Methane

Cleaner air benefits human health #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Europe’s air quality has improved considerably since the European Union and its Member States introduced policies and measures concerning air quality in the 1970s.

Air pollutant emissions from many of the major sources including transport, industry, and power generation are now regulated and are generally declining, but not always to the extent envisaged.

High concentrations of air pollution still have significant impacts on Europeans’ health, with particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide  causing the biggest harm.

The European Environment Agency’s latest annual air quality report shows that most people living in Europe’s cities are still exposed to levels of air pollution deemed harmful by the World Health Organization. According to the report, fine particulate matter concentrations were responsible for an estimated 428 000 premature deaths in 41 European countries in 2014, of which around 399 000 were in the EU-28.

Poor air quality also has considerable economic impacts, increasing medical costs, reducing workers’ productivity, and damaging soil, crops, forests, lakes and rivers. Although air pollution is often associated with pollution peaks and episodes, long-term exposure to lower doses constitutes an even more serious threat to human health and to nature.

Reducing air pollution helps tackle climate change

Carbon dioxide may be the largest driver of global warming and climate change but it is not the only one. Many other gaseous or particulate compounds, known as ‘climate forcers’, have an influence on the amount of solar energy (including heat) the Earth retains.

For example, methane is a very powerful climate forcer as well as an air pollutant linked to agricultural activities, closely linked to livestock production and meat consumption. Particulate matter is another pollutant, impacting both climate change and air quality. Depending upon its composition, it may have a cooling or warming effect on the local and the global climate. For example, black carbon, one of the constituents of fine particulate matter and a result of incomplete burning of fuels, absorbs solar and infrared radiation in the atmosphere and thus has a warming effect.

Measures to cut emissions of short-lived climate forcers such as black carbon, methane, ozone or ozone precursors benefit both human health and the climate. Greenhouse gases and air pollutants share the same emission sources. Therefore there are potential benefits, including cost savings, that can be obtained by limiting emissions of one or the other.

However, in the past certain measures have been promoted to benefit, among others, climate change but which have had unintended negative impacts on air quality. For example, many countries  promoted diesel vehicles but which have turned out to emit high levels of air pollutants. Similarly, the promotion of renewable wood burning in some areas of Europe has unfortunately led to high levels of particulate matter in the local air. We must learn from such examples and make sure the consequences of the measures we choose to implement are properly understood and factored in.

The links between climate change and air quality are not limited to common pollutants released into the atmosphere from the same sources. Climate change can also aggravate air pollution problems. In many regions across the world, climate change is expected to affect local weather, including the frequency of heat waves and stagnant air episodes. More sunlight and warmer temperatures might not only prolong the periods of time in which ozone levels are elevated, it may also exacerbate peak ozone concentrations further. This is certainly not good news for parts of Europe, experiencing frequent episodes of excessive ground-level ozone.

Taking coherent action from local to global

Air pollution is not the same everywhere. Different pollutants are released into the atmosphere from a wide range of sources. Road transport, agriculture, power plants, industry and households are the biggest emitters of air pollutants in Europe. Once in the atmosphere, these pollutants can transform into new pollutants and spread. Designing and implementing policies to address this complexity are not easy tasks.

Given the diversity of sources both in terms of geographical distribution and economic activity, action must be taken at different levels from local to international. International conventions can aim to reduce the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere, but without local action — such as information campaigns, removing highly polluting vehicles from cities  or urban zoning decisions — we would fall short of reaping the full benefits of our efforts. This diversity also means that there is no one-size-fits all solution to air pollution. To reduce exposure and subsequent harm further, authorities need to adapt their measures to account for local factors such as sources, demographics, transport infrastructure and local economy.

To enhance the cohesion between actions taken at local, national, European and global level, the European Commission brought together different stakeholders from across Europe at the Clean Air Forum in November. The Forum, held in Paris, not only focused on improving air quality in cities, but also on air pollution from agricultural activities. It also highlighted innovation and business opportunities linked to clean air actions.

Information key to minimise exposure

The European Environment Agency works with its member countries to gather comparable air quality information over time. Based on the data collected, we measure progress, analyse trends and look for links between sources such as road transport and actual measurements of air quality.

