that net zero emissions by 2050 is the goal, and there’s no time to waste.  So they’re taking a minute to celebrate, then asking, ‘what’s next?’”

What’s next?  Politicians in New York, Pennsylvania, Maine, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are pushing their own bills to wean electricity systems off fossil fuels.  And don’t forget the ever-growing list of cities — Orlando, Florida and Pueblo, Colorado, among them — that have vowed to kick their fossil-fuel addiction.
In addition to all these state commitments, a slew of electricity-producing utilities, like Xcel, Idaho Power, and MidAmerican Energy Company have made pledges to be 100 percent carbon free by 2050.  If Southern Company is able to get to “low or no carbon” by 2050 as it has promised, that puts Georgia and Alabama on the map as well.

When the Clean Air Task Force added up all these commitments, it found they cover 40 percent of the electricity produced in the United States.

Read more at Breathe Easier:  States Are Passing a Buttload of Clean-Energy Bills

Is Geoengineering the Answer to the Climate Crisis?

(Credit: Rana Dias / Caiaimage / Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Once seen as spooky sci-fi, geoengineering to halt runaway climate change is now being looked at with growing urgency.  A spate of dire scientific warnings  that the world community can no longer delay major cuts in  carbon emissions, coupled with a recent surge in atmospheric concentrations of CO2, has left a growing number of scientists saying that it’s time to give the controversial technologies a serious look.

“Time is no longer on our side,” one geoengineering advocate, former British government chief scientist David King, told a conference last fall.  “What we do over the next 10 years will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 years.”

King helped secure the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, but he no longer believes cutting planet-warming emissions is enough to stave off disaster.  He is in the process of establishing a Center for Climate Repair at Cambridge University.  It would be the world’s first major research center dedicated to a task that, he says, “is going to be necessary.”

Technologies earmarked for the Cambridge center’s attention include a range of efforts to restrict solar radiation from reaching the lower atmosphere, including spraying aerosols of sulphate particles into the stratosphere, and refreezing rapidly warming parts of the polar regions by deploying tall ships to pump salt particles from the ocean into polar clouds to make them brighter.

U.S. scientists are on the case, too.  The National Academies last October launched a study into sunlight reflection technologies, including their feasibility, impacts and risks, and governance requirements.  Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said: “We are running out of time to mitigate catastrophic climate change.  Some of these interventions … may need to be considered in future.

Read more at Is Geoengineering the Answer to the Climate Crisis?

Sunday, June 09, 2019

US Teen Climate Activist Takes Aim at Textbooks - and Presidential Debates

‘My generation knows that climate change will be the biggest problem we’ll have to face,’ said student climate activist Alexandria Villasenor. (Photograph Credit:  Sarah BlesenER/The Washington Post/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.Better climate change education is needed in schools - and it's time for the U.S. presidential election debates to take up the topic too, she says.

Alexandria Villasenor, a 14-year-old activist who has become one of the U.S. faces of the global youth climate movement, is outraged at how little U.S. students learn about climate change.

Next Friday, she plans to launch a global non-profit called Earth Uprising, demanding schools and teachers around the globe dedicate more resources to teaching about climate change and threats it presents.

Today, only about 37 of 50 U.S. states, plus Washington D.C., have adopted science education guidelines that include teaching that climate change is largely a result of human activity, according to the National Center for Science Education.

Better education, Villasenor hopes, will fuel a growing global youth movement to demand rapid action on the threat.

"We have to get more people involved in climate activism," she said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation at her home.

Action on climate threats will "grow once there's more climate education, because you can't argue with science and facts", she said.

In particular, she hopes the Earth Uprising project, which will have ambassadors in more than 50 countries, will create and put into teachers' hands a combined curriculum on climate science - and how past civil movements have succeeded.

The project can be "the gateway to bringing people who've never been involved in activism into the movement", she said.

The New York City teenager gained national prominence after she began skipping school each Friday, starting last December, to sit on a bench in front of the United Nations headquarters and demand action on climate change.

She was among the teens who helped organize an international youth rally on climate change in March that saw hundreds skipping school in Washington D.C. and thousands more in about 45 other states.

The protest movement, launched by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, has now spread around the world, to nations from Australia to Uganda.

Teens say climate action cannot come fast enough.

