September 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.

2015

September, 2015

9/23/2015

  • 4 reasons why it matters that a few House Republicans are calling for climate action: Last week, 11 GOP House members introduced a resolution announcing their acceptance of climate science and their support for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Exxon: the Road Not Taken. Exxon Confirmed Global Warming Consensus in 1982 with In-House Climate Models: The company chairman would later mock climate models as unreliable while he campaigned to stop global action to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
    • Steve Knisely was an intern at Exxon Research and Engineering in the summer of 1979 when a senior vice president asked him to analyze how global warming might affect fuel use…. Knisely projected that unless fossil fuel use was constrained, there would be "noticeable temperature changes" and 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air by 2010, up from about 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution. The summer intern's predictions turned out to be very close to the mark.
    • Knisely even concluded that the fossil fuel industry might need to leave 80 percent of its recoverable reserves in the ground to avoid doubling CO2 concentrations, a notion now known as the carbon budget. In 2013, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change formally endorsed the idea. "The potential problem is great and urgent," Knisely wrote. "Too little is known at this time to recommend a major U.S. or worldwide change in energy type usage but it is very clear that immediate research is necessary."
    • As the researchers alerted Exxon's upper management about the CO2 problem, the scientists worked to provide better estimates of when the warming trend would create noticeable damage, and how large the impacts might be. One scientist, Werner Glass, wrote an analysis in 1981 for a senior vice president that said the rise in global temperatures would begin to be noticed in a few decades. But Glass hedged his bet, saying the magnitude of the change would be "well short of catastrophic" in the early years. Exxon manager Roger Cohen saw things differently. "I think that this statement may be too reassuring," Cohen, director of the Theoretical and Mathematical Sciences Laboratory at Exxon Research, wrote in an August 18, 1981 memo to Glass. He called it "distinctly possible" that the projected warming trend after 2030 "will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the earth's population)."
    • Exxon "should be taking credit for their role in developing useful model predictions of the pattern of global warming by their research guys, as opposed to their denialist lobbyists saying global warming from fossil fuel burning doesn't exist or is at best 'unproven,'" [Hoffert] wrote.
    • As the consensus grew within the scientific world, Exxon doubled down on the uncertainty. Its campaign to muddy research results placed the company outside the scientific mainstream. Some of the researchers who once led the company’s modeling became vocal climate contrarians, among them Brian Flannery and Roger Cohen. Flannery survived the lay-offs of the mid-1980s that decimated the Exxon Research staff and rose in the corporate ranks to become the company's chief scientist. He attended IPCC meetings from the outset and by the early 1990s, he emerged as a prominent skeptic of the science he had once conducted. For example, in a 1999 paper based on a speech to Exxon's European affiliates, Flannery derided the second IPCC assessment that concluded in 1995 that the scientific evidence suggested "a discernible human influence on climate." "You'll note that this is a very carefully worded statement, recognizing that the jury is still out, especially on any quantifiable connection to human actions," Flannery wrote. "The conclusion does not refer to global warming from increases in greenhouse gases. Indeed, many scientists say that a great deal of uncertainty still needs to be resolved." The change in Cohen's thinking was also stark, as he acknowledged in 2008. While still at Exxon he was "well convinced, as were most technically trained people, that the IPCC's case for Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is very tight." But he wrote in a 2008 essay for the Science and Public Policy Institute, a climate denial website, that upon closer inspection of the research he found it to be "flimsy." In 2007, the American Physical Society, the country's largest organization of physicists, adopted a strong statement on climate change that said "The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring." Cohen, an APS fellow, helped lead a campaign to weaken the APS's official position and earlier this year succeeded in stripping out the word 'incontrovertible' from a draft text. APS members will vote on the final language in November. Flannery and Cohen declined to comment, despite multiple requests.
  • How researchers are trying to grow an unusual urban crop: Rice: The Koshihikari strain, with irrigation lines laid one inch under the soil, delivered the best results: more than 2,800 pounds of rice per acre
  • Floods may increase 300-fold on Atlantic, Gulf Coasts: Sea-level rise along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts combined with more frequent and violent storms could increase flooding from the Northeast to Texas by several-hundredfold, according to a new study out Monday.
  • Scientists calculate the dramatic economic cost of a warming Arctic: In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, the researchers used two models — one that estimates emissions from thawing permafrost and one that calculates the resulting temperature increases and global climate-related impacts — to evaluate the global economic impact of permafrost emissions up through the year 2200. They suggest that carbon emissions from thawing permafrost could cause climate effects which will cost the world approximately $43 trillion over the next 200 years. This would increase the total economic impact of climate change, which is currently estimated to come to about $326 trillion, by 13 percent.
    • The most important of these decisions, Schaefer said, is to reduce anthropogenic emissions as quickly as possible. “There’s only one way to stop the thawing of permafrost, and that’s to stop climate change,” he said. In fact, in their study the researchers also calculate the effects of aggressive emissions reduction efforts and find that it’s possible to scale back the economic impacts of thawing permafrost to a mean of about $6 trillion, rather than $43 trillion.
  • Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development: leading countries spend $200bn a year subsidising fossil fuels: … governments were spending almost twice as much money subsidising fossil fuels as was needed to meet the climate-finance objectives set by the international community at climate change summits, which have set a target of mobilising $100bn a year by 2020.
  • BP tops the list of firms obstructing climate action in Europe: Company emerges as Europe’s worst climate policy wrecker, according to a new table ranking firms by their records on lobbying and opposition
    • “BP has been consistently opposed to all the main forms of climate change regulation,” said Thomas O’Neill, Influence Map’s research director. “There is very little positivity coming out of them and they are a board member of several obstructionist trade associations, some of which give a very dubious account of climate science.”
    • Google and Unilever were judged the best performing global businesses – both taking a ‘B’ rating – while Koch Industries, Phillips 66, Reliance Industries and Duke Energy footed the table, receiving ‘F’ grades. Altogether, 45% of the top 100 global brands were found to be blocking moves to a low carbon economy.
  • Pope's concern about climate change prompts Notre Dame to end use of coal:

