Examples of China’s commitment to combating climate change


Click to enlargeReuters/Jason Lee

❝ Two years after President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that their countries would work together to combat climate change, Republicans and conservatives in the U.S. continue to cite China’s rising carbon emissions as a reason not to bother cutting our own.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump’s economic advisor Stephen Moore claimed that limiting our carbon pollution is pointless because of China’s supposedly growing coal dependency. “Every time we shut down a coal plant in the U.S., China builds 10,” Moore told E&E News. “So how does that reduce global warming?”

❝ Not only is Moore’s statement simply untrue, but the broader conservative theory behind it is badly outdated. China’s coal use and carbon emissions have dropped for the last two years. In 2015, China cut its coal use 3.7 percent and its emissions declined an estimated 1–2 percent, following similar decreases in 2014.

If China continues to cut its emissions, or even just keeps them at current levels, the country will be way ahead of its goal of peaking emissions by around 2030, which it laid out in 2014 and recommitted to during the Paris climate talks last December.

❝ In part, China’s emissions are dropping because the country is undergoing a dramatic shift in the nature of its economy. For years, China had been rapidly industrializing and growing at a breakneck pace. Growth often causes emissions to rise, all the more so when a country has an expanding manufacturing sector and is building out its basic infrastructure such as highways and rail lines. Heavy industrial activity — especially making cement and steel, which are needed for things like buildings, roads, and rail tracks — can be extremely energy intensive and have a massive carbon footprint…Now, as China is becoming more fully industrialized, its growth is slower and driven more by service industries, like technology, that are much less carbon intensive.

RTFA for several indicators. The author missed one of the most important because it’s still mostly under the radar of those who don’t read deeply into political economy.

Like the UK and many industrial Europeans nations – before the 1960s – China has relied on home coal fires for heating and cooking. China now is on the way to making the same change the West did. Switching to gas. Major pipeline conduits are under construction to bring natgas from Siberia, other regions outside of China. Different pipelines will link into LNG landing facilities at major harbors. As the last-mile, last city block hookups fall into place, the change will be rapid. And welcome.

China wants to deal with their immediate air pollution as much as the ongoing effect on climate. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.

NASA finds August 2016 tied July 2016 for hottest month ever recorded


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❝ August 2016 was the warmest August in 136 years of modern record-keeping, according to a monthly analysis of global temperatures by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies…

❝ Although the seasonal temperature cycle typically peaks in July, August 2016 wound up tied with July 2016 for the warmest month ever recorded…

“Monthly rankings, which vary by only a few hundredths of a degree, are inherently fragile,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “We stress that the long-term trends are the most important for understanding the ongoing changes that are affecting our planet.”

The record warm August continued a streak of 11 consecutive months dating back to October 2015 that have set new monthly high-temperature records.

❝ The monthly analysis by the GISS team is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations. The modern global temperature record begins around 1880 because previous observations didn’t cover enough of the planet.

Nothing like having a clear idea of how human beings are screwing up the planet.

Well, actually a small number of human beings. Like 1%.

California is about to institute a radical climate policy — will they succeed and lead?

❝ California has long prided itself on being a world leader on climate change — and with good reason…Within the United States, California is No. 1 in solar power and No. 3 in wind power. It boasts the third-lowest carbon dioxide emissions per capita behind New York and Vermont. Since 2000, the state has managed to shrink its overall carbon footprint slightly even as its population grew and economy boomed:

But now California is taking on a far, far more audacious task: trying to prove to the world that it’s possible — desirable, even — to pursue the really drastic emission cuts needed to stave off severe global warming.

❝ The state is already on track to nudge its greenhouse-gas emissions back down to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Then last week, after much fierce debate, the California Assembly and Senate passed a new bill, known as SB 32, that would go much further, mandating an additional 40 percent cut in emissions by 2030…

The stakes are enormous: Policymakers everywhere will be watching to see if California can pull this off. Getting a 40 percent cut will require more than bucking up wind and solar and putting more electric cars on the road. It will mean reshaping virtually every facet of the state’s economy, from buildings to transportation to farming and beyond…

❝ So far, these programs have worked reasonably well. California is on pace to push its emissions back down to 1990 levels by 2020 — and the economy has thrived…

Anyone can put lofty climate goals on paper. The real question is whether California can undertake the specific actions needed to actually cut emissions.

California is essentially offering itself as a guinea pig in the world’s most important policy experiment. Everyone else will be watching and learning from the state’s successes and failures — whether it can develop the needed clean tech, whether it can spur innovation, whether it can control costs and navigate political opposition, whether it can rejigger the grid to accommodate enormous quantities of renewable power. No pressure!

Watch this space.

A strange thing happened in the stratosphere — and no one knows (yet) what’s going on


Republican meteorology

“The quasi-biennial oscillation is the stratosphere’s Old Faithful,” said Paul Newman, Chief Scientist for Earth Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center…“If Old Faithful stopped for a day, you’d begin to wonder about what was happening under the ground.”

