Archive | November 2015

Climate Change Summit Delegates Better Not Blow It!

 

 

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More than 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are attending COP21, the United Nation International Framework on Climate Change (IPCC) annual meeting, which is being held this year  in Paris, France, November 30 to December 10. The attendees this year have the daunting responsibility of achieving a legally binding agreement to keep global warming below what scientists worldwide say is a critical threshold of 2 degrees Celsius [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] of global average temperature warming above the average global temperature prior to the Industrial Revolution .

The delegates in Paris the next two weeks represent countries that presently emit 95% of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere from human-related sources; they have, literally, the fate of our planet -EARTH –  INCLUDING QUITE POSSIBLY ALL ITS CURRENT AND FUTURE PEOPLE AND ANIMALS – within their hands the next ten days at this historic conference.

Representatives of the 195 nations taking part in this meeting – the 21st annual “Conference of the Parties” to the IPCC (thus COP21), the first of which took place in Berlin in 1995 – are charged what has been called “an urgent last chance to save the planet”.

Clearly, this will not be an easy goal to reach, since the planet already has been warmed by 0.85 degrees Celsius since 1880, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2014, and many scientists say the gases we have already emitted into the atmosphere will “lock us in” to around 2 degrees Celsius of warming. Therefore, it will take significant reductions in emissions in the near future, especially from the largest emitters such as the United States and China, as well as commitments to sustainable development from all countries.

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Study Finds Pace of Arctic Melting Increasing North of Scandinavia

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Image credit:Jason Roberts, BBC-Cracked surface: The largest ice cap in the Eurasian Arctic – Austfonna in Svalbard.

A recent technical study reported that glaciers at the Austfonna ice cap , located within the arctic circle north of Scandinavia, appear to have come “ungrounded”, flowing out to sea at a “rapid pace” and draining ice from the ice cap in the process. The study reports the Austfonna ice cap is now thinning by an average of 25 meters per year.

The waters of the Arctic Ocean are known to have warmed at a rapid pace relative to the rest of the world over recent years, and 2012 in particular was a year of “exceptional melting” and warmth in the arctic due to extreme storms. The study concludes “the sudden glacial movement suggests that the warming in 2012 destabilized glaciers in the surrounding territory and [that] it is happening at an exceptionally rapid pace”.

There has been widespread ice loss to the Arctic Ocean and “the melting is creating the potential for future instability if further ungrounding occurs”.

“Across Austfonna, there is a coherent pattern of ice margin thinning at all marine-based sectors  [and] the behavior recorded here demonstrates that slow-flowing ice caps can enter states of significant imbalance over very short timescales and highlights their capacity for increased ice loss in the future.”

Chasing Ice

World Bank Concludes Global Warming Will Hurt Poor Countries the Most

 

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim

More than 100 million people could be pushed back into poverty within 15 years due to rising temperatures and extreme weather, the World Bank has warned.

In a new report released Sunday, November 22, 2015, the World Bank said climate change was already preventing people escaping poverty but the situation could get much worse.

“This report sends a clear message that ending poverty will not be possible unless we take strong action to reduce the threat of climate change on poor people and dramatically reduce harmful emissions,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.

Crop failures due to drought, big rises in food prices after “extreme weather events,” and a higher incidence of disease following heat waves and floods would hurt the poorest the hardest, the World Bank said in a statement.

The report found people in Africa and South Asia were especially vulnerable.

Stephane Hallegate, an economist who led the team preparing report, said that the future for these 100 million people was not set in stone.

“We have a window of opportunity to achieve our poverty objectives in the face of climate change, provided we make wise policy choices now,” he said.

That would mean tackling the cause of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as taking steps to reduce the impact on the poor such as improved social safety nets and healthcare, building better flood defenses and developing climate-resistant crops, the report said.

The report comes roughly a month before top officials from around the world will attend the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Previously, Nature Climate Change published studies indicating climate change could make parts of the Middle East too hot for human beings to survive.

As Earth Warms, NASA Targets ‘Other Half’ of Carbon, Climate Equation in Advance of United Nations climate conference in Paris

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Carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by human activities influences the amount of the sun’s energy trapped by Earth’s atmosphere. These emissions are the subject of a United Nations climate conference in Paris later this month. To improve the information available to policymakers on this issue, scientists are grappling with the complex question of whether Earth’s oceans, forests and land ecosystems will maintain their capacity to absorb about half of all human-produced carbon dioxide emissions in the future.

“NASA is at the forefront of scientific understanding in this area, bringing together advanced measurement technologies, focused field experiments, and cutting-edge research to reveal how carbon moves around the planet and changes our climate,” said Michael Freilich, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. “Understanding how the planet responds to human carbon emissions and increasing atmospheric CO2 levels will position our nation to take advantage of the opportunities and face the challenges that climate changes present.”