9/22/2015

  • Industry Can Lead on Climate Change: [ael: in the print edition, it was must!]
    • We do not have to wait for an international treaty or new regulations to act. At Siemens, the global industrial manufacturing company I lead that makes everything from wind and gas turbines and automation systems to high-speed trains and M.R.I. machines, we understand that taking action is not just prudent — it’s profitable.

9/21/2015

  • Is Shell Planning for Catastrophic Climate Change?:
    • 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. Louise Rouse, an investor relations specialist and consultant to Greenpeace, said the New Lens document undermined Shell’s claim that ongoing oil and gas exploration helps raise living standards in the developing world by supplying the energy for rapidly expanding economies. “There is an incoherence at best between oil companies on the one hand positioning themselves as being on the side of the world’s developing countries and while on the other actively pursuing strategies which will entail catastrophic climate change which we already know is having a significant impact on the global south,” she said.
  • After years of theorizing, the hydrogen economy is emerging from excess wind power in Germany : Germany has taken the lead in the international effort to develop the so-called hydrogen economy, focusing on ways to convert electricity from renewable energy sources, such as wind power — which is sometimes so plentiful it is dumped — into hydrogen that can be stored and used for a variety of purposes, beginning with fuel-cell-powered cars and buses.
  • As Fires Grow, a New Landscape Appears in the West: Climate change has lengthened fire seasons, which are, on average, 78 days longer than they were in 1970, and the six worst fire seasons since 1960 have come since 2000.
    • Dr. North, the California researcher, said that as much as 80 percent of California’s forests were in the kind of conditions that were likely to lead to the more destructive, tree-killing fires. Without mature trees near the fire-ravaged areas to spread their seeds, brush and grass are likely to grow in place of the conifers.
    • [Dr. Swetnam] added, “I’m often pressed to say which is the most important factor in the changing nature of forest fires. I’m more inclined now to point to climate change than I was 10 years ago.”
    • Because of hotter drought, he said, “the future broad-scale vulnerability of forests globally is being widely underestimated, including the vulnerability of forests in wetter regions,” he said.
  • Popular pope comes with a climate change message that Congress may not want to hear: Pope Francis, the 266th pope and the leader of more than 1 billion Catholics across the world, will begin a six-day visit to the United States on Tuesday, which will include a historic address to Congress, the first time in the history of the country that a pope will address lawmakers.
  • Top CEOs Make 300 Times More than Typical Workers: Pay Growth Surpasses Stock Gains and Wage Growth of Top 0.1 Percent

