Keeling Curve

Renewables will give more people access to electricity than coal #StopAdani 

Renewables will give more people access to electricity than coal, says IEA

D7A75P Mother with a solar panel in Lira District, Uganda, East Africa.
Around the world, more than a billion people still lack access to electricity.
This number is shrinking, down by one third since 2000, despite rising population levels, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) special report on energy access, published today.
The report says that while coal has supplied nearly half of the progress from 2000 to date, its role is set to decline “dramatically”. This is because renewables are becoming cheaper and because the hardest-to-reach people are in remote, rural areas where off-grid solutions offer the lowest cost.
The report shows the number of people without access to electricity will shrink by another third by 2030, with 60% of these gains supplied by renewables. Furthermore, if the world commits to providing universal access by 2030, then renewables would bridge 90% of the remaining gap, the IEA says.
Recent progress
There have been spectacular gains in providing access to electricity this century, cutting the number without it from 1.7 billion in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2016, the IEA says. 

Most of this progress has been in Asia, as the charts below show (blue, yellow and green lines and columns).

Population without electricity access, by region, 2000-2016. Source: IEA special report on energy access.
India has led the way, with 500 million gaining access to electricity.

 Sub-Saharan Africa now has the majority of people still without access, at 600 million, an increase over the past 15 years due to rising populations. 

Recently, this number peaked and started to fall (red line and columns).
Fuelling gains
The rate of progress has been accelerating, the IEA says, rising from 62 million people gaining electricity access each year during 2000-2012 to 103 million during 2012-2015.
Coal has been the main source of this new supply, generating 45% of the electricity used by people gaining access for the first time between 2000 and 2016 (purple pictograms in the chart, below).
There has also been a growing role for renewable sources of electricity, the IEA notes, with particularly rapid growth in decentralised off-grid access (dark green pictograms).

 From 2000-2012, renewables provided 28% of new access to electricity.

 This figure rose to 34% during 2012-2016.

Annual number of people gaining access to electricity by fuel type. Source: IEA special report on energy access.
There are regional differences in the sources of new electricity connections.

 In India, for example, coal generated 75% of new supplies, against 20% for renewables. (This pattern is expected to reverse, see below.)
Sub-Saharan Africa has had the most rapid recent improvement in providing electricity access, rising from 9m new connections per year during 2000-2012 to 26m per year during 2012-2016. 

Most of this acceleration is due to renewables, responsible for 70% of new access since 2012, whereas coal has not supplied any new connections in this period.
Future growth
Looking ahead, the IEA says the number of people without access to electricity will fall to around 700 million by 2030, under its central scenario.
Asia will reach close to 100% access to electricity by 2030 (lilac, yellow and green lines and columns, below) and India will meet its aim of universal access in the early 2020s (blue). 

The vast majority of the 700 million still without electricity in 2030 will be in sub-Saharan Africa.

Electricity access rate and population without electricity, by region, under the IEA’s central scenario to 2030. Source: IEA special report on energy access.
Note that this chart reflects the IEA’s central “New Policies Scenario”. 

This includes existing policies plus announced policies and intentions.

 It also reflects assumptions about the costs of different technologies and the rates of population and electricity demand growth.
Growing grid
Around the world, the share of new electricity access supplied by renewables will nearly double to 60%, up from 34% over the past five years (green, blue and yellow columns, below). 

This pattern is even more extreme in India, where the share of new electricity from renewables will triple to 60%
Coal’s role in providing electricity access “declines dramatically”, the IEA says, providing power to 16% of those who gain access over the next 14 years. 

This compares to 45% during 2000-2016.

Population gaining access and cumulative investments, by type, under the central scenario. Source: IEA special report on energy access.
Note that the IEA has been criticised for repeatedly underestimating the rate of growth of renewables, particularly solar. 

This makes its outlook, in which renewables supply most new electricity access, even more striking.
Role of renewables
If the world wants to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of providing universal energy access for all by 2030, then 90% of the additional electricity connections over and above the IEA’s central scenario will come from renewables, its report suggests.
This reflects the fact that the hardest-to-reach populations are those least likely to benefit from grid expansion. 

For these people, decentralised systems, predominantly supplied by solar (yellow columns, below), offer the “lowest cost pathway” to electricity access.

Additional population gaining access and cumulative investments, by type, under the “Energy for All” scenario, compared to the central scenario. Source: IEA special report on energy access.
The report, for the first time, uses geospatial analysis, at a resolution of one square kilometre, to assess the most cost-effective ways to deliver electricity access to sub-Saharan Africa, whether through grid or off-grid solutions. 

This analysis takes into account existing and planned infrastructure, technology developments, local resources, population density and likely demand.
It is this new analysis that suggests decentralised renewables will be the cheapest way to provide electricity access for sub-Saharan Africa’s rural poor. 

Note that research suggests Africa could more than meet its electricity needs, with renewable sources alone.
The IEA puts the cost of providing electricity access to everyone on the planet at an additional $391bn over the period to 2030. 

This would nearly double total spending, adding to the $324bn already expected to be spent under the IEA’s central scenario.
The energy access-focused SDG also includes provision of clean cooking services. 

The IEA says this can best be met using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). As a result, providing universal energy access would increase CO2 emissions by 70m tonnes. 

This would be more than offset by savings of 165MtCO2 equivalent due to reduced methane and nitrous oxide from biomass used for cooking. 

The report says:
Achieving universal energy access is not in conflict with achieving climate objectives. 

The relatively small increase in total primary energy demand and the central role of renewables in our Energy for All Case means that global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increase by just 70 million tonnes (Mt) relative to the New Policies Scenario in 2030 (0.2% of the global level).
Conclusion
The large numbers of people without access to electricity are a frequent point of contention in debates over how to address climate change.
Some proponents cite China and India’s reliance on coal to bring electricity to their populations. 

They argue that coal is cheap and must be part of the solution for the remaining 1.1 billion people that still lack access to electricity.
Not everyone agrees on how best to meet the needs of these people, who are mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

 In a November 2016 interview, Dan Kammen, professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley and a former science envoy to the US State Department, told Carbon Brief that coal has been given too much credit as a solution to extreme poverty in Africa.
Coal doesn’t even deliver the thing for which it’s really been touted for, and that is, bringing people out of poverty because somehow it’s this least-cost fossil fuel source…I really cringe a bit when I see people touting mega fossil fuel projects as the obvious, first thing to look at…Distributed clean energy, time and time again today, has proven to be better, cheaper, more socially and environmentally positive.
As a July 2017 World Bank blog explains: “In many rural areas in Africa, impacts on economic development of grid extension in the near term may be very modest, while off-grid technologies can be more cost-effective for meeting the most highly-valued basic household needs.”
In further support of the benefits of off-grid systems, it says:
The major downside of off-grid solar is that the relatively low amount of supplied electricity limits what those systems can do for the productive use of electricity. However, electricity usage patterns in newly electrified areas in rural Africa are often such that solar is able to meet those demands. Even in grid-covered rural areas, households and micro-enterprises use electricity mostly for lighting, phone charging, and entertainment – which can easily be provided by solar panels.
Regardless of these details, today’s new IEA report shows that coal’s role in expanding electricity access is set to decline dramatically. Renewables, both on and off the grid, will provide most new connections, as the population without access falls by another third to 700 million.
If the world hopes to meet its goal of universal electricity access by 2030, then the IEA report suggests it is solar – not coal – that will bridge the gap.
Note on definitions
The IEA report defines electricity access as a minimum of 250 kilowatt hours (kWh) per rural household per year. This excludes the more than 23m “pico solar” units sold since 2010. The report explains:
People relying on ‘pico solar’ products, mainly solar lanterns which may include mobile phone chargers, are considered to be below the minimum threshold to count as having [electricity] access. Nevertheless, there are significant benefits for the poor associated with pico solar products.
You can see the range of solutions it considers in its report in the graphic, below.


Illustrative technology options for providing electricity access and the range of uses they can supply. Source: IEA special report on energy access.
The IEA says there is a “general paucity” of data on access to electricity. Its report is based on its own statistics, national statistical agencies, other publicly available data and a network of contacts in government, multilateral development banks and elsewhere.

Press link for more: Carbon Brief

Advertisements

5 Charts show human impact on extreme weather. #StopAdani #auspol 

These 5 charts explore the human impact on extreme weather

Flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey encompass the Motiva Enterprises LLC in Port Arthur, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif – RC1254851E70

It’s not an exact science, but it’s science: humans are partly to blame for worsening weather
Linking specific extreme weather events to global warming is difficult, and this plays into the hands of climate-change deniers.
In the past couple of weeks, tropical storms have devastated communities around the world. Hurricane Harvey has wreaked havoc in Texas, destroying homes and claiming lives.