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels recently surpassed a concentration of 400 parts per million (ppm) — higher than at any time in at least 400,000 years — and continue to increase at about 2 ppm per year. Levels of the even more potent heat-trapping gas methane — also carbon-based — now exceed pre-industrial amounts by about 2.5 times. Calculations show that, on average, only about half of the carbon emitted by human activities remains in the atmosphere.

This “other half” of the carbon problem — how and where it is absorbed on land and sea — is a priority for carbon cycle scientists at NASA and around the world. Scientists are investigating how Earth’s warming environment will affect the ability of ecosystems around the world to absorb carbon naturally, and what changes in those ecosystems could mean for future climate. It’s a major research question involving several NASA satellite missions, multi-year field campaigns and new instruments that will fly on the International Space Station in coming years.

Scientists discussed the ongoing analysis of the first year-plus of satellite data from NASA’s recently launched Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 — the agency’s first satellite designed to measure carbon dioxide from the top of Earth’s atmosphere to its surface.

“As carbon dioxide is the largest human-produced driver of our changing climate, having regular observations from space is a major step forward for our ability to understand and predict climate change,” said Annmarie Eldering, OCO-2 deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “Precisely measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been one of the most difficult observations to make from space.”

OCO-2 already is demonstrating the accuracy, precision and coverage needed to provide the first complete picture of both human and natural sources of carbon dioxide and the places where they are being absorbed. While the mission gives scientists new, near-global data on atmospheric carbon dioxide, satellite data cannot directly observe the processes by which the gas is absorbed on the land and ocean. To better understand these processes, NASA scientists will use satellite data and detailed field experiments in concert with super-high-resolution computer models. Scientists need this integrated approach in order to continue to more accurately predict how carbon-absorbing ecosystems will respond to a warming climate.

“The land and the ocean are really doing us a big favor,” said Lesley Ott, an atmospheric scientist in the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Otherwise you would have carbon building up in the atmosphere twice as fast as it does now.”

Also causing concern is the potential for the ocean’s rate of carbon absorption to change as ocean temperatures rise and phytoplankton communities show signs of change. NASA’s North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study (NAAMES) launched ship and airborne studies last week to the North Atlantic Ocean, where satellites have documented surprising phytoplankton behavior in recent years.

“We will be studying an ocean region that every year exhibits one of the largest natural phytoplankton blooms on Earth,” said Mike Behrenfeld, NAAMES principal investigator from Oregon State University in Corvallis. “Phytoplankton are not only influenced by climate, but they also influence climate. That’s why we’re out here in the North Atlantic in the middle of November.”

Forest and other land ecosystems are also changing in response to a warmer world. Some ecosystems — such as thawing permafrost in the Arctic and fire-prone forests — could begin emitting more carbon than they currently absorb. Next fall, NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment will begin a 10-year investigation into the fate of carbon stores in rapidly warming regions of Alaska and Canada.

The scientists also outlined several other upcoming NASA carbon missions and field campaigns, including:

ACT-America, which will fly over the eastern U.S. beginning in 2016 to study the atmospheric movement of carbon emissions;
Coral Airborne Laboratory mission, which will fly over coral reefs around the world beginning in 2016 to observe how reefs are responding to changing ocean pH levels caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide;
The Pre-Aerosol, Clouds and Ocean Ecosystem satellite, now in early development, will provide a revolutionary way of measuring phytoplankton from orbit; and,
Two instruments that will fly on the International Space Station in coming years — Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation and ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station, which will provide crucial observations of plants and forests.

Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0918
stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

Last Updated: Nov. 12, 2015

United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris

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The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP 11 will be held in Paris from November 30 to December 11. It will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

The overarching goal of the Convention is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. However, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, acknowledged in the closing briefing at the 2012 Doha conference “the current pledges under the second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol are clearly not enough to guarantee that the temperature will stay below 2 °C and there is an ever increasing gap between the action of countries and what the science tells us.”

The governments of more than 190 nations will gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the threat of dangerous climate change.

Current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions run out in 2020, so at Paris governments are expected to produce an agreement on what happens for the decade after that at least, and potentially beyond.

Growing Worries Over Global Climate Change Threaten Major Highway Expansions

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Beltlinetraffic
Some of the main contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere from current society are cement making, paving the landscape and emissions from motor vehicle driving.

Last week,the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved borrowing an additional $350 million to be paid later to put five major highway capacity expansion projects back on the schedule for road and bridge construction. The 5 major projects in Wisconsin include the following:

* the roadwork along Madison’s Beltline, Highway 12-18, at the Verona Road interchange;
* I-39/90 from the Illinois state line to Madison;
* Highway 10/441 in the Fox Valley;
* Highway 23 between Fond du Lac and Plymouth;
* Highway 15 near New London in Outagamie County.