9/18/2015

  • The Enormous Social Cost of Cheap Coal: Air pollution from coal prematurely kills millions of people each year. And there’s an obvious fix.
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  • 11 Republicans vow to fight climate change: Led by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), the lawmakers want the House to go on record to generally agree with the overwhelming consensus of scientists that human activity, through greenhouse gases, is warming the globe. The resolution frames climate change as an issue of environmental stewardship, which it says has a long history in the United States.
  • Faced With Spate Of Tremors, Oklahoma Looks To Shake Up Its Oil Regulations: "I think we all know now that there is a direct correlation between the increase of earthquakes that we've seen in Oklahoma [and] disposal wells," Fallin said. Disposal wells are the sewers of the oil field. Oil and gas companies pump them full of waste fluid from drilling and fracking. That fluid can cause stressed faults to slip and trigger earthquakes.
  • Lake Powell's receding waters show risk of U.S. 'megadrought':
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    • Forecasting that there is an 80 percent chance of an extended drought in the area between 2050 and 2099 unless aggressive steps are taken to mitigate the impacts of climate change, the researchers said their results point to a challenging - and remarkably drier - future.
  • Arctic research ship probes frigid depths and 4th-lowest sea ice extent on record:
  • US and Australian taxpayers pay billions a year to fund coal – report: Ending subsidies, that amount to almost a quarter of the sale price in some cases, would hugely reduce carbon emissions, new research reveals
    • The G20 nations pledged to end fossil fuel subsidies in 2009, but little action has been taken. However, falling oil and coal prices in the last year have seen some countries starting to reduce subsidies. A recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) took into account not just direct subsidies but also the cost to nations of the damage caused by air pollution and global warming. It estimated coal, oil and gas were being subsidised by $5.3trn a year, more than the total health spending of all the world’s governments. Much of the cost is due to the illness and death caused by air pollution.
  • Global drought: why is no one discussing fresh water at Cop21?:
  • Europe is parched, in a sign of times to come :
  • The simple statistic that perfectly captures what climate change means: In a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, however, two Australian researchers do just this by examining a simple but telling meteorological metric — the ratio of new hot temperature records set in the country to new cold temperature records. “In a stationary climate, a climate where we don’t have any trend or long-term change, we expect hot and cold records to be broken at almost the same rate,” explains Sophie Lewis, the lead study author and a researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra. “But in the last 15 years, we see a dramatic increase in the frequency of hot records and the decrease of cold records.”

