tagged w/ tipping point
WASHINGTON (AP) — The old saying that "what goes up must come down" doesn't apply to carbon dioxide pollution in the air, which just hit an unnerving milestone.
The chief greenhouse gas was measured Thursday at 400 parts per million in Hawaii, a monitoring site that sets the world's benchmark. It's a symbolic mark that scientists and environmentalists have been anticipating for years.
While this week's number has garnered all sorts of attention, it is just a daily reading in the month when the chief greenhouse gas peaks in the Northern Hemisphere. It will be lower the rest of the year. This year will probably average around 396 ppm. But not for long — the trend is going up and at faster and faster rates.
Within a decade the world will never see days — even in the cleanest of places on days in the fall when greenhouse gases are at their lowest — when the carbon measurement falls below 400 ppm, said James Butler, director of global monitoring at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth Science Research Lab in Boulder, Colo.
"The 400 is a reminder that our emissions are not only continuing, but they're accelerating; that's a scary thing," Butler said Saturday. "We're stuck. We're going to keep going up."
Carbon dioxide stays in the air for a century, some of it into the thousands of years. And the world carbon dioxide pollution levels are accelerating yearly. Every second, the world's smokestacks and cars pump 2.4 million pounds of the heat-trapping gas into the air.
Carbon pollution levels that used to be normal for the 20th century are fast becoming history in the 21st century.
"It means we are essentially passing one in a whole series of points of no return," said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University.
Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said the momentum in carbon dioxide emissions has the world heading toward and passing 450 ppm. That is the level which would essentially mean the world warms another 2 degrees, what scientists think of as dangerous, he said. That 2-degree mark is what much of the world's nations have set as a goal to prevent.
"The direction we've seen is for blowing through the best benchmark for what's dangerous change," Oppenheimer said.
And to see what the future is, scientists look to the past.
The last time the worldwide carbon level probably hit 400 ppm was about 2 million years ago, said Pieter Tans of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
That was during the Pleistocene Era. "It was much warmer than it is today," Tans said. "There were forests in Greenland. Sea level was higher, between 10 and 20 meters (33 to 66 feet)."
Other scientists say it may have been 10 million years ago that Earth last encountered this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The first modern humans only appeared in Africa about 200,000 years ago.
Environmental activists, such as former Vice President Al Gore, seized on the milestone.
"This number is a reminder that for the last 150 years — and especially over the last several decades — we have been recklessly polluting the protective sheath of atmosphere that surrounds the Earth and protects the conditions that have fostered the flourishing of our civilization," Gore said in a statement. "We are altering the composition of our atmosphere at an unprecedented rate."
Carbon dioxide traps heat just like in a greenhouse. It accounts for three-quarters of the planet's heat-trapping gases. There are others, such as methane, which has a shorter life span but traps heat more effectively. Both trigger temperatures to rise over time, scientists say, which is causing sea levels to rise and some weather patterns to change.
When measurements of carbon dioxide were first taken in 1958, it measured 315 ppm. Some scientists and environmental groups promote 350 ppm as a safe level for CO2, but scientists acknowledge they don't really know what levels would stop the effects of global warming.
The level of carbon dioxide in the air is rising faster than in the past decades, despite international efforts by developed nations to curb it. On average the amount is growing by about 2 ppm per year. That's 100 times faster than at the end of the Ice Age.
Back then, it took 7,000 years for carbon dioxide to reach 80 ppm, Tans said. Because of the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, carbon dioxide levels have gone up by that amount in just 55 years.
Before the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels were around 280 ppm, and they were closer to 200 during the Ice Age, which is when sea levels shrank and polar places went from green to icy. There are natural ups and downs of this greenhouse gas, which comes from volcanoes and decomposing plants and animals. But that's not what has driven current levels so high, Tans said. He said the amount should be even higher, but the world's oceans are absorbing quite a bit, keeping it out of the air.
"What we see today is 100 percent due to human activity," said Tans, a NOAA senior scientist. The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal for electricity and oil for gasoline, has caused the overwhelming bulk of the man-made increase in carbon in the air, scientists say.
More at the linkWASHINGTON (AP) — The old saying that "what goes up must come down"... more
By Joe Romm
The President loves fossil fuels, at least when they are extracted here — or, rather, anywhere in North America. On Friday the UK Guardian reported, “White House officials … gave strong indications the President is inclined to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.”
On Saturday, Obama gave a big wet kiss to oil and gas in his weekly radio address:
"Let’s keep moving forward on an all-of-the-above energy strategy. A strategy where we produce more oil and gas here at home, but also more biofuels and fuel-efficient vehicles; more solar power and wind power. A strategy where we put more people to work building cars, homes and businesses that waste less energy. We can do this. We’re Americans. And when we commit ourselves to something, there’s no telling how far we’ll go."
Now it is true that Obama was touting his proposed “Energy Security Trust to fund research into new technologies that will help us” finally “shift our cars and trucks off of oil for good.”
But I’ll bet you didn’t know this included research into vehicles that run on fossil fuels with higher life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions:
We can support scientists who are designing new engines that are more energy efficient; developing cheaper batteries that go farther on a single charge; and devising new ways to fuel our cars and trucks with new sources of clean energy – like advanced biofuels and natural gas – so drivers can one day go coast-to-coast without using a drop of oil.
Yes, in the Energy Security Trust, natural gas vehicles count as replacing oil with “new sources of clean energy.” Not.
As the National Journal reported last year:
“The president has proposed we switch trucks to natural gas, and I’m here to tell you today that every truck we switch to natural gas damages the atmosphere,” Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said at the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates annual conference here. Krupp said the little data available about how much methane — a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide — escapes during the production of shale natural gas compels him to refuse to support a shift toward more natural-gas vehicles.
