May 2015

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs.


May, 2015


  • Exxon, Chevron Reject Shareholder Measures on Climate Change Again: Continued resistance by leaders of U.S. companies is a stark contrast to BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Statoil, which supported climate resolutions this year.
    • At ExxonMobil's annual meeting in Dallas on May 27, Chief Executive Rex Tillerson didn't mention climate change in his prepared remarks to shareholders, a change from previous years. In response to questions on climate issues, Tillerson said "the [scientific] models simply are not that good." [ael: whoa]
  • Aided by the Sea, Israel Overcomes an Old Foe: Drought: As California and other western areas of the United States grapple with an extreme drought, a revolution has taken place here. A major national effort to desalinate Mediterranean seawater and to recycle wastewater has provided the country with enough water for all its needs, even during severe droughts. More than 50 percent of the water for Israeli households, agriculture and industry is now artificially produced.
  • Alberta forest fires affect several oilsands operations: Evacuations of facilities result in 15% cut in overall oilsands production
  • Energy industry calls for new emissions targets to aid low-carbon growth: World governments need to set clear long-term goals at Paris climate talks and invest about $50tn to bring about changes needed to avoid dangerous global warming, say World Energy Council
    • The WEC’s reports have in the past been directed at advising governments and the private sector, and it came up with the idea of an energy “trilemma” facing the world, meaning the triple need to tackle climate change, security of energy supply, and making energy accessible and affordable to all.
  • U.S., Mexico, Canada to Collaborate on Climate Adaptation: U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford, and Mexico Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquín-Coldwell will collaborate on six different climate adaptation and energy issues. Those include building low-carbon electric power grids and other energy technology, developing new ways to capture carbon and store it, creating climate change resiliency, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector.
  • Companies Urged to Set Emissions Targets Based on Cuts Recommended by Scientists: The World Resources Institute, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) and the United Nations Global Compact want to change that. They have come up with their own methodology for helping energy-intensive companies establish emissions targets in line with their sector’s projected level of economic activity and potential for emissions reductions.
    • One company that has both a long-term target and a short-term check point is Mars. When Mars started developing its corporate emissions target in 2008, the company saw “an opportunity here to try and build a sustainability program around fundamentally what is right … with a capital R,” Rabinovitch told Bloomberg BNA.


  • Axa to divest from high-risk coal funds due to threat of climate change: Insurance company to move £350m out of coal companies and triple investments in green technologies
    • Henri de Castries, chairman and chief executive of the French insurer, said the company’s duty to its shareholders and policyholders dictated the decision, citing current scientific advice that the world must avoid warming of greater than 2C above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. He said: “It is our responsibility, as a long-term institutional investor, to consider carbon as a risk and to accompany the global energy transition. The burning of coal to produce energy is today, clearly, one of the biggest obstacles from reaching the 2C target.”
  • Leading health charities should divest from fossil fuels, say climate scientists: Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust risk losing moral authority, say researchers including ‘hockey stick’ graph originator Michael Mann
  • Climate change smarts now part of core competency for professionals: Accountants and engineers who don’t consider potential effects of changing weather could be in hot water, professional associations warn
  • China prepares to launch cutting-edge national carbon market to fight climate change:
    • [ael: interesting lesson here:] The past decade, however, has been a spotty one for carbon credit experiments in China. Five years ago, European Union officials ended a carbon offset plan that paid Chinese companies to destroy the greenhouse gas HFC-23 after learning that the companies were producing the gas only to be paid to destroy it.
  • Coal-Fired Power Plant Loses Steam: Mississippi utility withdraws as backer of electricity project as costs soar
    • The future of the most expensive fossil-fuel power plant built in the U.S. is facing new pressures after a Mississippi utility backed out of its commitment to the clean-coal project.
  • Climate change could overwhelm California, Obama adviser says: Climate change is moving faster than anticipated and is intensifying California’s drought, and unless greenhouse gas emissions are slowed, the state’s efforts to adapt will ultimately be overwhelmed, President Obama’s science adviser says.
  • Climate activists attack Edinburgh University's stance on fossil fuels: Representatives from international groups sign letter condemning university’s refusal to divest, in response to article by Edinburgh’s senior vice principal
    • For the world to avoid the potentially devastating effects of a rise in average temperatures of above 2C, the letter argues, 82% of current coal reserves need to be left in the ground, with Canada’s tar sands almost untouched: “The University of Edinburgh’s decision to continue investment is indicative of its failure to recognise both these stark facts and the urgency of the issue.” It adds: “Professor Jeffery’s statement also makes no mention of the human rights, increasing poverty or ill-health of communities on the front-line of fossil fuel extraction. Will the university continue to invest in fossil fuel companies whose ongoing activities devastate communities such as those in the Niger delta and Alberta, Canada?” A group of students had been occupying part of an Edinburgh University building for 10 days to call for divestment, an action which ended on Saturday. Other academic institutions are facing similar pressures. Also on Saturday nearly 70 Oxford University alumni symbolically handed back their degrees in protest, saying it needs to fully divest from all fossil fuel activities.
  •[ Catholics organize to promote pope's climate change message]:
    • When Pope Francis releases his much-anticipated teaching document on the environment and climate change in the coming weeks, a network of Roman Catholics will be ready. These environmental advocates - who work with bishops, religious orders, Catholic universities and lay movements - have been preparing for months to help maximize the effect of the statement, hoping for a transformative impact in the fight against global warming.
  • Climate change is messing with gravity again: The Southern Antarctic Peninsula has dropped the ice equivalent of 350,000 Empire State buildings into the ocean since 2009, according to new research in the journal Science. This level of ice loss is so great that it has actually caused a small shift in gravity, Science Daily reports.
    • Using measurements of the elevation of the Antarctic ice sheet made by a suite of satellites, the researchers found that the Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change up to 2009. Around 2009, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse, measuring some 750km in length, suddenly started to shed ice into the ocean at a nearly constant rate of 60 cubic km, or about 55 trillion litres of water, each year. This makes the region the second largest contributor to sea level rise in Antarctica and the ice loss shows no sign of waning.
    • A group of scientists, led by a team from the University of Bristol, UK has observed a sudden increase of ice loss in a previously stable region of Antarctica. The research is published today in Science.
    • "The fact that so many glaciers in such a large region suddenly started to lose ice came as a surprise to us," continued Dr Wouters. "It shows a very fast response of the ice sheet: in just a few years the dynamic regime completely shifted."
    • Dr Wouters said: "It appears that sometime around 2009, the ice shelf thinning and the subsurface melting of the glaciers passed a critical threshold which triggered the sudden ice loss. However, compared to other regions in Antarctica, the Southern Peninsula is rather understudied, exactly because it did not show any changes in the past, ironically.