9/17/2015

  • Exxon: the Road Not Taken: Exxon Believed Deep Dive Into Climate Research Would Protect Its Business
    • Outfitting its biggest supertanker to measure the ocean's absorption of carbon dioxide was a crown jewel in Exxon's research program.
    • Exxon documents show that top corporate managers were aware of their scientists' early conclusions about carbon dioxide's impact on the climate. They reveal that scientists warned management that policy changes to address climate change might affect profitability. After a decade of frank internal discussions on global warming and conducting unbiased studies on it, Exxon changed direction in 1989 and spent more than 20 years discrediting the research its own scientists had once confirmed.
    • Black helped draft a National Academy of Sciences report on weather and climate modification. Published in 1966, it said the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere "agrees quite well with the rate of its production by man's consumption of fossil fuels."
    • By 1977, Black had become a top technical expert at Exxon Research & Engineering, a research hub based in Linden, N.J., and a science advisor to Exxon's top management. That year he made a presentation to the company's leading executives warning that carbon dioxide accumulating in the upper atmosphere would warm the planet and if the CO2 concentration continued to rise, it could harm the environment and humankind. "The management committee consisted of the top level senior managers at Exxon. The chairman, the president, the senior vice presidents, corporate wide," N. Richard Werthamer, who worked at Exxon Research, said in a recent interview with InsideClimate News. "The management committee only has a limited amount of time and they're only going to deal with issues that are of relevance to the corporation as a whole. They're not interested in science per se, they are interested in the implications, so it was very significant."
    • In those years, the evidence of global warming justified neither panic nor complacency. "A lively sense of urgency," is what the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) called for in a 1977 report that contained a comprehensive survey of what was understood about global warming at that time. The NAS report said that it would be understandable if the uncertainties of climate science elicited a cautious response from researchers and policymakers. But "if the decision is postponed until the impact of man-made climate changes has been felt, then, for all practical purposes, the die will already have been cast," it concluded.
    • Shaw heard these conclusions in October 1977 at a meeting in Atlanta organized by scientists and officials from the Carter administration who had formed a "study group on global environmental effects of carbon dioxide," he told Exxon colleagues in a memo two weeks later. The NAS report had concluded that the climatic effects of rising carbon dioxide "may be the primary limiting factor on energy production from fossil fuels over the next few centuries," Shaw wrote, quoting the report's central conclusion almost verbatim.
    • Responding to ICN's questions about the tanker research last week, Exxon spokesman Richard Keil said it "was actually aimed at increasing understanding of the marine carbon cycle – it had nothing to do with CO2 emissions." But from the beginning of the research, documents show, its participants described it differently. In a memo to Harold Weinberg on July 3, 1979, Shaw described in detail the tanker's route and its instruments, explaining that "this will provide information on the possible growth of CO2 in the atmosphere." [ael: Exxon: still lying. This is a bald-face lie, too….]
    • Takahashi later co-authored a study in 1990 partially based on the tanker data that said land-based ecosystems—boreal forests, for example—absorbed more atmospheric CO2 than the oceans. He used Exxon's tanker records again in 2009, in an updated study that compiled 30 years of oceanic CO2 data from dozens of reports. This time, his team concluded the oceans absorb only about 20 percent of the CO2 emitted annually from fossil fuels and other human activities. The paper earned Takahashi a "Champions of the Earth" prize from the United Nations.

9/16/2015

  • NASA Science Zeros in on Ocean Rise: How Much? How Soon?: “Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet of sea level rise, and probably more,” said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and lead of the Sea Level Change Team. “But we don't know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer.”
  • Back in June, Bill Maher predicted Donald Trump's success and it's frighteningly hysterical:
  • Exxon: the Road Not Taken: Exxon's Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels' Role in Global Warming Decades Ago.
    • Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions.
    • At a meeting in Exxon Corporation's headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world's use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity. "In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," Black told Exxon's Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.
    • It was July 1977 when Exxon's leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis. A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon's Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert. "Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed," Black said, in the written summary of his 1978 talk.
  • Edelman ends work with coal producers and climate change deniers: World’s biggest PR firm says high risk clients threaten its reputation, following criticism for its work on behalf of fossil fuel companies
    • The exclusion of coal and climate denial, as well as fake front groups that oppose action on global warming, is outlined in internal communications obtained by the Guardian and confirmed by company executives. It signals an important shift in a company that reported earnings of $833m (£540m) and has played a critical role in shaping public opinion in the US and globally about climate change. The new approach follows a two-year review of Edelman’s operations aimed at protecting what the company calls its “licence to lead”, following negative publicity about its work on behalf of the oil lobby and pipeline companies. The conclusion was that coal producers and climate denial, as well as tactics such as greenwashing, were high-risk.
    • Edelman was caught flat-footed last year when other major PR firms took a stand against climate denial, and was also criticised for setting up front groups in support of a Canadian pipeline project. In Britain anti-fracking activists accused Edelman of using front groups to influence parliamentary debate.