More at the link
I actually thought the trade off would be working to limit emissions from existing coal plants, but that may not come to pass either... so I suppose deferring to the Nixonian NEPA rule which may in the end just prolong the projects and not stop them really isn't even a tradeoff. And when it comes to addressing this crisis tradeoffs are not an option. This is one good reason why those who see the urgency of this should be supporting the Progressive budget because it is the only one calling for a carbon tax. At least the Progressive Caucus is not afraid to stand up for what is right and necessary instead of always using the Tea Party as an excuse to back off when we should be in their faces. This is about our abilty to feed ourselves at this point, not about always campaigning for the next election.
http://stopthecap.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Hurricane-Sandy.jpgBy Joe Romm
The President loves fossil fuels, at least when they are extracted here... more
Tens of millions of people may be spared droughts and floods by 2050 if Earth-warming carbon emissions peak in 2016 rather than 2030, scientists said on Sunday.
Climate researchers in Britain and Germany said emission cuts now would delay some crippling impacts by decades and prevent some altogether.
By 2050, an Earth heading for warming of 2-2.5 degrees Celsius (3.6-4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 could have two very different faces, depending on the route taken to get there, said their study published in the journal Nature Climate Change
Policies that cap Earth-warming carbon emissions in 2016 and then reduce them by five percent per year could see between 39 and 68 million people spared exposure to a higher risk of water shortages by 2050, Nigel Arnell of the University of Reading told AFP.
This is the best-case scenario, though.
In contrast, if emissions peak in 2030 and fall by five percent annually, the number who escape this risk drops to between 17 and 48 million.
Similarly, about 100-161 million people would avoid a higher risk of river flooding on the 2016-peak scenario.
This compares to 52-120 million people if emissions peak 14 years later, said Arnell, director of the university's Walker Institute on climate change.
"Basically in 2050, the 2030-peaking policy has about half to two-thirds of the benefit than the best (2016) policy," even though both lead to a similar temperature peak of about 2-2.5 deg C by 2100, he said.
"You may hit the same (temperature) point at the end of the century but... the mayhem that's been caused on the way to that point is different under the different pathways."
Under a scenario without any emissions curbs, temperatures could rise as much as 4-5.5 deg C, said the new paper which claimed to be the broadest assessment yet of the benefits of avoiding climate change impacts.
Global average warming of 4 deg C would see almost a billion people have less water in 2100 than they have now, and 330 million will be at greater risk of river flooding, Arnell told a pre-release press conference.
A peak in 2016 seems unlikely, with the world's nations aiming to adopt a new global climate pact by 2015 for entry into force only five years later.
The latest round of UN climate talks that concluded in Doha, Qatar in December failed to set pre-2020 emissions cuts for countries that have not signed up to the Kyoto Protocol that seeks to curb warming, even as scientists warned the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere continues to rise.
Three of the world's four biggest polluters -- China, the United States and India -- are among those with no binding emission limits, which cover countries responsible for only about 15 percent of the world's carbon pollution.
Many scientists believe that Earth is set for warming that will be far above the United Nations' 2 deg C target on pre-industrial levels.
"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions won't avoid the impacts of climate change altogether of course, but our research shows it will buy time to make things like buildings, transport systems and agriculture more resilient to climate change," said Arnell.Tens of millions of people may be spared droughts and floods by 2050 if Earth-warming... more
2012 was a historic year for extreme weather that included drought, wildfires, hurricanes and storms; however, tornado activity was below average
2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States with the year consisting of a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above 1998, the previous warmest year.
The average precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. for 2012 was 26.57 inches, 2.57 inches below average, making it the 15th driest year on record for the nation. At its peak in July, the drought of 2012 engulfed 61 percent of the nation with the Mountain West, Great Plains, and Midwest experiencing the most intense drought conditions. The dry conditions proved ideal for wildfires in the West, charring 9.2 million acres — the third highest on record.
The U.S. Climate Extremes Index indicated that 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation. The index, which evaluates extremes in temperature and precipitation, as well as landfalling tropical cyclones, was nearly twice the average value and second only to 1998. To date, 2012 has seen 11 disasters that have reached the $1 billion threshold in losses, to include Sandy, Isaac, and tornado outbreaks experienced in the Great Plains, Texas and Southeast/Ohio Valley.
More at the link2012 was a historic year for extreme weather that included drought, wildfires,... more
11 billion dollar disasters just coming under the 14 billion dollar disasters of 2011. Yet this was not important enough to be mentioned at the presidential debates in 2012, nor to be addressed by this Congress or the president of this country beyond more lipservice. Nor was it adequately addressed in climate talks in Doha this past month. A crisis already threatening our survival killing and displacing people globally that gets less coverage than Kim Kardashian. We can't have another year without action.
From Weather Underground: Hour-by-hour animation of infrared satellite images for 2012. The loop goes in slow-motion to feature such events as Hurricane Sandy, the June Derecho, Summer in March, and other top weather events of 2012. The date stamp is at lower left; you will want to make the animation full screen to see the date. Special thanks to wunderground’s Deb Mitchell for putting this together!11 billion dollar disasters just coming under the 14 billion dollar disasters of 2011.... more
"Sign our petition to make your voice heard: we need strong climate action now!
From Alaska to Nebraska, Louisiana to New York, Americans from all walks of life are telling stories of how extreme weather is impacting their jobs, homes, and well-being.
We are asking you to make action on climate change part of your legacy. You can do this by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline and by instructing the EPA to regulate carbon emissions. Then, in your negotiations on the fiscal cliff, push for a carbon tax, higher taxes on the rich and cuts to fossil fuel subsidies.
Together these bold actions would allow the U.S. to continue its recovery while reversing course on climate change. "
For some reason the source link got messed up when I posted it here but the link in the post is OK.