Project completion dates for those project have been put off by two years, due to the lack of funds in the current Wisconsin state budget. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has already contracted for the start of work on these projects but because of the funding shortfall, the completion date for the projects was pushed later into the future.

The five major highway capacity projects are located throughout Wisconsin and their completion dates will be delayed pending full approval by the Wisconsin Legislature’s of the JFC’s ruling in a revised state budget signed by Governor Scott Walker. The bonding approval means the five projects will face delays of one year instead of two.

Meanwhile, the state of North Carolina and the Federal Highway Administration are reconsidering the widening an interstate highway through west Asheville to eight lanes. Highway builders want to complete the “missing link” of Interstate 26 running from Tennessee to Charleston. That missing link is actually already an interstate: I-240, built right though some of Asheville’s urban neighborhoods during the urban renewal era. The highway was a major dividing line between some of the black neighborhoods in west Asheville and some more affluent white neighborhoods.

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Problem is, FHWA refuses to just rename it I-26 because the highway doesn’t meet some of the modern interstate standards. The DOT is exploring its options for a $600 million widening and “upgrade.”

The state recently released its draft environmental impact statement. The document seems to favor a design that would widen the highway from four lanes to eight — a plan many local residents say is unnecessary and potentially damaging. Last year, the U.S. Public Interest Research group named the project one of its top “highway boondoggles.”

Groups such as “Mountain True”, the Asheville Design Center and a number of community groups had been pushing for a more city-friendly approach. They wanted a design that would preserve urban land for development, minimize air pollution, and provide additional multi-modal connections for neighborhood residents.

“I keep seeing this stuff from U.S. DOT about ‘beyond traffic’ and moving beyond the old paradigm but we’re sort of having the old paradigm forced on us in Asheville”, said Don Kostelec, a local advocate and independent planner skeptical of the project.
Alternative to Verona Road/Beltline Highway Expansion

Obama and Nebraska Residents, Assisted by Neil Young and Willie Nelson, Reject Keystone Tar Sands Crude Oil Pipeline

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By New York Times Writer Chas Danner
Nov. 9, 2015

Following a seven-year stint in political and regulatory purgatory, the Keystone XL project finally met its end last week when President Obama, eyeing the upcoming U.N. climate talks in Paris, formally rejected TransCanada’s request to build the cross-border oil pipeline. Climate activists [with help from two longtime progressive American artists/musicians who didn’t really need the exposure – Neil Young and Willie Nelson and who also opposed the plan] are celebrating their victory and already attempting to parlay the momentum into more wins. Proponents of the pipeline — a group that at this point consists mainly of Republicans and Republican presidential candidates, energy-industry lobbyists, and some labor unions who were looking forward to tens of thousands of temporary construction jobs — are decrying Obama’s decision and writing the whole thing off as a hallmark of irresponsible political capitulation….

Meanwhile, Bill McKibben, one of the central leaders of the anti-KXL fight, writes in The New Yorker that he now believes he and his allies, because of their new tactics, finally have fossil-fuel companies on the defensive:

[T]he Keystone rallying cry [has] quickly spread to protests against other fossil-fuel projects. One industry executive summed it up nicely this spring, when he told a conference of his peers that they had to figure out how to stop the “Keystone-ization” of all their plans. … [And] this fall, the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, speaking to members of the insurance industry at Lloyds of London, used [“leave it in the ground“] language to tell them that they faced a “huge risk” from “unburnable carbon” that would become “stranded assets.” No one’s argued with the math, and that math indicates that the business plans of the fossil-fuel giants are no longer sane. Word is spreading: portfolios and endowments worth a total of $2.6 trillion in assets have begun to divest from fossil fuels. The smart money is heading elsewhere.

We won’t close that gap between politics and physics at the global climate talks next month in Paris. […] In many ways, the developments of the past two days are more important than any pledges and promises for the future, because they show the ways in which political and economic power has already started to shift. If we can accelerate that shift, we have a chance. It’s impossible, in the hottest year that humans have ever measured, to feel optimistic. But it’s also impossible to miss the real shift in this battle. [End of Danner text]

The nearly 1,200-mile (2,000-km) pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels a day of mostly Canadian oil sands crude to Nebraska en route to refineries and ports along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Read more at Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/05/us-transcanada-keystone-state-idUSKCN0ST2VX20151105#PXYjkPeuAjeDlY1G.99However, Enbridge Company pipeline projects permitted by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s Department of Natural Resources, are planning on pumping 1.2 million barrels of tar sands crude across Wisconsin for processing into gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel, soon, and are planning on pumping another 600 million barrels of tar sands crude oil through a second parallel pipe from Alberta to Illinois in the not too distant future. Burning that much fuel will certainly add to the planet’s global warming troubles, probably sooner than most of us earthlings burning all those fossil fuels had anticipated.

Also see: Obama Urged to reject Keystone XL

Obama Clean Power Plan