  • EPA chief leads dedication of Hayward solar landfill conversion: An old landfill will be the first in the Bay Area to be converted into a solar farm, with 19,000 panels producing enough energy to power 1,200 homes.
    • The Hayward landfill solar project is expected to save Alameda County more than a half-million dollars in energy costs in its first year. The county estimates it will cut its energy bill by almost $15 million over the landfill panels' expected 20-year life span.
  • El Niño could bring drought and famine in west Africa, scientists warn: Global weather system that plays havoc with weather across the world could exacerbate region’s dry spell and devastate Sahel as it did in 1972
  • Findings cast doubt on plant benefits from rising CO2 : ncreasing aridity - driven in part by rising temps - makes Yellowstone grasslands less productive despite carbon dioxide's fertilizing benefits.
    • Grassland productivity today in one Montana meadow is half of what it was in 1969, when AM ruled the airwaves and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were 327 parts per million, 20 percent lower than today's.
    • The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported last year, for instance, that more carbon could increase yields of wheat, rice and soybeans by up to 15 percent. But those studies often fail to consider other impacts, such as rainfall or extreme weather.


  • Bush blasts ‘arrogance’ of those who believe climate science:
    • In Connecticut yesterday, President Obama delivered a commencement at the Coast Guard Academy, and devoted much of his remarks to one specific topic: the national security implications of climate change. ”I am here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country,” the president said. “And so we need to act, and we need to act now.”
    • Just a little further north, former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) was campaigning in New Hampshire, where he offered a very different perspective on the climate crisis. The Washington Post reported overnight: “The climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted,” he told roughly 150 people at a house party here Wednesday night. “And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it even.”
  • Climate Change Lands on Agenda of the PTA: California PTA adopts resolution on teaching climate science, but its passage nationwide and its impact beyond the state are uncertain.
  • Revealed: BP's close ties with the UK government: Documents show the extent of BP’s influence on government policy and how their intimate relationship is at odds with UK commitments to reduce carbon emissions
  • Getting past climate change chaos to find Canada's eco-affluence: Don Pittis:
    • Martin observed that humans annually were using 200 per cent of what the world could sustainably produce, exhausting minerals, soil and ecosystems. He said it is obvious that couldn't continue. But he insisted that economic growth did not require using up irreplaceable assets. Instead, he said the world should focus on "eco-affluence," which he described as increasing human well-being without damaging the ecology.
    • He foresaw new cities across the North, new climate-friendly technologies, new ways of growing food with less water. The areas of the world best able to benefit, he said, were advanced northern countries with small populations compared to their land area and relatively abundant fresh water supplies. "The longer you leave it, the more painful it will be and the more expensive it will be," said Martin. Speaking on CBC Radio's The Current yesterday, Canadian economist Jeff Rubin, author of the new book The Carbon Bubble, warned that Canada should not be counting on a return to the oil boom. He, like many others, has warned that Canadian oil reserves will become "stranded assets," having value in name only but no longer worth the cost of extraction.
    • Rubin says by concentrating so closely on fossil fuels, "we have put our eggs in the wrong basket." Instead, we should be recognizing Canada's advantages in agriculture especially as climate change extends the Canadian growing season on the Prairies. We should also be thinking of where water will come from for those crops.
  • Rising carbon emissions from oilsands a 'unique' challenge, federal cabinet told: [ael: looks like Canada is getting out of the coal business — wonder if anyone's told Mitch McConnell about Canada's war on coal?]
    • Aglukkaq said Canada will meet its target by bringing in regulations to reduce methane that leaks from industrial processes and pipelines and by cutting emissions from the chemical and fertilizer industry and natural-gas fired electricity. All these align Canada with U.S. plans for the same sectors. These new measures are in addition to phasing out traditional coal-fired power plants and stricter controls on cars and light trucks.