More at the link.https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/455/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=12043... more
Some 25 yrs ago, students demanded their universities pull investments out of South Africa to fight Apartheid. Now, activists want to fight climate change emissions using the same tactic. Host Steve Curwood talks to Harvard students who are asking the college to pull investment from all fossil fuel stocks.
CURWOOD: A new battle-line has formed in the wider push to rein in fossil fuel use – on college campuses. Students at some 18 colleges and universities just held a National Day of Action to pressure their administrations to divest their endowment holdings from fossil fuel stocks, a move already taken by Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts.
Among the institutions involved - Cornell, Amherst, Bryn Mawr, Boston University – and the university with the fattest endowment of all – Harvard. Down in Harvard Yard I met one of the organizers of the protest, sophomore Alli Welton.
Harvard student Alli Welton (Photo: Annie Sneed)
WELTON: I think students feel very scared and worried about climate change because this issue will really determine the sort of planet that we live on and the society in which we have our lives. And I think it’s particularly strong to students because we see our entire lives spread out ahead of us.
Also, we’re trying to raise awareness among the members of our administration that the impacts of climate change are already happening right now, and they’re already taking a serious toll – if you look at the drought in the Midwest this summer, the wildfires in Colorado…– we just feel that it’s a really important issue that needs some action right now.
CURWOOD: Harvard has, certainly, the largest endowment of any American university, how much of it is fossil fuel, do you think?
WELTON: So, we can’t give an exact number because not all of Harvard’s endowments or investments are made public. University endowments are generally un-transparent and there have been campaigns for years and years to try to make them transparent. So, the portions of the endowments that we are able to see, it is very clear that Harvard has invested in oil, coal, and natural gas companies, and the Harvard management company confirmed this with us.
CURWOOD: Harvard says it’s in its best interest to have these investments to make money to support the operations - what do you think’s in Harvard’s best interest?
WELTON: I think Harvard’s best interest is maximizing its positive impact on the world, and I think President Faust would make the argument that earning the most money out of our endowment to pay for researchers – the production of knowledge – as she says, is the most important thing.
But if we don’t have a planet that’s stable to live on… I mean, various studies predict that the carrying capacity of the earth will be one billion people by the end of the century… I mean, what kind of Harvard would that be? Climate change is about whether or not Harvard survives as an institution, which is why we feel that it’s so important that we divest from fossil fuels.
CURWOOD: Now, Harvard says, the President of Harvard says it’s her fiduciary responsibility to keep these investments, how do you respond to that?
WELTON: President Faust’s responsibility is to look out for Harvard’s institutional well-being as a whole. And I understand that part of that is earning money off the endowment, so we can have an operational budget and such, but part of that is also that these investments in fossil fuel companies are also threatening Harvard.
Both our students, in terms of our lives, wherever we go in the world after this – climate change could really harm our lives or our chances of getting a job if the economy is strained under increasingly frequent natural disasters, or even Harvard itself… I mean rising sea levels will mean that the Charles River starts to flood.
And if you look at the city of Cambridge’s projections for this, the floodwaters will go right up into where we have our dorms right now – right into the Kennedy School and the Business School. So we think that the President needs to consider that when she thinks about her responsibility for Harvard and how it invests its money.
CURWOOD: Alli Welton helped organize the National Day of Action for Fossil Fuel Divestment. She says they've collected nearly a thousand signatures from students who support them.
OLIVER: My name's Oliver. I’m here today to support the Students for a Just and Sustainable Future in calling for Harvard to divest from fossil fuels, because I think that climate change is a really important issue and one that Harvard should be doing more to tackle through its investments. I mean, Harvard draws a moral line in the sand somewhere – it doesn't invest in tobacco companies on health grounds and if climate change isn't a public health issue then I don't know what is.
More at the linkSome 25 yrs ago, students demanded their universities pull investments out of South... more
“The door is closing. I am very worried – if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for climate safety]. The door will be closed forever.”
No, that was not President Barack Obama or his Republican Challenger Mitt Romney speaking in the presidential debate. It was Fatih Birol, the renowned chief economist of the International Energy Agency, speaking about the pressing need to transition away from fossil fuels.
You’d be hard pressed to hear either of the presidential candidates make a statement like that. Or any statement on climate at all.
Those concerned about climate change were sorely disappointed during Tuesday night’s town hall-style debate when both the candidates and the moderator — CNN’s Candy Crowley — failed to address the issue of climate change, even during a lengthy and heated exchange about energy issues.
“I had that question for all of you climate change people,” said Crowley in the post-debate coverage. “We just, you know, again, we knew that the economy was still the main thing so you knew you kind of wanted to go with the economy.”
Obama started off the debate with a strong nod to renewable energy, explaining that we need to invest in “solar and wind and biofuels, energy efficient cars.” But after a voter asked about gas prices, both Obama and Romney proceeded to battle over who could drill more fossil fuels. (At one point, the two men closed in on each other, pointed fingers, and raised their voices over how much oil production had increased).
Obama separated himself by focusing on the need to develop more renewables and lower consumption of petroleum through better efficiency measures. But when talking about why he believes those investments are important, he never mentioned the reasons that alternatives to fossil fuels are so important.
Perhaps Australian climate scientist Will Steffen can explain: “This is the critical decade. If we don’t get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines. We are on the cusp of some big changes. We can … cap temperature rise at two degrees, or cross the threshold beyond which the system shifts to a much hotter state.”
Below is the full discussion on energy issues. Can you find the mention of climate? (Don’t strain too hard. We’ve already ruined it for you — there are none).
QUESTION: Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it’s not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?
OBAMA: The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years.
Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. But what I’ve also said is we can’t just produce traditional source of energy. We’ve also got to look to the future. That’s why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars. That means that in the middle of the next decade, any car you buy, you’re going to end up going twice as far on a gallon of gas. That’s why we doubled clean – clean energy production like wind and solar and biofuels.
