Archive | Climate Change

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Poles Melt as 2016 is Hottest Year

Posted on 11 February 2017 by Jerry

It does not wait for the White House. Global warming continues all around the world but especially at the North and South poles. 2016 will go down in the record books as the hottest year on record per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is the third consecutive year of progressively record temperatures.

An article in Science magazine in the January 27 issue of 2017 stated that this last year was “1.1°C above those in the industrial era, and 0.07°C above the previous record set in 2015.” The article goes on to say this conclusion is based on an “analysis by the Geneva, Switzerland-based World Meteorological Organization (WMO), based on data from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United Kingdom’s Met Office Hadley Centre of Climate Science and Services, and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit.”

All indications are the sea ice of both poles was at historic lows. The air temperatures over the artic and Antarctica in November and December 2015 were near normal and yet the sea ice around both poles was at a lower point than many previous years and decades.

An article by the National Snow and Ice Data Center appearing this year in January 2017 said, “Artic sea ice extent for December 2016 averaged 12.10 million square kilometers (4.67 million square miles), the second lowest December extent in the satellite records.”

In a recent January 26, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Herald, Dr. James Renwick of Victoria University is reported to have seen 2017 begin with more than one million square kilometers of ice missing at the two poles when compared with the historical average. It also reported he saw more than three million square kilometers of ice missing over a 76 day stretch of time between October 13 and December 27th of 2016.

I apologize for the absence of written articles recently. In the last couple of months I moved to a new home in another state and attempted to cope with the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. These two developments took the majority of my time during the intervening period. I must admit that my mood turned around with the Women’s March that swept the nation. It was a beacon of hope that there may be hope that the Trump overtures will not go unanswered by the people. In addition, I took comfort in all of the protests about the cancelling of “Obamacare”.

I now see that progress has just gotten harder to come by and that we must keep fighting for what we believe. Of course I continue to believe that we must have solutions to global warming, the ozone hole, nuclear weapons, nuclear technology and synthetic biology/genetic engineering. So we must keep fighting until we solve these four or five problems that we have collectively created.

For more information or to access source documents for this article please use the following links.

http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/hottest-year-on-record/

http://huffingtonpost.com/entry/2016-hottest-year-global-record_us_587e63eee4b07b9dd704f788

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid+11776133

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/sifter/last-year-was-again-hottest-record

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Carbon Capture & Storage Developments

Posted on 03 July 2016 by Jerry

It looks as if baking soda is a key breakthrough in carbon capture and storage. Most countries were assuming a technology breakthrough that would allow them to take carbon out of the atmosphere. We should remember that if there is excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and it contributes to global warming then a key solution is to take this out of the atmosphere. This reality serves as the basis of a significant portion of the carbon reductions signed up for by various countries.

In a new breakthrough scientists have fashioned sponges made with baking soda to capture carbon emissions. They have tested microcapsules filled with their baking soda formula and believe their approach could be up to 40% cheaper than any existing technology.

One article cites Joshua Stolaroff, an environmental researcher at the Livermore Labs. He said, “Like all the commercial CO2 schemes we have today, the goal for large scale implementation is taking many tons of gas from a power plant and finding geological features deep underground where we can inject the CO2 and it will stay indefinitely.”

This leads us to the second development to be called out in research summarized in the June 10, 2016 issue of Science magazine. This article essentially says that 95% of carbon dioxide carbonizes and turns into benign carbonate minerals within two years when injected into a site in Iceland. This assumes the site has the appropriate chemistry and composition for carbon dioxide storage.

The carbon dioxide is dissolved in large amounts of water and then stored in porous basaltic rock. Here it undergoes a chemical transition to become a carbonate that binds to iron, calcium or magnesium, all of which are natural ingredients of the basalt.

Previously, scientists believed it would take hundreds if not thousands of years for carbon dioxide to harden underground. Obviously the faster the carbon dioxide turns to a harder material the better because it can be reused by other industries. An advantage of the microcapsule approach is that the carbon dioxide can be retrieved. If the baking soda solution is heated it turns into a form of gas that increases its value to others.

As said many times, there is reason for optimism in that human beings can find a solution or react fast enough to solve or diminish any problem we might identify. If we could only combine these two technologies or even if we can use them separately, it is clear we are making progress.

Taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is a part of the worldwide solution to climate change. This baking soda solution and the fact that it takes only two years to mineralize carbon dioxide underground, each point to progress in lessening climate change. This gives us reason for optimism when we think about our scientific community and the great problems confronting us.

Use the following links to obtain more information on these subject areas.

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36197603

http://www.energy.gov/articles/these-tiny-capsules-fight-climate-change

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6291/1312

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/pulling_co2_from_the_air_promising_idea_big_price_tag/2197/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/02/07/scientists_use_baking_soda_to_capture_carbon_dioxide/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/06/09/scientists-in-iceland-have-a-solution-to-our-carbon-dioxide-problem-turn-it-into-stone/

 

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Paris Climate Conference 2015: a Beginning

Posted on 25 December 2015 by Jerry

Many people watching the proceedings at the Paris Climate Change Conference that took place this December did not have the right expectation. They were disappointed that the 195 or so countries did not legally commit to absolute levels of emissions and penalties they would incur should they fail to achieve the targeted levels. They also reacted negatively to the failure to address the carbon fossil fuel yet to be taken out of the ground. There was no mention of a ban on further mining or extracting fuel from the ground around the world.

The detractors have to understand that all of the representatives were from sovereign nations. Sovereign nations cannot be forced to accept penalties that they would just ignore and not pay. The United Nations has tried the top down imposition of penalties for many years. In 2015 it switched to a bottoms up expression of voluntary cuts on emissions. As unpleasant as it may be, this approach has worked by bringing everyone to the table. India and China both offered reductions of emissions.

One other reason for the change in approach is Obama’s need to get congress to ratify a treaty that requires U.S. approval or additional expenditures. The scuttlebutt is this agreement, since it is voluntary and does not require any approval of additional funds, can be ratified by Obama without the further involvement of congress.

Yes, the emissions do not add up to the low level necessary to avoid a significant increase beyond 2° C. Present commitments add-up to a 2.7° C level. As cited in an earlier article on this blog (see http://iamaguardian.com/1777/will-the-paris-climate-meeting-make-a-difference ) this 2.7° Celsius level converts to a 4.9° Fahrenheit increase.

To deal with the carbon fuel still in the ground the present approach is voluntary to each country. Representatives at the UN will allow the countries themselves to regulate their own energy industries. The betting is that the governments will let the prices of un-pumped oil and un-mined coal fluctuate to a level that is uneconomic. They believe that under this approach the Keystone pipeline project will not be revived.

Of course there were winners and losers at the conference. While the European Union wanted to be perceived as the leader in climate change (and their achievements actually make them a leader) they were not perceived as such. This is while France, a EU country recovering from an attack, showed that it could marshal the world’s nations to reach a major agreement to save the world from climate change in the face of terrorism.

China emerged as a full participant instead of blocking agreement as was perceived at the climate summit six years ago. At the same time India had wanted access to western technology with no restraints from intellectual property rights and did not gain the free access they were seeking.

The big winners of the climate conference were the small islands of the world.   They won a commitment from the world’s developed nations to provide funding for emergency efforts in the event of rising seas from climate change. They also received a concession from the world’s nations that the world would actually seek to not go beyond a 1.5° Celsius temperature rise.

This conference was marked by discussion of mass migration due to climate change’s effects. Scientists and scholars have said that a drought in Darfur, Sudan in part caused migration in the last decade. In addition, they cite a drought lasting from 2006 to 2011 in Syria as a factor in the mass migration of the Syrians.

E.U. leaders warned the world about mass migrations as a result of climate change in the future. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission on Climate Change was quoted as warning world leaders that climate change could “destabilize entire regions and start massive forced migrations and conflicts over natural resources.” This quote appeared in an article in the New York Times by Sewell Chan on December 12, 2015.

The same article quoted Marine Franck who works on climate change and migration for the high commissioner for refugees. He stated, “Climate-related displacement is not a future phenomenon. It is a reality; it is already a global concern.”

People who read this blog know that migration and how the world handles immigrants is a continuing topic. Among the prominent mentions of migration, the article appearing on September 8, 2013 comes to mind (see http://www.iamaguardian.com/1488/what-would-you-do-life-or-death/ ). Migration because of drought or other climate change induced calamity should be top of mind for all of us. We need to consider how we relate to distressed migrants from many countries. Do we personally try to help them or resist? Are we sensitive to their plight or not?