 Typhoon Hato has left a similar trail of destruction in southern China and Hong Kong.
There is a strong argument to be made that humans are at least partly responsible for both of these extreme weather events.

 The problem is it’s often difficult to produce tangible evidence.
What we do know for sure, however, is that climate change enhances storm surges and causes flooding – both of which can have devastating consequences.

Interstate highway 45 is submerged from the effects of Hurricane Harvey seen during widespread flooding in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 27, 2017. REUTERS/Richard Carson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC1BA1656450    

Parts of Texas remain submerged in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Spike in carbon emissions

This chart, which was produced by NASA, shows the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide – or C02, to give it its chemical formula – over the past 400,000 years.
As human activity gathered momentum in the mid 20th century – in the form of growing populations and the rise of heavy industry – carbon emissions also followed an upward trajectory.
The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide has created a warming effect. This has coincided with an uptick in the number and scale of natural disasters such as droughts, floods, wildfires and storms.
    

CO2 levels have increased rapidly since the 1950s
Image: NASA
These countries produce the most C02

It will come as no surprise to learn that China and the United States are the most prolific carbon emitters. Both countries are among those with the biggest populations, the most factories and the highest number of cars.
    

China produces more carbon emissions than any other country
Image: US Energy Information Administration

The same countries suffer the most natural disasters
Interestingly, it is those same countries that top the table in terms of carbon emissions that have experienced the highest number of hydrological, meteorological and climatological disasters in recent years.
According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), China, the US and India were among the countries worst hit by extreme weather events from 1995 to 2015.
Large parts of Africa and Europe have so far been relatively unscathed by the onslaught of these types of natural disasters.
    

China, the US and India have suffered the highest number of natural disasters in recent times
Image: UNISDR

More floods than ever before
As the atmosphere gets warmer it absorbs more moisture – this works out at roughly 7% more for every 1℃ rise in temperature. The end result is worse flooding.
Higher sea levels in turn lead to bigger storm surges, such as those that have caused devastation in Texas and southern China.
It’s no coincidence that an increase in carbon emissions coincides with a steady rise in the number of hydrological disasters over recent years.
    

2016 saw an increase in the number of hydrological disasters around the world
Image: Munich Re
The cost of catastrophe


It has been estimated previously that flooding could cost coastal cities around $1 trillion per year by the year 2050.
Yet again, it is towns and cities in the US and China that are expected to bear the brunt.

Press link for more: WEForum.org

What should you say to a climate change skeptic? #StopAdani #auspol 

What should you say to a climate change skeptic?
Mira Abed
Climate change

Greenhouse gases are released from a factory in Australia. (Dave Hunt / European Pressphoto Agency)
We’ve all been there: The perfectly innocuous conversation you’ve been having at a friend’s party or your kid’s soccer game devolves into an argument about climate change.

 Suddenly, you realize you’re talking to a climate change skeptic.
You want to help your acquaintances see the light. But how?
We asked climate scientists and communicators how to have constructive discussions about climate change.

 They offered both general advice about how to engage and specific information to rebut doubters’ claims.
Start by looking for common ground. 

We all depend on the same planet for our survival, and all of us want a good outcome, said Richard Alley, a geoscientist at Penn State University who studies abrupt changes in the climate.
Also, recognize that there’s a grain of truth in most of the arguments put out by climate skeptics — or at least an intriguing question that climate scientists have considered at some point. 

Acknowledging the merits of these ideas often leads to more productive discussions, said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.
Read on and you’ll be ready when the next unexpected debate comes your way.
Beware of cherry-picking
In many cases, so-called evidence against climate change is drawn from a zoomed-in picture, like data taken from a short time period or a single geographical location. It’s not that the information is wrong — it may just be taken out of context.
Climate scientists emphasize the need to look at global data over long periods to understand it in context and see larger trends. For example, it’s easy to pick an exceptionally hot year — like 1998 — and point out that the average global temperature was only 0.1° Celsius warmer than in 2008, a relatively cool one. But all this example shows is that there are fluctuations from year to year.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen exponentially in the last century.


Atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen exponentially in the last century. (NASA)

What really matters, climate scientists say, is that the global average temperature is on a rising trend. 

NOAA’s 2016 climate report shows that every year since 1977 has been warmer than the 20th century average.

 This means the Earth is retaining more heat over time.
Always ask skeptics about the data their argument is based on.

 If it’s from an isolated location or a small chunk of time, it may not be representative of the bigger picture.
Greenhouse gases are the key
When looking for something to blame for rising temperatures, skeptics tend to focus on natural factors that can shift over time, such as the intensity of the sun, the amount of volcanic activity or changes in Earth’s orbit. 

They may even acknowledge the role of certain man-made pollutants like ozone or aerosols.
But all of these factors are dwarfed by the impact of greenhouse gases.
When we burn fossil fuels in cars, planes and power plants, the hydrocarbon molecules in the fuel break down to produce carbon dioxide and water. 

Both are then released into the atmosphere.
Emissions spew from a large stack at a coal-fired power plant in Newburg, Md.


Emissions spew from a large stack at a coal-fired power plant in Newburg, Md. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and some other small molecules, such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxides (NOx), are known as greenhouse gases because they absorb and trap light from the sun as well as infrared radiation coming from the Earth’s surface. 

Both are converted into heat by these gases that warms the air — much like a greenhouse does.
Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas by far, Alley said. 

Every time the climate has changed in ways that scientists can measure, carbon dioxide has had something to do with it, he said.
The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York modeled the impact of a variety of natural and industrial factors on global temperature. They found that only carbon dioxide levels predicted the temperature increase we’ve seen in recent decades. This visualization from Bloomberg makes it easy to see.
Methane and nitrous oxides actually have more powerful greenhouse effects than carbon dioxide — but carbon dioxide has a larger overall influence because we’re releasing so much more of it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide accounted for 82% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.
Humans are responsible for the surge in carbon dioxide
Where did all that carbon dioxide come from? 

When looking at the concentrations of CO2 over time, “nothing interesting happened until we started burning coal,” Schmidt said.
That’s when atmospheric CO2 really picked up — and it’s increased exponentially ever since.
According to data compiled by the Goddard Institute, carbon dioxide was at an atmospheric concentration of 291 parts per million in 1880. 

It had risen to 311 ppm by 1950 and to 370 ppm by 2000.

 NOAA’s reported global annual average reached 402 ppm in 2016.

Carbon dioxide concentration changes throughout the year. 

Climate change skeptics often point out that volcanic eruptions and decaying plants also send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But multiple studies have shown that human activity produces at least 60 times more carbon dioxide than volcanoes do each year. And while it’s true that plants produce more carbon dioxide than humans, they clean up after themselves — and even pick up some of our slack.
This is one reason the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher in the winter than in the summer. Plants come with their own carbon sinks – they produce carbon dioxide when they die and decay, but new plants also absorb it from the air as they grow.
You can’t blame warming on the sun
Climate change deniers say the sun is the obvious source of the planet’s heat. After all, it’s constantly bathing us in 173,000 terawatts of energy. That’s about 10,000 times more than enough to meet the entire world’s annual energy needs.
But solar activity has actually decreased since 1950, experts said. This means that if nothing else had changed, we would be experiencing a cooling cycle right now.
Solar energy output varies slightly over an 11-year cycle, and that does have an effect on temperature. But these effects are much clearer in the stratosphere than in the lower atmosphere, Schmidt said, and the solar cycle doesn’t significantly affect surface temperatures on Earth.
A Salvation Army hydration station sign sits in the midday sun as the temperature climbs to a near-record high in Phoenix.