And all these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years. Now, I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling. We continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas. We’ve got potentially 600,000 jobs and 100 years worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas.
And we can do it in an environmentally sound way. But we’ve also got to continue to figure out how we have efficiency energy, because ultimately that’s how we’re going to reduce demand and that’s what’s going to keep gas prices lower.
So what I’ve tried to do is be consistent. With respect to something like coal, we made the largest investment in clean coal technology, to make sure that even as we’re producing more coal, we’re producing it cleaner and smarter. Same thing with oil, same thing with natural gas.
And the proof is our oil imports are down to the lowest levels in 20 years. Oil production is up, natural gas production is up, and, most importantly, we’re also starting to build cars that are more efficient.
And that’s creating jobs. That means those cars can be exported, ’cause that’s the demand around the world, and it also means that it’ll save money in your pocketbook.
OBAMA: That’s the strategy you need, an all-of-the-above strategy, and that’s what we’re going to do in the next four years.
ROMNEY: But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years. That’s the problem. In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.
OBAMA: Not true, Governor Romney.
ROMNEY: So how much did you cut (inaudible)?
OBAMA: Not true.
ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by, then?
OBAMA: Governor, we have actually produced more oil –
What I want to do is to create an economy that is strong, and at the same time produce energy. And with respect to this pipeline that Governor Romney keeps on talking about, we’ve – we’ve built enough pipeline to wrap around the entire earth once.
So, I’m all for pipelines. I’m all for oil production. What I’m not for is us ignoring the other half of the equation. So, for example, on wind energy, when Governor Romney says “these are imaginary jobs.” When you’ve got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs, and the Republican senator in that – in Iowa is all for it, providing tax breaks (ph) to help this work and Governor Romney says I’m opposed. I’d get rid of it.
That’s not an energy strategy for the future. And we need to win that future. And I intend to win it as President of the United States.
And there you have it. The deafening sound of climate silence.
Even as more voters say they understand that humans are warming the planet — and will reward candidates who say they’d do something about the problem — the policy conversation about energy goes on without any acknowledgement.
More at the link“The door is closing. I am very worried – if we don’t change... more
Despite the Democrat and Republican candidates near silence on the issue, climate change is happening, the impacts are getting more severe, and it’s not something we can choose to ignore.
Join us online Sunday to hear how Jill Stein’s Green New Deal would curb climate change and transition the United States to a sustainable economy.
Here’s how to participate in the event:
•Click here on Sunday 9/30 at 4pmPST/7pmEST. (Yes, it’s that easy!)
•Host a house party! (Of course, this is optional, but we’d be grateful if you chose to!) Have a little BBQ with neighbors and friends and watch the event together. If you and your guests are impressed with what you learn about the vision of the campaign, collect donations to help that dream become reality!
•Join the conversation online! Use the hashtag #ClimateTownHall to share your thoughts and questions with us on Twitter. Post comments on our Facebook wall, as well as your own (be sure to tag our page).
Have a question you’d like Jill to answer? You can submit questions both before and during the event in the following ways:
•Tweet your question using the hashtag #ClimateTownHall
•Post your question on our Facebook wall. (Please still tag it #ClimateTownHall, so we know it’s related to this event.)
•Share your question with us on Google+ (again, using the hashtag above).
•Submit your question during the event on LiveStream.
And, here’s how to help us demand action now!
This event is just one part of an entire day of action. The Green Party is urging local supporters to organize events (or issue a release) in your community to highlight our demand that the US take action now on climate change. The Green Party of NY has drafted a Green Climate Change Model Media Release and Green Climate Change Action Plan you can use for local releases, news conferences, and media events.
The Republicans are climate change deniers, the Democrats are climate change evaders. Contact email@example.com for more information.
•Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein
•Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, Green Party Candidate for Congress, will moderate the event
•Bill McKibben, author and climate change expert, will offer scientific, non-partisan background on the issue
More at the linkDespite the Democrat and Republican candidates near silence on the issue, climate... more
Democrats and the energy industry ... it's complicated
Jennifer Yachnin, E&E reporter
Greenwire: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Delegates and lawmakers attending the Democratic National Convention here could spend time this week perusing a 32-page publication promoting the Queen City's energy industry while riding natural-gas-industry-sponsored vehicles on their way to one of a dozen events sponsored by Duke Energy Corp. and other industry groups.
But Duke spokesman Dave Scanzoni insists the Charlotte-based company -- which has spent nearly $3.6 million lobbying Congress in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics -- isn't looking to promote specific energy policies this week, or even generally influence lawmakers or delegates, despite its prominent role in the festivities.
"Duke Energy's goal in bringing the convention to Charlotte is all about Charlotte's economic development," Scanzoni said, noting the Democratic convention is the first such meeting in North Carolina in the state's history.
But other organizations -- including the American Petroleum Institute and America's Natural Gas Alliance -- acknowledge that sponsoring events or transportation here isn't merely a goodwill gesture toward citizens interested in their government.
"Our view really is that we wanted to be sure that energy was going to be a visible and critical issue for voters and for candidates who are running for office this year," API Executive Vice President Marty Durbin said yesterday.
Durbin said he views the conventions -- API was also a prominent sponsor at the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, Fla., providing delegates with branded sunglasses and personal battery-powered fans -- as the culmination of the institute's yearlong "Vote 4 Energy" advertising campaign, which targets swing-state voters and urges them to consider energy issues when casting their ballots.
"The public, the voters are going to be focused on what is said both in Tampa and here in North Carolina. It gives us a great opportunity," Durbin said. Later, he added: "It's not that we're coming here with a specific goal where we want Congress to do X or the parties to do a specific policy."
But API President Jack Gerard, whose name has been floated as a possible chief of staff should GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney win the presidency, has promoted the themes of his group's campaign -- oil and gas development's role in job creation, for example -- during a "Vote 4 Energy" forum API sponsored with The Washington Post yesterday.
