Methane

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It’s More Than Just Climate Change #auspol 

It’s More than Just Climate Change
Study shows climate change is one of many inter-related threats to natural systems and human societies, with other interconnnected factors being economic inequality, consumption and population
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (PRWEB) February 24, 2017
A recent scientific paper by a University of Maryland-led international team of distinguished scientists, including five members of the National Academies, argues that there are critical two-way feedbacks missing from current climate models that are used to inform environmental, climate, and economic policies.

 The most important inadequately-modeled variables are inequality, consumption, and population.
In this research, the authors present extensive evidence of the need for a new paradigm of modeling that incorporates the feedbacks that the Earth system has on humans, and propose a framework for future modeling that would serve as a more realistic guide for policy making and sustainable development.

The large, interdisciplinary team of 20 coauthors are from a number of universities (University of Maryland, Northeastern University, Columbia University, George Mason University, Johns Hopkins University, and Brown University) and other institutions (Joint Global Change Research Institute, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, the Institute for Global Environment and Society, Japan’s RIKEN research institute, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center).
The study explains that the Earth System (e.g., atmosphere, ocean, land, and biosphere) provides the Human System (e.g., humans and their production, distribution, and consumption) not only the sources of its inputs (e.g., water, energy, biomass, and materials) but also the sinks (e.g., atmosphere, oceans, rivers, lakes, and lands) that absorb and process its outputs (e.g., emissions, pollution, and other wastes).
Titled “Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems”, the article describes how the recent rapid growth in resource use, land-use change, emissions, and pollution has made humanity the dominant driver of change in most of the Earth’s natural systems, and how these changes, in turn, have critical feedback effects on humans with costly and serious consequences, including on human health and well-being, economic growth and development, and even human migration and societal conflict. However, the paper argues that these two-way interactions (“bidirectional coupling”) are not included in the current models.

The Oxford University Press’s multidisciplinary journal National Science Review, which published the paper, also highlighted the paper in a separate “Research Highlight”, pointing out that “the rate of change of atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4, and N2O [the primary greenhouse gases] increased by over 700, 1000, and 300 times (respectively) in the period after the Green Revolution when compared to pre-industrial rates.” See attached figure.
“Many datasets, for example, the data for the total concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases, show that human population has been a strong driver of the total impact of humans on our planet Earth. This is seen particularly after the two major accelerating regime shifts: Industrial Revolution (~1750) and Green Revolution (~1950)” said Safa Motesharrei, UMD systems scientist and lead author of the paper. “For the most recent time, we show that the total impact has grown on average ~4 percent between 1950 and 2010, with almost equal contributions from population growth (~1.7 percent) and GDP per capita growth (~2.2 percent). This corresponds to a doubling of the total impact every ~17 years. This doubling of the impact is shockingly rapid.”
“However, these human impacts can only truly be understood within the context of economic inequality,” pointed out political scientist and co-author Jorge Rivas of the Institute for Global Environment and Society.

 “The average per capita resource use in wealthy countries is 5 to 10 times higher than in developing countries, and the developed countries are responsible for over three quarters of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from 1850 to 2000.”
“The disparity is even greater when inequality within countries is included,” added University of Maryland geographer and coauthor Klaus Hubacek.

 “For example, about 50 percent of the world’s people live on less than $3 per day, 75 percent on less than $8.50, and 90 percent on less than $23. One effect of this inequality is that the top 10 percent produce almost as much total carbon emissions as the bottom 90 percent combined.”


The study explains that increases in economic inequality, consumption per capita, and total population are all driving this rapid growth in human impact, but that the major scientific models of Earth-Human System interaction do not bidirectionally couple Earth System Models with the primary Human System drivers of change such as demographics, inequality, economic growth, and migration.
Instead of two-way coupling with these primary human drivers of change, the researchers argue that current models usually use independent, external projections of those drivers. “This lack of two-way coupling makes current models likely to miss critical feedbacks in the combined Earth-Human system”, said National Academy of Engineering member and co-author Eugenia Kalnay, a Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland.
“It would be like trying to predict El Niño with a sophisticated atmospheric model but with the Sea Surface Temperatures taken from external, independent projections by, for example, the United Nations. 

Without including the real feedbacks, predictions for coupled systems cannot work; the model will get away from reality very quickly,” said Kalnay
In this new scientific research, the authors present extensive evidence of the need for a new paradigm of modeling that incorporates the feedbacks that the Earth System has on humans, and propose a framework for future modeling that would serve as a more realistic guide for policymaking and sustainable development.


“Ignoring this bidirectional coupling of the Earth and Human Systems can lead to missing something important, even decisive, for the fate of our planet and our species,” said co-author Mark Cane, G. Unger Vetlesen Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who recently won the Vetlesen Prize for creating the first coupled ocean–atmosphere model with feedbacks that successfully predicted El Niño.
“The result of not dynamically modeling these critical Human-Earth System feedbacks would be that the environmental challenges humanity faces may be significantly underestimated. Moreover, there’s no explicit role given to policies and investments to actively shape the course in which the dynamics unfold. Rather, as the models are designed now, any intervention — almost by definition — comes from the outside and is perceived as a cost,” said co-author Matthias Ruth, Director and Professor at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University. “Such modeling, and the mindset that goes with it, leaves no room for creativity in solving some of the most pressing challenges.”
”The paper correctly highlights that other human stressors, not only the climate ones, are very important for long-term sustainability, including the need to reduce inequality”, said Carlos Nobre (not a co-author), one of the world’s leading Earth System scientists, who recently won the prestigious Volvo Environment Prize in Sustainability for his role in understanding and protecting the Amazon. ”Social and economic equality empowers societies to engage in sustainable pathways, which includes, by the way, not only the sustainable use of natural resources but also slowing down population growth, to actively diminish the human footprint on the environment.”
Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, who is not a co-author of the paper, commented: “We cannot separate the issues of population growth, resource consumption, the burning of fossil fuels, and climate risk. 