A Salvation Army hydration station sign sits in the midday sun as the temperature climbs to a near-record high in Phoenix. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Typically, solar activity and temperature move together: When one rises, the other does too. So when we see solar activity and temperature moving in opposite directions, as has happened recently, we know that something else is going on.
Other factors are also encouraging cooling right now, several experts said, including an increase in reflective aerosols like sulfates and nitrates in the atmosphere. These block some heat from reaching the Earth’s surface.
If not for these cooling influences, our planet would be warming even more rapidly.
This is not a normal part of a natural cycle
Climate change has occurred naturally in the past. But that doesn’t mean natural causes are responsible this time.
Alley pointed out the logical flaw in this oft-repeated argument: It’s like saying that since wildfires sometimes begin with natural events like lightning strikes they can never be caused by a wayward campfire.
The climate doesn’t change unless it’s forced to change. And during the 20th century, there weren’t any natural events powerful enough to account for the changes scientists are documenting.
“Human fingerprints are all over this,” said John Cook, a cognitive scientist who studies beliefs about climate change at George Mason University.
And just because the climate has changed before doesn’t mean we want it to happen again — especially this quickly. In the past, rapid changes were usually pretty hard on living creatures that didn’t have enough time to adapt to their new conditions. That doesn’t bode well for us.
Don’t be fooled by Antarctic sea ice
For a several years in the early part of the decade, the amount of sea ice extending from Antarctica set new records, peaking at 7.72 million square miles (an area more than twice as large as the United States).
Climate change skeptics say this is inconsistent with a warming planet. But they ignore the fact that the vast majority of sea ice is decreasing. (Remember the warning about cherry-picking?) Even in Antarctica, it has been losing ground rapidly since 2014 and has now sunk to a record low.
Arctic sea ice hasn’t varied as widely in recent years. According to a report released in 2014 by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society in London, the yearly minimum Arctic sea ice extent in the summer has decreased by 40% since 1978. This could be the least icy the Arctic has been in almost 1,500 years, the report noted. Some researchers say that Arctic summers could be completely ice-free by 2030.
Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica passes through Victoria Strait while transiting the Northwest Passage connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans earlier than had ever been recorded.

Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica passes through Victoria Strait while transiting the Northwest Passage connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans earlier than had ever been recorded. (David Goldman / Associated Press)

Richard Somerville, a climate scientist who spent many years at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, points out that sea ice is highly variable.
“It’s not simple — the ice doesn’t just melt when the temperature falls below 32° Fahrenheit,” he said. “It gets blown around by the winds and carried around by the currents, and it gets blown or carried to regions that are either more prone to melting or less prone to melting.”
He likens sea ice trends to the stock market: Although it fluctuates from year to year, the overall trend can be seen when we look at long time periods — and now it’s a downward one. Focusing on short-term changes misses this bigger truth, he said.
The take-home message is that sea ice is complicated, so be careful not to jump to conclusions — in either direction. For example, the collapse of an iceberg that broke off from Antarctica in July has not been definitively tied to climate change.
Recognize that this is a political debate, not a scientific one

Skeptics like to say that scientists don’t agree on climate change, but the truth is that the consensus is overwhelming.
A whopping 97% of climate scientists share the view that climate change is happening now and that human activity is to blame.
Greenpeace activists in Spain protest President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Greenpeace activists in Spain protest President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. (Mariscal / European Pressphoto Agency)

It’s important to understand where science ends and politics begins. To boost your chances for success, make a point of separating the two, Somerville said. Many people are not suspicious of the science, but rather of the consequences associated with climate change.
“There’s no such thing as a Democratic or Republican thermometer,” Somerville said. We can agree on what the science says, even if we have different political ideas, he added.
Understand why people may be misinformed
According to a recent poll conducted by researchers at Yale and George Mason University, only half of the American public realizes that a majority of climate scientists agree on climate change. Only 13% of those polled were aware that the degree of scientific consensus is upwards of 90%.
A number of factors have led to this widespread misunderstanding, Cook said.
First, some industry groups who oppose environmental regulation have made a concerted effort to confuse the public about climate change.
Additionally, media reports tend to include two sides to every story, including those about climate change. But that implies that both sides have equal weight, even when they don’t.
Finally, the sheer volume of climate change information is daunting, and many Americans don’t have the time or energy to sort fact from fiction. “Because there’s so much noise, people tend to disengage,” Cook said.
And finally, know when to cut your losses
As with any contentious issue, you have to realize when you’re talking to someone who just wants to argue.
“If that’s the case, just stop.” Schmidt said.
mira.abed@latimes.com
Twitter: @mirakatherine

Press link for more: LA Times.com

A Billion Climate Migrants by 2050 #ClimateChange #StopAdani #Auspol #Refugees 

Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050
By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 21 2017 (IPS) – Imagine a world with as many as one billion people facing harsh climate change impacts resulting in devastating droughts and/or floods, extreme weather, destruction of natural resources, in particular lands, soils and water, and the consequence of severe livelihoods conditions, famine and starvation.


Although not yet based on definite scientific projections, the proven speed with which the process of climate change has been taking place, might lead to such a scenario by 2050. 

If so, 1 in 9 human beings would be on the move by then.
Currently, forecasts vary from 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis, with 200 million being the most widely cited estimate, according to a 2015 study carried out by the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University.

“This figure equals the current estimate of international migrants worldwide.”
Other specialised sources estimate that “every second, one person is displaced by disaster.” 

On this, the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports that in 2015 only, more than 19.2 million people fled disasters in 113 countries. 

“Disasters displace three to ten times more people than conflict and war worldwide.”
One Person Displaced Every Second

As climate change continues, adds NRC, it will likely lead to more frequent and severe natural hazards; the impact will be heavy, warns this independent humanitarian organisation providing aid and assistance to people forced to flee.
“On average, 26 million people are displaced by disasters such as floods and storms every year. 

That’s one person forced to flee every second.” See: Climate Victims – Every Second, One Person Is Displaced by Disaster
For its part, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) also forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

In an interview to IPS, the IOM Director General William Lacy Swing explained that political crises and natural disasters are the other major drivers of migration today.
“We have never had so many complex and protracted humanitarian emergencies now happening simultaneously from West Africa all the way to Asia, with very few spots in between which do not have some issue.”

The UN specialised body’s chief added “We have today 40 million forcibly displaced people and 20 million refugees, the greatest number of uprooted people since the Second World War.” See: Q&A: Crisis and Climate Change Driving Unprecedented Migration
Droughts, Desertification
Another warning comes from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which estimates that some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification.
Up to 12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain, adds the Bonn-based Convention secretariat.
Meantime, the increase in droughts and flash floods that are stronger, more frequent and widespread is destroying the land – the Earth’s main fresh water store, according to UNCCD.
“Droughts kill more people than any other single weather-related catastrophe and conflicts among communities over water scarcity are gathering pace. Over 1 billion people today have no access to water, and demand will increase by 30 per cent by 2030.”
On the other hand, getting sustainable energy to all represents one of the biggest development challenges of the 21st century, it continues.
“Research suggests that 1.4 billion people — over 20 per cent of the global population — lack access to electricity, and that at least 2.7 billion people — some 40 cent of the global population — rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking.”
In short, land, water and energy as resources are all pillars of our survival and of sustainable development.
“They stand or fall together. To be sustainable and in particular to reach poor rural populations, we need to enhance supply, access and security across all three pillars, at the same time, while supporting global climate ambitions.”
National Security, Migration
On this, based on the UN Environment Programme’s 2009 study “From Conflict to Peace-building. The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment,” UNCCD reminds that 40 per cent of all intrastate conflicts in the past 60 years are linked to the control and allocation of natural resources.
“The exposure of more and more poor people to water scarcity and hunger opens the door to the failure of fragile states and regional conflicts. Non-state actor groups are increasingly taking advantage of large cross-border migration flows and abandoned lands.”
Where natural assets including land are poorly managed, warns the Convention, violence might become the dominant means of resource control, forcing natural resource assets out of the hands of legitimate government.
Meanwhile, the number of international migrants worldwide has been on the rise. According to the International migration report (2015), their number has continued to grow rapidly over the past fifteen years reaching 244 million in 2015, up from 222 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000.
Losing productive land is driving people to make risky life choices, says UNCCD, adding that in rural areas where people depend on scarce productive land resources, land degradation is a driver of forced migration.
Africa is particularly susceptible since more than 90 per cent of economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base like rain-fed, subsistence agriculture.
“Unless we change the way we manage our land, in the next 30 years we may leave a billion or more vulnerable poor people with little choice but to fight or flee.”

Press link for more: Relief web

What ice cores tell us about #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol 

This is what ancient, 3km long ice cores tell us about climate change

Cracks are seen on the Fourcade glacier near Argentina’s Carlini Base in Antarctica, January 12, 2017. Picture taken January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Nicolas Misculin – RTSW9RN

The speed at which CO₂ is rising has no comparison in the recorded past.

Image: REUTERS/Nicolas Misculin

There are those who say the climate has always changed, and that carbon dioxide levels have always fluctuated.