When needed, measurements from monitoring stations can be complemented by satellite observations. Under its Copernicus Earth Observation programme, the EU launched in October a new satellite tasked to monitor air pollution, which has already started delivering images. This information is then regularly shared with the public and the policy makers. It is important to note that the Agency deals only with outdoor air quality, and not with the quality of the air we breathe at home or at work, which also has direct impacts on our health.

As part of our efforts to provide the most updated information, we developed together with the European Commission a new online service: the European Air Quality Index. Presented at the Clean Air Forum, the Index provides information on the current air quality situation based on measurements from more than 2 000 air quality monitoring stations across Europe. The Index allows citizens to use an interactive map to check the air quality at station level, based on five key pollutants that harm people’s health and the environment: namely particulate matter (both PM2.5 and PM10), ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. This tool allows us to share this information with all Europeans interested in addressing air pollution. We can all check air quality where we are and take precautionary measures to reduce our exposure to pollution.

Information is certainly essential to address air pollution and to reduce its harmful impacts. However, to  improve air quality and to meet the EU’s longer-term low carbon goals, we need to address emissions from all economic sectors and systems like mobility, energy or food, and understand production and consumption patterns that generate these emissions. This is the only way forward. The EEA stands ready, as a knowledge partner, to help achieve these long term goals.

Hans Bruyninckx

EEA Executive Director

The editorial published in EEA Newsletter, Issue 2017/4, 15 December 2017

Press link for more: EEA.Europa.EU

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Recent Arctic warming and ice melt are ‘unprecedented’ in human history. #StopAdani

By Andrew Freedman

Sea ice near Svalbard, Norway.

Image: Shutterstock / Avatar_023

Each year for the past 12 years, an international team of scientists have issued a “report card” on the Arctic climate system. The report amounts to a physical exam of the vast, rapidly changing region, including details on everything from surface air temperatures to sea ice melt and permafrost loss.

With each passing year, the report cards have become more dire, depicting a region that is moving into a totally new regime as sea ice melts, air temperatures warm, and the once permanently frozen ground gives way. The report is the product of 85 scientists from 12 different countries.

The 2017 Arctic Report Card, released Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans, is no exception, with scientists warning that the magnitude and the pace of the 21st Century plunge in sea ice extent as well as the amount of ocean surface warming is unprecedented in at least the past 1,500 years.

SEE ALSO: Crucial Arctic monitoring satellites are blinking out just when we need them most

High-resolution Arctic paleo-reconstructions, based on 45 different “proxy” indicators, such as tree rings, sediment cores, and ancient air bubbles trapped in ice cores, permit scientists to trace sea ice extent back well before there were satellites monitoring the region.

“The Arctic shows no signs of returning to the reliably frozen state it was in just a few decades ago,” said Jeremy Mathis, who leads the Arctic program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Image: Shutterstock / Nightman1965

“The Arctic is going through the most unprecedented transition in human history,” Mathis said. He explained that everyone in the U.S. and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere has a stake in what happens in the far north.

“We want every single American to know… these changes will impact all of our lives,” he added, citing climate refugees, extreme weather events, and higher food prices that have potential links to rapid Arctic climate change. Mathis said modeling studies increasingly show that there are links between sea ice loss in the Arctic, which changes the amount of heat and moisture in the air there, and extreme weather events that affect the U.S. and Europe, though he cautioned this research is not yet definitive.

According to the report, the Arctic had its second-warmest year on record in 2017, with an average annual air temperatures of 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1981 to 2010 average. Temperature data for the region dates back to 1900.

Surface air temperature anomalies in the Arctic during 2017.

Sea ice extent, which peaks in late winter, didn’t have much of a recovery after summer melting. The winter ice maximum was the lowest on record since satellite measurements began in 1979, the report says.

However, even with the sea ice entering the melt season in a precarious position, a relatively cool summer prevented Arctic sea ice from setting another record summer minimum, and also slowed Greenland melting, at least for a short time.

According to Emily Osborne, a report coauthor with the NOAA Arctic Research Program, 10 of the lowest sea ice minimums have occurred in the past 11 years.

Many scientists think the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free during the summer months within the next few decades, likely before 2050. One sign of this is that one-year-old ice, which melts easily, made up 79 percent of the Arctic sea ice in 2017, the report found. Older, thicker, multiyear ice comprised just 21 percent of the 2017 sea ice cover, compared to more than twice that in 1985.