  • Obama Recasts Climate Change as a More Far-Reaching Peril: President Obama used a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut on Wednesday to cast his push for urgent action to combat climate change as a national security imperative, arguing that the warming of the planet poses an “immediate risk” to the United States.
    • In a report issued on Wednesday, the White House said climate change would act as “an accelerant of instability around the world,” prompting water scarcity and food shortages that could escalate tensions globally, and leading to overpopulation. It also said that rising temperatures would “change the nature of U.S. military missions,” increasing the demand for resources in the Arctic and other coastal regions that would be affected by rising sea levels, and resulting in humanitarian crises that are larger and more frequent.
  • Where there is oil and gas there is Schlumberger: It’s ubiquitous in fossil fuel operations across the world, has more staff than Google, turns over more than Goldman Sachs, and is worth more than McDonald’s – yet you won’t have heard of it. Meet the oil world’s most secretive operator
  • Study: Americans’ exposure to heat extremes could rise six-fold by mid-century: The risk of exposure to extreme heat could be as much as six times higher for the average U.S. citizens by the year 2070, compared with levels experienced in the last century, researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the City University of New York found. The projected change carries significant implications for Americans’ health, as extreme heat kills more people than any other weather-related event, the study’s authors report in the journal Nature Climate Change.
  • Heat is Piling Up in the Depths of the Indian Ocean:
    • Scientists have zeroed in on the tropical Pacific as a major player in taking up that heat. But while it might have held that heat for a bit, new research shows that the Pacific has passed the potato to the Indian Ocean, which has seen an unprecedented rise in heat content over the past decade. The new work builds on a series of papers that have tracked the causes for what’s been dubbed the global warming slowdown, a period over the past 15 years that has seen surface temperatures rise slower than they did the previous decade. Shifts in Pacific tradewinds have helped sequester heat from the surface to the top 2,300 feet of the ocean. But unlike Vegas, what happens in the Pacific doesn’t stay in the Pacific.
    • Globally, oceans account for 93 percent of the heat that has accumulated on the planet since 1970 due to human greenhouse gas emissions.
  • We’ve been imagining mountains all wrong, say scientists: Researchers Morgan Tingley and Paul Elsen used satellite data on mountain ranges from around the globe to analyze how the amount of land area changed with increasing elevation. They learned that pyramidal mountain ranges account for just 32 percent of the mountain ranges on Earth. Of the remaining mountain ranges, six percent have an inverse, or upside-down, pyramid form, with land area increasing toward the top; 23 percent have an hourglass shape, being wider and at the bottom and top and pinched in the middle; and 39 percent have a diamond form, with less land area at the top and bottom and more available in the middle.
  • Coal, oil, gas subsidies higher than public health spending: The IMF study, published Monday (18 May), calculated the “true costs” of the widespread practice of giving tax benefits and other subsidies to companies in the fossil fuel industry (coal, oil, gas). It was a “shocking” figure, the authors themselves said: $5.3 trillion, or about €4.7 trillion. The figure is higher than what governments worldwide spend on public health. In their calculation, the researchers included “its supply costs and the damage that energy consumption inflicts on people and the environment”. They argue that most of the costs of health and environmental problems that fossil fuels cause are not paid by the industry but by governments and its taxpayers.
  • Why EPA’s alleged ‘war on coal’ may actually be a war on wasting energy: according to a new analysis of how the plan will work, all this emphasis on coal may distract from one of the policy’s key features. The Clean Power Plan, finds the analysis by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), will work most of all by stoking more efficient uses of energy. In other words, wherever electricity comes from under the plan — whether coal, natural gas or renewables — we’ll be giving off less greenhouse gas emissions simply because we’ll be using less of it in total (in some cases, if you will, wasting less).
  • Unilever boss urges world leaders to reduce carbon output: The head of Unilever has called on world leaders to raise their game in the battle against climate change.
    • Chief executive Paul Polman said governments must set clear CO2 targets to force low-carbon innovation. Speaking ahead of a business climate summit in Paris this week, he urged fellow chief executives to help create a “political licence” for politicians to promote clean energy. But firms dependent on cheap fossil fuel energy are unlikely to agree. “It’s clear that, increasingly, the business community is aware of the costs of climate change. Momentum is swinging towards people realising that we need to take urgent action to stay below two degrees [increase in global average temperature],” Mr Polman told BBC News.
  • Wind Power Is Poised to Spread to All States: All 50 states could become wind energy producers, according to an Energy Department report released Tuesday, once the next generation of larger, taller turbines in development hits the market. The bigger machines — reaching as high as 460 feet — could eventually make faster winds at higher altitudes an economical source of electricity, an important part of reaching the nation’s goals in fighting global warming, said Ernest Moniz, the secretary of energy.
    • The industry, which has spread to 39 states, has at the same time been moving skyward with taller turbine towers and larger blades, reaching on average 260 feet above the ground, according to the Energy Department. In roughly the last six years, that has taken robust wind development to states like Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, where wind power can often be as inexpensive as conventional sources like coal. Now, energy officials and executives are pushing toward machinery that would reach 360 to 460 feet high. That would increase the wind development potential in an additional 700,000 square miles — more than a fifth of the United States — bringing the total area to 1.8 million square miles.
  • The truth behind Peabody's campaign to rebrand coal as a poverty cure: The world’s largest privately-held coal company has a long history of attacking climate science. Now it is working to change the conversation from a climate crisis to one of global poverty – with coal as the solution
    • The message in the Linda Jing video is clear – coal is the solution to poverty in developing nations. It is Peabody’s bold attempt to change the conversation away from climate change, and it has embraced it with gusto on its Advanced Energy for Life website. Long before Linda Jing, Peabody stood apart from other coal, oil and gas companies for its open rejection of mainstream climate science and its hardline opposition to domestic regulations and international agreements that would put limits on carbon pollution.
    • Palmer has gone so far as to claim that those who contribute to global warming by burning fossil fuels are doing “god’s work”. “Every time you turn your car on and you burn fossil fuels and you put C02 in the air you are doing the work of the lord,” Palmer told an industry gathering in 2009. Peabody’s chief executive, Greg Boyce, while purporting to endorse a transition to a low-carbon economy, regularly dismisses the “flawed computer models” as the basis of “climate theory”.
    • When she was 10, her father was appointed to an important post at the Datong Coal Mining Administration, then the most important coal fields in China, by the then premier Deng Xiaoping. Datong later became a state-owned corporation. There were hospitals, schools and a funeral home, the industry’s contribution to society. By 1990, meanwhile, China had achieved nearly universal electrification. Chinese cities are now choking on dangerous air pollution, because of the reliance on coal. Jing conceded that air pollution was a growing problem for China. But she was uncertain about the causes. It is a complex issue, she said. She didn’t know how much coal contributed to it.
  • Coal giant exploited Ebola crisis for corporate gain, say health experts: Public health experts outraged after world’s largest privately-held coal company, Peabody Energy, promotes its product in the fight against Ebola in Africa as part of a PR campaign to rebrand the fossil fuel as a solution to global poverty
    • Greg Boyce, the chief executive of Peabody, a US-based multinational with mining interests around the world, included a slide on Ebola and energy in a presentation to a coal industry conference in September last year. The slide suggested that more energy would have spurred the distribution of a hypothetical Ebola vaccine – citing as supporting evidence a University of Pennsylvania infectious disease expert.