 That’s true. But it’s also true that since the industrial revolution, CO₂ levels in the atmosphere have climbed to levels that are unprecedented over hundreds of millennia.
So here’s a short video we made, to put recent climate change and carbon dioxide emissions into the context of the past 800,000 years.

The temperature-CO₂ connection
Earth has a natural greenhouse effect, and it is really important. Without it, the average temperature on the surface of the planet would be about -18℃ and human life would not exist. Carbon dioxide (CO₂) is one of the gases in our atmosphere that traps heat and makes the planet habitable.
We have known about the greenhouse effect for well over a century. About 150 years ago, a physicist called John Tyndall used laboratory experiments to demonstrate the greenhouse properties of CO₂ gas. Then, in the late 1800s, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first calculated the greenhouse effect of CO₂ in our atmosphere and linked it to past ice ages on our planet.
Modern scientists and engineers have explored these links in intricate detail in recent decades, by drilling into the ice sheets that cover Antarctica and Greenland. Thousands of years of snow have compressed into thick slabs of ice. The resulting ice cores can be more than 3km long and extend back a staggering 800,000 years.
Scientists use the chemistry of the water molecules in the ice layers to see how the temperature has varied through the millennia. These ice layers also trap tiny bubbles from the ancient atmosphere, allowing us to measure prehistoric CO₂ levels directly.

 

The ice cores reveal an incredibly tight connection between temperature and greenhouse gas levels through the ice age cycles, thus proving the concepts put forward by Arrhenius more than a century ago.
In previous warm periods, it was not a CO₂ spike that kickstarted the warming, but small and predictable wobbles in Earth’s rotation and orbit around the Sun. CO₂ played a big role as a natural amplifier of the small climate shifts initiated by these wobbles. As the planet began to cool, more CO₂ dissolved into the oceans, reducing the greenhouse effect and causing more cooling. Similarly, CO₂ was released from the oceans to the atmosphere when the planet warmed, driving further warming.
But things are very different this time around. Humans are responsible for adding huge quantities of extra CO₂ to the atmosphere – and fast.
The speed at which CO₂ is rising has no comparison in the recorded past. The fastest natural shifts out of ice ages saw CO₂ levels increase by around 35 parts per million (ppm) in 1,000 years. It might be hard to believe, but humans have emitted the equivalent amount in just the last 17 years.
Before the industrial revolution, the natural level of atmospheric CO₂ during warm interglacials was around 280 ppm. The frigid ice ages, which caused kilometre-thick ice sheets to build up over much of North America and Eurasia, had CO₂ levels of around 180 ppm.
Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, takes ancient carbon that was locked within the Earth and puts it into the atmosphere as CO₂. Since the industrial revolution humans have burned an enormous amount of fossil fuel, causing atmospheric CO₂ and other greenhouse gases to skyrocket.
In mid-2017, atmospheric CO₂ now stands at 409 ppm. This is completely unprecedented in the past 800,000 years.


The massive blast of CO₂ is causing the climate to warm rapidly. The last IPCC report concluded that by the end of this century we will get to more than 4℃ above pre-industrial levels (1850-99) if we continue on a high-emissions pathway.
If we work towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, by rapidly curbing our CO₂ emissions and developing new technologies to remove excess CO₂ from the atmosphere, then we stand a chance of limiting warming to around 2℃.
The fundamental science is very well understood. The evidence that climate change is happening is abundant and clear. The difficult part is: what do we do next? More than ever, we need strong, cooperative and accountable leadership from politicians of all nations. Only then will we avoid the worst of climate change and adapt to the impacts we can’t halt.

Press link for more: weforum.org

Climate silence is no longer an option #StopAdani #auspol

Why are we ignoring the climate risk alarm bells?

Stark warnings from investment giant Schroders on the risks of climate change should have caused a media storm this week – instead they barely made a ripple
Imagine for a second that one of the world’s most influential investment firms issued a stark warning that Brexit was accelerating the UK’s economy towards a ‘cliff edge’ that few industries were prepared for and which would result in long term GDP losses of up to 50 per cent.


There would be outcry. The intervention would dominate TV news broadcasts, lead the front pages as papers sought to either trumpet the report’s findings or disparage its authors, and prompt urgent questions in the Commons for an increasingly embattled government.
Related articles

This is, of course, a hypothetical scenario. No one is suggesting GDP will halve as a result of Brexit and the UK’s top investors are keeping their powder dry – for now. A point will come soon when we will get to see how the media and political class react to credible and evidence-based warnings from financiers about Brexit’s impact that border on the apocalyptic. These warnings will go far beyond the already deeply worrying hazard lights we are currently experiencing on a near-daily basis. Let’s reconvene next summer and see where we are at.
Now imagine what would happen if one the world’s most influential investment firms issued a stark warning that climate change was accelerating the global economy towards a ‘cliff edge’ that few industries were prepared for and which would result in a long term global GDP losses of up to 50 per cent.
Except you don’t have to imagine. It happened yesterday. You would be forgiven for not noticing.

Schroders, with just the $520bn of assets under management, yesterday published a briefing paper and launched a new Climate Progress Dashboard, which should have led bulletins around the world. In sober, measured language it explained how “climate change is not a future possibility, it is well underway” and detailed how based on current trends within three decades a trajectory for more than 2C of warming this century will likely be locked in. “The challenge is becoming more acute every year,” it warned.
It went on to explain how this basic scientific reality had immense implications for the global economy. The current trajectory for 4C of warming this century would knock 10 per cent off long run GDP; the less likely but plausible scenario of 6C of warming would obliterate 50 per cent of long term GDP; and even the best case scenario offered by a 2C pathway would impair GDP by two per cent.

And if that is not bad enough, every scenario, including the one to which we must all aspire where climate risks are managed and dangerous climate change is averted, will have huge implications for investors and businesses as they are forced to adapt to either a climate ravaged ecosystem or a decarbonised economy. The report reckons the impact on cash earnings for global companies ranges from under four per cent to around 20 per cent, regardless of what happens.
As Schroders’ Andrew Howard notes in the introduction to the report: “Climate change will be a defining driver of the global economy, society and financial markets over coming years, decades and beyond. Whether the global economy is rebuilt on less carbon intensive foundations or the temperature continues to escalate, investors will be unable to avoid its impacts.”
It is important to stress precisely what is being said here and by whom. One of the world’s top asset managers – a company with no environmental axe to grind and a vested interest in stability and long term returns – is projecting plausible worst case scenarios that effectively amount to the collapse of the global economy within our lifetimes. Its best case scenarios are far more attractive, but require a fundamental reshaping of the global economy which will also present immense risks and opportunities for investors and businesses.
Moreover, the Climate Progress Dashboard launched alongside the report shows how we are currently closer to the worst case than the best case scenario. The new investor toolkit looks at a host of policy, investment and technology trends across 12 key themes and finds that not one area is delivering action in line with a 2C temperature pathway.
The weaknesses in current coal demand, impressive new political targets, and the rapid roll out of renewables capacity are the main sources for optimism, equating to a trajectory of between 2.2C and 3.1C. But the trajectory implied by oil and gas investment and production currently equates to 5.3C to 7.8C, and Schroders’ overall assessment reckons we are on track for 4.1C of warming this century – that is firmly in Mad Max territory.
The language of the report is dry, but its conclusions should be explosive. And yet, it was reported briefly in the FT and the Independent (as well as on BusinessGreen) and seemingly failed to trouble editors elsewhere. The BBC, ITV and Sky were silent on one of the doyens of The City warning of the obliteration of economic growth. Urgent Parliamentary Questions came there none.
There is a bit of a debate raging in environmental circles currently over whether you can ever shock people into action through doom-laden warnings of climate impacts or if all climate-related communications should be seen through the prism of #climateoptimism. As with all such mind-numbingly binary debates the answer lies in the grey ground in the middle. You need both a realistic and grown up assessment of potentially catastrophic risks and a recognition that these risks can still be averted in a way that benefits everyone and builds a healthier, happier, and more prosperous economy. If you are talking to the political and business audience that will ultimately determine the temperature trajectory that will shape this century then it is more important than ever to get the doom-hope dialectic right.
The Schroders report does this well. It notes that the gap between political rhetoric on climate action and tangible policy measures is closing fast, just as the attractiveness of clean technologies becomes more compelling. The 2C trajectory is within reach. But as the report makes clear, this scenario is still a big departure from business-as-usual that will require investors and businesses to transform their understanding of the economy. “Emissions cuts on the scale needed have implications for every corner of economies and markets, not just those most obviously exposed,” the report notes.
Should the communication of climate change focus on the risks or the opportunities? The answer is, of course, both. But given the continued media and political underplaying of the biggest challenge we all face and the willingness to ignore warnings that should enjoy full spectrum dominance of the public realm, I’d settle for any sort of serious engagement with climate risks that meant we could stop imagining how we should respond and actually started to respond in a manner commensurate to the challenge.
Climate silence is no longer an option. If Schroders is telling you there is a problem it is time to start listening.