9/15/2015

  • Why NASA’s so worried that Greenland’s melting could speed up:
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  • Southern Ocean soaks up more greenhouse gases, limits warming: The vast Southern Ocean around Antarctica has started to soak up more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in recent years, helping limit climate change, after signs its uptake had stalled, a study said on Thursday. The Southern Ocean's natural absorption of carbon roughly doubled to 1.2 billion tonnes in 2011 - equivalent to the European Union's annual man-made greenhouse gas emissions - from levels a decade earlier, it said.
  • An Epic, 500-Year Snow Fail in California’s Iconic Mountains: The Sierra Nevada’s snowpack is at a 500-year low. No wonder why skiers, hikers, farmers, forests, and virtually every other living thing in California are feeling the effects.california-snowpackBIG.jpg
    • Researchers who examined cores from the long-lived oaks to calculate the water content of each year’s snowpack were stunned to find that no other year was even close to as dry as 2015. Temperature data show why: The state was slammed with a drought-and-heat double whammy. “What happened in 2015 is that very low precipitation co-occurred with record high temperatures. And that’s what made this snowpack low so extremely low,” says Valerie Trouet, a tree-ring research specialist at the University of Arizona in Tucson and co-author of the study published in Nature Climate Change.
    • The researchers had expected the 2015 results to be bad, “but we didn’t expect it to be this bad,” Trouet says. In fact, the water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack could actually be at its lowest in 3,100 years, she said, based on a different analysis also reported in the study. That statistical method has a higher margin of error, but confirms that the 2015 snowpack is off-the-charts. The result has been a summer of steep water cuts and exploding wildfires, billions in economic damage, and stressed wildlife—and perhaps a preview of what’s to come under climate change.
  • U.S. and Chinese Climate Change Negotiators to Meet in Los Angeles: White House officials said on Monday that the meeting was intended to demonstrate that both countries were moving forward to meet the terms of their agreement. Last month, Mr. Obama unveiled a sweeping new regulation aimed at forcing heavily polluting power plants to cut emissions, and both the United States and China have submitted details of their national plans to the United Nations.
  • World’s Aquifers Losing Replenishment Race, Researchers Say: From the Arabian Peninsula to northern India to California’s Central Valley, nearly a third of the world’s 37 largest aquifers are being drained faster than they are being replenished, according to a recent study led by scientists at the University of California, Irvine. The aquifers are concentrated in food-producing regions that support up to two billion people.
  • The EKOS poll: Harper’s approval numbers hitting ‘near historical lows’: Harper’s approval rating is dead last among federal leaders in the new EKOS survey — 62 per cent of those surveyed do not approve of the job he’s been doing, almost double the percentage reporting they approve of him (32 per cent). Compare that with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who – even though her approval rating has dropped by six points in recent weeks – is still well ahead of Harper, at 45 per cent.

9/14/2015

  • Australia PM Tony Abbott ousted by Malcolm Turnbull: HUGE news for the climate. Thank God!
  • Alabama adds evolution requirement, climate study for schools: about time?
  • Eating bugs could save the planet. But can we stomach it?: Scientists agree that the developed world’s current diet is unsustainable: our love of meat, in particular, simply requires too much land, grain, and water. Many researchers say they just might have a solution. Their idea? Entomophagy: eating insects. But the biggest challenge, of course, is convincing consumers to swap meatloaf and bacon for fried mealworms and chocolate-covered crickets.
    • Charlotte Payne, a researcher at the University of Oxford, may have figured out the recipe for persuasion: storytelling. In an interview with TakePart's Sarah McColl, Ms. Payne, who studies insect-eating cultures around the world, describes how she borrowed the Slow Food movement’s philosophy of “taste education” to entice revelers at Wales’ recent Green Man Festival to try grasshopper brownies and cricket fudge. Once you know the traditions and stories that go into a dish, she told Ms. McColl, "eaters can learn to value the social importance of food – any food."
    • As Time magazine has reported, nearly one-third of all land is dedicated to raising livestock: the cows, pigs, and poultry that have become an ever-increasing percentage of the Western diet.
    • For every ten kilograms of grain (roughly 22 pounds), we have a choice, Bug Banquet claims: do we produce one kilogram of beef or pork, or nine kilograms of locust meat? With rising oceans decreasing the amount of arable land, and population growth still headed upwards, relying on meat may someday be not just irresponsible, but impossible. Even the UN is concerned: worries about food security led them to co-host an “Insects to feed the world” conference in 2014, after publishing an entomophagy report in 2013.
  • Global warming to pick up in 2015, 2016: Man-made global warming is set to produce exceptionally high average temperatures this year and next, boosted by natural weather phenomena such as El Nino, Britain’s top climate and weather body said in a report Monday. “It looks very likely that globally 2014, 2015 and 2016 will all be amongst the very warmest years ever recorded,” Rowan Sutton of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, which contributed to the report, told journalists. “This is not a fluke,” he said. “We are seeing the effects of energy steadily accumulating in the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere, caused by greenhouse gas emissions.”
  • Dengue cases in India at 5-year high: The number of dengue cases in India has hit a five-year high of nearly 20,000 and is expected to rise further
  • Ben Carson couldn't find the evidence for human-caused climate change, so Jerry Brown sent it to him: Yesterday in California, Carson said this: "I know there a lot of people who say 'overwhelming science,' but then when you ask them to show the overwhelming science, they never can show it. There is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused. Gimme a break." Brown's letter is featured…. Beautiful.

