Climate change: The Arctic as it is known today is almost certainly gone – Apr 29th 2017


On current trends, the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by 2040

Climate-change sceptics will shrug. Some may even celebrate: an ice-free Arctic ocean promises a shortcut for shipping between the Pacific coast of Asia and the Atlantic coasts of Europe and the Americas, and the possibility of prospecting for perhaps a fifth of the planet’s undiscovered supplies of oil and natural gas. Such reactions are profoundly misguided. Never mind that the low price of oil and gas means searching for them in the Arctic is no longer worthwhile. Or that the much-vaunted sea passages are likely to carry only a trickle of trade. The right response is fear. The Arctic is not merely a bellwether of matters climatic, but an actor in them (see Briefing).

The current period of global warming that Earth is undergoing is caused by certain gases in the atmosphere, notably carbon dioxide. These admit heat, in the form of sunlight, but block its radiation back into space, in the form of longer-wavelength infra-red. That traps heat in the air, the water and the land. More carbon dioxide equals more warming—a simple equation. Except it is not simple. A number of feedback loops complicate matters. Some dampen warming down; some speed it up. Two in the Arctic may speed it up quite a lot.

One is that seawater is much darker than ice. It absorbs heat rather than reflecting it back into space. That melts more ice, which leaves more seawater exposed, which melts more ice. And so on. This helps explain why the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet. The deal on climate change made in Paris in 2015 is meant to stop Earth’s surface temperature rising by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In the unlikely event that it is fully implemented, winter temperatures over the Arctic ocean will still warm by between 5° and 9°C compared with their 1986-2005 average.

The second feedback loop concerns not the water but the land. In the Arctic much of this is permafrost. That frozen soil locks up a lot of organic material. If the permafrost melts its organic contents can escape as a result of fire or decay, in the form of carbon dioxide or methane (which is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2). This will speed up global warming directly—and the soot from the fires, when it settles on the ice, will darken it and thus speed its melting still more.

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This Peruvian Man is Suing an Energy Company Over Climate Change: VICE News Tonight on HBO – Published on Mar 21, 2017


VICE News’ Arielle Duhaime-Ross travels to the Peruvian Andes where, for the first time, a single individual is suing a company over the effects of climate change.

In this case, Saúl Luciano Lliuya, a local mountain guide in the Andean town of Huaraz, claims that one of the most prolific greenhouse gas emitters in the world, the German company RWE, is partially responsible for the glacial melt which might cause a nearby lake to overflow and destroy his house.

 

Doctors Warn Climate Change Threatens Public Health – By Kavya Balaraman, E&E News on March 17, 2017


Physicians are noticing an influx of patients whose illnesses are directly or indirectly related to global warming

Credit: Santiago Urquijo Getty Images

Credit: Santiago Urquijo Getty Images

Growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania, Patrice Tomcik had never heard of Lyme disease — an infectious, flu-like illness transmitted by ticks.

But in the last few years, five of her friends have caught it, she’s had to have her dog vaccinated and she regularly finds herself pulling ticks off her children. It can be disconcerting, she said, having to worry about an illness that she had never been exposed to in the past.

“It’s getting warmer, so the season for ticks is lasting longer,” said Tomcik, a field consultant with Moms Clean Air Force. “There are so many more of them, and they just don’t die off. It’s a big issue here in Pennsylvania, because we have so much wood. Our family has 29 acres of land out in the woods, and I’m picking ticks off my dog and my kids like I’ve never seen before.”

Lyme disease isn’t the only contagious illness that is venturing into new territories under a shifting climate. Across the country, physicians are noticing an influx of patients whose illnesses, they say, are directly or indirectly related to climate change. Now, 11 medical associations — representing around half the doctors and physicians in the country — are creating a group that intends to address the links between climate change and health risks.

“I view this as one of the largest environmental health crises of our time because of the many pathways in which climate affects us — be it from direct heat effects and heat waves in urban centers, ground-level smog, ozone red alert days, stagnant air masses and warmer temperatures, to some infectious diseases,” said Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The group, called the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, intends to advocate for climate change and health awareness among the public and policymakers. Mona Sarfaty, director of the consortium, said its message is one of urgency: “that climate change is harming the health of Americans and that we have to act now.”

“We wish to start that conversation and are eager to talk to everybody about it. We will be speaking to people in environmental organizations, we’ll be speaking to members of Congress, we’ll be sending reports and having conversations with other policymakers throughout the country,” she added.

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Maps Show Where Americans Care about Climate Change – By Erika Bolstad, ClimateWire on March 1, 2017


The updated Yale Climate Opinion maps suggest Americans’ opinions on climate change differ sharply from that of the president

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey Flickr

If you were wondering how many Americans think coal-fired power plants should cap emissions, how much they worry about climate change or even how often they talk about it, well, there’s a map for that.

The Yale Climate Opinion maps, which offer some of the most detailed information available on how people across the U.S. view climate change, just got their first update in two years.

The interactive maps, which hadn’t changed since 2014, use survey data to determine climate change beliefs, risk perception and policy support for climate-related policy at the state and local level.