They are part of a coupled dynamical system, and, as the authors show, this has dire potential consequences for societal collapse. 

The implications couldn’t be more profound.”
This work was supported by the University of Maryland Council on the Environment 2014 Seed Grant (1357928). The authors would like to acknowledge the following grants and institutions: SM, KF, and KH: National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)–US National Science Foundation (NSF) award DBI-1052875; JR: The Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES); GRA: Laboratory Directed Research and Development award by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is managed by the Battelle Memorial Institute for the US Department of Energy; MAC: Office of Naval Research, research grant MURI N00014-12-1-0911; FMW: NSF award CBET-1541642; VMY: The Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).
“Modeling Sustainability: Population, Inequality, Consumption, and Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems” is available at: https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article/doi/10.1093/nsr/nww081/2669331/Modeling-Sustainability-Population-Inequality and https://doi.org/10.1093/nsr/nww081; or PDF https://academic.oup.com/nsr/article-pdf/3/4/470/10325470/nww081.pdf
UMD Web Release
For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/02/prweb14095379.htm

Press link for more: My Sanantonio.com

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The Slow Confiscation of Everything #auspol 

The Slow Confiscation of Everything

By Laurie Penny 


A protest against EPA head Scott Pruitt. / Lorie Shaull
These days, the words of the prophets are written in whimsical chalk on the hoardings of hipster latte-mongers: “The end is nigh. Coffee helps.”

 In the days running up to the inauguration of Donald Trump, I saw this sort of message everywhere, and as panic-signals go, it’s oddly palliative. 

The idea that the Western world might soon be a smoking crater or a stinking swamp does, in fact, make me a little more relaxed about the prospect of spending five dollars on a hot drink.  
Fuck it. 

The planet, as we keep telling each other, is on fire. 

Might as well have a nice latte while we wait for the flames to slobber up our ankles. 

When you consider that some desperate barista boiled the entire philosophy of post-Fordist public relations down to its acrid essence, it would be ungrateful not to. 

What have you got to lose? 

Five dollars and your pride, in the short term, but what will those be worth next year? 

Next week? 

Have you looked at the Dow Jones lately? 

Have you turned on the news? 

On second thoughts, best not—just drink your coffee and calm down. 

Look, they’ve drawn a little mushroom cloud in the milk foam. 

It’s quite beautiful, when you think about it. 
The topic of apocalypse comes up a lot these days. 

It’s slipped into conversation as compulsively as you might mention any other potentially distressing disruption to your life plans, such as a family member’s illness, or a tax audit. 

And yet the substance of the conversation has shifted in recent weeks and months from an atmosphere of chronic to acute crisis. 

The end seems to be slightly more nigh than it was last year; we talk about the Trumpocalypse with less and less irony as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the Doomsday clock half a minute closer to midnight. 
Of all the despicable things the runaway ghost train of the Trump administration has done in its first ferocious weeks, the attempt to utterly destroy every instrument of environmental protection is perhaps the most permanent.

 The appointment of fossil fuel tycoons and fanatical climate change deniers to key positions in energy and foreign policy, the immediate reinstitution of the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines, the promise to pull out of the Paris Climate Pact—all moves crafted to please the oil magnates who helped put him in power—these are changes that will hasten the tick of the time bomb under civilization as we know it. 

Racist laws can eventually be overthrown, and even a cultural backslide toward bigotry and nationalism can be slowly, painfully reversed. 

We don’t get a do-over on climate change. 

The vested interests agitating to strip the planet for parts know that, too—and they plan to profit from this particular apocalypse as hard as they can.
They’re not the only ones eagerly anticipating the end times. 

Apocalyptic thinking has a long and febrile history in Western thought, and it is usually associated with moments of profound cultural change, when people found it all but impossible to envision a future they might live inside. 

The notion of armageddon as something to look forward to crops up time and again at moments of profound social unrest. 

Today, that includes legions of lonely alt-righters celebrating the advent of a new post-democratic, post-civilizational age where men will be real men again, and women will be really grateful. 


This “dark enlightenment” rumbles alongside a massive revival in millenarian end-times fanaticism among the Evangelical Christians who overwhelmingly voted for a man some of them believe is the literal antichrist who will hasten the final return of Jesus and his arse-kicking angels to sweep the righteous to their reward. 

There are many millions of people, especially in the United States, who seem to want an apocalypse—a word whose literal meaning is a great “unveiling,” a moment of calamity in which the murkiest and basest of human terrors will be mercifully swept aside. 

That gentle armageddon, however, looks unlikely to be delivered. 

Frightened, angry human beings have always fantasized about the end of the world—and institutions of power have always profited from that fantasy. 

In fact, as David Graeber notes in Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the ideal psychological culture for the current form of calamity capitalism is an apprehension of coming collapse mated bluntly with the possibility of individual escape. 

An economy driven by debt and fueled by looting and burning the resources that have sustained the species for generations would feel far more monstrous if it weren’t for the lingering suspicion that it might all be in flames tomorrow anyway.

 The world is on fire. 

Might as well build that pipeline. 

Might as well have that coffee.

But what world is on fire? 

The late comedian George Carlin had it right when he reminded us that

 “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” 

The Earth is resilient, and will stagger on in some form until it is swallowed by the sun some four billion years from now—the world that we envision ending is Western civilization as we have come to understand it, a mere eyeblink in the long species churn of planetary history. 

Apocalyptic thinking has been a consistent refrain as the human species struggles to evolve beyond its worst impulses, but the precise form of the anticipated collapse always changes. 

Those changes are important. 

The catastrophes we are anticipating today are not the catastrophes of thirty years ago, and that distinction matters a great deal.
Climate change is this generation’s calamity, and it is similar to the nuclear threat that nurtured the baby boomers in that it promises a different sort of death from the petty disasters of war, famine, and pestilence—it promises near-total species collapse. 