"We're going to need a true all-of-the-above strategy as energy demand continues to grow in this country," Gerard said and later added: "Today energy can help provide that stimulus to bring us back on the road to recovery."
In addition, API issued its own recommendations for the parties' platforms in May -- making identical requests to both Democrats and Republicans -- calling for expanded drilling and environmental deregulation (Greenwire, May 15).
While the new Democrat platform dropped 2008 language referencing the "tyranny of oil" and calls for the development of oil and other fossil fuels along with renewables, Durbin said he objects to language describing tax benefits the oil industry receives as "subsidies."
Durbin also acknowledges API's footprint is smaller in Charlotte than in Tampa -- teaming with the Congressional Black Caucus and Democratic Governors Association for evening soirees and the Post for an energy forum -- but said the difference is the result of funding restrictions.
Although there are no legal limits on convention donations -- both corporations and individuals can offer up cash or in-kind contributions -- Democrats imposed their own restrictions for 2012, including a ban on direct corporate donations and a $100,000 donation limit per individual. The ban does not extend to nonprofit or union contributions.
That ban also did not prevent Duke Energy, a major player in civic affairs here, from providing the Charlotte host committee with a $10 million line of credit for the event (E&E Daily, May 15).
Piedmont Natural Gas, Ultimate CNG and ANGA -- which represents 29 natural gas exploration and production companies -- likewise donated a fleet of 12 buses powered by compressed natural gas to the Charlotte event.
More at the linkDemocrats and the energy industry ... it's complicated
Jennifer Yachnin,... more
Two new research papers published today improve our understanding of the planet's methane emissions, and might raise worries about the role of the gas in warming the planet. The first suggests that there may be extensive methane deposits under the Antarctic ice sheets. Meanwhile, the second concludes that emissions of the gas from Arctic permafrost have been underestimated.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas - accounting for around 14 per cent of the warming effect of current man made greenhouse gas emissions. Recent research has focused on measuring emissions from methane sources, both natural and manmade.
Antarctic methane reservoirs
Scientists have been particularly interested in methane emitted from the Arctic. This is because the region is warming particularly rapidly. In addition, methane released from melting permafrost and escaping methane hydrate deposits could exacerbate climate change. But research published today in the journal Nature suggests for the first time that there might also be large stores of methane at the other end of the planet, under the Antarctic ice sheet.
Plants thrived on Antarctica before the continent was covered by ice some 35 million years ago. Lab experiments show that microbes living beneath the ice are able to convert plant remains into methane, and scientists calculate that half of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (1 million square kilometers) and a quarter of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (2.5 million square kilometers) could cover carbon-rich sediments containing up to 4 billion metric tons of methane in the form of methane hydrates. These are an ice-like substance formed when methane and water combine.
The researchers suggest methane could be released if ice sheets retreat as global warming continues. According to study co-author Slawek Tulaczyk, professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz, the findings underline "the need for continued scientific exploration of remote sub-ice environments in Antarctica, because they may have far greater impact on Earth's climate system than we have appreciated in the past."
Media outlets have reported the findings widely, with most headlines focusing on potential impacts of escaping methane. For example, Reuters headlines the story ' Antarctic methane could worsen global warming - scientists', while the UK Press Agency goes for ' Methane fear beneath Antarctic ice'.
So how realistic is the prospect of enough of the Antarctic melting to release methane that might be beneath the ice?
The study's authors highlight that "significant uncertainty exists" in their estimates of methane reservoirs beneath Antarctic ice. But they calculate that Antarctic ice sheet retreat at the rate of 1,000 square kilometres per year - comparable to previous episodes of ice sheet collapse - could result in enough methane release to affect atmospheric methane levels.
At the moment, this isn't happening. The West Antarctic ice sheet is losing ice mass, but slower than an ice sheet which is collapsing. And with most of the potential methane under the East Antarctic ice sheet, it looks unlikely that there will be significant methane release from Antarctica soon.
Arctic methane underestimated
What about Arctic methane sources? Another new Nature paper finds ten times more carbon than previously thought is escaping from coastal permafrost in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf - an amount that dwarfs emissions from land and submarine permafrost in the region.
The escaping carbon has been trapped for tens of thousands of years, but with summer sea ice declining, Arctic coastlines are becoming more vulnerable to erosion from waves and storms. With roughly three-quarters of the Arctic coastline made of permafrost, it is perhaps not surprising that the crumbling coastline is releasing more methane and carbon dioxide than previously estimated.
The scientists warn that erosion of permafrost coasts might worsen as the Arctic warms, and that this will have "consequences for the temperatures all over the world."
More at the linkTwo new research papers published today improve our understanding of the planet's... more
Greenland has experienced an unprecedented meltdown so far this year, and there are still four more weeks of summer.
Greenland's massive ice sheet is melting at a record pace this summer.
By Aug. 8, this year's summer melt had shattered the record set in 2010, according to a new analysis of satellite data by glaciologist Marco Tedesco of the City University of New York.
With four weeks to go before the end of Greenland's melt season, Tedesco said this year could end up being "a goliath," far outranking any other in the 30-year satellite record.
Areas that don't normally melt or melt for just a few days each summer appear to have lost significant amounts of ice this year. That helped drive up this year's "cumulative melt index," a measure that takes into account the spatial extent and duration of thawing across the ice sheet.
"On the east coast, the west coast, at high elevations, in the north, there was a disproportionate amount of melting, both in terms of extent and duration, with respect to previous years," Tedesco said.
Thomas Mote, a climatologist at the University of Georgia, said his independent analysis of the same Air Force satellite data Tedesco used confirms that Greenland has broken its seasonal melt record this year.
More at the linkGreenland has experienced an unprecedented meltdown so far this year, and there are... more
The United States ran into crossfire on Wednesday after it called for "flexibility" in climate talks yet acknowledged this may not guarantee meeting the UN's target on global warming.