Osborne cited data from 45 different indicators of sea ice extent dating back 1,500 years, such as tree rings and other so-called “proxy data,” showing that the recent plunge in sea ice extent is “unprecedented in the last 1500 years and likely longer.”

The Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, largely because of a process known as Arctic amplification. Through this process, warming air and sea temperatures melt sea ice, which exposes darker ocean waters to incoming sunlight. Since the ocean waters are less reflective than the ice, they absorb more heat, thereby warming the sea and air, and then, well, melting more ice.

In addition to this inherent feedback process in the region, there has been an increase in the amount of heat being transported into the Arctic Ocean from both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, scientists said.

Arctic sea ice extent in the past 1,500 years.

Image: NOAA Climate.gov; Kinnard et al., 2011

The loss of sea ice cover and increased exposure to sunlight has led to a boost in algae blooms and other biological activity in the marine food web, which could have profound implications for marine species.

There is also a growing concern regarding the melting of permanently frozen soil ringing the Arctic, known as permafrost.

As this melting occurs, more greenhouse gases are emitted, including methane, which is a shorter-lived but more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This represents a positive feedback loop that could yield substantially more global warming, depending how much and how quickly permafrost melts.

For now, Vladimir Romanovsky, a researcher at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, said that in 2016, the majority of Arctic observing sites reported their highest permafrost temperatures on record, with the highest readings in Svalbard, Norway, as well as the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic.

One of the more remarkable aspects about the 2017 Arctic Report Card is that it came out at all. The Trump administration has been deleting climate change references from federal websites, reassigning climate scientists at some government agencies, and preventing scientists from speaking about climate change in public forums.

However, so far at least, NOAA has been relatively sheltered from this interference.  “The public should have high confidence in us,” said acting NOAA director Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, who pointed out that NOAA continues to research and report on climate science, including with this comprehensive Arctic summary.

Gallaudet said he has briefed the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on the findings of the report.

“The White House is addressing it, acknowledging it, and factoring it into its agenda,” he said.

President Donald Trump is the first president in decades to go this long without a science advisor, who would head up OSTP and brief the president on the report’s findings.

Press link for more: Mashable.com

Planetary Prosperity Means Zero Carbon #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #OnePlanetSummit

PLANETARY PROSPERITY MEANS ZERO CARBON

DR.MATHIS WACKERNAGEL – CEO OF GLOBAL FOOTPRINT NETWORK on December 12, 2017

Mother Nature seems to be in full revolt.

A stone’s throw from the city of Oakland, where Global Footprint Network is based, the seasonal Diablo winds recently reached record intensity, fanning the worst fires that the famous wine-producing region of Napa has known, reducing to ashes vineyards and residential neighbourhoods, and pushing tens of thousands of inhabitants on the roads.

Now Santa Ana winds are wreaking similar havoc in Southern California, causing more evacuations and burning more structures.

On the other side of the continent, the Caribbean islands most affected by the hurricanes of the last weeks – Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy and Puerto Rico in front – face a tremendous reconstruction project, needing to rebuild access to safe water and electricity.

The time is not for discouragement or defeatism.

More than ever, it is evident that every human community must do its utmost to keep pace with the planet that is hosting us.

The time for transformation is now.

Humanity is not idle.

The root causes are recognized.

On December 12, we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, when world leaders came together to commit to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and strive for 1.5 degrees.

Although President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the agreement, leaders around the world are standing firm.

In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and UN Secretary António Guterres will gather at the One Planet Summit on December 12 to call for concrete action.

Similarly, I am among 31 Blue Planet Laureates who not only want to mark this important anniversary but also remind the world that the climate agreement is achievable and desirable.

We have summarized our position as follows:

Planetary Prosperity Means Zero Carbon

The resource hunger of the human enterprise has become too large for our planet.

The Paris Climate Agreement recognizes this. It aims to limit global warming to less than 2°C above the preindustrial level.

This means ceasing fossil-fuel use before 2050, increasing ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, and improving human well-being.

We, Blue Planet Laureates, wholeheartedly and emphatically support this transformation.

It is technologically possible, economically beneficial, and our best chance for a prosperous future.