The past swept away along with the future. 

The deletion of collective memory. 

This is an existential threat more profound than anything humanity has had to reckon with before except in the throes of ecstatic religious millenarianism.

 Rapture, in the Abrahamic understanding, traditionally meant immortality for the species.

 We are the first to really have to wrestle with ultimate species death, extinction in memory as well as being.

 Of course we are afraid. 

We were afraid of the Bomb. 

We’re afraid now, even though many people’s understanding of climate change hasn’t moved past the denial stage.

 It is there, however, that the similarities between the two types of apocalypse end.
Climate change is a different prospect of calamity—not just elementally but morally different from nuclear exchange in a manner which has not been properly dealt with. 

The first difference is that it’s definitely happening. 

The second is that it’s not happening to everyone. 
There will be no definite moment can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked.

For anyone who grew up in the Cold War, the apocalypse was a simple yes-no question: either it was coming, or it wasn’t. 

Many people I know who grew up before the end of the nuclear arms race describe this as oddly freeing: there was the sense that since the future might explode at any point, it was not worth the effort of planning. 

Climate change is species collapse by a thousand cuts. 

There will be no definite moment we can say that yes, today we are fucked, and yesterday we were unfucked. 

Instead the fuckery increases incrementally year on year, until this is the way the world ends: not with a bang, not with a bonfire, but with the slow and savage confiscation of every little thing that made you human, starting with hope.


“In the U.S. we have a very strong sense of apocalypse that comes from puritanism, and it fed nicely into fears about the Bomb,” says Annalee Newitz, author of Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive A Mass Extinction.

 “Both kinds of apocalypse are instantaneous and there’s not much you can do about them. 

But climate change is slow and strange, sometimes imperceptible in a human lifetime. 

There are no pyrotechnics. 

Plus, we actually have a chance to intervene and prevent the worst effects of it. 

I think that’s a tough sell for people who grew up with a Bomb paradigm of apocalypse, where there’s either fiery atomic death or you’re fine. 

It’s hard to explain to people that there are probabilities and gradations of apocalypse when it comes to the environment, and there are hundreds of ways to mitigate it, from curbing emissions to preserving natural habitats and changing our agricultural practices. 

In a weird way, I think people are just now getting used to the slow apocalypse, and still don’t know how to deal with it.”
This was the unegalitarian apocalypse millennials inherited. 

If we are to define generations by their political impressions, one thing that everyone who grew up with no memory of the Cold War shares is a specific set of superstitions. 

 One of them was the consensus that neoliberalism had produced the “End of History.” 

For those of us who had not read Francis Fukuyama by the age of five, this came across as a general sense that there was no better society to hope for, no way of living on the horizon that would improve on the one we had been raised to—the nineties and the early aughts were as good as it was going to get.

 From here on in, unless we recycled and remembered to turn off the taps like the singing Saturday afternoon TV puppets urged us to, it would be slow collapse. 

Our parents, relieved of the immediate threat of atomic incineration, seemed oddly calm about that prospect.
Not half as calm, however, as our elected and unelected leaders.

 Because that’s the inconvenient truth, the other inconvenience about the world ending this way: it’s not ending for everyone.
This month, in a fascinating article for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos interviewed several multi-millionaires who are stockpiling weapons and building private bunkers in anticipation of what preppers glibly call “SHTF”—the moment when “Shit Hits The Fan.” 

Osnos observes that the reaction of Silicon Valley Svengalis, for example, is in stark contrast to previous generations of the super-rich, who saw it as a moral duty to give back to their community in order to stave off ignorance, want and social decline. 

Family names like Carnegie and Rockefeller are still associated with philanthropy in the arts and sciences. 

These people weren’t just giving out of the goodness of their hearts, but out of the sense that they too were stakeholders in the immediate future.
Cold War leaders came to the same conclusions in spite of themselves.

 The thing about Mutually Assured Destruction is that it is, well, mutual—like aid, or understanding, or masturbation.

 The idea is that the world explodes, or doesn’t, for everyone. 

How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down, though, if the negotiating parties had known, with reasonable certainty, that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout? 
How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have gone down if the negotiating parties had known that they and their families would be out of reach of the fallout?

Today’s apocalypse will be unevenly distributed.

 It’s not the righteous who will be saved, but the rich—at least for a while.

 The irony is that the tradition of apocalyptic thinking—religious, revolutionary or both—has often involved the fantasy of the destruction of class and caste. 

For many millenarian thinkers—including the puritans in whose pinched shoes the United States is still sneaking about—the rapture to come would be a moment of revelation, where all human sin would be swept away. 

Money would no longer matter. 

Poor and privileged alike would be judged on the riches of their souls. 

That fantasy is extrapolated in almost every modern disaster movie—the intrepid survivors are permitted to negotiate a new-made world in which all that matters is their grit, their courage, and their moral fiber. 
A great many modern political currents, especially the new right and the alt-right, are swept along by the fantasy of a great civilizational collapse which will wash away whichever injustice most bothers you, whether that be unfettered corporate influence, women getting above themselves, or both—any and every humiliation heaped on the otherwise empty tables of men who had expected more from their lives, economic humiliations that are served up and spat back out as racism, sexism, and bigotry. 

For these men, the end of the world sounds like a pretty good deal. 

More and more, it is only by imagining the end of the world that we can imagine the end of capitalism in its current form. This remains true even when it is patently obvious that civilizational collapse might only be survivable by the elite.
When it was announced that the Doomsday Clock had moved closer to midnight, I panicked for an entire day before realizing that, like a great many people, I didn’t know what the Doomsday Clock actually was.

 In case you were wondering, it’s not actually a real clock. 

It’s a visual representation of certain scientists’ estimation of how close human society is to catastrophe, published on the front cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1947—a genius exercise in metonymy and public relations conceived in an age when the problem was not that people were panicking about the end of the world, but that they weren’t panicking enough. 