Europe and Africa demanded that a two-degree-Celsius (3.6-degree-Fahrenheit) objective set at the 2009 Copenhagen summit be honoured while small island states, more vocal, accused Washington of backsliding.
The skirmishes came ahead of new talks in Bangkok starting at the end of the month for a global treaty to roll back greenhouse-gas emissions which stoke atmospheric warming, damaging Earth's climate system.
In a barely-noticed speech in New Hampshire on August 2, chief US negotiator Todd Stern said negotiations had to avoid a rigid formula that prompted nations to defend their own interests and avoid painful concessions.
Calling for "flexibility," he argued that a format that enabled progressively greater commitments would be easier to negotiate and ratchet up deeper cuts in the long run.
"This kind of flexible, evolving legal agreement cannot guarantee that we meet a two-degree goal," Stern acknowledged. "But insisting on a structure that WOULD guarantee such a goal will only lead to deadlock."
Stern's speech met with a hostile response from major parties in the climate parlay.
"World leaders pledged in Copenhagen to stay below the 2 C (3.6 F) temperature increase. What leaders promised must now be delivered," European Commission climate spokesman Isaac Valero Ladron said.
"Consolidated science continues to remind us of the dire consequences of going beyond such a temperature increase... Time is of the essence here."
Marlene Moses, chair of the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), said Stern's speech "follows a well-established pattern of the United States lowering ambition at the climate talks.
"But it is particularly disturbing, coming as it does in the midst of one of the worst droughts in the country's history," Moses told AFP.
"If the US is prepared to abandon its own farmers, how are we supposed to believe it will do what is necessary to save small islands from sea-level rise and other devastating impacts?"
AOSIS, gathering low-lying nations in the Pacific, Indian Ocean and Caribbean, is campaigning for warming to be limited to just 1.5 C (2.7 F), a goal that could only be achieved with far tougher emissions caps than most states currently accept.
At present, Earth is on track for warming of 3-4 C (5.4-7.2 F) by century's end, scientists say.
Christian Aid's climate specialist, Mohamed Adow, accused President Barack Obama of retreating on a target that he himself had set in Copenhagen, where the figure was reached in chaotic scenes by a small number of world leaders.
"This backflip with a twist would win a gold medal at the hypocrisy Olympics," he said.
Addressing such criticism, the State Department quoted Stern as saying the United States "continues to support" the 2 C goal.
"We have not changed our policy," Stern said in this clarification. "My point in the speech was that insisting on an approach that would purport to guarantee such a goal -- essentially by dividing up carbon rights to the atmosphere -- will only lead to stalemate."
But the bloc of African countries in the talks said the clarification itself was a worry.
"It is concerning that the US would now question the global goal it pushed for, and has agreed to numerous times internationally," said Seyni Nafo of Mali, spokesman for the 54-nation African Group.
"It is more disappointing that in clarifying its position the Obama administration has said it 'supports' the goal but does not support an approach that guarantees achieving it."
More at the linkThe United States ran into crossfire on Wednesday after it called for... more
Video Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
One of the most striking changes that has taken place in the Arctic since the start of satellite monitoring in 1979 is the rapid decline of the perennial sea ice cover. This ice is the sea ice that survives the summer melt season, and is typically the thickest part of the sea ice cover, sometimes spanning several years. Sea ice extent has declined as the globe has warmed, but the ice cover has thinned as well. Thinner sea ice melts more easily, and as multiyear sea ice is lost, Arctic sea ice has declined more rapidly.
This NASA visualization shows the perennial Arctic sea ice cover from 1980 to 2012. The grey disk at the North Pole indicates the region where no satellite data is collected. A graph overlay shows the area's size measured in million square kilometers for each year. The '1980', '2008,' and '2012' data points are highlighted on the graph.Video Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
The disappearance of Arctic sea ice has crossed a "tipping point" that could soon make ice-free summers a regular feature across most of the Arctic Ocean, says a British climate scientist who is setting up an early warning system for dangerous climate tipping points.
Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter has carried out a day-by-day assessment of Arctic ice-cover data collected since satellite observation began in 1979. He presented his hotly anticipated findings for the first time at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London on Monday.
Up until 2007, sea ice systematically fluctuated between extensive cover in winter and lower cover in summer. But since then, says Lenton, the difference between winter and summer ice cover has been a million square kilometres greater than it was before, as a result of unprecedented summer melting. These observations are in contrast to what models predict should have happened.
Despite fears of runaway sea-ice loss after summer cover hit an all-time low in 2007 – opening the Northwest Passage for the first time in living memory – modelling studies based on our best understanding of ice dynamics indicated the ice cover should fully recover each winter. "They suggest that even if the ice declined a large amount in one year, it should bounce back," says Walt Meier of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Instead, Lenton's research shows a permanent alteration. According to data from the past five years, the Arctic sea ice has not recovered from the 2007 extreme low. "The system has passed a tipping point," he says.
What caused the change is still unclear. Lenton speculates that the exceptional low in 2007 (pictured, above right) might have allowed the ocean to absorb so much heat that a lot of the thicker multiyear ice, which used to persist through the summer, was melted. Alternatively, the loss of ice may have changed air circulation patterns above the Arctic in ways that have similarly "locked in" the change.
More at the linkThe disappearance of Arctic sea ice has crossed a "tipping point" that could... more
Climate change could fuel a giant ‘compost bomb’, scientists have warned, as decaying vegetation stuck under the ice or in peat bogs starts to heat up and tips the world into dangerous global warming.
In gardens every spring compost heaps are beginning to warm up as the microbes in the soil get to work breaking down vegetable matter and releasing a certain amount of greenhouse gases - as well as a pungent smell.