This recent conference on climate change represents a new beginning that unfortunately does not lessen our personal workload. While it does signal a worldwide agreement to fight climate change, it also signals continued work within each country to agitate and apply pressure to keep our governments working on lowering emissions.

We need each country to reduce their emissions further than they have committed. Especially the big offenders (USA, China and India) need to continually work the issue to better their performance. This will require further work from each of us and signals a long haul for the world to once and for all control climate change.

Use the following links to gain additional information or access the source documents used for this article.

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/12/06/paris-climate-negotiations-wont-stop-planet-burning

http://newsdaily.com/2015/11/u-s-senators-vow-to-block-climate-aid-scrutinize-paris-deal/

http://www.xyz.net.au/paris-climate-conference-a-failure/

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-12-17/the-paris-climate-summit-a-useful-failure

http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/07/20/news/two-degree-target-may-still-cause-catastrophic-sea-level-rise-james-hansen-warns

http://news.yahoo.com/paris-climate-deal-cop21-criticized-063148941.html:_ylt=AwrSbnWlo3xWencAe3NXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByb2lvbXVuBGNvbG8D3ExBHBvcwMx

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/world/europe/paris-accord-considers-climate-change-as-a-factor-in-mass-migration.html

http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2595.html

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/350/6267/1451.summary?sid=f30bec59-791a-492f-9b4c-3576af2da825

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/350/6267/1450.summary?sid=f30bec59-791a-492f-9b4e-3576af2da825

http://iamaguardian.com/1777/will-the-paris-climate-meeting-make-a-difference/

http://iamaguardian.com/1488/what-would-you-do-life-or-death/

http://grist.org/climate-energy/how-to-read-the-jargon-at-the-paris-climate-change-talks/

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/climate_consensus_signs_ofnew_hope_on_road_paris/2843/

 

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Will the Paris Climate Meeting Make a Difference?

Posted on 24 November 2015 by Jerry

We know this September was the hottest it has been since the year 1880 and that 2015 promises to be the hottest year on record. We also know that the World Meteorological Organization has said that 2016 will be the first year when the carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere will average over 400ppm (parts per million). We have measured the 2015 ozone hole over Antarctica and know that it is the third largest ever observed. It is only eclipsed by holes in the years 2000 and 2006.

We know that planning for the climate change conference in Paris the nations of the world have committed to an amount of greenhouse gas emissions that go over the two degree Celsius limit. The two degree Celsius limit is believed necessary to keep the world’s average temperature at a safe level. They have committed to 2.7° C. The commitments now in hand converted to Fahrenheit are a 4.9° increase and are insufficient.

As a world, at the end of 2015, we will pass the average of one degree Celsius (or 1.8°F) warmer temperature measured since pre-industrial times. This places us as halfway to the 2°C level so frequently talked about.

Even while missing the two degree Celsius limit, cynics point out a number of reservations about the commitments. They first object that the commitments are not real. They were designed to solve other problems as a matter of expedience. These commitments are being repurposed to be for climate change.

The biggest case in point is the commitment from China. They claim the smog over Peking had become so bad the reduction they are committing to is really to eliminate smog in Peking. They point out that China has not cut back on its plans for additional coal fired power plants. They state that getting electricity for the entire country is their primary objective and they will not let this year’s commitment get in the way.

The cynics point out that commitments that span decades can easily be changed along the way. While optimists believe the freedom to change them means they will increase the commitments and achieve their goals earlier, the naysayers suggest they will only weaken commitments as the years pass. Critics say we cannot wait long enough to see because it will be too late to stop an additional rise in heat.

The final big criticism is that many of the commitments that have been made are conditional upon assistance the developed countries will provide to underdeveloped nations. Fully 25% of the world’s commitments are tied to receiving aide from developed nations. The underdeveloped nations are saying they will reduce their greenhouse pollution to a certain level if they receive a certain amount of help from a fund established by developed countries.

So far the potential donor nations must live up to providing the $100 billion per year by 2020 in climate financing to which they have committed. Unfortunately, in lots of areas nations are behind in living up to their commitments to fund various efforts. For example, the Congress of the U.S. for years was late in funding the United Nations.

