Tags: climate change*

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  1. On Friday, the International Maritime Organization agreed for the first time to limit greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping. The nonbinding deal marks a critical shift for the sector — which, until last week, was the only major industry without a comprehensive climate plan.

    Cargo ships are the linchpin of our modern global economy, transporting roughly 90 percent of everything we buy. They also contribute significantly to planet-warming gases in the atmosphere. If the shipping industry was a country, its total annual emissions would rank in the top 10, between those of Japan and Germany.

    Left unchecked, shipping-related emissions are on track to soar by as much as 250 percent by 2050 as global trade expands, the maritime body projects. Such a spike at sea would offset progress in carbon reduction made on land.

    Yet with the new emissions targets, observers say, the shipping industry now has more than a fighting chance to clean up its act.

    The hard-won plan follows tense negotiations involving envoys from 173 countries at the organization’s headquarters on the banks of the Thames River in London. The Marshall Islands and other Pacific nations doggedly pushed the most ambitious proposal on the table: a 100-percent reduction in shipping emissions within two decades, a move that would bring the sector in line with the 1.5-degree target. The European Union also championed a plan to curb emissions by 70 to 100 percent by mid-century.

    Yet other powerful voices in the room, led by Japan, favored smaller emissions cuts and much longer timelines. The United States and Saudi Arabia, two oil-producing giants, objected outright to any emissions cap. Meanwhile, some shipping executives warned of rising cargo costs and threats to business if aggressive targets were put in place.
    https://grist.org/article/the-shippin...sets-sail-toward-a-carbon-free-future
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  2. I asked Douglas, the University of Kent professor, whether conspiracy theories about climate change will proliferate as evidence of it becomes more and more difficult to ignore.

    “People will strongly hold onto their beliefs even in the face of contradictory evidence, so it’s difficult to imagine conspiracy theorizing decreasing,” Douglas wrote to me. “But I’m not sure if it would increase.”

    Lewandowsky, the University of Bristol professor, says that there’s evidence of a way to “inoculate” against conspiracy theories, and that’s instilling a sense of control.

    “For example, even just saying: ‘We’ve already started to tackle the problem, but we need to increase our efforts even more.’ That is a more empowering message than, ‘It’s so big, it’s horrendous, and we haven’t even started solving it.’ If I tell you that, that’s very demotivating! That’s a tough ask!

    “I think if people know what to do about climate change, and they feel they can do this without hurting too much, chances are they’re less skeptical, less in denial of the problem.”

    To get back to Wolf: As Sarah Ditum pointed out in The New Statesman in 2014, The Beauty Myth was actually exposing a conspiracy — the patriarchy! — but that was one turned out to be real. And it’s yielded a healthy movement of women (and some men) who work to counteract the damaging forces of sexist advertising and media.

    I felt a fair amount of guilt even writing this article. Our ecosystems are certainly changing, which elicits a real, documented sense of loss. And I get the sense, poring through endless documentations of cloud-streaked sky in the chemtrail community, that the people obsessed with the patterns of clouds are mourning a change they do not control. I don’t want to ridicule anyone who fears the same things I do — that the world is changing, and I can’t control it, and it only seems to be getting worse. I do wish they were better informed, a desire that will surely bring the fires of the cloud-seeding truther community down upon the inbox.

    More than anything, I hope that a young woman like a teen me, who sees Naomi Wolf as a source of truth and authority, will not find herself waist-deep in the climate conspiracy theory internet and think: “Wow, there’s really nothing I can do about this.”
    https://grist.org/article/the-real-fear-behind-climate-conspiracy-theories
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  3. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has assessed the probability of a slowdown before 2100 at more than 90% - or “very likely”. However, a complete “switch off of the gulf stream – or Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) – is increasingly thought possible by some scientists.

    Some studies say this could lower land temperatures in the UK, Greenland, Iceland and Scandinavia by up to 9C.

    UK arrays positioned in the north Atlantic measured a 30% drop in AMOC strength between 2009-10, the Easac study says. And while uncertainties persist about the pace and scale of possible future changes, the decline in Gulf Stream strength itself has now been “confirmed”.