Read more at US Teen Climate Activist Takes Aim at Textbooks - and Presidential Debates

The Great Insect Dying:  A global look at a deepening crisis

  • Recent studies from Germany and Puerto Rico, and a global meta-study, all point to a serious, dramatic decline in insect abundance.  Plummeting insect populations could deeply impact ecosystems and human civilization, as these tiny creatures form the base of the food chain, pollinate, dispose of waste, and enliven soils.
  • However, limited baseline data makes it difficult for scientists to say with certainty just how deep the crisis may be, though anecdotal evidence is strong.  To that end, Mongabay is launching a four-part series — likely the most in-depth, nuanced look at insect decline yet published by any media outlet.
  • Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and researchers on six continents working in over a dozen nations to determine what we know regarding the “great insect dying,” including an overview article, and an in-depth story looking at temperate insects in the U.S. and the European Union — the best studied for their abundance.
  • We also utilize Mongabay’s position as a leader in tropical reporting to focus solely on insect declines in the tropics and subtropics, where lack of baseline data is causing scientists to rush to create new, urgently needed survey study projects.  The final story looks at what we can do to curb and reverse the loss of insect abundance.

In recent months a debate over whether a global insect apocalypse is underway has raged in the mainstream media and among researchers.  To assess the range of scientific opinion, Mongabay interviewed 24 entomologists and other scientists working on six continents, in more than a dozen countries, to better determine what we know, what we don’t, and, most importantly, what we should do about it.  This is part one of a four-part exclusive series by Mongabay senior contributor Jeremy Hance.  Read Part II, "Vanishing act in Europe and North America” here.

Read more at The Great Insect Dying:  A global look at a deepening crisis

Michael Bloomberg Will Donate $500 Million to Help Close All Remaining U.S. Coal Plants

“This is the fight of our time,” the former New York mayor wrote.

Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, in January. In a statement, he said he saw “virtually no hope” of immediate government action on climate change. (Credit:  Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press) Click to Enlarge.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will donate $500 million to fund a new initiative to shut down every remaining coal-fired power plant in America by 2030, a high-powered effort to counter the pro-fossil fuel agenda emanating from the White House, his foundation said Thursday.

“We’re in a race against time with climate change, and yet there is virtually no hope of bold federal action on this issue for at least another two years,” Bloomberg told The New York Times in a statement.  “Mother Nature is not waiting on our political calendar, and neither can we.” 

Read more at Michael Bloomberg Will Donate $500 Million To Help Close All Remaining U.S. Coal Plants

Monday, June 03, 2019

Coasts Should Plan for 6.5 Feet Sea Level Rise by 2100 as Precaution, Experts Say

"Coastal decisions by and large require long lead times, and it would be nice if we could wait for the science to clear up, but we can’t," one scientist said.

In Boston, more developments are taking sea level rise into account by building up the ground beneath buildings, installing extra-tall ground floors and adding other flood protection. Scientists say they still might not be planning for enough sea level rise. (Credit: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty) Click to Enlarge.
As coastal communities prepare for the impacts of climate change, a new report warns that ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland could cause far more sea level rise than previously thought, and it says planners should not ignore that peril.

If planners are working with a mid-range projection of sea level rise, their efforts might protect coastal regions from the most likely scenarios depicted in climate models, but that still leaves a lot of risk, say the authors of the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Coastal decisions by and large require long lead times, and it would be nice if we could wait for the science to clear up, but we can't," said Michael Oppenheimer, an atmospheric scientist at Princeton University and one of the authors of the study.

"If you knew there was a one-third or even 10 percent chance a plane would crash, you wouldn't get on it.  It's the same with sea level rise," he said.

Read more at Coasts Should Plan for 6.5 Feet Sea Level Rise by 2100 as Precaution, Experts Say

Saturday, June 01, 2019

The U.S. Just Had Its Wettest 12 Months on Record

Shallow groundwater wetness percentile (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
The continental United States just experienced its wettest 12 months on record, receiving 6.25 inches of rainfall above the mean, according to a new report by NASA’s Earth Observatory.  The finding comes amid weeks of record-setting floods throughout much of the central United States.

From May 1, 2018 to April 30, 2019, the contiguous U.S. averaged 36.20 inches of precipitation ― more than half an inch higher than the previous record-setting year (April 2015 to March 2016) and the most in 124 years of modern record-keeping.  Ten U.S. states had their wettest 12 months on record, with the highest precipitation rates in the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, just 2.33 percent of the continental U.S. was in drought at the end of April, compared to nearly 30 percent at the same time last year.

Read more at The U.S. Just Had Its Wettest 12 Months on Record