Our planet is finite. But human possibilities are not. The transformation will succeed if we apply people’s greatest strengths: foresight, innovation, and care for each other.

Examples across the globe show positive results.

Cities like Zurich, Curitiba, Malmö, Masdar, and Reykjavik have shown leadership. Regions have taken charge, including California, where Gov. Jerry Brown will convene the Global Action Climate Summit next year.

China has made creating an Ecological Civilization in harmony with nature a priority in its latest 5-year plan.

France and the UK have announced the end of fossil fuel cars by 2040, and Tesla surpassed General Motors earlier this year to become the most valuable US auto maker – without ever building a gasoline-powered car.

Other companies such as Schneider Electric thrive on driving down their clients’ carbon emissions and costs. Achieving Paris is possible.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of this transformation is sparking the imagination of people around the world and making them realize that a zero-carbon world is much more likely to secure long-term prosperity than continuing our destructive path.

We also need to start to recognize that this transformation primarily builds on foresight and innovation, not sacrifice and suffering.

Even with the UN projecting world population growth of 13 percent by 2030 and 28 percent by 2050, flourishing lives on this one planet are possible through walkable cities that are renewably powered and sustainably fed.

Encouraging smaller families and empowering women around the world will also produce immediate positive health and educational outcomes for those families.

Such steps will also substantially reduce the carbon footprint and ease the resource budget for each country in the long run. Indeed, ‘family planning’ and ‘educating girls’ rank sixth and seventh in Project Drawdown’s ranking of solutions to reverse global warming.

We stand for one-planet prosperity. ‘One planet’ means that we recognize the physical context of our economies. ‘Prosperity’ means that we choose flourishing lives over misery. Will you join us?

Press link for more: Impakter.com

Erik Solheim: My vision for a pollution-free planet #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

By Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment

For too long, the relationship between prosperity and environment has been seen as a trade-off. Tackling pollution was considered an unwelcome cost on industry and a handicap to economic growth.

But global trends are demonstrating that this is no longer the case. It’s now clear that sustainable development is the only form of development that makes sense, including in financial and economic terms. The drive towards a pollution-free planet provides an opportunity to innovate and become more competitive.

With the UN Environment Assembly just over a month away, we now have the opportunity to dramatically step up our ambitions.

The energy revolution currently unfolding is a game changer, as is the increased mobilization around climate. The rapidly falling cost of energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power, means that the countries leading the shift away from fossil fuels will reap the greatest benefits to their economies, as well as their environments. These countries will have better, faster transport networks and more flexible power grids.

With the transition to green and sustainable development under way, we now need to focus on how to intensify and accelerate these trends in order to protect the environment, combat climate change and curb pollution. As I see it, there are five critical pieces to this puzzle:

We need political leadership and partnerships. A global compact on pollution would ensure sustained engagement at the highest level and make prevention a priority for all. It would also encourage policymakers and other key partners, including the private sector, to integrate prevention into national and local planning, development processes, and business and finance strategies.

We need the right policies. Environmental governance needs to be strengthened – with targeted action on “hard-hitting” pollutants through risk assessments and enhanced implementation of environmental legislation, including multilateral environmental agreements, and other measures.

We need a new approach to managing our lives and economies. Sustainable consumption and production, through improved resource efficiency and lifestyle changes, should be promoted. Waste reduction and management must be prioritized.

We need to invest big. Mobilizing finance and investment in low-carbon opportunities and cleaner production and consumption will drive innovation and help to counter pollution. Increased funding is also needed for research, pollution monitoring, infrastructure, management and control.

We need advocacy for action. Citizens need to be informed and inspired to reduce their own pollution footprint and advocate for bold pollution-beating commitments from the public and private sectors.

With the UN Environment Assembly just over a month away, we now have the opportunity to dramatically step up our ambitions. Science is delivering great advances in our understanding of pollution and its impacts on people, economies and the environment. Citizens are more aware than ever before of how pollution affects their lives and they are demanding action on what has become a critical public health issue. At the same time, experts and businesses are developing the technology to tackle these problems at all scales, from local to global. Financiers are increasingly ready to support them, while international bodies and forums, including the United Nations, stand ready to help to channel this momentum and turn it into firm action.