9/9/2015

  • Modi fiddles as drought shrivels India's crops: India has just suffered back-to-back drought years for only the fourth time in over a century, summer crops are wilting and reservoir water levels are at their lowest in at least a decade for the time of year.
  • Pension managers must consider climate change risks: study: Climate change is one of the biggest risks faced by Canadian pension plans, says a new study.
    • “Climate change risks must be taken into account, and pension trustees may protect the longer term interests of their beneficiaries by acting as effective public-policy advocates for climate change regulation,” says the report from the Toronto-based firm of Koskie and Minsky, one of Canada’s leading pension law firms. “The urgency of climate change, coupled with its potentially severe consequences, suggest that pension fiduciaries may engage governments on climate change issues to attempt to achieve a collective outcome that they are incapable of achieving alone.”
    • But the report goes further. It says trustees may also have a responsibility to preserve an overall economy in which it is possible to prosper. It notes previous studies have found balanced portfolios are likely to do much better if global warming is limited to two degrees Celsius. “There is no meaningful distinction between ‘non-financial’ criteria that may affect financial performance and financial criteria,” says the report. “Trustees must take both into account when making investment decisions.”
    • One thing trustees can no longer do is deny what’s happening, says the report. “In making investment decisions, climate change denial is not an option,” it says. Traditionally, trustees haven’t been vocal, Thomas said. But it is becoming more common. “In recent years we’re seen pension fund trustees being increasingly vocal about issues like climate change.” Thomas’ own group has joined in. On Tuesday, SHARE co-signed a letter to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley asking her to give full consideration to encouraging renewable energy as her government’s climate-change panel plots the province’s path. Notley has asked the panel to draw up a renewed climate change plan for Alberta. It is expected to report later this fall.
  • Native tribe fights to save Boreal forest in Quebec "Thank God for the Natives…."
    • "We don't own this land… as Cree, we know that we're stewards of the land, (and) we're here to protect the land," she said. Gull's tribal village of Waswanipi, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of Montreal, has been fighting for years to preserve some 13,000 square kilometers (5,000 square miles) of pristine forests in the Broadback river valley. Loggers have already cut swathes through 90 percent of adjacent lands.
    • "My father used to say: the land is not ours to sell. God provided us with the land to live in harmony with nature." The forest is at the heart of these northern peoples' identity. Newborns are baptized in ceremonies that include walking on pine needles and circling a conifer placed in front of a tipi.
  • Impact of Exxon Valdez spill on fish far greater than thought, study finds: For their study, the scientists temporarily exposed herring and salmon embryos to low levels of Alaska North Slope crude oil before placing them back into clean water. They found that thresholds for harm were "remarkably low," suggesting that the effects of spilled Exxon Valdez crude was much greater than previously thought. According to water samples collected in Prince William Sound during the 1989 herring spawning season, 98 percent of the samples had oil concentrations above the level that caused heart development problems among herring in the study.
  • Drilling Boom Means More Harmful Waste Spills: Though oil spills tend to get more attention, wastewater spills can be more damaging. And in seven of the 11 states the AP examined, the amount of wastewater released was at least twice that of oil discharged. Spilled oil, however unsightly, over time is absorbed by minerals in the soil or degraded by microbes. Not so with the wastewater, also known as brine, produced water or saltwater. Unless thoroughly cleansed, a costly and time-consuming process, salt-saturated land dries up. Trees die. Crops cannot take root. "Oil spills may look bad, but we know how to clean them up and … return the land to a productive state," said Kerry Sublette, a University of Tulsa environmental engineer and specialist in treating the despoiled landscapes. "Brine spills are much more difficult."