Press link for more: Business Green

To avoid extreme #ClimateChange start removing CO2 #StopAdani #auspol

Carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere to avoid extreme climate change, say scientists
The Independent 

Ian Johnston

The Independent July 19, 2017

Humans must start removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as soon as possible to avoid saddling future generations with a choice between extreme climate change or spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to avoid it, according to new research.


An international team of researchers – led by Professor Jim Hansen, Nasa’s former climate science chief – said their conclusion that the world had already overshot targets to limit global warming to within acceptable levels was “sufficiently grim” to force them to urge “rapid emission reductions”.


But they warned this would not be enough and efforts would need to be made to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by about 12.5 per cent.
This, the scientists argued, could be mostly achieved by agricultural measures such as planting trees and improving soil fertility, a relatively low-cost way to remove carbon from the air.

Other more expensive methods, such as burning biomass in power plants fitted with carbon-capture-and-storage or devices that can remove carbon from the air directly, might also be necessary and would become increasingly needed if steps were not taken soon.
An academic paper in the journal Earth System Dynamics estimated such industrial processes could cost up to $535 trillion this century and “also have large risks and uncertain feasibility”.
“Continued high fossil fuel emissions unarguably sentences young people to either a massive, implausible clean-up or growing deleterious climate impacts or both,” said the paper.


“We conclude that the world has already overshot appropriate targets for greenhouse gas amount and global temperature, and we thus infer an urgent need for rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions [and] actions that draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide.
“These tasks are formidable and … they are not being pursued globally.”
Cuts to emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and ozone would also be required.
The study is to be used as part of a ground-breaking lawsuit brought against the US Government by 21 children in which the plaintiffs claim their constitutional right to have a health climate in which to live in is being violated by federal policies.


If the case succeeds, environmentalists believe it could force the Trump administration to reduce greenhouse gases and take other measures to prevent global warming.
The paper pointed out that the last time temperatures were this high, during the Eemian period, global sea levels were about six to nine metres higher than they are today, suggesting significant rises are still to occur.
The paper said that the Paris Agreement, the tumbling price of renewable energy and the recent slowdown in the increase of fossil fuel emissions had led to a sense of optimism around the world.
But, speaking to The Independent, Professor Hansen said he believed this optimism was misplaced.
“The narrative that’s out there now … is that we’ve turned the corner,” he said.
“On the contrary, what we show is the rate of growth of climate forcing caused by increased methane [and other gases] is actually accelerating. 

That’s why it’s urgent.”
Asked to assess the world’s current progress in fighting climate change, he said the “s*** is hitting the fan”.
Professor Hansen, now a scientist at the Columbia University Earth Institute in the US, said he believed the court case had a chance of winning.
A court would not be able to tell the Government what to do, he admitted, but would be able to say that failing to deal with the problem was unconstitutional and require politicians to produce an effective plan.
The paper said the need for “prompt action implied by these realities [of climate change] may not be a surprise to the relevant scientific community” because of the available evidence.


“However, effective communication with the public of the urgency to stem human-caused climate change is hampered by the inertia of the climate system, especially the ocean and the ice sheets, which respond rather slowly to climate forcings, thus allowing future consequences to build up before broad public concern awakens,” it said.
“All amplifying feedbacks, including atmospheric water vapor, sea ice cover, soil carbon release and ice sheet melt could be reduced by rapid emissions phasedown.
“This would reduce the risk of climate change running out of humanity’s control and provide time to assess the climate response, develop relevant technologies, and consider further purposeful actions to limit and/or adapt to climate change.”
It warned that sea level rise of up to a metre “may be inevitable even if emissions decline” and would have “dire consequences”.
Sea level rise of several metres would result in “humanitarian and economic disasters”.
“Given the increasing proportion of global population living in coastal areas, there is potential for forced migrations of hundreds of millions of people, dwarfing prior refugee humanitarian crises, challenging global governance and security,” the paper said.

Press link for more: Yahoo.com

Elon Musk exposes deep coal divide in Australia. #StopAdani @AnnastaciaMP #Qldpol #auspol 

Elon Musk Exposes Deep Coal Divide in Australia Bloomberg
Elon Musk’s intervention in Australia’s energy crisis is widening a divide over the future of coal.
The billionaire Tesla Inc. founder, who has promised to help solve an Australian state’s clean energy obstacles, sees no place for the fossil fuel. 

That conflicts with the national government’s push for it remaining a mainstay source of electricity generation, as well as the “clean, beautiful coal” technologies that U.S. President Donald Trump sees helping to save American mining jobs.

Elon Musk in Adelaide on July 7.


Photographer: Ben MacMahon/EPA

“Coal doesn’t have a long-term future,” Musk told reporters in Adelaide last week during a short trip to Australia. “The writing’s on the wall.”


His declaration in energy-strapped South Australia, where the 46-year-old entrepreneur announced plans to build the world’s biggest battery to support the state’s blackout-plagued power grid, has rankled lawmakers.

Photo Green TNQ (Tablelands Far North Queensland) 

Energy minister Josh Frydenberg, 45, accused the state of tapping a celebrity to paper over its patchy clean energy record. 

Tesla’s battery plan “is a lot of sizzle for very little sausage,” Frydenberg, a member of the conservative Liberal-led federal government, said Monday. 

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, 50, said Musk’s plan “doesn’t make a hell of a lot of difference” to the nation’s struggles over energy security.


Most of Australia’s states and territories — free to determine their own energy and climate policies independent of the national government — beg to differ. 

Just hours after Musk’s announcement, the neighboring state of Victoria closed the door on new coal-fired power stations, saying energy companies would rather invest in renewables.

Adani Project
The northern state of Queensland, where India’s Adani Group is planning to develop the $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine, expects a move to clean energy will completely wipe out its carbon emissions by 2050.
Energy policy is a fraught subject Down Under, where a push by the majority of Australians for more renewable power sources is clashing with the government’s political imperative to keep a lid on soaring power prices. 

Currently, some 76 percent of Australia’s electricity is drawn from coal-fired power stations which, while a cheap supply source, are at odds with a commitment to lower climate emissions.

A series of power outages in South Australia the past year spurred fears of more widespread blackouts across the nation’s electricity market and raised questions as to why one of the world’s largest producers of coal and gas is struggling to keep the lights on in a mainland state.
The nation’s largest and also dirtiest power generator, AGL Energy Ltd., says its investment appetite for coal has reversed in the space of just a few years. 

The economics of building new coal plants don’t stack up and increasingly renewables will dominate base-load power, AGL Chairman Jeremy Maycock said last week. 

Australians overwhelmingly want the government to focus on clean energy, according to a June poll by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute.


‘Highly Improbable’
“It’s highly improbable that AGL will be constructing new coal-fired power stations because we don’t think the economics are likely to favor that,” Maycock said in a phone interview. “As the largest generator we want to play our fair share in the country’s emissions reduction targets.”

For Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, banging the drum on coal is proving a treacherous task.
In 2009, Turnbull lost his job as leader of the then opposition Liberal Party to Tony Abbott due to his support for an emissions trading program that was eventually installed by a Labor Party government in 2012.
After defeating Labor in 2013, Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition dismantled the levy on carbon emissions, claiming it was responsible for higher electricity costs, and cut targets for how much energy Australia aims to draw from wind and solar generation by 2020.
‘Good for Humanity’

While in power, Abbott claimed coal was “good for humanity” and his government attacked wind farms for being “ugly.” Since seizing the leadership from his unpopular predecessor almost two years ago, Turnbull has toned down the government’s attack on renewables.
Turnbull announced in March a plan to boost capacity at Australia’s largest hydro-electric power project by 50 percent in a bid to tackle surging electricity prices and supply constraints.