The responsibility for driving change on this broad front is shared among and within nations. Government policies and programmes will play a central role, both nationally and internationally. Businesses, consumers, investors, community groups and thought leaders must also be fully involved if we are to succeed. Technology and economic innovation are key, as is mobilizing finance at scale. Investments need to be harnessed to address climate and pollution challenges.

My report to the UN Environment Assembly examines the dimensions of pollution and identifies a way forward through a framework for action. I invite our partners in government, business, and civil society, as well as citizens around the world, to consider the report, act on its recommendations, and join us in the fight to beat pollution around the world.

Press link for more: UN Environment.Org

#BeatPollution

Current Carbon Dioxide level not seen for 800,000 years #StopAdani #Auspol #Qldpol

Increases in greenhouse gases could lead to “severe ecological and economic disruptions” according to a recent report.

Image: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased a record amount from 2015 to 2016, leaving the air laden with a concentration of the potent greenhouse gas not seen for at least the last 800,000 years, the period for which we have direct measurements from ice cores.

The increase essentially guarantees that in the absence of rapid and dramatic cuts to emissions, catastrophic temperature increases “well above” those the Paris agreement sought to avoid will become a reality by end of the century, according to Petteri Taalas, the head of the World Meteorological Organization.

According to a report released by the international climate observing body on Monday (Oct 30), the concentration of CO2 was at 403.3 parts per million as of 2016, up from 400 parts per million a year earlier.

That 3.3 ppm rise is 50% more than the average rate over the past decade.

Over the last 70 years, the rate of increase of carbon in the atmosphere has been “nearly 100 times larger than at the end of the last ice age,” the last time the Earth transitioned to a much warmer world, the WMO writes.

As far as the global scientific community can tell, “such abrupt changes in the atmospheric levels of CO2 have never before been seen.”

Such rapid increases in greenhouse gases “have the potential to initiate unpredictable changes in the climate system, because of strong positive feedbacks, leading to severe ecological and economic disruptions,” according to the report.

Image: The Economist

The last time the Earth experienced these levels of CO2 in the atmosphere was roughly 4 million years ago, during the mid-Pliocene, according to the WMO.

The climate back then was 2-3 °C (3.6-5.4 °F) warmer than it is today, and the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melted entirely, causing sea levels to rise 10-20 meters (33-66 feet) higher than those today.

The paper also reported that concentrations of methane, a greenhouse gas with greater short-term potency than CO2, continues to rise rapidly, particularly from tropical zones, a phenomena for which climate scientists do not have clear answers. Some experts fear it signals a “feedback loop” in which methane levels rise, warming the air and triggering more releases of methane ordinarily locked away in natural sinks.

“This was not expected in the Paris agreement,” Euan Nisbet, a climatologist at the Royal Holloway University of London told BBC News. “The carbon isotopes in the methane show that growth is not being driven by fossil fuels. We do not understand why methane is rising. It may be a climate change feedback.

It is very worrying.”

News of the rise comes just as countries are preparing to meet at the next United Nations climate talks in Bonn next week.

Press link for more: World Economic Forum

#PoweringPastCoal #COP23 #Qldvotes #CoralnotCoal “Coal must be phased out by 2030”

Bonn (AFP) – A score of mostly wealthy nations banded together at UN climate talks Thursday to swear off coal-fired power, a key driver of global warming and air pollution.

Battle lines drawn over coal at UN climate talks

To cap global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) — the planet-saving target in the 196-nation Paris Agreement — coal must be phased out in developed countries by 2030, and “by no later than 2050 in the rest of the world,” they said in a declaration.

The dirtiest of fossil fuels still generates 40 percent of the world’s electricity, and none of the countries that truly depend on it were on hand to take the “no coal” pledge.

One country participating in the 12-day talks, which end Friday, has made a point of promoting the development of “clean fossil fuels”: the United States.

The near-pariah status of coal at the UN negotiations was in evidence earlier in the week when an event featuring White House officials and energy executives was greeted with protests.

The US position “is only controversial if we choose to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the realities of the global energy system,” countered George David Banks, a special energy and environment assistant to US President Donald Trump.

Led by ministers from Britain and Canada, the “Powering Past Coal Alliance” committed to phasing out CO2-belching coal power, and a moratorium on new plants that lack the technology to capture emissions before they reach the atmosphere.