The update unveiled this week incorporates data gathered after the 2016 election by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication.

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U.S. Conservatives Unveil Plan to Fight Climate Change February 11, 2017


The plan, authored by former Republican cabinet members and economic advisers, could slash emissions. But is it politically feasible?

View Images  Emissions from a coal-fired power plant in Kentucky hint at the debate over climate change policy in Washington. Photograph by Luke Sharrett, The New York Times, Redux

View Images 
Emissions from a coal-fired power plant in Kentucky hint at the debate over climate change policy in Washington.
Photograph by Luke Sharrett, The New York Times, Redux`

In an effort to address the threat of climate change, a group of conservative U.S. statesmen has outlined a plan that, by 2030, could cut the United States’s carbon emissions by up to two-fifths below 2005 levels.

At a Wednesday press conference, the newly established “Climate Leadership Council”— a consortium of Republican Party stalwarts including officials from the Reagan and both Bush administrations—unveiled their plan for a gradually increasing, revenue-neutral tax that puts a price on carbon dioxide emissions.

The Climate Leadership Council’s proposal calls for a $40 tax on each metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions, with the tax steadily increasing on an annual basis. All proceeds—an estimated $200 to $300 billion per year—would be distributed back to American citizens in the form of dividend checks. Carbon taxes on foreign imports and rebates for U.S. exports would then keep U.S.-made goods competitive, the authors claim.

In return for implementing the tax, the plan calls for cutting many current U.S. regulations on carbon emissions. In particular, the plan calls for axing the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era EPA rule that aimed to slash CO2 from power plants, which generate 37 percent of the country’s total carbon emissions. (Legal challenges have stayed the rule’s implementation.)

“If you look at the priorities of President Trump, our plan ticks every one of his boxes,” says Ted Halstead, the group’s founder and CEO. “It is pro-growth. It is pro-jobs. It is pro-competitiveness linked with balanced trade. And last, but hardly least, it would be good for working-class Americans.”

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Climate Policy in the Age of a New President – By Ted Nordhaus, Alex Trembath, and Jessica Lovering January 24, 2017


A Plausible Path Forward

KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTERS U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order that places a hiring freeze on non-military federal workers in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, January 2017.

KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTERS U.S. President signs an executive order that places a hiring freeze on non-military federal workers in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, January 2017.

Of the many reasons that a slim minority of voters chose to elect a bombastic reality television star to be president of the United States, climate change was surely not high on the list. Nonetheless, the new President assumed the office last week openly hostile to the environmental movement. He has threatened to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, gut the Barack Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, and cut funding for climate science research. Should he follow through, two decades of work trying to translate a growing understanding of human-caused global warming into explicit treaties at the international level and emissions policies at the federal level will have reached their denouement. And that, in the long run, might be a good thing for the climate.

THE STATUS QUO’S SMALL FOOTPRINT

Since international efforts to limit carbon emissions began in earnest almost 30 years ago, there has been little evidence that either international agreements or national commitments to cap and reduce emissions have done much good. Analysis published late last year by our research outlet, the Breakthrough Institute, found that the carbon intensity of energy systems fell faster before climate policies were enacted in California, Germany, and around the world through the Kyoto Protocol. Modeling by the Yale economist William Nordhaus (the uncle of one of the authors) released last year reached a similar conclusion.

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Ignoring President -Elect Skepticism, Davos Elite Bets on Climate Change – by Javier Blas and Jess Shankleman January 14, 2017, 4:01 PM PST


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A woman walks past the entrance to the Congress Center, venue for the World Economic Forum (WEF), in Davos on Jan. 13, 2017. Photographer: Michele Limina/Bloomberg

  • World Econonic Forum to heavily feature clean energy in 2017
  • Special session at Davos on climate change to include 60 CEOs

Donald Trump has often ridiculed global warming and promised to withdraw the U.S. from the global accord signed in Paris in 2015. Yet despite the change of political weather in Washington, the captains of business and finance gathered in Davos this week will spend a lot of time talking about climate change — and how to make money from it.

The World Economic Forum is devoting 15 sessions of its 2017 annual meeting to climate change, and nine more to clean energy — the most ever on the issues.

It reflects how much is at stake. For global business leaders, it’s not just a question of burnishing their green credentials, but about billions of dollars — maybe even trillions — in potential profits and losses. Insurers are starting to price-in more frequent flooding and droughts; energy giants are shaping their business for a world that’s moving away from oil and coal; car makers are putting real money into electric vehicles; banks want to lend money for renewable electricity projects.

“The good thing is that the Paris agreement raised the bar for everyone,” said Ben van Beurden, the head of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil group. “Everybody feels the obligation to act.”

Achieving the ambitions set out in Paris may require $13.5 trillion of spending through to 2030, according International Energy Agency data that shows the scale of the opportunity for business. Only last year, clean energy investment stood at $287.5 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicate.

“The scale and scope of the investment flows on renewables shows it’s mainstream,” said David Turk, head of climate change at the IEA in Paris and a former senior U.S. climate diplomat.

Opportunities Rising

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