Yet the climate issue continues to create rancor within Turnbull’s party. When Chief Scientist Alan Finkel proposed last month that Australia gradually increase its renewable target to 42 percent by 2030, at least 22 members of his ruling coalition spoke out about it. Renewable energy generation provided 17.3 percent of Australia’s annual electricity generation in 2016, according to an annual report from the industry-led Clean Energy Council.

Abbott, who remains a lawmaker on the government backbench, is now calling for the government to subsidize the building of new coal-fired power plants even as investors shy away from it. Turnbull has refused to rule it out while his deputy Joyce has talked up the potential for the government taking an equity stake in any new plant. For now, the official political line is all energy sources need to be in the mix. Just don’t rule out coal.
“When it comes to energy sources, ours is a technology-neutral and all-of-the-above approach,” Frydenberg said in an emailed response to questions last week. “With a significant amount of base-load generation being phased out over the next 15 years, we need to ensure we are prepared and have enough power to meet future needs.”
‘An Absurdity’
Joyce, whose New England electorate in rural New South Wales is home to a number of coal mines, is typically more blunt. Not having any coal-fired power generation in Australia is “an absurdity,” he told Sky on Sunday.
Frydenberg and state and territory energy ministers agreed to implement 49 of the Finkel report’s 50 recommendations at a meeting in Brisbane on Friday. Among those endorsed were a requirement that renewable energy sources provide a backup in the event of blackouts, and that large power generators give at least three years notice before plant closures.
Not sanctioned was the report’s recommendation that a national clean-energy target be implemented. Instead, most state and territory Labor governments moved to have the Australian Energy Market Commission press ahead with designing options for a benchmark that could be introduced by the states.
Australia exported more coal than any other country in 2015, and has the fourth-largest share of the planet’s coal resources, the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science said in December. Still, the existing and perceived political and environmental costs attached to coal are deterring lenders.
‘Run a Million Miles’

“The high risk and cost associated with new coal plants make investors and financiers run a million miles from it in Australia,” said Ali Asghar, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Sydney. “The only way new coal could get built is if the government funds it and indemnifies any private entity against all future carbon risks.”
And doing so makes little sense, given that the cost of building cleaner, so-called high-efficiency, low-emission coal plants in Australia exceeds that of new projects relying on solar, wind, or gas, Asghar said.
“As solar and wind become cheaper and continue to undermine the economics of operating coal, investment in new coal plants become an even riskier proposition.”

Press link for more: Bloomberg.com

Can we stop #ClimateChange? First we must #StopAdani #Auspol 

If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases right now, would we stop climate change?
Earth’s climate is changing rapidly. 

We know this from billions of observations, documented in thousands of journal papers and texts and summarized every few years by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


 The primary cause of that change is the release of carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and natural gas.
One of the goals of the international Paris Agreement on climate change is to limit the increase of the global surface average air temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, compared to preindustrial times. 

There is a further commitment to strive to limit the increase to 1.5℃.
Earth has already, essentially, reached the 1℃ threshold. 

Despite the avoidance of millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions through use of renewable energy, increased efficiency and conservation efforts, the rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere remains high.


International plans on how to deal with climate change are painstakingly difficult to cobble together and take decades to work out. 

Most climate scientists and negotiators were dismayed by President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
But setting aside the politics, how much warming are we already locked into?

 If we stop emitting greenhouse gases right now, why would the temperature continue to rise?
Basics of carbon and climate
The carbon dioxide that accumulates in the atmosphere insulates the surface of the Earth.

 It’s like a warming blanket that holds in heat. 

This energy increases the average temperature of the Earth’s surface, heats the oceans and melts polar ice. 

As consequences, sea level rises and weather changes.

Global average temperature has increased. 

Anomalies are relative to the mean temperature of 1961-1990. 


Based on IPCC Assessment Report 5, Working Group 1. Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, and Climateguide.fi, CC BY-ND

Since 1880, after carbon dioxide emissions took off with the Industrial Revolution, the average global temperature has increased. 

With the help of internal variations associated with the El Niño weather pattern, we’ve already experienced months more than 1.5℃ above the average.


 Sustained temperatures beyond the 1℃ threshold are imminent.

 Each of the last three decades has been warmer than the preceding decade, as well as warmer than the entire previous century.
The North and South poles are warming much faster than the average global temperature.

 Ice sheets in both the Arctic and Antarctic are melting. 

Ice in the Arctic Ocean is melting and the permafrost is thawing.

 In 2017, there’s been a stunning decrease in Antarctic sea ice, reminiscent of the 2007 decrease in the Arctic.
Ecosystems on both land and in the sea are changing. 

The observed changes are coherent and consistent with our theoretical understanding of the Earth’s energy balance and simulations from models that are used to understand past variability and to help us think about the future.


A massive iceberg – estimated to be 21 miles by 12 miles in size – breaks off from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier. NASA, CC BY

Slam on the climate brakes
What would happen to the climate if we were to stop emitting carbon dioxide today, right now? 

Would we return to the climate of our elders?
The simple answer is no. 

Once we release the carbon dioxide stored in the fossil fuels we burn, it accumulates in and moves among the atmosphere, the oceans, the land and the plants and animals of the biosphere. 

The released carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. 

Only after many millennia will it return to rocks, for example, through the formation of calcium carbonate – limestone – as marine organisms’ shells settle to the bottom of the ocean.

 But on time spans relevant to humans, once released the carbon dioxide is in our environment essentially forever.

 It does not go away, unless we, ourselves, remove it.
In order to stop the accumulation of heat, we would have to eliminate not just carbon dioxide emissions, but all greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide.

 We’d also need to reverse deforestation and other land uses that affect the Earth’s energy balance (the difference between incoming energy from the sun and what’s returned to space). 

We would have to radically change our agriculture. 

If we did this, it would eliminate additional planetary warming, and limit the rise of air temperature. 

Such a cessation of warming is not possible.
So if we stop emitting carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels today, it’s not the end of the story for global warming. 

There’s a delay in air-temperature increase as the atmosphere catches up with all the heat that the Earth has accumulated.

 After maybe 40 more years, scientists hypothesize the climate will stabilize at a temperature higher than what was normal for previous generations.
This decades-long lag between cause and effect is due to the long time it takes to heat the ocean’s huge mass. 

The energy that is held in the Earth by increased carbon dioxide does more than heat the air. 

It melts ice; it heats the ocean. 


Compared to air, it’s harder to raise the temperature of water; it takes time – decades.

 However, once the ocean temperature is elevated, it will release heat back to the air, and be measured as surface heating.
Scientists run thought experiments to help think through the complex processes of emissions reductions and limits to warming. 

One experiment held forcing, or the effect of greenhouse gases on the Earth’s energy balance, to year 2000 levels, which implies a very low rate of continued emissions. 

It found as the oceans’ heating catches up with the atmosphere, the Earth’s temperature would rise about another 0.6℃. Scientists refer to this as committed warming. 

Ice, also responding to increasing heat in the ocean, will continue to melt. 

There’s already convincing evidence that significant glaciers in the West Antarctic ice sheets are lost. 

Ice, water and air – the extra heat held on the Earth by carbon dioxide affects them all. That which has melted will stay melted – and more will melt.
Ecosystems are altered by natural and human-made occurrences. 

As they recover, it will be in a different climate from that in which they evolved. 

The climate in which they recover will not be stable; it will be continuing to warm. There will be no new normal, only more change.

Runaway glaciers in Antarctica.

Best of the worst-case scenarios
In any event, it’s not possible to stop emitting carbon dioxide right now.


 Despite significant advances in renewable energy sources, total demand for energy accelerates and carbon dioxide emissions increase. 

As a professor of climate and space sciences, I teach my students they need to plan for a world 4℃ warmer.

 A 2011 report from the International Energy Agency states that if we don’t get off our current path, then we’re looking at an Earth 6℃ warmer.

 Even now after the Paris Agreement, the trajectory is essentially the same. 

It’s hard to say we’re on a new path until we see a peak and then a downturn in carbon emissions.

 With the approximately 1℃ of warming we’ve already seen, the observed changes are already disturbing.
There are many reasons we need to eliminate our carbon dioxide emissions. 

The climate is changing rapidly; if that pace is slowed, the affairs of nature and human beings can adapt more readily. 

The total amount of change, including sea-level rise, can be limited. 

The further we get away from the climate that we’ve known, the more unreliable the guidance from our models and the less likely we will be able to prepare.

It’s possible that even as emissions decrease, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will continue to increase. 

The warmer the planet gets, the less carbon dioxide the ocean can absorb. 