“In a few short years, we have almost entirely reduced our reliance on coal,” said British Minister of State Claire Perry.

The share of electricity generated by coal in Britain dropped from 40 percent in July 2012 to two percent in July of this year, she noted.

Other signatories included Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands and New Zealand.

Germany — where coal powers 40 percent of the country’s electricity — was asked to join, said environment minister Barbara Hendricks.

“I asked them to understand that we can’t make a decision like that before forming a new government,” she told journalists.

Most of the enlisted countries don’t have far to go to complete a phase-out.

Deadlines range from 2022 for France, which has four coal-fired plants in operation, to 2025 for Britain, where eight such power stations are still running, and 2030 for the Netherlands.

No economic rationale –

“This climate meeting has seen Donald Trump trying to perversely promote coal,” said Mohamed Adow, top Climate analyst at Christian Aid, which advocated for the interests of poor countries.

“But it will finish with the UK, Canada and a host of other countries signalling the death knell of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel in their countries.”

But not all countries are in the same boat, said Benjamin Sporton, president of the World Coal Association.

“There are 24 nations that have included a role for low-emissions coal technology as part of their NDCs,” or nationally determined contributions, the voluntary greenhouse gas cuts pledged under the Paris treaty.

Coal continues to play a major role in powering the Chinese economy, and will see “big increases in India and Southeast Asia,” he told AFP.

Making coal “clean”, Sporton acknowledged, depends on the massive expansion of a technology called carbon capture and storage (CCS), in which CO2 emitted when coal is burned is syphoned off and stored in the ground.

The UN’s climate science panel, and the International Energy Agency, both say that staying under the 2 C temperature threshold will require deploying CCS.

The problem is that — despite decades of development — very little CO2 is being captured in this way.

There are only 20 CCS plants in the world that stock at least one million tonnes of CO2 per year, a relatively insignificant amount given the scope of the problem.

One reason is the price tag: it costs about a billion dollars (900,000 euros) to fit CCS technology to a large-scale, coal-fired plant.

“If you could develop cost-effective technology that would be permanent and work at scale, it could be a real game-changer,” said Alden Meyer, a climate analyst at the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

“But you have to be realistic about the prospects.”

At the same time, the price of wind and especially solar power has dropped so much that CCS may no longer be economical.

The crucial issue is not retro-fitting old plants, but avoiding the construction of new ones, Meyer added.

“There’s really no economic rationale for coal, and there’s certainly no environmental rationale for it,” he told AFP.

Press link for more: Yahoo.com

Pollution Kills More People Than Anything Else! #StopAdani #COP23 #Qldvotes 

Dying from war, smoking, hunger & natural disasters turns out to be nothing compared to deaths from pollution, which kills nine million people a year.
The most comprehensive report to date on the health effects of environmental pollution shows that filthy air, contaminated water and other polluted parts of our environment kill more people worldwide each year than almost everything else combined – smoking, hunger, natural disasters, war, murder, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
It’s no wonder then that the number of contaminated water-related deaths in Puerto Rico is expected to climb into the thousands.
In addition to the human tragedy, this pollution costs us well over $4 trillion in annual losses, or 6% of global GDP.


According to the study, 9 million people every year, one in every six premature deaths, are caused by diseases from toxic exposures in the environment. 

That’s 20 times more than all wars. 

Dr. Philip Landrigan, Dean of Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the lead author of the report, noted, ‘There’s been a lot of study of pollution, but it’s never received the resources or level of attention as, say, AIDS or climate change’.

China knows this better than any other country. 

Over 300,000 people die each year from toxic emissions coming out of coal-fired power plants alone. 

And silica manufacturing and waste from computer chip and solar array manufacturing is a growing health problem.

In fact, poor countries in south Asia and in Africa sustain the majority of these pollution deaths. 

In many of these countries, especially India, pollution causes a fourth of all deaths, putting a huge burden on their developing economies. 

Even indoor burning of biomass in poor countries has become a global health epidemic.


But these same poor countries will never get out of poverty without increasing the very industries that cause this pollution – energy, manufacturing, mining, etc. 

Since it takes about 3,000 kWhs per person per year to have what we consider a good like – to get into the middle class – the only way to eradicate global poverty is to get these poor countries a lot more energy.
This concept is embodied in the United Nations Human Development Index, or HDI, that states the most important requirement for a good life is access to energy. 