  • What Can We Do About Climate Change?: By Gary Gutting and Dale Jamieson
    • G.G.: Does this mean that we can’t be reasonably sure that there will be major changes in climate that will seriously disrupt human life?
    • D.J.: Unfortunately it doesn’t mean that at all. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in its most recent report that “continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” This is a polite way of saying that we’re in for species extinctions, political and social instability, millions of avoidable deaths, and the loss of the world as we know it. We know this will happen globally, that the poorest people will be most vulnerable, and we can make some reasonable predictions about broad regional impacts.
    • G.G.: So it seems that climate science can tell us that we should expect big problems but can’t say much about just what they will be or how best to respond to them. So how can we formulate a sensible plan of action?
    • D.J.: Prudence implies that we should follow “no regrets” policies — those that are likely to make sense whatever the future holds. For example, it makes sense to move people and critical infrastructure away from vulnerable areas. When Hurricane Sandy struck New York, the areas that flooded were primarily those where wetlands had been drained or the coastline had been expanded by landfill. Whatever you think about the wisdom of such projects generally, it’s pretty obvious that critical infrastructure and vulnerable people should not be located in these places, yet the city had sited hospitals and public housing projects in just those places. Also, given the environmental and human costs entailed by the cycle of coal production and consumption, liberating ourselves from the use of coal is something we should do no matter what. The only people who could reasonably object are people who own coal companies or can’t see a life beyond being dependent on those people.
    • G.G.: Stopping the use of coal seems a radical step. Could you explain why you think it’s necessary?
    • D.J.: The cycle of coal production and consumption is destructive at every stage. It involves ripping down mountaintops, polluting waterways and killing workers. When coal is burned to produce electricity it produces pollution that kills more than 10,000 Americans each year, and more than a quarter million Chinese. In addition it does severe damage to fish, birds and waterways. And we haven’t even gotten to its contribution to climate change. Getting off coal will by difficult. Lot’s of things are difficult. Quitting smoking is difficult. Abolishing slavery was almost unimaginable for people living in those societies. For centuries European and American economies depended on coerced labor.
    • G.G.: What are some of these “green virtues”?
    • D.J.: The ones I discuss in my book, “Reason in a Dark Time,” are cooperativeness, mindfulness, simplicity, temperance and respect for nature. They will not solve the problem of climate change on their own but they will help us to live with meaning and grace in the world that we are creating.
  • Shell accused of strategy risking catastrophic climate change: Environmentalists say presumption of global temperature rise to 4C undermines multinational’s ability to talk with authority on climate change
    • Royal Dutch Shell has been accused of pursuing a strategy that would lead to potentially catastrophic climate change after an internal document acknowledged a global temperature rise of 4C, twice the level considered safe for the planet. A paper used for guiding future business planning at the Anglo-Dutch multinational assumes that carbon dioxide emissions will fail to limit temperature increases to 2C, the internationally agreed threshold to prevent widespread flooding, famine and desertification.
    • Charlie Kronick, climate campaigner at campaign group Greenpeace, said Shell and IEA saw fossil fuels continuing to be burned, with the earth facing temperature rises of 3.7°C or 4°C in the short term, mounting to 6°C later on. “What I don’t see is a realisation from Shell about what exactly would happen to its business if climate change escalated dramatically beyond what is safe with all the negative consequences in the world for food and water never mind energy,” said Kronick.
  • The real story behind Shell's climate change rhetoric: In the first of an investigative series into the fossil fuel giants from which we are calling on Gates and Wellcome Trust to divest, we reveal Shell’s pursuit of ever riskier reserves is at odds with its own forecasts for dangerous global warming
    • An investigation into the Shell business shows that under its forecasts the Earth’s temperature will rise nearly twice as much as the 2C threshold for dangerous climate change, and that the firm’s own greenhouse gas emissions are still rising and will rocket further after the £47bn acquisition of rival BG Group. Further, Shell’s Canadian tar sands, Brazilian, Nigerian and US Gulf deep-water projects are the most likely to be rendered worthless by a global clampdown on high carbon-emitting exploration projects, analyses find. In addition, the company’s growth is becoming reliant on drilling wells (some deeper than the one that caused BP’s Gulf blowout) and it is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a political organisation that has opposed policies to address climate change.
    • A stark counterpoint to Van Beurden’s speech comes from a 2013 Shell New Lens Scenario planning document which suggests industry talk of lowering global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is just that. Referring to the internationally agreed limit on a global temperature rise of 2C, the document states: “Both our scenarios and the IEA (International Energy Agency) New Policies scenario (and our base case energy demand and outlook) do not limit emissions to be consistent with the back-calculated 450 parts per million (CO2 in the atmosphere) 2C. We also do not see governments taking the steps now that are consistent with the 2C scenario.” According to one estimate, that Shell statement is tantamount to acknowledging that the world will disastrously vault over the 2C limit.
  • Massive Antarctic Ice Shelf Will Disappear Completely In A Few Years, According To NASA:
    • The NASA study supports previous research suggesting that Antarctica’s ice shelves are melting at a rate much faster than previously anticipated. In March, research published in Science highlighted the accelerating loss of ice from most of Antarctica’s ice shelves. The melting was most pronounced in the West Antarctic, where losses increased by nearly 70 percent in the last decade. If all the ice that sits on the West Antarctic bedrock is allowed to flow into the ocean, global sea level could rise by nine feet — something that scientists don’t think is likely to happen, though they also aren’t sure how much grounded ice will eventually melt. That will be determined, they say, not only by how much the Earth warms, but by local conditions in Antarctica, including how wind patterns divert warm or cold water to various parts of the continent. What is clear, however, is that changes to the Antarctic’s ice shelves are happening at an increasingly quick pace. “What is really surprising about Larsen B is how quickly the changes are taking place,” Khazendar said. “Change has been relentless.”
  • California water officials deliver sobering facts on depleted wells:
    • One fact in particular caught senators' attention, though. About 1,900 wells have gone dry, Cowin said. "Should we be pushing a pause button on drilling deeper and deeper wells?" asked Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), chairwoman of the Natural Resources and Water Committee.As the drought persists and groundwater levels drop, thousands of Californians have been left without well water and some parts of the San Joaquin Valley are sinking. But with such a wide array of water concerns in the fourth year of drought, should Californians be alarmed about 1,900 dry wells?
  • New study finds a hot spot in the atmosphere:
    • They make three conclusions.
      1. First, warming of the atmosphere in the tropical regions of the globe hasn’t changed much since the late 1950s. Temperatures have increased smoothly and follow what is called the moist-adiabatic rate (temperature decrease of humid air with elevation). This result is in very close agreement with climate computer models and it contradicts the view that there is a slowdown in climate change.
      2. Second, the vertical height of the tropics that has warmed is a bit smaller than the models predict.
      3. Finally, there is a change in observed cooling in the stratosphere – the layer of the atmosphere above the troposphere.
    • Taken together, these results show that the tropospheric warming has continued as predicted by scientists years ago.
    • And this is exactly how models are supposed to work. Models can be used to predict changes that will occur in the future. Once we make measurements, we can compare them with the models. If the two disagree, it either means our models are wrong, our measurements are wrong, or both are wrong. More often than not, the models have been found to be vindicated. In the case of the tropospheric temperatures, initially the models and experiments disagreed. Both were rechecked and scientists found the experiments were misinterpreted. When improved experiments were obtained, we see atmosphere temperature studies in agreement.
    • Atmospheric changes through 2012 as shown by iteratively homogenized radiosonde temperature and wind data (IUKv2) — the paper
  • Merkel Seeks Global Emissions-Trading Market to Protect Climate: “We need a financing instrument,” Merkel said. “Otherwise the developing economies and also the countries especially affected by climate change won’t back a deal.” Merkel, an environment minister in the 1990s, will speak to ministers in Berlin on Tuesday at a climate meeting meant to prepare for a bigger United Nations conference in Paris at year-end. Temperatures are on track to warm by 3.6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the quickest shift in the climate in 10,000 years, which scientists say raises the risk of more violent storms and rising seas.
  • More and more conservative thinkers want to tax carbon. Will politicians and activists follow?:
    • The tax most favored by Taylor and Inglis would be “revenue neutral.” What that means is that after a tax is set on carbon dioxide emissions across the economy, the revenues collected by government would not stay in the government, and would not be spent on any programs that would enlarge government. Rather, they would be returned to U.S. citizens, either in the form of tax breaks or perhaps quarterly or annual carbon “dividend” payments.
    • [ael: they must never have heard of Jim Hansen's "Fee and Dividend".]