There is no sympathetic magic at play: if a drunk sub-editor got into the layout program and moved the portentous second hand all the way to Zero Hour on a whim, no rockets would fire of their own accord. 

This apocalypse is still within our power to prevent—and that starts with abandoning the apocalyptic mindset.
It is hard to outline the contours of a future you have never been allowed to imagine—one that is both different from today but accessible from it, too. 

The best we have been permitted to hope for is that the status quo be scraped to the edges of the present for as long as it lasts—a vote to run the knife around the empty jar of neoliberal aspiration and hope there’s enough to cover our asses.

 If people cannot imagine a future for themselves, all they can measure is what they’ve lost. 

Those who believe in the future are left, as they always were, with the responsibility of creating it, and that begins with an act of faith—not just that the future will be survivable, but that it might, somehow, maybe, be an exciting place to live. 
“Every ruthless criticism of current politics should be tied in some way to an example of how we could do things better,” said Newitz. “I realize that’s a tall order, especially when positive visions often feel like wishful thinking rather than direct action. Nevertheless we need to know what we are fighting for to retain our sense of hope. We need maps of where we are going, not just fire to burn it all down.”

Press link for more: The Baffler.com

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Let’s Make a Deal #ClimateChange Put a price on pollution. #auspol 

Left & Right “Let’s Make a Deal” Put a price on Carbon Pollution #ClimateChange #auspol 

Earlier this month, conservative elder statesmen issued a “Let’s Make a Deal” on climate: Nix Obama-era regulations in return for a carbon tax and dividend.
So far, the idea has gained little traction from unretired Republicans who could actually make a deal. 

But if that changes, should Democrats and pro-environment independents accept it?

The proposal was issued with great fanfare by the newly formed Climate Leadership Council. 

Conservative economists Martin Feldstein and Gregory Mankiw and former secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker III touted the plan in op-eds for the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. 

The council launched its effort at the National Press Club the same day.
A carbon tax appeals to free-market conservatives by empowering markets to find the cheapest ways to cut emissions.

 By returning the money through a dividend, the tax would not grow the size of government. 

The council estimates the dividend would start at $2,000 for a family of four, and rise with the carbon tax.
However, the council isn’t offering something for nothing. 

Their proposal calls for ending President Obama’s climate regulations. 

Specifically, they would nix the Clean Power Plan, tougher fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks and additional regulations yet to be specified. 

Fortunately, the council is not seeking to weaken light-duty fuel economy standards, appliance efficiency standards or the hydrofluorocarbon deal signed in Kigali, Rwanda, last year.


Obama pledged under the Paris climate agreement that the United States would aim for 28 percent emission reductions by 2025 from 2005 levels. 

As I wrote last year, the U.S. had already cut emissions 9 percent by 2014. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced that emissions fell another 2.2 percent in 2015.
The council estimates that continuation of Obama-era policies would leave the U.S. about 12 percentage points shy of its Paris pledge. 

That’s why 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had proposed an ambitious agenda for further progress.

With President Trump and congressional Republicans calling to reverse Obama’s policies without replacement, we’d likely fall further behind.
To meet our Paris pledge, the council proposes a carbon tax starting at $40/ton and rising with time. 

Unlike weaker taxes discussed before, the new proposal would likely be more than sufficient for that goal. 

A recent Treasury Department analysis estimates that a $49/ton tax would far surpass the emission cuts needed for Paris.

Meanwhile, Resources for the Future modeled various sets of carbon taxes that could achieve the Paris pledge. 

As co-author Marc Hafstead explained via email, their modeling shows a tax rising to $38/ton (in year 2013 dollars) by 2025 would meet the target. 

The council’s proposal would exceed that level with its annual increases, and yield further benefits for decades to come.
Interestingly, Hafstead noted that their calculation of a $38/ton threshold for Paris compliance assumes the U.S. abandons efforts to control more potent greenhouse gases like methane. 

That may be the case, as the House voted this month to overturn rules on methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.
But if we don’t abandon progress on other pollutants, Hafstead estimates a tax of just $22/ton would be sufficient.
Ditching methane controls is a bad deal for many reasons. 

Methane is the leading source of ozone smog worldwide. 

That’s why researchers such as Jason West of the University of North Carolina and Arlene Fiore of Columbia University have shown that methane reductions can save tens of thousands of lives.

Leaking methane also means wasting a valuable fuel. 

Since methane is short-lived, it actually causes more warming near-term than traditional 100-year outlooks would suggest. 

Controlling methane while keeping the council’s $40-plus/ton tax proposal would accelerate U.S. progress toward its ultimate goal of 80 percent emission reductions by 2050.
Environmentalists have little to lose trading the Clean Power Plan for a carbon tax. 

As I wrote with Leah Parks last year, the U.S. is well ahead of schedule to meet the plan’s targets.

 That’s because cheaper natural gas and renewables are already displacing coal, even as the Clean Power Plan remains tied up in court.


The main importance of the Clean Power Plan is preventing a swing back to coal if natural gas prices rise. 

But a carbon tax averts that scenario. 

A $40/ton tax would add 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour to the cost of coal electricity, but just 1.6 cents for natural gas combined cycle plants. 

Solar and wind would pay nothing.

With many coal plants already losing money, coal would quickly give way to cheaper and cleaner forms of electricity.

 Meanwhile, the tax on natural gas is comparable in size to existing tax credits for wind and solar. 

Even without those tax credits, wind and solar are already as cheap as new natural gas plants. 

Taxing natural gas would help renewables extend their recent dominance of new generation capacity without the need for subsidies.
For transportation, the effects of a carbon tax would be far milder. 

A $40/ton tax would add just 36 cents to the cost of a gallon of gasoline. 

That’s not going to convince many people to drive less or buy an electric car, especially since electricity prices would rise a bit too. 

However, with fuel economy standards set to tighten, electric car sales would continue to rise.