HDI is the reason that China decided in 1992 to build about 600 coal-fired power plants, along with a lot of hydro and other energy sources. 


It lifted 500 million Chinese into the middle class. 

But it also ended up killing over 300,000 people a year and harming millions, leading to a huge unforeseen burden on their health care system.
China is trying to change their energy mix to get rid of dirty coal, but there remains about 800 million Chinese that still need over 2 trillion more kWhs per year to get them into the middle class as well.

 And 2 billion more people outside of China need another 6 trillion kWhs per year. And another 3 billion people will be born between now and 2040, requiring still another 9 trillion kWhs per year.
Since this is the only way to eradicate global poverty, any decision to not give them this energy is itself unethical.

 And to give them that much energy cleanly, along with cleaning up manufacturing and other industries to reduce pollution, will take even more energy.
This dependence of a good life on energy is not a secret. 

The 2015 COP21 climate meeting in Paris was mainly about how to give these people that much energy without giving them coal. 

Not only to save more lives, but to save the planet.

In fact, air pollution and climate change are closely linked and share common solutions. 

Fossil fuel combustion in higher-income countries and the burning of biomass in lower-income countries accounts for 85 percent of airborne particulate pollution.

 Reducing fossil fuel burning in higher-income countries and giving lower-income countries non-fossil and non-biomass energy sources is key to slowing global warming and cleaning up the environment.
And it will take all non-fossil sources, not just renewables.

 Along with millions of wind turbines and thousands of square miles of solar arrays, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency, the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network and the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate all argue for a tripling of nuclear energy, requiring over a thousand new reactors, or many times that of small modulars, to stabilize carbon emissions.

According to all studies on the subject, coal kills over ten times more people than any other energy source per kWh produced, mainly from fine toxic particulates emitted from coal plants. And coal kills ten times more people in the developing world than in America, simply because they lack regulations like our Clean Air Act.


In fact, our Clean Air Act is the single piece of legislation that has saved the most American lives in history. 

It is why coal kills over 300,000 people in China each year, but only about 15,000 Americans per year. 

The two other significant life-saving pieces of legislation include Medicare in 1965 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established the 40 hour work week and reigned in child labor.
However, there are a lot more pollution health effects beyond actual death, and several studies have attempted to quantify those costs – costs that include lost work days, hospital visits, disability, prescription drugs and all the costs associated with illness in addition to death (1,2,3,4).
Eliminating the health effects of coal is the low-hanging fruit of pollution. 

A study by EPA’s Ben Machol and Sarah Rizk found that the use of coal in America costs us anywhere from $350 billion to $880 billion per year.

 That’s up to 6% of our GDP, and well over 10% of our total health care costs.

In contrast, there are costs associated with coal itself – mining coal from the ground, transporting it across the country, producing electricity from it, and paying people to do all these things. 

Even though natural gas is replacing coal and our coal use is significantly down compared to ten years ago, we still consume over 700 million tons of coal a year, and we pay about $200 billion for that privilege.
What? 

We pay $200 billion to make and deliver the electricity from coal, and then we pay $300 to $800 billion trying to recover from it?

 This does not make economic sense.
So why not end coal, and use that money and lives saved to replace coal with gas, nuclear and renewables that do not impact health anywhere near as badly. 

The savings in health care alone would more than pay for it.

 It would even be cost-effective to pay the coal folks not to work, just like we’ve done for almost a hundred years for some farmers.


This thinking can be applied to a host of polluting issues, all with the idea that saving lives and health care costs would save enough money to prevent the pollution in the first place. 

Yes, it might require some type of tax but that would be offset by much lower health care costs.
And you can do quite a lot with $4 trillion every year. 

That’s equivalent to building, fueling and operating ninety 1,200-MW hydroelectric dams plus sixty 1,000-MW nuclear plants (or several hundred small modular reactors) plus 200,000 MW wind turbines plus three hundred solar arrays about the size of Ivanpah (600-MW) plus two hundred 500-MW natural gas plants, in total producing over 3 trillion kWhs per year split almost evenly among each energy source.
In only 15 years, we could replace all coal in the world, bring the global energy production up to well over 40 trillion kWhs per year – enough to eradicate global poverty – and still have enough money to reduce other global pollution to a fraction of what it is now. All with existing technologies.
Further technological breakthroughs and gains in efficiency will save even more money, save even more species, and raise the quality of life even higher for everyone in the world. Of course, the rate of building these plants required to accomplish this goal surpasses most build rates we’ve ever achieved, but it is doable with serious coordination among the nations of the world.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to convince people that money saved is the same as money earned.