  • Former FSA chief warns of carbon bubble threat from climate change: Lord Turner, formerly Britain’s top financial regulator, has become the latest finance sector grandee to warn that investment industry valuations are in need of urgent review in the face of the threat posed by climate change. The former chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) warned of “a major set of problems … in the relationship between finance and the real economy”. He said national economies, banks and businesses were effectively being encouraged to prioritise short-term returns and “do nothing about climate change whatsoever”.
    • His remarks follow comments from former US Treasury secretary Hank Paulson, who last summer warned of a “climate bubble that poses enormous risk to both our environment and our economy”, calling for better informed “business and investor decision-making worldwide”.
  • CEO of Royal Dutch Shell: Climate change discussion ‘has gone into la-la land’:
    • Let me very very clear, for us climate change is real and it's a threat that we want to act on. We're not aligning with skeptics. Let's talk about the carbon bubble theory. It's a very seductive argument, but it is also not necessarily in line with the reality that the world will have to go to a tremendous growth in supply of energy simply because demand will double in the first half of the century for very strong fundamental reasons. First of all growth in population but even more importantly growth in living standards in places like Africa and India and China and Latin America where the energy intensity is a fraction of what it is in the Western world. We cannot deny very very large parts of the global population the sort of standards that we enjoy. And therefore it's just going to happen whether we like it or not.
    • me be very clear: Shell will screw the planet, whether we like it or not.
  • Canadian Aboriginal Group Rejects $1 Billion Fee for Natural Gas Project: [ael: talk about honorable: there are only 3,200 of them — that's quite a chunk of change to turn aside. Kudos!]
  • CEO of Royal Dutch Shell: Climate change discussion ‘has gone into la-la land’: Let me very very clear, for us climate change is real and it's a threat that we want to act on. We're not aligning with skeptics. Let's talk about the carbon bubble theory. It's a very seductive argument, but it is also not necessarily in line with the reality that the world will have to go to a tremendous growth in supply of energy simply because demand will double in the first half of the century for very strong fundamental reasons. First of all growth in population but even more importantly growth in living standards in places like Africa and India and China and Latin America where the energy intensity is a fraction of what it is in the Western world. We cannot deny very very large parts of the global population the sort of standards that we enjoy. And therefore it's just going to happen whether we like it or not.