9/8/2015

  • First Nations lead protest against pollution in Ontario's Chemical Valley: thank God for the First Nations!
    • They were gathered to support the tiny Aamjiwnaang First Nation, whose traditional territory lies near an area known as "Chemical Valley" — a 15 square-mile area in Sarnia, where over 40 per cent of Canada's chemical industry is based. Nearly 60 oil refineries and factories are crammed into an industrial strip overlooking the St. Clair River.
    • A 2005 study performed by Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) found that the proportion of live male births in the Aamjiwnaang community had steadily declined from the early 1990s to 2003. EHP’s findings states that lower proportions of male offspring have been observed in populations exposed to dioxin, mercury, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and parental smoking.
  • Drilling Boom Means More Harmful Waste Spills:
    • An Associated Press analysis of data from leading oil- and gas-producing states found more than 180 million gallons of wastewater spilled from 2009 to 2014 in incidents involving ruptured pipes, overflowing storage tanks and other mishaps or even deliberate dumping. There were some 21,651 individual spills. And these numbers are incomplete because many releases go unreported. Though oil spills tend to get more attention, wastewater spills can be more damaging. And in seven of the 11 states the AP examined, the amount of wastewater released was at least twice that of oil discharged.
    • The AP obtained data from regulatory agencies in Texas, North Dakota, California, Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Kansas, Utah and Montana — states that account for more than 90 percent of the nation's onshore oil production. Officials in ninth-ranking oil producer Louisiana and second-ranking gas producer Pennsylvania said they could not provide comprehensive spill data.
    • "You're going to have spills in an industrial society," said Katie Brown, spokeswoman for Energy In Depth, a research and education arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. "But there are programs in place to reduce them." Wastewater spills have dogged the oil industry from its earliest days more than a century ago, borne witness by barren sites from the Great Plains to the Pacific. A notorious symbol is the "Texon scar," where brine from a well drilled in 1923 near that tiny West Texas town created a desolate 2,000-acre swath dotted with dead mesquite trees. Efforts to restore the land continue to this day, said range conservationist Joe Petersen.
  • New studies deepen concerns about a climate-change ‘wild card’:
    • Two new studies are adding to concerns about one of the most troubling scenarios for future climate change: the possibility that global warming could slow or shut down the Atlantic’s great ocean circulation systems, with dramatic implications for North America and Europe.
    • One study, by three scientists from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, uses computers to model how Greenland’s rapid thawing could affect the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, the system that pushes cold, dense saltwater into the deep ocean and helps transport warm water northward, helping to warm Europe’s climate. Their report, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, says previous research may have underestimated changes to the ocean from the huge influx of fresh, cold water from melting ice sheets. Using new methods, the German scientists were able to estimate more precisely how much ice would melt and how all that added freshwater would affect ocean circulation. In the ocean, colder water normally tends to sink, but cold freshwater — less dense than saltwater — stays near the surface, disrupting the normal flow.
  • Everyone in the US and Australia owes $12,000 in CO2 emissions: He found that the US, for example, had over-polluted by a massive 100.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide between 1990 and 2013 – amounting to 300 tonnes per person. That’s about as much as is produced by driving a family car from Los Angeles to New York and back about 150 times. And according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, each tonne of carbon dioxide produced today has a social cost of about $40, so the overall debt per person is US$12,000.