Looking beyond the 2025 Paris target, swapping regulations for a carbon tax becomes an even more attractive deal. 

The Clean Power Plan ends in 2030. 

However, a steadily rising carbon tax would continue to drive down emissions for decades to come.
Carbon taxes have traditionally been criticized as regressive, since the poor spend a greater share of their income on energy. 

However, by rebating the tax through a per-person dividend, the Climate Leadership Council’s proposal would leave many low-income families better off.
So should Democrats and independents welcome this deal?
In a word, yes. 

Writers in The Nation, the The New York Times and Mother Jones have reached similar conclusions. 

I’d bargain for tougher methane regulations, but could accept waiting to restore those later.
Trouble is, conservative economists and retired Republican statesmen are in no position to seal this deal. 

RepublicEn, Citizens Climate Lobby and the Climate Solutions Caucus are trying to rally Republican and bipartisan support for a carbon tax in Congress.
For now, such efforts have fallen on deaf ears from politicians who hear no evil on climate.

 If that changes, liberals and moderates shouldn’t shy away from nixing Obama-era policies to accept a market-based solution to climate change.
Dan Cohan is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University.

Press link for more: The Hill

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Clean Coal is an OXYMORON #auspol 

‘Clean coal’ is an oxymoron


Rep. Ralph Watts’ Iowa View piece [Trump can bring back coal, Jan. 27] tries to support the continued use of coal by using Trump’s success to justify junk science and the status quo. 

The EPA and the open-minded can see the truth in climate change, and that we should make every effort to save our planet. 


It is ludicrous to save jobs for coal miners but in the process speed up climate change, which is caused by increasing levels of CO2 from the burning and processing of fossil fuels. 

The level of CO2 in our atmosphere has gone from 280 to 400 parts per million in my lifetime.

 That number had not been above 280 in 400,000 years.


I am a mechanical engineer and worked for our local utility on various projects at coal-fired power plants for 35 years. Clean coal is almost an oxymoron. 

To be completely pollution-free, the CO2 from burning coal would have to be captured and disposed of, and that is expensive and requires a lot of power and equipment.


Trump and his fellow travelers will set our environmental programs back more than the the four years he may be be in office. 

The effects of climate change are minor now, but the weather changes and possible anarchy 20 years from now won’t be nice. 

I’m glad I won’t be here to see it. 

What’s sad is it could be prevented.
— Tom Benge, Bettendorf

Press link for more: Desmoine Register

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Coal is nothing to joke about. #auspol #climatechange 

Coal will kill more people than World War II. Why do our ministers joke about it?
While the numbers are not yet in on Australia’s latest heatwave summer – one of the worst in our history – between 1100 and 1500 people will have died from heat stress.

 That’s been the average of recent years.

When Treasurer Scott Morrison jovially informed the House of Representatives “Mr Speaker, this is coal. 

Don’t be afraid!

 Don’t be scared! 

It won’t hurt you,” he was, according to all reputable scientific and medical studies worldwide, misleading the Parliament.

By mid-century, the effects of worldwide burning of coal and oil in heating the climate to new extremes will claim more than 50,000 Australian lives per decade, a toll nearly double that of World War II.
And that doesn’t include the 12.6 million human lives lost globally every year (a quarter of all deaths), according to the World Health Organisation, from “air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change, and ultraviolet radiation”, all of which are a consequence of human use of fossil fuels. 

The main sources of those toxins are, indisputably, the coal and petrochemical industries.
To pretend, as do Morrison and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, that this is all a great joke shows a cynical and contemptible disregard for the sufferings and painful deaths of thousands of Australians from exposure to the effects of fossil fuels. 

Understanding of the toxicity of burnt fossil hydrocarbons has been around since the 19th-century industrial revolution. The climatic effect of fossil fuels has been accepted universally by world climate and weather authorities since the mid-1970s – almost half a century ago.

Yet certain Australian politicians and leaders still pretend they are ignorant of facts that are known to everyone else. And they jeer at Australians with the common sense not to want to die from them.

As eastern Australia sweltered through the recent 40 to 47-degree heatwave and elderly people who couldn’t afford to switch on their air conditioners for fear of the power bills suffered and died, floods and bushfires related to the same climatic disturbance claimed further victims.
The Australian Climate Institute warned politicians a decade ago that the death toll from heat stress alone was then about 1100 in the five cities of Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. 

Nationally, the number is now probably 1500 to 2000 a year – but no national records are kept, perhaps for obvious reasons.

Scott Morrison with his pet coal in Parliament.

Scott Morrison with his pet coal in Parliament. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The institute said at the time: “With no action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, Australia is projected to warm by between 0.4 to 2.0 degrees by 2030 and 1.0 to 6.0 degrees by 2070. This warming trend is expected to drive large increases in the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme temperature events. For example, by 2030, the yearly average number of days above 35 degrees could increase from 17 to 19-29 in Adelaide and from 9 to 10-16 in Melbourne.”
According to more recent projections – such as, for example, those of Professor Peng Bi of Adelaide University – annual heat-related deaths in the capital cities are predicted to climb to an average of 2400 a year in the 2020s and 5300 a year in the 2050s. And that’s just in the capital cities.
Added to deaths from fire, flood, cyclone and pollution-related conditions such as cancer and lung diseases, fossil fuels will be far and away the predominant factor in the early deaths of Australians by mid-century. Not a single family will be unaffected by their influence.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Abbott/Turnbull governments’ policy – promoting the use and export of coal, trying to discourage its replacement by clean renewables and foot-dragging on climate remediation measures – has dreadful consequences in the short, medium and long term for individuals and families.
We want to know the road toll – but not the fuel toll.
Directly and indirectly, these policies will contribute to the loss of far more Australians than did the combined policies of the Hitler/Hirohito governments in the 1940s (27,000). They will cost many thousands more Australian lives than terrorism. Yet ministers treat them as a jest.
While it’s true Australia’s emissions, from fossil-fuel burning, mining and exports, are a small percentage of world emissions, they nevertheless contribute meaningfully to a situation that, unchecked, could see the planet heat by 5 to 6 degrees by 2100. 