  • Sea-level rise accelerating as Earth's ice sheets melt, say scientists: Sea-level rise is accelerating, not declining as some have hoped, scientists said on Monday citing meltwater from Earth's ice sheets as the likely cause.
  •[ Troubling new research suggests global warming will cut wheat yields]: “Wheat is one of the main staple crops in the world and provides 20% of daily protein and calories,” notes the Wheat Initiative, a project launched by G20 agricultural ministers. “With a world population of 9 billion in 2050, wheat demand is expected to increase by 60%. To meet the demand, annual wheat yield increases must grow from the current level of below 1% to at least 1.6%.”…. Global warming ought to cut down on the freezing temperatures, but also amp up really hot ones. The study found, however, that on balance, the effect is more negative than positive, with a roughly 15 percent decline in wheat yields under a 2 degrees Celsius warming scenario, rising to around 40 percent with 4 degrees (C) of warming.
  • Harper Named World's 'Worst Climate Villain' After Damning Report: And while the authors say that "no single country is yet on track to prevent dangerous climate change," they are especially tough on Canada, saying it "still shows no intention of moving forward with climate policy and therefore remains the worst performer of all [industrialized] countries." Only Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia were ranked worse in the index. [ael: the US isn't far ahead…]
  • Sea Level Rise Is On the Up and Up: “What’s striking is its (the study’s) consistency with future projections of sea level in the IPCC,” Watson said. “Those estimates state that there could be up to 98 centimeters (39 inches) of sea level rise by 2100. We’re certainly tracking on that upper bound of the IPCC projection and that projection to 2100 has significant impacts.”
  • Sea Level Rise Accelerating Faster Than Thought
  • El Nino outlook a daunting prospect for farmers already in the grip of drought
  • Meet the Mirai: Why Toyota wants to make your next car run on hydrogen: Even in the small-batch world of environmentally friendly automaking, the Mirai’s production is an oddity, pieced together without use of a robot or conveyor belt in Toyota’s sprawling Motomachi plant in Japan. A dozen specialized workers in blue hard hats assemble the car by hand, turning out about three a day.
  • This ice shelf is nearly the size of Scotland — and scientists are worried about its stability: Larsen A and Larsen B left behind Larsen C, a dramatically bigger mass floating outward into icy waters off the Antarctic peninsula. It’s the biggest ice shelf in this region of the continent, encompassing an area “two and a half times the size of Wales and slightly smaller than Scotland,” according to the British Antarctic Survey. It’s also now the most north-lying — which, in this case, means in the direction of warmer South America — of the Antarctic peninsula’s great ice shelves that remain. And Larsen C, too, is starting to look vulnerable, suggests a newly published study by a team of researchers with the British Antarctic Survey, the U.S. Geological Survey and several U.S. universities. The research notes several mechanisms that “could pose an imminent risk” to the ice shelf.
  • Look out, Arizona! California isn’t the only state getting hit by drought: Two weeks ago, Lake Mead, which sits on the border of Nevada and Arizona, set a new record low — the first time since the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s that the lake’s surface has dipped below 1,080 feet above sea level. The West’s drought is so bad that official plans for water rationing have now begun — with Arizona’s farmers first on the chopping block. Yes, despite the drought’s epicenter in California, it’s Arizona that will bear the brunt of the West’s epic dry spell.


  • Is there a global warming pause — or not?: [ael: not! But the denialists have us talking about it as if it exists…. It's the Jude Helm 15 of climate!] Are climate scientists psyching themselves out?
    • multiple lines of evidence show that global warming hasn’t paused at all, which means that talk of a pause is misleading. Recent warming has been slower than the long term trend, but this fluctuation differs little from past fluctuations in warming rate, including past periods of more rapid than average warming.
  • Coal investments are increasingly risky, say Bank of America: Bank will continue to cut its exposure to troubled coal sector and increase lending to renewables, but remains one of world’s biggest backers of coal mining
    • “The dynamics around coal are shifting,” said the bank’s new coal policy published on Wednesday, which cited pollution regulations, changes in economic conditions, increased competition from shale gas and renewable power.
    • [ael: from that policy document]: "Bank of America recognizes that climate change poses a significant risk to our business, our clients, and the communities in which we operate. As one of the world’s largest financial institutions, the bank has a responsibility to help mitigate climate change by leveraging our scale and resources to accelerate the transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon society, and from high-carbon to low-carbon sources of energy….. With regulatory pressure related to both extraction and combustion, changes in economic conditions, and increased pricing pressure due to the proliferation of natural gas and new energy technologies, the dynamics around coal are shifting. Energy companies and their subsidiaries that are focused on coal are currently the most exposed to these changes. Over the past several years, Bank of America has significantly reduced our exposure to coal extraction companies. Going forward, Bank of America will continue to reduce our credit exposure to coal extraction companies. This commitment applies globally, to companies focused on coal extraction and to divisions of diversified mining companies that are focused on coal."
    • RAN has also lobbied for the bank to join 11 other international banks in committing not to finance Indian company Adani’s so-called ‘carbon bomb’ coal projects in Australia’s Galilee Basin and at Abbot Point. On Wednesday, the chairman of Standard Chartered said the bank would review its involvement in the Australian coal mines.
  • The GOP’s widening effort to stop environmental policies by targeting science: Earlier this year, we told you about a strategy that congressional Republicans would increasingly use to attack environmental policies that they don’t like. Not only would they go after the actual policies, such as President Obama’s proposed carbon-dioxide rules for power plants. They would also try to overhaul the rules that regulators must follow in writing these policies, including how they use scientific data. But now, there’s a new front: Congressional Republicans want to shift funding away from environmental and earth science research that can help policymakers assess how to regulate pollution and plan for the effects of climate change.
    • But in this case, what we’re seeing here seems to play into a broader narrative. Now fully in control of Congress, Republicans are not only ratcheting up their efforts to go after the environmental policies they oppose. They’re also going after the science that underlies them — both by changing how policymakers use the science and how much that science even gets done in the first place.