A gross example is India that has committed to reduce its carbon intensity per unit of gross domestic product by 33% – 35% by 2030 compared to its levels of intensity shown in 2005. This is tied to its commitment to source 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources consisting largely of renewables and other low-carbon sources by 2030. This commitment will be achieved after it receives $2.5 trillion from the developed countries over the next 15 years. This $2.5 trillion is their estimate of the amount of money they will have to spend to change their energy infrastructure and plans in order to hit their targets.

So the biggest question that remains is “Is there still time?” This is the most difficult question we have. If you look at our average temperature rise we are halfway to our two degree Celsius limit. Should we be looking to the Paris conference to settle all issues or should we be looking at more decades of questioning?

The answer will probably be that there will be more questioning. There are reasons however to be hopeful. We may be seeing tipping points that are good news and should give us optimism that people will do the right thing to save our planet over the long haul ahead.

The Pew Research Center released its November 2015 World Survey of 40 countries (45,435 respondents) that shows a clear majority response to the question ‘Do you support or oppose your country limiting its greenhouse gas emissions as part of an agreement at the 2015 Paris conference?’ All nations of the world (except Pakistan) responded with their majority support for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The majorities were not small across the countries. Most were greater than 65%. Only Poland, Turkey, Palestinian territory, Indonesia, and South Africa had majorities less that 65%.

In addition, in order to reduce the ozone hole, countries that were parties to the Montreal Protocol of 1987 agreed to take under management the reduction of substitutes for CFCs or hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which are ozone friendly replacements that are used as refrigerants. Unfortunately, many of the HFC replacements are also very powerful greenhouse gases.

The use of these powerful greenhouse gases has risen as the world replaces the ozone killing CFCs with HFCs. The agreement of the Montreal Protocol countries to extend their management to include HFCs is a boon to fighting climate change. This is in addition to continuing their efforts to reduce the ozone hole. So far these countries have proven effective and tireless at attempting to shrink the ozone hole.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced it has adopted new rules for the use and management of HFCs. The Department of Defense also has announced plans to use alternate chemicals at some facilities and on its ships. Both of these efforts will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.

There is also a report that President Obama has 81 U.S. large companies that have signed a pledge committing at least $180 billion to fight climate change. These companies include Intel, Johnson and Johnson, The Hershey Company, Levi Strauss, Nike, and Siemens.

These are all encouraging events that we hope are positive tipping points that indicate more progress in the future. Where human beings are involved, there will always be a good chance that we will do what is right. No matter what happens at the 2015 Paris Climate conference there are hopeful developments that indicate trends that should increase our optimism. We must continue our pressure to make progress on climate change. We cannot afford to give ground and must succeed if we want planet Earth to be a livable habitat.

Use the following links to obtain more information or see the original source documents used to prepare this article.

http://www.nature.com/news/the-week-in-science-30-october-5-november-2015-1.18711 (scroll to second item)

https://www.wmo.int/media/content/large-antarctic-ozone-hole-observed

http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/21/us/climate-change-us-obama/index.html

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/14/un-climate-change-summit-paris-planet-future-balance-science

http://www.livescience.com/10325-living-warmer-2-degrees-change-earth.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/141001-two-degrees-global-warming-climate-science/

http://phys.org/news/2015-02-negative-carbon-dioxide-atmosphere.html

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/09/worlds-climate-about-to-enter-uncharted-territory-as-it-passes-1c-of-warming

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34763036

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/global-warming-passes-1-degree-mark-as-el-nino-builds-20151109-gkutqc

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=86869

http://www.nature.com/news/combined-climate-pledges-of-146-nations-fall-short-of-2-c-target-1.18693

http://www.pewglobal.org/2015/11/05/global-concern-about-climate-change-broad-support-for-limiting-emissions/ (access pdf of entire report)

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/03/indias-climate-pledge-critically-important-says-un-climate-chief

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/02/india-pledges-40-percent-electricity-renewables-2030

http://www.bna.com/indias-global-climate-n57982059082/

http://www.nature.com/news/india-unveils-climate-change-pledge-ahead-of-global-talks-1.18489

http://www.indiagazette.com/index.php/sid/237774359

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Is There Cap and Trade in Our Future?

Posted on 18 October 2015 by Jerry

Countries are doing it. States are doing it. And groups of both are doing it. It only stands to reason that we (the U.S.) will be doing it some day, especially if the Republicans win. So what is a cap and trade program as it pertains to climate change?