❝ Winds in the tropical stratosphere, an atmospheric layer that extends from about 10 to 30 miles above Earth’s surface, circulate the planet in alternating easterly and westerly directions over roughly a two-year period. Westerly winds develop at the top of the stratosphere, and gradually descend to the bottom, about 10 miles above the surface while at the same time being replaced by a layer of easterly winds above them. In turn, the easterlies descend and are replaced by westerlies.

This pattern repeats every 28 months. In the 1960s scientists coined it the “quasi-biennial oscillation.” The record of these measurements, made by weather balloons released in the tropics at various points around the globe, dates to 1953.

The pattern never changed — until late 2015. As the year came to a close, winds from the west neared the end of their typical descent. The regular pattern held that weaker easterly winds would soon replace them. But then the westerlies appeared to move upwards and block the downward movement of the easterlies. This new pattern held for nearly half a year, and by July 2016 the old regime seemed to resume.

❝ The quasi-biennial oscillation has a wide influence on stratospheric conditions. The amount of ozone at the equator changes by 10 percent between the peaks of the easterly and westerly phases, while the oscillation also has an impact on levels of polar ozone depletion.

❝ With this disruption now documented, Newman and colleagues are currently focused on studying both its causes and potential implications. They have two hypotheses for what could have triggered it — the particularly strong El Niño in 2015-16 or the long-term trend of rising global temperatures. Newman said the scientists are conducting further research now to figure out if the event was a “black swan,” a once-in-a-generation event, or a “canary in the coal mine,” a shift with unforeseen circumstances, caused by climate change.

Of course, if it’s the latter, you can be certain the usual pimps for the fossil fuel industry will line up to deny [a] that anything really happened and [b] if it happened it’s not important.

Earth approaches climate change – on a visual record – even if politicians see nothing


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Scientists are getting better at producing visualizations that make climate change, a pretty heady topic, simple enough to take in at a glance. This image charts global temperature changes each year since 1850, using the period from 1961 to 1990 as a baseline. The color scale ranges from dark blue (-2.5 degrees C) to dark red (+2.5 degrees C).

It was created by climate scientist Ed Hawkins…

Evidence-based data and analysis is key to scientific understanding. Then there are those who care not for science or understanding. They rely on conditioned-responses from decades of earnest dedication to reality TV and pronouncements from prominent people.

Same as it ever was.

Of course, cockroaches aren’t too worried about climate change

As the planet warms, insects will migrate into new habitats and environments as they adapt…For some insight into the not-so-humble cockroach and its future, Nexus Media News reached out to journalist Richard Schweid, author of The Cockroach Papers: A Compendium of History and Lore.

Public perception is that cockroaches would survive a nuclear holocaust (though the science on that has been mixed), but are they thriving in a warming planet?

Whether or not cockroaches would survive a nuclear holocaust depends on the level of radiation released, of course. They were reported to have survived the blasts at Hiroshima’s and Nagasaki’s grounds zero. What is certain is that they can survive substantially higher doses of radiation than Homo sapiens. What’s more, if both species face extinction, it’s a pretty sure bet that we’ll disappear before the roaches will, regardless of whether the cause is radiation, climate change, or some other, as of yet unimagined threat to our fragile existence.

Roaches are designed for survival; compared to them we are barely hanging on. So, unless climate change is reversed, we may be heading toward a planet where cockroaches are the dominant species, thriving and multiplying in a world where humans were a blip on the geological timeline and roaches have inherited the earth. They were here before us, and unless we pay closer attention to how we treat our world, they will inherit it…

What traits have allowed roaches to adapt to a dynamic world?

The cockroach is one of evolution’s grand success stories, a wholly admirable design for survival of a species. It can and will eat anything apart, it is said, from cucumbers.

What they will eat and metabolize ranges from book-binding glue to human feces, dead skin and toenails, to rotten anything-at-all. Those that live far from humans are able to eat whatever their world provides — presumably — from rotting trees to dead animals.

What’s more, cockroach species seem to mutate readily in order to protect themselves.

RTFA. Amusing, scientifically accurate. Perhaps providing additional motivation for you to nudge the political animals in our government most closely resembling cockroaches. You do understand that the pimps for fossil fuel barons and other climate change deniers are certain they are assured immortality.

Marine heatwaves are causing unprecedented climate chaos

Oz mangrove die-off
Click to enlargeNorm Duke/James Cook University

Mangrove die-off from diminished rainfall, increasing temperatures – Australia

First seabirds started falling out of the sky, washing up on beaches from California to Canada…Then emaciated and dehydrated sea lion pups began showing up, stranded and on the brink of death…A surge in dead whales was reported in the same region, and that was followed by the largest toxic algal bloom in history seen along the Californian coast. Mixed among all that there were population booms of several marine species that normally aren’t seen surging in the same year.