    Citing “gathering evidence of an emerging negative phase” in Atlantic temperature swings driven by a weakening Gulf Stream, the study calls for research to be stepped up.

    “With potentially substantial implications for the climate of north-west Europe, it is clearly desirable to quantify this risk further,” it say
    https://www.theguardian.com/environme...50-worldwide-in-a-decade-figures-show
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  4. Humanity faces few larger questions than what, exactly, to do about climate change — and, in a sense larger still, what climate change even means. We've all heard a variety of different future scenarios laid out, each of them based on different data. But data can only make so much of an impact unless translated into a form with which the imagination can readily engage: a visual form, for instance, and few visual forms come more tried and true than the map.

    And so "leading global strategist, world traveler, and best-selling author" Parag Khanna has created the map you see above (view in a larger format here), which shows us the state of our world when it gets just four degrees celsius warmer. "Micronesia is gone – sunk beneath the waves," writes Big Think's Frank Jacobs in an examination of Khanna's map. "Pakistan and South India have been abandoned. And Europe is slowly turning into a desert."




    But "there is also good news: Western Antarctica is no longer icy and uninhabitable. Smart cities thrive in newly green and pleasant lands. And Northern Canada, Scandinavia, and Siberia produce bountiful harvests to feed the hundreds of millions of climate refugees who now call those regions home."

    Not quite as apocalyptic a climate-change vision as some, to be sure, but it still offers plenty of considerations to trouble us. Lands in light green, according to the map's color scheme, will remain or turn into "food-growing zones" and "compact high-rise cities." Yellow indicates "uninhabitable desert," brown areas "uninhabitable due to floods, drought, or extreme weather." In dark green appear lands with "potential for reforestation," and in red those places that rising sea levels have rendered utterly lost.

    Those last include the edges of many countries in Asia (and all of Polynesia), as well as the area where the southeast of the United States meets the northeast of Mexico and the north and south coasts of South America. But if you've ever wanted to live in Antarctica, you won't have to move into a research base: within a couple of decades, according to Khanna's data, that most mysterious continent could become unrecognizable and "densely populated with high-rise cities," presumably with their own hipster quarters. But where best to grow the ingredients for its avocado toast?
    http://www.openculture.com/2018/02/a-...r-world-gets-four-degrees-warmer.html
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  5. “As permafrost thaws in the future, some portion of this mercury will get released into the environment, with unknown impact to people and our food supplies,” said Kevin Schaefer, a scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., and a co-author of the study. The research was led by Paul Schuster, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and was co-authored by 16 other federal, university-based and independent researchers.

    The scientists performed the research by taking cores from permafrost across Alaska. They measured mercury levels and then extrapolated to calculate how much mercury there is in permafrost across the globe, where it covers large portions of Canada, Russia and other northern countries.

    “We figure that this represents the buildup of mercury during and since the last Ice Age,” Schaefer said.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/e...to-release-it/?utm_term=.20f0e3c1f4b3
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  6. There’s an understandable impulse in the face of growing national divisions and what for many was the shocking and unpleasant outcome of the 2016 national elections to retreat to a comforting cocoon of the like-minded. Blue cities will do all the things that a solidly Republican national government won’t do: respect LGBTQ rights, provide sanctuary for immigrants, denounce climate change, and tax themselves to pay for needed investments and public services. But withdrawing to the safety of agreeable blue localities cedes the important national battle at just the time when it needs to be contested.

    It is well and good to celebrate the successes that mayors and local leaders are having. But transforming these heartening but small successes into a sweeping call for a new localism is misplaced when the fundamental functions of the national government are being steadily undermined. None of this works in a world in which the federal government is not simply rending holes in the safety net but knocking down its foundations.


    While the rest of the world’s nation-states adopted the trappings of modern social democracies, the U.S. was late to implement things like unemployment insurance, social security and universal health care. The New Deal, the Great Society, and Obamacare were only enacted after various local and state programs to address these problems were simply overwhelmed.