There is nothing mysterious here, Cap and Trade is straightforward. An institution, a state or country, decides how much pollution they should be putting into the atmosphere and by what time in the past they exceeded their limit or at what level they will put a “cap” on their emissions. The objective normally is to return to some past level and better it by cutting emissions even further.

The institution normally gives out permits to various businesses. Those that put out emissions that stay just under their annual permitted amount see no change. Those that achieve targeted reductions can sell their excess permits to other businesses that need more time. In this way, companies can make money on the permits they can sell and other companies can buy themselves more time to achieve their required level. This is the business of selling and buying the permits.

Typically the cap is divided amongst various industries with each having a “cap” for their kind of business with all caps totaling the amount of carbon emissions the institution will allow to be generated during the year. The caps in each industry shrink over time cutting the industry’s overall emissions over a number of years.   In this way there is a belief that a cap and trade system gives all players another layer of motivation to achieve desired outcomes.

This sounds easy right, but it isn’t. The problem is that all pieces of the puzzle can be moved or changed to advantage various parties. So far California, the European Union and a host of other players have implemented different plans with a variety of outcomes. Others have announced plans they will institute in the future, like China.

Most people that have looked at cap and trade systems and other alternatives prefer a more straightforward tax on emissions. Never-the-less cap and trade systems are still favored by many businesses, politicians and by the finance community. They see them as something that can be “gamed” to an advantage by sharp people who can manipulate the political entities and regulators who set up and administer these programs.

Politicians and power companies like cap and trade systems because they mask that customer costs for power will go up dramatically. Their greatest fear is that the public will understand that the politician’s and power company’s actions are raising the consumer’s costs. The cap and trade mechanism hides that power companies will just pass on additional costs to its ratepayers as higher prices. This is a much sneakier way of raising costs for energy than just implementing an energy tax. No one wants to be the cause of higher prices.

Cap and trade has a checkered past. The California and European systems represent the best and worst of cap and trade plans. The European system is known as the Emission Trading System (ETS) and is the world’s largest such system.

There are more than 25 countries in the European Union and each country gave out too many permits to their industries. The politicians wanted to make their industries more competitive. Unfortunately they all felt that way and given they were afraid of their constituencies knowing they were the cause of higher prices, they all gamed the cap and trade system.

Critics point out that for much of the ETS history the prices generated have been so low that utilities have been dis-incented and made no progress on reducing their emissions. This is because they found it less expensive to run coal-fired plants than to switch to less polluting natural gas.

The California system is more successful because it is administered by the California Air Resources Board (ARB). This takes it out of the hands of politicians and puts it in the hands of bureaucrats that will make it work. While it remains much more complex and still allows the politicians to hide from rising prices, it is much more successful and has elements that are being copied around the world.

We must be realistic. Whether it is the result of a direct tax or a cap and trade system, energy prices to consumers will go up as power companies pass increased costs on to the consumer. Smart politicians will act now and put the effects of their actions out in the future so they will not be associated with charges during their political tenure. We, and especially our children, will all pay for climate change and coping with it.

But if we know we are going to pay for it and that sooner is cheaper than later, we will support higher charges now rather than even higher prices later. This is where knowledge and willingness collide to produce progress. We must act. Very smart people once asked, “If not now, when and if not us, whom?”

Use the following links to access more information or see the original documents used as the basis of this article.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/air/the-political-history-of-cap-and-trade-34711212/?all

https://www.edf.org/climate/how-cap-and-trade-works

http://www.ehow.com/facts_7246784_pros-cons-cap-trade-system_.html

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/index.cfm

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2009/06/27/us/20090627-nat-climate.ready.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/29/us/politics/obama-to-offer-rules-to-sharply-curb-power-plants-carbon-emissions.html

http://www.carbontax.org/cap-and-trade-problems/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/20/europes-cap-and-trade-program-is-in-trouble-can-it-be-fixed/

http://www.technologyreview.com/notebook/414025/the-problem-with-cap-and-trade/

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=14411

http://legal-planet.org/2015/06/19/does-pope-francis-really-hate-californias-cap-and-trade-program/

http://www.chinabusinessreview.com/chinas-cap-and-trade-plan/

http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets/index_en.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/26/world/asia/china-emissions-xi-jinping-limit-cap-and-trade.html

 

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