If the frozen methane deposits in the Arctic and ocean are released, then warming may exceed 10 degrees, beyond which large animals, including humans, will struggle to exist.
With such temperatures and climatic extremes, it will become impossible to maintain world food production from agriculture. 

Hundreds of millions of refugees will flood the planet. 

According to the US Pentagon, there is a high risk of international conflict, even nuclear war, in such conditions.

These are the rational, evidence-based truths that politicians like Morrison and Joyce gleefully ignore in their enthusiasm for coal. Indeed, Joyce is advocating a course likely to ruin his party’s main long-term constituency: farmers.
Australians rightly regard deaths from motor accidents, suicide, domestic violence, preventable disease, war, drugs and other causes as tragic, unjustifiable, unacceptable and unnecessary. Yet there is a curious national silence, a wilful blindness, about the far larger toll of preventable death from coal and oil. We want to know the road toll – but not the fuel toll. This national ignorance encouraged by dishonest claims that they “won’t hurt you”.
Yes, they will. Coal and oil will hurt you worse than almost anything else in your life.

 They will reap your family, and maybe you, too.
When there are clean, safe, healthy substitute readily available – renewables, biofuels, green chemistry – sensible Australians will turn their back on the untruths and the propaganda, and vote only for politicians whose policies do not knowingly encompass our early death.
Julian Cribb is a Canberra science writer and author. His latest book is Surviving the 21st Century (2017).

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On the science of Climate Change #auspol

On the science of climate change
In an interview last week, Computer Science professor David Gelernter told the News: “For human beings to change the climate of the planet is a monstrously enormous undertaking…I haven’t seen convincing evidence of it” (“Gelernter, potential science advisor to Trump, denies man-made climate change,” Jan. 25, 2017). Gelernter is widely rumored to be in consideration for the position of President Donald Trump’s science adviser, and his comments insinuate that human activity is insufficient to cause such change.

While we agree with Gelernter’s premise about the magnitude of human activity needed to alter the planetary climate system, we disagree with his conclusions.

 In consulting peer-reviewed scientific literature, we find that the energy expended by billions of people over nearly two centuries is in fact a significant climatological and geological force.
Carbon dioxide (CO2), along with other carbon-bearing molecules in the atmosphere such as methane, is a greenhouse gas that warms the planet — a relationship that has been known since the release of a classic study by Svante Arrhenius in 1896, and which has been confirmed by numerous independent experiments.

 


CO2 levels have now risen above 400 parts per million by volume, relative to a pre-industrial value of about 280 ppmv. That difference corresponds to about 250 billion tons of carbon added to the atmosphere. 

 Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a 2007 global inventory of fossil fuel combustion, cement production and land-use changes such as deforestation indicates that humans have emitted about 500 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere since 1850. 

This is indeed a “monstrously enormous” figure. 
 It is so enormous that the abrupt atmospheric CO2 rise, reaching levels substantially higher — and at a pace far faster —than those of natural glacial-interglacial cycles, represents only half of the anthropogenic effects on Earth’s carbon cycle. The other half of the emitted carbon has been taken up in roughly equal measures by the land surface and the oceans. 

As a result, the oceans have been slowly acidifying.
How sensitive is global climate to CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere?

 The connection is quantified using a factor called the “climate sensitivity,” which is the number of degrees Celsius rise caused by each doubling of CO2.

 “Sensitivity” is an appropriate term given that even small variations of greenhouse gases can lead to either a completely ice-covered or totally ice-free Earth; as illustrated by many computer simulations of climate, including a pioneering 1992 study by Ken Caldeira and James F. Kasting. 


 The climate sensitivity factor combines the summed effects of ocean heat uptake, changes in atmospheric humidity, as well as changes in clouds and planetary reflectivity. Climate sensitivity is not constant under all conditions; the estimates summarized by Reto Knutti and Gabriel C. Hegerl in 2008 range within 2-5 degrees Celsius per CO2 doubling.
It should be no surprise, then, that during the same industrial-era time interval when atmospheric CO2 rose by nearly 50%, the averaged global temperature has risen by about 1 degree Celsius, as documented by a team of scientists from Oregon State and Harvard in 2013.

According to a 2004 study by R.J. Klee and T.E. Graedel, carbon emissions are just one example among many cases where human activity has mobilized geological materials at rates far exceeding natural processes. Our species has become uniquely powerful in its environmental potency. Those who deny an anthropogenic cause of global warming have been called “climate skeptics,” a euphemistic term that would appear to give them an elevated ethical standing in critical thought. Based on our consideration of well-documented scientific research, and like the vast majority of Earth scientists — as documented in a 2016 study in the journal Environmental Research Letters — we reject the hypothesis that human carbon emissions have had zero effect on global climate.
We welcome rational discussion on this issue, grounded in reference to peer-reviewed studies by researchers with a long-term and serious engagement in climate science. Skepticism expressed for its own sake — without factual knowledge — does not contribute to scientific advancement and does not belong in the conversation.
David Evans is a professor of Geology & Geophysics. The column is jointly written with 18 other faculty members in the department: Jay Ague, David Bercovici, Ruth Blake, William Boos, Mark Brandon, Alexey Fedorov, Pincelli Hull, Jun Korenaga, Kanani Lee, Maureen Long, Jeffrey Park, Noah Planavsky, Alan Rooney, Brian Skinner, Ronald Smith, Trude Storelvmo, Mary-Louise Timmermans and John Wettlaufer. 

Press link for more: Yale Daily News

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Carbon Capture & Storage is no solution to #ClimateChange #auspol

Countries must radically scale up their use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies soon or risk missing the targets of the Paris climate agreement, new research suggests.