Rising temperatures in the polar regions make it more likely that carbon dioxide and methane, another greenhouse gas that warms the planet, will be released from storage in the frozen land and ocean reservoirs, adding to the problem.
If we stop our emissions today, we won’t go back to the past. 

The Earth will warm. 

And since the response to warming is more warming through feedbacks associated with melting ice and increased atmospheric water vapor, our job becomes one of limiting the warming. 

If greenhouse gas emissions are eliminated quickly enough, within a small number of decades, it will keep the warming manageable and the Paris Agreement goals could be met. 

It will slow the change – and allow us to adapt. 

Rather than trying to recover the past, we need to be thinking about best possible futures.
This article was updated on July 7, 2017 to clarify the potential effects from stopping carbon dioxide emissions as well as other factors that affect global warming.

Press link for more: The Conversation

Climate Change: The Science 

By Justin Gillis
The issue can be overwhelming. 

The science is complicated. 

Predictions about the fate of the planet carry endless caveats and asterisk.

We get it.
So we’ve put together a list of quick answers to often-asked questions about climate change. 

This should give you a running start on understanding the problem.

1. How much is the planet warming up?

2 degrees is actually a significant amount.

As of early 2017, the Earth had warmed by roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit, or more than 1 degree Celsius, since 1880, when records began at a global scale.

 That figure includes the surface of the ocean. 

The warming is greater over land, and greater still in the Arctic and parts of Antarctica.

The number may sound low. 

We experience much larger temperature swings in our day-to-day lives from weather systems and from the changing of seasons. 

But when you average across the entire planet and over months or years, the temperature differences get far smaller – the variation at the surface of the Earth from one year to the next is measured in fractions of a degree. 

So a rise of 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century is actually high.
The substantial warming that has already occurred explains why much of the world’s land ice is starting to melt and the oceans are rising at an accelerating pace.

 The heat accumulating in the Earth because of human emissions is roughly equal to the heat that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding across the planet every day.


Scientists believe most and probably all of the warming since 1950 was caused by the human release of greenhouse gases.

 If emissions continue unchecked, they say the global warming could ultimately exceed 8 degrees Fahrenheit, which would transform the planet and undermine its capacity to support a large human population.
2. How much trouble are we in?

For future generations, big trouble.

The risks are much greater over the long run than over the next few decades, but the emissions that create those risks are happening now.

 This means the current generation of people is dooming future generations to a more difficult future. 

How difficult?
Over the coming 25 or 30 years, scientists say, the climate is likely to resemble that of today, although gradually getting warmer, with more of the extreme heat waves that can kill vulnerable people. 

Rainfall will be heavier in many parts of the world, but the periods between rains will most likely grow hotter and drier. 

The number of hurricanes and typhoons may actually fall, but the ones that do occur will draw energy from a hotter ocean surface, and therefore may be more intense. 

Coastal flooding will grow more frequent and damaging, as is already happening.

Longer term, if emissions continue to rise unchecked, the risks are profound. 

Scientists fear climate effects so severe that they might destabilize governments, produce waves of refugees, precipitate the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in the Earth’s history, and melt the polar ice caps, causing the seas to rise high enough to flood most of the world’s coastal cities.
All of this could take hundreds or even thousands of years to play out, but experts cannot rule out abrupt changes, such as a collapse of agriculture, that would throw civilization into chaos much sooner. Bolder efforts to limit emissions would reduce these risks, or at least slow the effects, but it is already too late to eliminate the risks entirely.
3. Is there anything I can do about climate change?

Fly less, drive less, waste less.

You can reduce your own carbon footprint in lots of simple ways, and most of them will save you money. 

You can plug leaks in your home insulation to save power, install a smart thermostat, switch to more efficient light bulbs, turn off the lights in any room where you are not using them, drive fewer miles by consolidating trips or taking public transit, waste less food and eat less meat.
Perhaps the biggest single thing individuals can do on their own is to take fewer airplane trips; just one or two fewer plane rides per year can save as much in emissions as all the other actions combined.

 If you want to be at the cutting edge, you can look at buying an electric or hybrid car, putting solar panels on your roof, or both.

If you want to offset your emissions, you can buy certificates, with the money going to projects that protect forests, capture greenhouse gases and so forth. 

Some airlines sell these to offset emissions from their flights. You can also buy offset certificates in a private marketplace, from companies such as TerraPass; some people even give these as holiday gifts. 

In states that allow you to choose your own electricity supplier, you can often elect to buy green electricity; you pay slightly more, and the money goes into a fund that helps finance projects like wind farms.
Leading companies are also starting to demand clean energy for their operations. You can pay attention to company policies, patronize the leaders, and let the others know you expect them to do better.
In the end, though, experts do not believe the needed transformation in the energy system can happen without strong state and national policies.

 So speaking up and exercising your rights as a citizen matters as much as anything else you can do.


4. What’s the optimistic case?

Several things have to break our way.

In the best case that scientists can imagine, several things happen: Earth turns out to be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than currently believed; plants and animals manage to adapt to the changes that have already become inevitable; human society develops much greater political will to bring emissions under control; and major technological breakthroughs occur that help society to limit emissions and to adjust to climate change.
Some technological breakthroughs are already making cleaner energy more attractive. 

In the United States, for instance, coal has been losing out to natural gas as a power source, as new drilling technology has made gas more abundant and cheaper; for a given amount of power, gas cuts emissions in half. In addition, the cost of wind and solar power has declined so much that they are now the cheapest power source in a few places, even without subsidies.

Unfortunately, scientists and energy experts say the odds of all these things breaking our way are not very high. 

The Earth could just as easily turn out to be more sensitive to greenhouse gases as less.

 Global warming seems to be causing chaos in parts of the natural world already, and that seems likely to get worse, not better. 

So in the view of the experts, simply banking on rosy assumptions without any real plan would be dangerous. They believe the only way to limit the risks is to limit emissions.

5. Will reducing meat in my diet really help the climate?

Yes, beef especially.

Agriculture of all types produces greenhouse gases that warm the planet, but meat production is especially harmful — and beef is the most environmentally damaging form of meat. Some methods of cattle production demand a lot of land, contributing to destruction of forests; the trees are typically burned, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Other methods require huge amounts of water and fertilizer to grow food for the cows.
The cows themselves produce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes short-term warming. Meat consumption is rising worldwide as the population grows, and as economic development makes people richer and better able to afford meat.
This trend is worrisome. Studies have found that if the whole world were to start eating beef at the rate Americans eat it, produced by the methods typically used in the United States, that alone might erase any chance of staying below an internationally agreed-upon limit on global warming. Pork production creates somewhat lower emissions than beef production, and chicken lower still. So reducing your meat consumption, or switching from beef and pork to chicken in your diet, are moves in the right direction. Of course, as with any kind of behavioral change meant to benefit the climate, this will only make a difference if lots of other people do it, too, reducing the overall demand for meat products.
6. What’s the worst case?

There are many.

That is actually hard to say, which is one reason scientists are urging that emissions be cut; they want to limit the possibility of the worst case coming to pass. 
Perhaps the greatest fear is a collapse of food production, accompanied by escalating prices and mass starvation. It is unclear how likely this would be, since farmers are able to adjust their crops and farming techniques, to a degree, to adapt to climatic changes. But we have already seen heat waves contribute to broad crop failures. A decade ago, a big run-up in grain prices precipitated food riots around the world and led to the collapse of at least one government, in Haiti.
Another possibility would be a disintegration of the polar ice sheets, leading to fast-rising seas that would force people to abandon many of the world’s great cities and would lead to the loss of trillions of dollars worth of property and other assets. In places like Florida and Virginia, towns are already starting to have trouble with coastal flooding.  
Scientists also worry about other wild-card events. Will the Asian monsoons become less reliable, for instance? Billions of people depend on the monsoons to provide water for crops, so any disruptions could be catastrophic. Another possibility is a large-scale breakdown of the circulation patterns in the ocean, which could potentially lead to sudden, radical climate shifts across entire continents.
7. ​Will a technology breakthrough help us?

Even Bill Gates says don’t count on it, unless we commit the cash.

As more companies, governments and researchers devote themselves to the problem, the chances of big technological advances are improving. But even many experts who are optimistic about technological solutions warn that current efforts are not enough. For instance, spending on basic energy research is only a quarter to a third of the level that several in-depth reports have recommended. And public spending on agricultural research has stagnated even though climate change poses growing risks to the food supply. People like Bill Gates have argued that crossing our fingers and hoping for technological miracles is not a strategy — we have to spend the money that would make these things more likely to happen. 
8. How much will the seas rise?