Plague, famine, pestilence and death was sweeping the northern Pacific Ocean between 2014 and 2015.

This chaos was caused by a single massive heatwave, unlike anything ever seen before. But it was not the sort of heatwave we are used to thinking about, where the air gets thick with warmth. This occurred in the ocean, where the effects are normally hidden from view.

Nicknamed “the blob”, it was arguably the biggest marine heatwave ever seen. It may have been the worst but wide-scale disruption from marine heatwaves is increasingly being seen all around the globe, with regions such as Australia seemingly being hit with more than their fair share…

It was in the study of a marine heatwave in south-west Australia that the term was coined just five years ago. In a report that still used the term “marine heatwave” in scare quotes, scientists from the West Australian department of fisheries found the heatwave off the state’s coast was “a major temperature anomaly superimposed on the underlying long-term ocean-warming trend”.

That year, the researchers found, Western Australia had an unprecedented surge of hot water along its coast. Surface temperatures were up to 5C higher than the usual seasonal temperature. The pool of warm water stretched more than 1,500km from Ningaloo to the southern tip of the continent at Cape Leeuwin, and it extended more than 200km offshore. Unlike a terrestrial heatwave that will normally last a couple of weeks at most, this persisted for more than 10 weeks.

…Five years later the full impact of that marine heatwave have are beginning to be more fully understood.

RTFA. It’s long, detailed – still hasn’t been through a complete gamut of peer review – but, keep your brain cells up-to-date on some of the latest findings on climate change. You need to know especially since many of our politicians fear that happening.

Composite map of thawed areas under Greenland Ice Sheet


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NASA researchers have helped produce the first map showing what parts of the bottom of the massive Greenland Ice Sheet are thawed – key information in better predicting how the ice sheet will react to a warming climate.

Greenland’s thick ice sheet insulates the bedrock below from the cold temperatures at the surface, so the bottom of the ice is often tens of degrees warmer than at the top, because the ice bottom is slowly warmed by heat coming from the Earth’s depths. Knowing whether Greenland’s ice lies on wet, slippery ground or is anchored to dry, frozen bedrock is essential for predicting how this ice will flow in the future, But scientists have very few direct observations of the thermal conditions beneath the ice sheet, obtained through fewer than two dozen boreholes that have reached the bottom. Now, a new study synthesizes several methods to infer the Greenland Ice Sheet’s basal thermal state – whether the bottom of the ice is melted or not – leading to the first map that identifies frozen and thawed areas across the whole ice sheet.

Each of these methods has strengths and weaknesses. Considering just one isn’t enough. By combining them, we produced the first large-scale assessment of Greenland’s basal thermal state,” Joe MacGregor said…

MacGregor said the team’s map is just one step in fully assessing the thermal state of the bottom of Greenland’s ice sheet.

“I call this the piñata, because it’s a first assessment that is bound to get beat up by other groups as techniques improve or new data are introduced. But that still makes our effort essential, because prior to our study, we had little to pick on,” MacGregor said.

Also proving that not only are most good scientists concerned with gradual, conservative research – proven and revalued at every step – you needn’t lose your sense of humor over the process.

Radioactive waste ready to re-surface with global warming


One of eight nuclear power plants left behind under the ice and snow

In 1951, the United States government made a pact with the Danish government to begin building camps and testing sites throughout Greenland to protect themselves from arctic Soviet attacks.

Camp Century, built 125 miles inland from Greenland’s shores, was built within the ice, housing up to 200 soldiers, testing construction in the arctic, drilling some of the first ice cores and even testing secret nuclear missiles.

But in 1967, Camp Century, and other camps, were decommissioned and closed. All but the nuclear reactor cores were left, to live forever, forgotten beneath the ice. Or so they thought.

A new study published…in the journal Geophysical Research Letters says that we shouldn’t forget about the stuff, some of it toxic and radioactive, because Greenland is melting. The scientists, from York University in Toronto, estimate with a business-as-usual climate model, the site will be melting in the next 75 years. Outside experts say it could be even sooner than that.

…The scientists estimate that there are 53,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 63,000 gallons of waste water and sewage, and unknown amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls and radioactive coolant. While the site is currently under more than 100 feet of snowfall, fallen since the 1960s, the pollutants will not stay hidden forever.

With the pollutions’ reemergence, the study authors believe this could bring up questions of who is accountable for cleaning up the site. The United States built the site, with the Danish government on a Danish territory, which is now under self-rule.

“It’s a new breed of political challenge we have to think about,” lead author and climate and glacier scientist William Colgan said…

If scientists had their way, responsibility would ultimately accrue to those who put dangerous materials in place. The United States government? That’s another story. The bifurcated clown show in Congress will ultimately decide on the budget – if any – for responsible action. Regardless of which party sits in the White House.

Given our nation’s track record, domestic and foreign, for action on radioactive pollution foisted on communities in the name of our “peace-loving” military – I ain’t too hopeful.