9/7/2015

  • Climate Change Could Wipe Out 16 Percent of World's Species: New research predicts widespread extinctions if global warming continues unabated.
  • Even These Big Fossil Fuel Companies Support An International Climate Agreement: Thirteen of the world's largest energy companies support a climate deal that would limit warming to 2 degrees C.
    • Thirteen of the 28 largest energy companies in the world said their board of directors would support an international agreement. The other 15 oil, gas and coal majors either did not respond, stated that they had no opinion on the matter, or indicated that their position on it was not public. The disclosures were made in response to an inquiry from CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, a United Kingdom-based organization that works with companies on environmental announcements.
    • Still, a number of major energy companies declined to state a position, including U.S.-based Chevron, ExxonMobil, Hess and Occidental Petroleum.
  • Central Asia to experience water crisis in 35 years: Kyrgyzstan glaciers have decreased by 30-35 percent over the past 30 years. Experts predict that the glaciers will further decrease by a quarter or more. This is very dangerous situation as 30-35 percent of the country's rivers depend on the glaciers. The situation in the world is becoming even worse year by year and the issue of fresh water could be the reason for possible serious conflicts between states in the near future.
  • Mining industry's new 'coal is amazing' TV ad labelled desperate:
    • The campaign claims that low-emission coal-fired power plants and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is “now a reality” and are slashing emissions. However, there is only one CCS-enabled plant operational in the world, in Canada. In Australia, there is just one CCS project aimed at coal emissions in the pipeline, which may arrive at some point in the 2020s.
    • Last week, NASA forecast that sea level rises of one metre and more is unavoidable over the next century on current high greenhouse gas emissions. This would swamp major cities such as Singapore and Toyko, while some Pacific nations could completely disappear.

9/6/2015

  • Two degrees of climate change may be too much:
    • Touring Alaska this week to shine a spotlight on global warming, President Obama warned that “climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here; it is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety. Now. Today.”
    • Paradoxically, an accord that should have spurred the world to immediate action instead seemed to offer some breathing room. Two degrees was meant to be a ceiling, but repeated references to an internationally agreed-upon “threshold” led many people to believe that nothing really bad could happen below 2 degrees—or worse yet, that the number itself was negotiable. Perhaps the biggest failure of the Copenhagen Accord was its pact for “long-term” action. Forty years ago, climate change was a “long-term” problem. Today it’s an emergency.
    • There is an alternative to meaningless numbers and endless negotiations: going to war against climate change. If the United States can spend nearly $1.7 trillion on the “war on terror,”surely we can spend at least that much to keep our planet from overheating.
    • Increased risk is not an abstraction. It is record-setting heat, year after year. It is coastal erosion washing away villages in Alaska. It is massive wildfires raging in the American West. “We have to attack these at the source, which is carbon pollution,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told the Northwest News Network after flying over the worst fires in his state’s history. “It is difficult to comprehend a central fact of these fires,” Inslee said, “which is nature bats last.” Unfortunately, there won’t be any extra innings.

9/2/2015

  • Fossil Fuel CEOs Bonus Pay Helps Sink the Climate, Report Says: New study shows how executive compensation encourages short-term, and climate-damaging, corporate behavior.
    • In the analysis, all 13 oil exploration and production companies examined by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) tied executive bonuses to increasing the amount of proven carbon reserves each year. "What we are essentially doing here is paying people massive amounts of money to continue to drill and burn and do things that are going to harm the planet and put a lot of costs on the rest of us," said lead author Sarah Anderson of IPS, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.
    • http://www.ceres.org/issues/files/investor-files/car-factsheet
  • International Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution Won't Be Enough
    • Limiting global warming to 2-degree threshold ‘infeasible’
    • Russia, Canada singled out for ‘inadequate’ emissions plans
    • “In most cases” the countries that have submitted proposals, officially known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, don’t have policies in place to reach their goals, the researchers said. The exceptions are the EU and China.
  • Obama just explained what a “gigaton” is. Here’s why that’s a big deal: One of the key problems with a changing climate is that it is so big that humans have a very hard time comprehending it. The dynamics of ocean circulations, ice sheets, jet streams, boreal forests — what they all have in common is a scale that is hard to grasp.
  • Obama gets apocalyptic as he talks climate change in Alaska: "If we were to abandon our course of action, if we stop trying to build a clean-energy economy and reduce carbon pollution, if we do nothing to keep the glaciers from melting faster, and oceans from rising faster, and forests from burning faster, and storms from growing stronger, we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair: Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields no longer growing. Indigenous peoples who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia. Entire industries of people who can’t practice their livelihoods. Desperate refugees seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. Political disruptions that could trigger multiple conflicts around the globe."

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