    Cities are not merely ill-equipped to tackle our major challenges on their own. Localism has an undeniable history of making many problems worse. Take two big issues of our time: climate change and surging inequality. Mayors and cities can strike a pose and demonstrate effective tactics, but they lack the policy throw-weight to solve these problems.

    It’s also worth noting that a key aspect of localism that has been effectively exempt from federal control—local control of zoning and land use—has worsened the economic segregation of our nation’s metropolitan areas
    https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/0...vernment/552446/?utm_source=SFTwitter
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  7. the UN diplomat who shepherded global climate talks from their post-Copenhagen standstill, remembers “5,000 people jumping out of their seats, crying, clapping, screaming, yelling, torn between euphoria and still disbelief.”

    But that euphoria masked a hard truth. The plausibility of the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals rested on what was lurking in the UN report’s fine print: massive negative emissions achieved primarily through BECCS—an unproven concept to put it mildly. How did BECCS get into the models?

    The story begins with the 2°C goal itself, a formal international climate target since 2010 (and informal since the 1990s). For years before Paris, climate researchers had warned that the 2°C limit was slipping out of reach—or was already unattainable.

    Here’s why: As climate researchers have clearly (and tirelessly) linked temperature rise to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, they can calculate back from a temperature target to the maximum amount of CO2 we can emit—our “carbon budget.” For a greater than 66 percent chance of staying below 2°C of warming, our CO2 concentration should remain under 450 parts per million.

    In 2010, when the 2°C goal was adopted at a major conference in Cancun, Mexico, the carbon budget for 450 ppm, or 2°C, was formidably tight: Only a third was left—1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Since humans were emitting 40 gigatons a year, the carbon budget would be easily blown before midcentury. This is the global accounting problem that a handful of specialized modeling groups began confronting in 2004, when the IPCC asked them to map scenarios in line with the 2°C goal. Essentially, how might we cut emissions without grinding the fossil-fuel-driven economy to an immediate standstill?

    To tackle this problem, the groups used a tool called an integrated assessment model—algorithms that draw on climate, economic, political, and technical data to imagine cost-effective policy solutions.

    Around the same time that Karlsson’s life changed via late-night Swedish television, Detlef Van Vuuren, a project leader of the Dutch modeling group IMAGE, came across the idea behind BECCS in the literature, looking at Obersteiner’s 2001 paper and work by Christian Azar and Jose Moreira. He was intrigued. In theory, by both producing energy and sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere BECCS could result in a path to 2°C that the global economy could afford.

    The key was that BECCS resulted in negative emissions, which, in the carbon budget, worked like a negative number. It was like having a climate credit card: Negative emissions allowed modelers to “overshoot” the carbon emissions budget in the short term, permitting greenhouse gases to rise (as they were doing in reality) and then paying back the debt by sucking the CO2 from the atmosphere later.

    “The idea of negative emissions became a deeply logical one,” Van Vuuren says.

    The rationale behind negative emissions relied heavily on the work of physicist Klaus Lackner, who at the turn of the millennia was sketching schemes for CO2 removal on blackboards for his students at Columbia University. Lackner, who was working on carbon capture and storage (then intended for storing emissions from coal-fired power plants), was the first person to suggest the idea of direct air capture—pulling CO2 out of the air. At that time, Lackner’s idea of direct air capture, like BECCS, was just theoretical.

    But Van Vuuren says that for the purposes of the models, BECCS could be said to exist, at least in its component parts. The IPCC had published a report on carbon capture and storage—and bioenergy just meant burning lots of crops. Some models did ultimately include direct air capture and another negative emissions technique, afforestation (planting lots of trees, which naturally absorb and store CO2 in the process of photosynthesis). But BECCS was cheaper because it produced electricity.

    In 2007 IMAGE published an influential paper relying on BECCS in Climatic Change, and garnered much attention at an IPCC expert meeting. Other groups started putting BECCS into their models too, which is how it came to dominate those included in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (the one that prompted the BBC to call Karlsson).

    The models assumed BECCS on a vast scale. According to an analysis that British climate researcher Jason Lowe shared with Carbon Brief, at median the models called for BECCS to remove 630 gigatons of CO2, roughly two-thirds of the carbon dioxide humans have emitted between preindustrial times and 2011. Was that reasonable?