This process is repeated on a much larger scale when microbes trapped in the permafrost in the Arctic, tropical swamps or peat bogs around Europe and the UK heat up.
Scientists fear that if temperatures warm up too fast it will destabilise these natural cycles and unlock billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Peatlands cover just 3 percent of the world's land area, but the soil could store up to twice the amount of carbons currently in the atmosphere.
Peter Cox, Professor of Climate System Dynamics at the University of Exeter, explained the process of decomposition kicked off by warmer temperatures.
He said microbes in the soil generate more heat as they break down vegetable matter, releasing a certain amount of gases until the “compost heap” is exhausted or temperatures cool.
However if temperatures rise too fast there is a “runaway effect” as the microbes are producing heat so fast it cannot be released and builds up, potentially causing fires. Gases also build up eventually causing a huge ‘burp’ or explosive release of carbon into the atmosphere all at once.
“If you put your hand to a compost heap it is warm,” he said. “It is exactly what is happening in peat soils around the world as organic matter breaks down.
“Normally it does not matter as carbon dioxide and other gases are released gradually into the atmosphere.
“But if we are warming the planet too fast then theoretically the soils will warm up like a compost heap, making the microbes work faster and generate yet more heat. This causes heat and gases to build up and an abrupt release of carbon into the atmosphere.”
The compost bomb also causes a positive ‘feedback loop’ as the hotter the soil gets the harder the microbes work, causing yet more heat. Also the gases released cause more global warming.
Speaking at the Planet under Pressure conference in London, Prof Will Steffen, a global change expert from the Australian National University, described the ‘compost bomb’ as one of many “tipping points” in danger of pushing global temperatures beyond dangerous levels.
Almost 3,000 scientists are attending the conference to discuss the threats of global warming and the best way forward.
He said that there is evidence of a ‘compost bomb’ around 55 million years ago that caused a huge amount of carbon to be released into the atmosphere all at once.
Scientists are also investigating whether a ‘compost bomb’ caused the peatland fires around Moscow a couple of years ago.
“We know how the compost bomb process works, we think we have seen it in the past, we just do not know what global warming will trigger it or when it will happen, " he said.
Other tipping points identified by Prof Steffen as part of the 'great acceleration' in global warming include the melting of ice in the Arctic that creates more areas of ocean and therefore absorbs more heat than reflective white, again causing a positive feedback loop.
Although the global population is stabilising and we are more efficient at producing energy, human beings are causing more carbon dioxide to be released than ever before because the amount individuals consume is still rising, causing a number of environmental impacts.
Prof Steffen said that this period of climate change caused by humans, known as the ‘anthropocene era’, could ultimately cause the whole system of ice ages followed by warm periods, that has allowed life on Earth to flourish, to be over.
“The further and faster we push temperatures up, the more serious the risks,” he said. "But we simply do not know where these tipping points lie."
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
7:00AM BST 27 Mar 2012Climate change could fuel a giant ‘compost bomb’, scientists have warned,... more
Millions of people today believe a prophecy the world will end in 2012, according to interpretations of the Mayan calendar. Some expect total destruction, maybe from a reversal of the magnetic poles. Many expect the mass “ascension” or “rapture” of people shifting to a higher dimension, spiritually or physically. Others say the world as we know it will end — a transformation of society worldwide. The skeptics, in contrast, claim the Mayan calendar does not really end in 2012 because the ancients simply ran out of rock.
Until we see what happens in 2012 and beyond, why not address the global social and ecological problems we all face together? Why not be fully enlightened people who change the world by changing ourselves? Why not use the power of our global connectivity?
Because we are globally interactive, everything we think, feel, say and do has a real impact in the world. When we “think globally and act locally,” our daily choices tend be enlightened. A global sensibility affects what foods we eat, what clothes we wear, what cars we drive, what books we read, what jobs we accept, what candidates we elect. “Global sense” affects how we live, love, learn, work, play, pray, and vote. Each enlightened choice, in turn, helps enlighten our world — whether gradually or miraculously. Indeed, we are powerful!
The cause of global awakening is the cause of all humankind. The outcome of our choices in the next few decades will impact all life on earth for hundreds or thousands of years.
When millions of people believe a mistaken idea is true, it’s popularity makes us believe it must be right. Recall the tale about the emperor’s new clothes. Voicing any contrary view, like saying the emperor is naked, raises a outcry by the defenders of tradition. After we pass a tipping point in public opinion, most people voice the new idea as if they’d never thought otherwise.
Today millions of us on earth mistakenly believe we humans are innately evil, that we cannot be trusted with freedom, that we cannot hope for enlightenment. Millions also mistakenly believe we exist separately from the rest of life, that we are powerless, that nothing we do makes any real difference in the world.
Contrary views are arising. A growing number of people say we humans are naturally good, capable of enlightenment, and globally connected in ways that empower each of us to change the world from within ourselves.
Granted, the one percent of humanity now ruling our world resists this global sensibility. To repress protests like the Occupy Wall Street or Arab Spring movements, they’ve declared "endless war" on the demonized advocates of human rights and social responsibility. They distract us with mindless media mayhem while desensitizing us to real human suffering. They promote ignorance by undermining public education as zealots stay busy banning books. Such abuses of natural law must concern everyone who trusts the power of love and reason.
Regardless of our age, gender, race, class, party, or religion, a clarion call of alarm for the future of all life on our homeland earth is long overdue. We are at a “tipping point” when our civilization may rise or fall. To survive and thrive, each of us now needs to ascend to our highest human potential. We cannot afford to remain hopeless and afraid. We cannot afford delays. We need to claim our global power. We need to take action in ways that make global sense.