  • A Global Milestone: CO2 Passes 400 PPM: 5_6_15_Brian_NOAACO2GlobalTrend_500_366_s_c1_c_c.png
  • Two degrees of global warming is not 'safe': Hansen
  • Wild animals in drought-stricken Western states are dying for a drink: For the giant kangaroo rat, death by nature is normally swift and dramatic: a hopeless dash for safety followed by a blood-curdling squeak as their bellies are torn open by eagles, foxes, bobcats and owls. They’re not supposed to die the way they are today — emaciated and starved, their once abundant population dwindling to near nothing on California’s sprawling Carrizo Plain, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, where the drought is turning hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland into desert. Without grass, long-legged kangaroo rats cannot eat. And as they go, so go a variety of threatened animals that depend on the keystone species to live. “That whole ecosystem changes without the giant kangaroo rat,” said Justin Bra­shares, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of California at Berkeley.
    • “We fear that a semi-arid grassland is becoming a desert,” said Brashares. “The giant kangaroo rat can’t survive in desert.” A study by the university recorded a 95 percent population loss since 2010. Before the drought, 60 percent of their habitat was covered in grasses that they eat and seeds that they store for hard times in a network of underground burrows, Brashares said. Four years of little rain has reduced the cover to 18 percent. “They simply lack food, so they starve,” Brashares said. As the state wildfire season approaches, the remaining grasses could be wiped out.
  • Canada's political landscape undergoes seismic shift with election in Alberta: Once-marginal New Democratic Party sweeps to victory over conservatives in setback for prime minister Stephen Harper’s Keystone XL pipeline efforts
    • The result marks the latest and most surprising setback to prime minister Stephen Harper’s signature diplomatic effort to transport bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to world markets through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
    • …ordinary Canadians were reeling from the sheer magnitude of the shift in Alberta, which has placed the country’s most notoriously conservative province, taken for granted as an impregnable redneck kingdom, in the hands of its most progressive regional government. To explain the phenomenon, Toronto-based writer Doug Saunders asked his American Twitter followers to imagine socialist presidential candidate Bernie Saunders “becoming Texas governor by a big majority”.
  • Why the best place for solar panels may not be on your roof: A new report on the future of solar power from the MIT Energy Initiative argues that from a societal perspective, the most popular and visible solar deployment today — atop residential rooftops — may not be the most economically optimal one. “If the objective of deployment support policies is to increase solar generation at least cost, favoring residential PV [solar photovoltaic] makes no sense,” it states. The reason, explains Francis O’Sullivan, director of research and analysis at the MIT Energy Initiative, is the way current subsidies for solar energy work in the U.S. The federal subsidy (or tax credit) is “investment based,” which essentially means that it focuses on dollars spent to install solar, rather than the amount of generating capacity installed. And as the MIT report puts it, “Because residential solar has a higher investment cost per peak watt, and because the magnitude of the federal subsidy is based on a provider-generated calculation of fair market value, residential solar receives far higher subsidies per watt of deployed capacity than utility-scale solar.”
  • 2 veteran Arctic explorers find the region's 'new normal' to be deadly: The next day, the Resolute Bay Royal Canadian Mounted Police received a distress call from the two men. An aircraft flew over the area and saw two sleds, open water and poor ice conditions. One sled and personal items were in the water. A second sled, partially unpacked, was on the ice nearby. Kimnick was guarding the site. The explorers were nowhere to be seen. The RCMP said the men had drowned and halted the search.
    • Friends hope that, at the very least, the tragedy might make people aware of the massive changes in the Arctic. "This is meant to be the Last Ice Area, and it is meant to be the thickest," Divoky of the University of Alaska said. "One of the things that'll come out of this tragedy is that people will be more aware of just how thin the ice is."


  • Arctic ice melting faster and earlier as scientists demand action: Arctic returns to warm period with trend over the decades continuing to show temperatures getting hotter and ice melting faster, scientists say
    • Ed Farley, a scientist with NOAA’s Alaska fisheries science center, said that studies over the last 15 years showed that ice melting faster year-on-year led to a drastic loss in the fat contained in zooplankton – a fish food crucial for the entire area’s ecosystem.
    • [ael: this is funny]: "For many businesses, a changing Arctic is good news, not bad." [ael: really? With no trace of irony? What's your horizon on "good news"? "I've got good news and bad news: the good news is that there are more Arctic shipping lanes open! The bad news is that we're looking for an ice floe to go out onto, because there's nothing left to live for, but we can't find one…."] No ice also means oil and gas exploration teams will have a much easier time, both in terms of access and period spent exploring, Farley said. [ael: isn't the rule that, when you're digging yourself into a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging? Oh, the irony! The irony, irony, irony!]
  • Alberta’s oil patch faces new era of uncertainty after NDP’s shock victory: Canada’s oil industry is facing a new era of policy uncertainty and of political marginalization after Albertans crushed the 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty Tuesday and elected an NDP majority government that wants to increase corporate taxes and review oil royalties.
  • California Regulators Adopt Unprecedented Water Restrictions: The Los Angeles Times reports that California has only used 8.6 percent less water than they did last summer, falling far short of the kind of savings Brown wanted to see.
    • "Gov. Jerry Brown sought the more stringent regulations, arguing that voluntary conservation efforts have so far not yielded the water savings needed amid a four-year drought. He ordered water agencies to cut urban water use by 25 percent from levels in 2013, the year before he declared a drought emergency.
    • From The Los Angeles Times: Water board staff scientist Max Gomberg said California residents and businesses used only 3.6% less water in March than they did during the same month in 2013, the baseline year for savings calculations.
    • “More needs to be done to balance the water use restrictions with the reality that California's $2-trillion economy cannot survive without a reliable water supply,” wrote Valerie Nera of the California Chamber of Commerce. A 25% cut, she said, would be difficult to achieve without “severe economic dislocation.” [ael: stomp your feet and demand more water! It's your GOD-GIVEN RIGHT!]
  • China to expand coal ban to suburbs: Detailing its clean coal action plan 2015-2020, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said it would promote centralized heating and power supply by natural gas and renewables, replacing scattered heat and power engines fueled by low quality coal.
    • The world's biggest coal consumer will ban sale and burning of high-ash and high-sulphur coal in the worst affected regions including city clusters surrounding Beijing…. Under the action plan, coal-fired industrial boilers will all shift to burn natural gas or clean coal by 2020 in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei city clusters, Pearl River delta and Yangtze River delta area, NEA said. [ael: Clean coal? I wonder where they'll get that mythical beast….]