    Not for James Hansen, who wrote that reliance on negative emissions had quietly “spread like a cancer” through the scenarios, along with the assumption that young people would somehow figure out how to extract CO2 at a cost he later projected to be $140–570 trillion this century.

    Anderson (of the India calculations) pointed out that the few 2°C scenarios without BECCS required CO2 emissions to peak back in 2010—something, he noted wryly, that “clearly has not occurred.” In a scathing letter in 2015, Anderson accused scientists of using negative emissions to sanitize their research for policymakers, calling them a “deux ex machina.” Fellow critics argued that the integrated assessment models had become a political device to make the 2°C goal seem more plausible than it was.
    https://www.wired.com/story/the-dirty...climate-disaster/?mbid=social_twitter
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  8. The largest uncertainties and limitations of our analysis stem from the assumed values for impacts per unit electric energy produced. However, we emphasize that our results for both prevented mortality and prevented GHG emissions could be substantial underestimates. This is because (among other reasons) our mortality and emission factors are based on analysis of Europe and the US (respectively), and thus neglect the fact that fatal air pollution and GHG emissions from power plants in developing countries are on average substantially higher per unit energy produced than in developed countries.

    Our findings also have important implications for large-scale "fuel switching" to natural gas from coal or from nuclear. Although natural gas burning emits less fatal pollutants and GHGs than coal burning, it is far deadlier than nuclear power, causing about 40 times more deaths per unit electric energy produced (ref. 2).

    Also, such fuel switching is practically guaranteed to worsen the climate problem for several reasons. First, carbon capture and storage is an immature technology and is therefore unlikely to constrain the resulting GHG emissions in the necessary time frame. Second, electricity infrastructure generally has a long lifetime (e.g., fossil fuel power plants typically operate for up to ~50 years). Third, potentially usable natural gas resources (especially unconventional ones like shale gas) are enormous, containing many hundreds to thousands of gigatonnes of carbon (based on ref. 6). For perspective, the atmosphere currently contains ~830 GtC, of which ~200 GtC are from industrial-era fossil fuel burning.

    We conclude that nuclear energy — despite posing several challenges, as do all energy sources (ref. 7) — needs to be retained and significantly expanded in order to avoid or minimize the devastating impacts of unabated climate change and air pollution caused by fossil fuel burning.
    https://climate.nasa.gov/news/903/coa...e-far-more-harmful-than-nuclear-power
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  9. determining when radical physical changes in the Earth system happened provides a basis for determining which human activities were responsible, and thus what measures humans might take to prevent the change from reaching catastrophic proportions. In this article I offer an overview of the issues and stakes in the “when it happened” debate.

    in fact, a dozen or more proposals for dating the Anthropocene have been made to the AWG. While they differ substantially from each other, the starting dates under serious consideration fall into two broad groups that can be labelled Early and Recent, depending on whether the proposed starting date is in the distant past, or relatively close to the present.
    An Early Anthropocene?

    The first Early Anthropocene proposal was advanced by U.S. geologist William Ruddiman, who argues that the Anthropocene started when humans began large-scale agriculture in various parts of the world between eight and five thousand years ago. Those activities, he believes, produced carbon dioxide and methane emissions that raised global temperatures just enough to prevent a return to an Ice Age.9

    Other Early Anthropocene arguments suggest dating the Anthropocene from the first large-scale landscape modifications by humans, from the extinction of many large mammals in the late Pleistocene, from the formation of anthropogenic soils in Europe, or from the European invasions of the Americas in the 1500s. Some archeologists propose to extend the beginning of the Anthropocene back to the earliest surviving traces of human activity, which would take in much of the Pleistocene, and others have suggested that the entire Holocene should simply be renamed Anthropocene, since it is the period when settled human civilizations first developed.