The real question is not how high, but how fast.

The ocean is rising at a rate of about a foot per century. That causes severe effects on coastlines, forcing governments and property owners to spend tens of billions of dollars fighting erosion. But if that rate continued, it would probably be manageable, experts say.
The risk is that the rate will accelerate markedly. If emissions continue unchecked, then the temperature at the Earth’s surface could soon resemble a past epoch called the Pliocene, when a great deal of ice melted and the ocean rose by something like 80 feet compared to today. A recent study found that burning all the fossil fuels in the ground would fully melt the polar ice sheets, raising the sea level by more than 160 feet over an unknown period. Many coastal experts believe that even if emissions stopped tomorrow, 15 or 20 feet of sea-level rise is already inevitable.
The crucial issue is probably not how much the oceans are going to rise, but how fast. And on that point, scientists are pretty much flying blind. Their best information comes from studying the Earth’s history, and it suggests that the rate can on occasion hit a foot per decade, which can probably be thought of as the worst case. Even if the rise is much slower, many of the world’s great cities will flood eventually. Studies suggest that big cuts in emissions could slow the rise, buying crucial time for society to adapt to an altered coastline.
9. Are the predictions reliable?

They’re not perfect, but they’re grounded in solid science.

The idea that Earth is sensitive to greenhouse gases is confirmed by many lines of scientific evidence. For instance, the basic physics suggesting that an increase of carbon dioxide traps more heat was discovered in the 19th century, and has been verified in thousands of laboratory experiments.
Climate science does contain uncertainties, of course. The biggest is the degree to which global warming sets off feedback loops, such as a melting of sea ice that will darken the surface and cause more heat to be absorbed, melting more ice, and so forth. It is not clear exactly how much the feedbacks will intensify the warming; some of them could even partly offset it. This uncertainty means that computer forecasts can give only a range of future climate possibilities, not absolute predictions.
But even if those computer forecasts did not exist, a huge amount of evidence suggests that scientists have the basic story right. The most important evidence comes from the study of past climate conditions, a field known as paleoclimate research. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has fluctuated naturally in the past, and every time it rises, the Earth warms up, ice melts and the ocean rises. A hundred miles inland from today’s East Coast of the United States, seashells can be dug from ancient beaches that are three million years old, a blink of an eye in geologic time.
These past conditions are not a perfect guide to the future, because humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the air far faster than nature has ever done. But they show it would be foolish to assume that modern society is somehow immune to large-scale, threatening changes. 
10. Why do people question the science of climate change?

Hint: ideology.

Most of the attacks on climate science are coming from libertarians and other political conservatives who do not like the policies that have been proposed to fight global warming. Instead of negotiating over those policies and trying to make them more subject to free-market principles, they have taken the approach of blocking them by trying to undermine the science.
This ideological position has been propped up by money from fossil-fuel interests, which have paid to create organizations, fund conferences and the like. The scientific arguments made by these groups usually involve cherry-picking data, such as focusing on short-term blips in the temperature record or in sea ice, while ignoring the long-term trends.
The most extreme version of climate denialism is to claim that scientists are engaged in a worldwide hoax to fool the public so that the government can gain greater control over people’s lives. As the arguments have become more strained, many oil and coal companies have begun to distance themselves publicly from climate denialism, but some are still helping to finance the campaigns of politicians who espouse such views.
11. Is crazy weather tied to climate change?

In some cases, yes.

Scientists have published strong evidence that the warming climate is making heat waves more frequent and intense. It is also causing heavier rainstorms, and coastal flooding is getting worse as the oceans rise because of human emissions. Global warming has intensified droughts in regions like the Middle East, and it may have strengthened a recent drought in California.
In many other cases, though, the linkage to global warming for particular trends is uncertain or disputed. That is partly from a lack of good historical weather data, but it is also scientifically unclear how certain types of events may be influenced by the changing climate.
Another factor: While the climate is changing, people’s perceptions may be changing faster. The Internet has made us all more aware of weather disasters in distant places. On social media, people have a tendency to attribute virtually any disaster to climate change, but in many cases there is little or no scientific support for doing so.
12. Will anyone benefit from global warming?

In certain ways, yes.

Countries with huge, frozen hinterlands, including Canada and Russia, could see some economic benefits as global warming makes agriculture, mining and the like more possible in those places. It is perhaps no accident that the Russians have always been reluctant to make ambitious climate commitments, and President Vladimir V. Putin has publicly questioned the science of climate change.
However, both of those countries could suffer enormous damage to their natural resources; escalating fires in Russia are already killing millions of acres of forests per year. Moreover, some experts believe countries that view themselves as likely winners from global warming will come to see the matter differently once they are swamped by millions of refugees from less fortunate lands.
13. Is there any reason for hope?

If you share this with 50 friends, maybe.

Scientists have been warning since the 1980s that strong policies were needed to limit emissions. Those warnings were ignored, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were allowed to build up to potentially dangerous levels. So the hour is late.
But after 20 years of largely fruitless diplomacy, the governments of the world are finally starting to take the problem seriously. A deal reached in Paris in late 2015 commits nearly every country to some kind of action. President Trump decided in 2017 to pull the United States out of that deal, saying it would unfairly burden American businesses. But other countries are promising to go forward with it anyway, and some states and cities have defied Mr. Trump by adopting more ambitious climate goals.
Religious leaders like Pope Francis are speaking out. Low-emission technologies, such as electric cars, are improving. Leading corporations are making bold promises to switch to renewable power and stop forest destruction.
What is still largely missing in all this are the voices of ordinary citizens. Because politicians have a hard time thinking beyond the next election, they tend to tackle hard problems only when the public rises up and demands it.
14. How does agriculture affect climate change?

It’s a big contributor, but there are signs of progress.

The environmental pressures from global agriculture are enormous. Global demand for beef and for animal feed, for instance, has led farmers to cut down large swaths of the Amazon forest.
Brazil adopted tough oversight and managed to cut deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent in a decade. But the gains there are fragile, and severe problems continue in other parts of the world, such as aggressive forest clearing in Indonesia.
Scores of companies and organizations, including major manufacturers of consumer products, signed a declaration in New York in 2014 pledging to cut deforestation in half by 2020, and to cut it out completely by 2030. The companies that signed the pact are now struggling to figure out how to deliver on that promise.
Many forest experts consider meeting the pledge to be difficult, but possible. They say consumers must keep up the pressure on companies that use ingredients like palm oil in products ranging from soap to lipstick to ice cream. People can also help the cause by altering their diets to eat less meat, and particularly less beef.
15. Will the seas rise evenly across the planet?

Think lumpy.

Many people imagine the ocean to be like a bathtub, where the water level is consistent all the way around. In fact, the sea is rather lumpy — strong winds and other factors can cause water to pile up in some spots, and to be lower in others.
Also, the huge ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica exert a gravitational pull on the sea, drawing water toward them. As they melt, sea levels in their vicinity will fall as the water gets redistributed to distant areas.
How the rising ocean affects particular parts of the world will therefore depend on which ice sheet melts fastest, how winds and currents shift, and other related factors. On top of all that, some coastal areas are sinking as the sea rises, so they get a double whammy.
16. What are ‘carbon emissions?’

Here’s a quick explainer.

The greenhouse gases being released by human activity are often called “carbon emissions,” just for shorthand. That is because the two most important of the gases, carbon dioxide and methane, contain carbon. Many other gases also trap heat near the Earth’s surface, and many human activities cause the release of such gases to the atmosphere. Not all of these actually contain carbon, but they have all come to be referred to by the same shorthand.
By far the biggest factor causing global warming is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity and transportation. That process takes carbon that has been underground for millions of years and moves it into the atmosphere, as carbon dioxide, where it will influence the climate for many centuries into the future. Methane is even more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, but it breaks down more quickly in the air. Methane comes from swamps, from the decay of food in landfills, from cattle and dairy farming, and from leaks in natural gas wells and pipelines.
While fossil-fuel emissions are the major issue, another major creator of emissions is the destruction of forests, particularly in the tropics. Billions of tons of carbon are stored in trees, and when forests are cleared, much of the vegetation is burned, sending that carbon into the air as carbon dioxide.
When you hear about carbon taxes, carbon trading and so on, these are just shorthand descriptions of methods designed to limit greenhouse emissions or to make them more expensive so that people will be encouraged to conserve fuel.

Press link for more: NY Times