This essay is adapted from the introduction to my book, GLOBAL SENSE: The 2012 Edition: A spiritual handbook on the nature of society and how to change the world by changing ourselves (Visit http://globalsense.com)Millions of people today believe a prophecy the world will end in 2012, according to... more
This is an incredible presentation by photogtapher Garth Lenz showing shocking photographs of the devastation of tarsands along with the beautiful ecosystems threatened by them. Even he could not hold back his emotion when relaying the effects on indigenous communities and the responsibilty we all have in stopping this atrocity of nature before it is too late.This is an incredible presentation by photogtapher Garth Lenz showing shocking... more
President of American Gas Association, 1981: “In fact, gas energy — currently America’s largest domestically produced fuel — could prove to be the keystone to solving the nation’s energy crisis by serving as the ‘bridge fuel’ to the next century’s renewable energy technologies.”
VP of AGA, 1988, “refers to natural gas as a bridge fuel — the least harmful alternative while the world looks for other, longer-lasting solutions to the ‘greenhouse’ effect,” the Washington Post reported.
Chair of AGA, 2008: “Natural gas will be the bridge fuel to the future…. The electric industry is expected to turn to natural gas as a bridge until clean coal and nuclear generation are available.”
It’s the longest bridge in history! Heck, the Golden Gate Bridge only took 4 years to build!
The President will be touting natural gas in his State of the Union address tonight, according to sources. Nothing wrong with touting gas — if you also tout a rising carbon price, which the president once did but no longer does.
Way back in June 2009, I pointed out the value of gas in the context of a climate bill with a rising CO2 price — see “Why unconventional natural gas makes the 2020 Waxman-Markey target so damn easy and cheap to meet.” But the key point of that post was that you could put gas in existing, underutilized plants to replace existing coal power cheaply to meet the key 2020 target Obama.
Building lots of new gas plants doesn’t make much sense since we need to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next few decades if we’re to have any chance to avoid catastrophic global warming. We don’t want new gas plants to displace new renewables, like solar and wind, which are going to be the some of the biggest, sustainable job creating industries of the century.
Late last year, some of the leading (center-right) economists in the country — Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus — concluded in a top economic journal that the total damages from natural gas generation exceed its value-added at a low-ball carbon price of $27 per ton! At a price of $65 a ton of carbon, the total damages from natural gas are more than double its value-added!
For the record, stabilizing at 550 ppm atmospheric concentrations of CO2, which would likely still be catastrophic for humanity, would require a price of $330 a metric ton of carbon in 2030, the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted back in 2008.
The fact that natural gas is a bridge fuel to nowhere was in fact, first demonstrated by the IEA in its big June 2011 report on gas — see IEA’s “Golden Age of Gas Scenario” Leads to More Than 6°F Warming and Out-of-Control Climate Change. That study — which had both coal and oil consumption peaking in 2020 — made abundantly clear that if we want to avoid catastrophic warming, we need to start getting off of all fossil fuels.
Then came a remarkable new study by Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) that concluded:
In summary, our results show that the substitution of gas for coal as an energy source results in increased rather than decreased global warming for many decades.
More at the linkPresident of American Gas Association, 1981: “In fact, gas energy —... more
This is why activism matters.
Six months ago, the Obama Administration was set to approve one of the single most environmentally disastrous fossil fuel projects imaginable.
Today, it's dead.
The Keystone XL pipeline - designed to bring filthy tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas so that oil companies can profit by selling the oil overseas - was dealt a severe setback Wednesday when President Obama said no to an election year blackmail threat by the American Petroleum Institute and its lackeys in Congress.
But President Obama didn't reject Keystone XL because he wanted to. Or because he thought it was the right thing to do. Or because he thought it would help his reelection campaign. He rejected it because you made him do it.
It's a victory for activists. But because the President rejected the pipeline on a narrow technicality,1 in no way has he set down a clear marker against the pipeline or the carbon bomb that burning Canadian tar sands oil in China represents.
We want to thank the many groups and thousands of activists, who, following the inspiring call of Bill McKibben, joined us in putting massive public pressure on the President. In fact, CREDO waged the single largest activism campaign in our history.2
It was this pressure that forced President Obama to initially delay the decision in November. And it was this pressure, combined with the Republicans' overzealous and irresponsible demand of a 60-day deadline that forced him to reject the pipeline permit.
Our pressure overcame the lies and propaganda of Republicans and oil giants, and their threats of massive political consequences if he didn't approve it.
Rejecting this pipeline was the right thing to do. But by rejecting it purely on a technicality, there are many things President Obama did not do:
•He did not close the door to this pipeline once and for all. In fact, he specifically opened the door to the southern portion of Keystone XL, which would allow this oil to be exported overseas -- the real reason TransCanada wanted Keystone XL in the first place.
•He did not explain the imperative of stopping not just this project, but others that will expedite disastrous warming. Just the opposite -- he touted the need to expand oil and gas drilling and made no mention of clean energy.
•He did not refute the lies of Republicans and polluters, whose biggest "jobs plan" is a foreign oil pipeline whose chief purpose is to export oil overseas.
The time to lead us away from dirty fuels and prevent escalating global catastrophes from climate change is here. And President Obama still can.
Tell President Obama: It's time to lead on climate. Make the case in your State of the Union Address.
Until President Obama makes a clear and compelling case to the American people for sweeping action to reduce our dependence on any and all fossil fuels, the pace of our transition will remain slower than what is required to stem the onrushing danger of climate pollution.
Until he refutes the false choice presented by Big Oil and Republicans -- that we must choose between a clean energy future and a stable economy - he empowers and remains vulnerable to their attacks.
Until he shows his commitment to clean energy over dirty fossil fuels, the energy of progressive activists will be spent fighting individual bad decisions, instead of pushing to support needed progressive policies.
And ultimately, until President Obama takes the opportunity for a true moment of leadership that publicly raises the stakes on the fight to stabilize our climate, the State of our Union will remain deeply clouded.
More at the linkThis is why activism matters.
Six months ago, the Obama Administration was set to... more