  • Swarthmore chooses not to divest fossil-fuel endowment:
    • Giles Kemp, a 1972 alumnus who chairs the board of managers, cited investment guidelines created in 1991 that called for "the endowment to yield the best long-term financial results, rather than to pursue other social objectives." [ael: how are the "long-term financial results" under catastrophic climate change?]
    • Kemp said Saturday "it would be difficult, if not impossible" for the school to replace its current investment managers and secure ones of similar quality while not investing in fossil fuels. Swarthmore could lose $10 million to $20 million annually if it could not continue to work with its current investment managers, he said. [ael: those sound like short-term financial results to me….]
  • London academics rise in support of divestment campaign: [ael: meanwhile, across the pond….]
  • The world needs to triple its investments in clean energy innovation: in addition to any international agreement to cut carbon emissions that may be reached at the end of this year, the world will also need new technologies to fill the gap left behind as we use less of fossil fuels like coal.
    • Clean-energy innovation essential to meeting climate goals: With 2-degree target adrift, IEA report calls for tripling public spending on low-carbon technology R&D
    • The report, Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 (ETP 2015), shows that despite a few recent success stories, clean-energy progress is falling well short of the levels needed to limit the global increase in temperatures to no more than 2 degrees C. Moreover, it will be challenging for the world to meet its climate goals solely through the UN negotiation process that is expected to yield an agreement this December in Paris. That leaves the development and deployment of new, ground-breaking energy technologies as key to mobilising climate action, and the report urges policymakers to step up efforts to support them.
  • Alberta's possible pivot to the left alarms Canadian oil sector: Canada's oil-rich province of Alberta is on the cusp of electing a left-wing government that can make life harder for the energy industry with its plans to raise taxes, end support for key pipeline projects and seek a bigger cut of oil revenues. Polls suggest Tuesday's election is set to end the Conservative's 44-year reign in the province that boasts the world's third-largest proven oil reserves and now faces recession because of the slide in crude prices. Surveys have proven wrong in Canadian provincial elections before and voters may end up merely downgrading the Conservatives' grip on power to a minority government. Yet the meteoric rise of the New Democratic Party and the way it already challenges the status-quo of close ties between the industry and the ruling establishment has alarmed oil executives. The proposed review of royalties oil and gas companies pay the government for using natural resources and which could lead to higher levies, is a matter of particular concern.


  • One in six species could be wiped out by climate change, study says: [ael: how can newspapers print this, and people not take notice and maybe even sense some level of alarm?]
  • Ocean acidification triggered devastating extinction, study finds: Ocean acidification triggered by massive volcanic eruptions helped cause the worst mass extinction in the history of life on Earth, according to a new study.
    • [ael: hey bubba, watch this! We can acidify the ocean, too!]
    • The scientists think that massive amounts of carbon dioxide were released by what’s known as Siberian Trap volcanism, which was then absorbed into the oceans, causing them to grow more acidic far too fast for ocean life to adapt. But they also found that there appeared to be two phases to the carbon influx. The first one, signaled by the carbon isotopes, was a slower process that took place over 50,000 years; but the second phase was fast and furious, dumping massive amounts into the ocean in just 10,000 years. [ael: call that fast and furious? We can do it in 200 years!]
    • “The first phase of extinction was coincident with a slow injection of carbon into the atmosphere, and ocean pH remained stable,” the authors wrote. “During the second extinction pulse, however, a rapid and large injection of carbon caused an abrupt acidification event that drove the preferential loss of heavily calcified marine biota.” This double-whammy proved too much for life on Earth – particularly for the animals, such as oysters or coral, that need to pull minerals out of the ocean to build their shells and skeletons. Acidification reduces the amount of available calcium carbonate that these creatures can pull out of the water, and without these crucial building materials, their shells often start to look like they’re withering or being eaten away.
    • Today, the human-generated carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to climate change are also contributing to ocean acidification. Today’s carbon influx isn’t nearly as massive as the one possibly triggered by Siberian Trap volcanism some 252 million years ago, the scientists pointed out – their model requires 24,000 petagrams of carbon, far more than the roughly 5,000 petagrams of carbon available in conventional fossil fuels today. But it is being injected into the atmosphere today at a similar rate as it was back then. A high rate of carbon injection, not just the overall amount injected into the oceans, was probably a major part of the problem, because it left species with little time to adapt.


  • One in six of world's species faces extinction due to climate change – study: New analysis reveals likely impact of global warming on plants and animals if we fail to take action, and comes ahead of crunch climate talks in Paris
    • Accelerating extinction risk from climate change: Current predictions of extinction risks from climate change vary widely depending on the specific assumptions and geographic and taxonomic focus of each study. I synthesized published studies in order to estimate a global mean extinction rate and determine which factors contribute the greatest uncertainty to climate change–induced extinction risks. Results suggest that extinction risks will accelerate with future global temperatures, threatening up to one in six species under current policies. Extinction risks were highest in South America, Australia, and New Zealand, and risks did not vary by taxonomic group. Realistic assumptions about extinction debt and dispersal capacity substantially increased extinction risks. We urgently need to adopt strategies that limit further climate change if we are to avoid an acceleration of global extinctions.
    • Dr Stephen Cornelius, WWF-UK’s chief adviser on climate change, said: “This study further highlights the urgency of taking strong action to address climate change and that ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option. We have the technology to tackle climate change, what we need now is the political will and investment in a clean, low-carbon future.” Walters added: “Worryingly this study suggests that the risk of extinction accelerates with every degree increase in global temperature, which has important implications for our understanding of what constitutes a ‘safe’ increase in global temperature.”
  • Super El Nino Likely as Huge Warm Water Wave Hits West Coast, Extreme Marine Die Off Developing:
    • In early March, the strongest wave of tropical convection ever measured (known as the Madden Julian Oscillation) by modern meteorology moved into the western Pacific from Indonesian waters bringing an outbreak of 3 tropical cyclones, including deadly category 5 Pam which ravaged the south Pacific islands of Vanuatu. This extreme outburst of tropical storms and organized thunderstorms pulled strong westerly winds across the equator, unleashing a huge surge of warm water below the ocean surface. Normally, trade winds blow warm water across the Pacific from the Americas to Australia and Indonesia, pushing up sea level in the west Pacific. When the trade winds suddenly reversed to strong westerlies, it was as if a dam burst, but on the scale of the earth's largest ocean, the Pacific. The front edge of that massive equatorial wave, called a Kelvin wave, is now coming ashore on the Americas.
  • Poll: Millennials are no more convinced about global warming than their parents: …these numbers are the same across the board for participants between 18 and 29 years old, with 51-56 percent agreeing that global warming is a fact and is caused by fuel emissions across age groups. In fact, the age group that least agreed with the first statement was that of 18 to 20-year-olds. The assumption that younger adults are more liberal when it comes to global warming does not hold up; if anything, they are even more skeptical.

What went on: April, 2015

What went on: March, 2015

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What went on: January, 2015

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