The authors of a study published on Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change examined how big countries are approaching the daunting task of attaining the treaty’s central goal—keeping the world well below 2 degrees Celsius of warming since the industrial era.
They cited impressive progress in energy conservation and the use of renewables, but a lag in efforts to capture and store carbon dioxide from continued use of fossil fuels.
“We show that many key indicators are currently broadly consistent with emission scenarios that keep temperatures below 2˚C, but the continued lack of large-scale carbon capture and storage threatens 2030 targets and the longer-term Paris ambition of net-zero emissions,” the study authors wrote.

From the United Nation’s latest “emissions gap” assessment to the International Energy Agency’s emissions analysis, other reports have also warned that the world needs to do more to prevent catastrophic climate change—and they have similarly presented CCS as a key part of the solution.
Indeed, most climate models that give the world any hope of achieving the Paris ambitions of keeping warming not just well below 2 degrees, but even aiming for 1.5 degrees, include a significant role for CCS, sometimes in combination with burning biofuels.

This new study comes just a few months after the Paris treaty entered into force and Donald Trump was elected president on a platform that rejects the treaty and embraces increased production and use of fossil fuels.
The researchers estimated that fossil fuels and industrial processes released about 36.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2016, the third year in a row it has remained at that level. To find out what’s behind this global plateau, researchers looked at the carbon intensity of energy use and found it varies by country.
Here’s the geographic breakdown:

China: The study found a decline in the share of fossil fuels in total energy use is driven by renewables growth, along with reductions in the carbon emitted per unit of fossil fuel.
United States: Declines in carbon per unit of fossil fuel consumed stem from a shift from coal to natural gas. Smaller reductions arose from gains in renewables.
Europe: The carbon intensity decline is dominated by the growing share of renewables in total energy use, with less progress in cutting emissions from fossil fuels.

India: The study found no clear trends.
“Our analysis helps us show how global emissions can be flat but countries and regions are heading in very different directions,” said study author Robert Jackson, a climate and environmental science professor at Stanford University.
Besides reviewing past energy trends, Jackson and others examined the countries’ climate pledges as well as more than 100 climate simulations. Those showed how changes in energy production and use through 2040 could keep warming to maximum 2 degrees Celsius.
They concluded that greater global increases in solar and wind power and further cuts in coal and other fossil fuels would help, as well as possible increases in nuclear energy and hydropower.
Most striking, however, is the glaring mismatch between how little countries are doing to develop capture carbon and storage compared to what climate scenarios say are needed. While countries are planning dozens of CCS facilities by 2020, emissions scenarios recommend upwards of 4,000 facilities by 2030.
“The Paris Agreement was long on lofty goals but very short on how to make sure they are ever met,” said Timmons Roberts, an environmental professor at Brown University who was not involved in the study. “This piece is a huge contribution of just the kind of applied science needed to understand if we’re moving in the right direction and which parts of the economy are changing fast enough and which ones are not.”

Press link for more: Inside Climate News

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Economist Sounds the Alarm on #ClimateChange #auspol 

A Climate Change Economist Sounds the Alarm
Some people who study climate change believe that addressing it later — when economic growth has made humanity wealthier — would be better than taking drastic measures immediately. Now, though, one of this group’s most influential members appears to have changed his mind.

In the early 1990s, Yale’s William Nordhaus was among the first to examine the economics of reducing carbon emissions. Since then, he and colleagues have mixed climate physics with economic modeling to explore how various policies might play out both for global temperatures and growth. 

The approach attempts to weigh, in present-value terms, the costs of preventative measures against the future benefit of avoiding disaster.


Nordhaus has mostly argued for a small carbon tax, aimed at achieving a modest reduction in emissions, followed by sharper reductions in the medium and long term.

 Too much mitigation now, he has suggested, would damage economic growth, making us less capable of doing more in the future. 

This view has helped fossil fuel companies and climate change skeptics oppose any serious policy response.

In his latest analysis, though, Nordhaus comes to a very different conclusion. 

Using a more accurate treatment of how carbon dioxide may affect temperatures, and how remaining uncertainties affect the likely economic outcomes, he finds that our current response to global warming is probably inadequate to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels, a stated goal of the Paris accords.


Worse, the analysis suggests that the required carbon-dioxide reductions are beyond what’s politically possible. For all the talk of curbing climate change, most nations remain on a business-as-usual trajectory. Meanwhile, further economic growth will drive even greater carbon emissions over coming decades, particularly in developing nations.
Nordhaus deserves credit for changing his mind as the results of his analyses have changed, and for focusing on the implications of current policies rather than making rosy assumptions about the ability of new technologies to achieve emission reductions in the future. 

Many other analyses — including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — don’t demand such realism.

Nonetheless, the shift in his assessment is stark. For two decades, the advice has been to do a little but mostly hold off. Now, suddenly, the message is that it’s too late, that we should have been doing a lot more and there’s almost no way to avoid disaster.
Perhaps the main lesson is that we shouldn’t put too much trust in cost-benefit calculations, the standard economic recipe for making policy decisions. 

In the case of climate change, they are inherently biased toward inaction: It’s easy to see the costs of immediate emissions reductions, and much harder to quantify the benefits of avoiding a disaster likely to materialize much farther in the future. By the time the nature and impact of that disaster become clear, it may be too late to act.

Press link for more: Bloomberg.com

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Air Pollution Kills More Than 5 Million People Every Year #auspol 

More than 5.5 million people die annually due to both outdoor and household air pollution, making it one of the leading global risk factors for disease, according to new research.

The research, presented at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting Friday, suggests that the number of deaths tied to air pollution will continue to rise in the coming decades barring tougher efforts to slow emissions that harm human health.

China and India, home to the world’s two fastest growing economies, will likely bear the brunt of those effects. More than half of the deaths caused by air pollution around the world occur in those two countries, according to the research. Brazil, Pakistan and Japan also rank among other countries that have experienced increases in pollution deaths in recent decades.