    This outpouring of proposals reflects humanity’s long and complex relationships with the earth’s ecosystems—many of the proposed beginnings are significant turning points in those relationships, and deserve careful study. But the current discussion is not just about human impact: “the Anthropocene is not defined by the broadening impact of humans on the environment, but by active human interference in the processes that govern the geological evolution of the planet.”10 None of the Early Anthropocene options meet that standard, and none of them led to a qualitative break with Holocene conditions.

    Even if Ruddiman’s controversial claim that the agriculture revolution caused some global warming is correct, that would only mean that human activity had extended Holocene conditions. The recent shift out of Holocene conditions, to a no-analogue state, would still need to be evaluated and understood. Noted climatologist James Hansen and his colleagues make this argument clearly in a recent paper:

    Even if the Anthropocene began millennia ago, a fundamentally different phase, a Hyper-Anthropocene, was initiated by explosive 20th century growth of fossil fuel use. Human-made climate forcings now overwhelm natural forcings. CO2, at 400 ppm in 2015, is off the scale … Most of the forcing growth occurred in the past several decades, and two-thirds of the 0.9 C global warming (since 1850) has occurred since 1975.”11

    The Early Anthropocene has been promoted by anti-environmental lobbyists associated with the Breakthrough Institute, because it supports their claim that there has been no recent qualitative change and thus there is no need for a radical response. In their view, today’s environmental crises “represent an acceleration of trends going back hundreds and even thousands of years earlier, not the starting point of a new epoch.

    Moving in exactly the opposite direction, the IGBP’s 2004 book Global Change and the Earth System included several pages of graphs showing historical trends in human activity (GDP growth, population, energy consumption, water use, etc.) and physical changes in the Earth system (atmospheric carbon dioxide, ozone depletion, species extinctions, loss of forests, etc.) from 1750 to 2000. Every trend line showed gradual growth from 1750 and a sharp upturn in about 1950. The authors said that “the last 50 years have without doubt seen the most rapid transformation of the human relationship with the natural world in the history of the species,” but did not explicitly connect that to dating the Anthropocene.14

    In 2005, Will Steffen, principal author of that book, together with Crutzen and environmental historian John McNeill and others, coined the term Great Acceleration for the dramatic social-environmental changes after 1950. The name was a deliberate homage to The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi’s influential book on the social, economic, and political upheavals that accompanied the rise of market society in England.15

    In 2007, in a journal article provocatively titled “The Anthropocene: Are Humans Now Overwhelming the Great Forces of Nature?,” Steffen, Crutzen, and McNeill republished the Great Acceleration graphs, and suggested that the second half of the twentieth century should be viewed as Stage 2 of the Anthropocene. Updated versions of the 2004 Great Acceleration graphs were prepared this year by the IGBP. As in the original graphs all the trend lines show hockey stick-shaped trajectories.
    https://monthlyreview.org/2015/09/01/...hropocene-beginand-why-does-it-matter
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  10. Unlike most environmentalists, Francis locates the heart of climate degradation in the economic and social degradation of human beings. As the inverter of hierarchies, he views every problem through the lens of those on the bottom. It is not enough to save Earth. Francis criticizes “economists, financiers, and experts in technology” who, using “green rhetoric,” promote the eco-capitalism and technoscience that might clean the water and the air, or cope with rising sea levels, but would still preserve the cult of unlimited growth, promote open-ended consumption, reinforce an inequitable distribution of goods, and protect a market economy that continues to ravage the poor—an approach that “leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.”

    Imagine Donald Trump using the phrase “civic and political love.” Yet that defines the prescription Pope Francis offers after his stark and unyielding diagnosis. “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, that being good and decent are worth it,” he writes. “We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith, and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good.”

    For Francis, as a religious man, the love of one’s neighbor is the surest sign of God’s presence. But his invitation is profoundly secular, for his critique of the shrunken circles of love that reduce family, tribe, and nation to shelters from the larger human commonwealth has everything to do with this world, not the next. This world’s value is absolute. If the rescue of our one and only heaven requires economic, psychological, political, and spiritual revolutions—or, rather, one revolution combining all of those—then let’s be about it. That is the message of this encyclical, the gift.
    http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-de...franciss-encyclical-on-climate-change
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