A number of sources including power plants, heavy industry and vehicles contribute to outdoor air pollution around the globe. Sources of household air pollution include the use of coal, wood and charcoal to cook and heat homes in less developed countries.

The researchers’ findings will hardly come as a surprise to those who study air pollution. Previous research has shown that outdoor air pollution causes more than 3 million deaths annually and suggested that the figure could double by 2050. Another study suggested that air pollution causes 1.6 million premature deaths annually in China alone.

Policymakers across the globe have responded to air pollution with a slew of new regulations, many of which focus on curbing pollution from coal. China halted approval of new coal mines for three years at the end of 2015 and has issued stringent requirements along the lines of those in the U.S. for new coal fired power plants. Cities in China have also developed warning systems to get cars off the streets and halt industrial pollution during periods of intense smog. But even these policies may still be met by increases in mortality as aging populations are increasingly susceptible to the problems associated with pollution.


“China might move in the right direction in terms of air pollution, but it’s going to have continue revisiting [policies] just like the U.S. and Europe,” said Dan Greenbaum, president of Health Effects Institute, which sponsored the research.

And, while premature deaths attributable to pollution in the U.S. and Europe have declined in recent decades, cities in the West have still taken steps to reduce pollution. Air pollution kills more than 200,000 in Europe and nearly 80,000 in the U.S. each year, according to the research.

The benefits of addressing air pollution extend beyond the people who experience the health effects of poor air directly. Many of the same pollutants that clog human lungs also contribute to climate change.

“One of the unique things about air pollution is that you can’t run, you can’t hide from it,” said study researcher Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia, in a video accompanying the presentation. “But we know that if you improve air quality, everybody benefits from it.”

Press link for more: Time.com

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Atmospheric Methane rising. #auspol 

Global concentrations of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas and cause of climate change, are now growing faster in the atmosphere than at any other time in the past two decades.
That is the message of a team of international scientists in an editorial to be published 12 December in the journal Environmental Research Letters. 

The group reports that methane concentrations in the air began to surge around 2007 and grew precipitously in 2014 and 2015. 

In that two-year period, concentrations shot up by 10 or more parts per billion annually. It’s a stark contrast from the early 2000s when methane concentrations crept up by just 0.5 parts per billion on average each year. The reason for the spike is unclear but may come from emissions from agricultural sources and mainly around the tropics – potentially from farm sites like rice paddies and cattle pastures.
Scientists involved in the editorial will discuss these trends at a session during the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco on Tuesday, 13 December.
The findings could give new global attention to methane – which is much less prevalent in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide but is a more potent greenhouse gas, trapping 28 times more heat. And while research shows that the growth of carbon dioxide emissions has flattened out in recent years, methane emissions seem to be soaring.
“The leveling off we’ve seen in the last three years for carbon dioxide emissions is strikingly different from the recent rapid increase in methane,” says Robert Jackson, a co-author of the paper and a Professor in Earth System Science at Stanford University. The results for methane “are worrisome but provide an immediate opportunity for mitigation that complements efforts for carbon dioxide.”
The authors of the new editorial previously helped to produce the 2016 Global Methane Budget. This report provided a comprehensive look at how methane had flowed in and out of the atmosphere from 2000 to 2012 because of human activities and other sources. It found, for example, that human emissions of the gas seemed to have increased after 2007, although it’s not clear by how much. The methane budget is published every two to three years by the Global Carbon Project, a research project of Future Earth.

Methane, Jackson says, is a difficult gas to track. In part, that’s because it can come from many different sources. Those include natural sources like marshes and other wetlands. But the bulk, or about 60 percent, of methane added to the atmosphere every year comes from human activities. 


They include farming sources like cattle operations – cows expel large quantities of methane from their specialised digestive tracks – and rice paddies – the flooded soils make good homes for microbes that produce the gas. A smaller portion of the human budget, about a third, comes from fossil fuel exploration, where methane can leak from oil and gas wells during drilling.

“Unlike carbon dioxide, where we have well described power plants, almost everything in the global methane budget is diffuse,” Jackson says. “From cows to wetlands to rice paddies, the methane cycle is harder.”
But a range of information – such as from large-scale inventories of methane emissions, measurements of methane in the air and computer models – suggests that this cycle has shifted a lot in the last two decades. Jackson and his colleagues, for instance, report that the growth of methane in the atmosphere was mostly stagnant in 2000 to 2006. But that changed after 2007.
“Why this change happened is still not well understood,” says Marielle Saunois, lead author of the new paper and an assistant professor of Université de Versailles Saint Quentin and researcher at Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement in France. “For the last two years especially, the growth rate has been faster than for the years before. It’s really intriguing.”
Saunois adds that this runaway pace could threaten international efforts to limit warming from climate change to 2 degrees Celsius. The research provides a strong argument that “we should do more about methane emissions,” Saunois says. “If we want to stay below 2 degrees temperature increase, we should not follow this track and need to make a rapid turn-around.”
Pinpointing where those methane emissions are coming from, however, isn’t easy. Many environmental advocates in North America have raised concerns that expanded drilling for natural gas in recent years could lead to a surge in methane emissions. But Saunois says that based on available data, the more likely source, at least for now, is agriculture. She and her colleagues aren’t sure what may be driving this increase. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock operations around the world expanded from producing 1,300 million head of cattle in 1994 to nearly 1,500 million in 2014 – with a similar increase in rice cultivation in many Asian countries.
Saunois and Jackson argue, however, that the story isn’t all bad news. A number of researchers have experimented with different ways of reducing methane emissions from farms. Feeding cows a diet supplemented with linseed oil, for example, seems to reduce the amount of methane they belch out. “When it comes to methane, there has been a lot of focus on the fossil fuel industry, but we need to look just as hard if not harder at agriculture,” Jackson says. “The situation certainly isn’t hopeless. It’s a real opportunity.”
 
Source: Phys.org | 12 December 2016

Press link for more: ClimateChange.searca.org