 And no one likes the idea of a tax, even if it saves lives, property and the planet.
But we can do this faster than anyone thinks is possible, certainly before the last climate tipping points of 2040 – without destroying the planet and without bankrupting anyone.
We just need to do it.

Press link for more: Forbes.Com

Are we ready for 20 million #refugees? 

Is the world prepared for climate refugees?
Senior US military experts say the effects of climate change could cause a migration wave of 20 million climate refugees over the next 20 years. 

But climate risk insurance schemes could prevent it.

 

Days before the climate change summit in Bonn, a new report warns that failure to stop climate change will force tens of millions of people from their homes.

The report from the Environmental Justice Foundation, based on interviews with senior US military and security experts, concludes that climate change will create far more refugees than have fled the Syrian civil war.

The EJF is calling on the delegates in Bonn to create a global climate risk insurance framework to protect climate refugees.

“In our rapidly changing world, climate change — and its potential to trigger both violent conflict and mass migration — needs to be considered as urgent priority,” says Steve Trent, executive director of EJF.


Threat multiplier

The report highlights the situation in the Middle East and Africa, including the worst drought to hit Syria in 900 years. It caused farmers to lose their livestock and livelihoods, which were desperately needed in the context of the war. The report notes that 1 million Syrians were already on the move because of the drought before a single gunshot was fired in the conflict.

The report says such events will spread to other parts of the world. And the hurricanes that have affected the United States this year show richer nations are not immune to the effects of climate change.

The report features interviews with military leaders who say global refugee numbers are set to rise as political, social and economic tensions collide with worsening climate change impacts.

“What we are talking about here is an existential threat to our civilisation in the longer term,” US Military Corps Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney told EJF. “In the short term, it carries all sorts of risks as well and it requires a human response on a scale that has never been achieved before.”

“If Europe thinks they have a problem with migration today, wait 20 years and see what happens when climate change drives people out of Africa — the Sahel especially.”

A separate report released this week by Oxfam details some of the displacement that has already happened because of extreme weather events. It found that between 2008 and 2016 an average of 21.8 million people per year were newly internally displaced by sudden-onset extreme weather disasters.

Such instances include the destruction wrought by Cyclone Pape in Vanuatu in 2015, and Cyclone Winston, which displaced more than 55,000 people in Fiji in 2016. Fiji, which is hosting this year’s climate summit in Bonn, lost around a fifth of its GDP as a result of the storm.


Worsening hurricanes in the Atlantic could drive increased climate migration

Climate risk insurance

Insurance against climate change-related weather events already exists. In 2015 at a summit in Elmau, Germany, the G7 group of wealthy countries set up an initiative on climate risk insurance for vulnerable areas of the world, covering around 400 million people. The objective is to stimulate the creation of effective climate risk insurance markets that could function on their own.

InsuResilience, an initiative of the German development agency GIZ, based in Bonn, is carrying out the G7’s plan. It is running programs to establish climate risk insurance markets across the world.

The insurance would help people rebuild after climate-change realted weather events that result in loss of life, livelihood and assets. The goal is to make sure those people stay put and do not become climate refugees. Rapid emergency assistance and reconstruction is provided by the schemes.


Germany wants to push for global climate risk insurance programs at the Bonn summit

Opportunities in Bonn

The German government has been a leader in pushing for these programs. Last year the German Development Ministry invested around €2.8 billion in international climate protection and adaptation.

A spokesperson for the ministry told DW that during the Bonn climate summit, Germany will push for a global partnership for climate risk insurance.

“Increasingly, climate change will also influence flight movements,” said Gerd Müller, Germany’s minister for economic cooperation and development. “Because where grass can no longer grow … or where the rising sea level has flooded coastal areas, people will have to find a new home.”

Although the COP23 summit is not being held in Fiji (the Fijian government is presiding over the meeting, which is being held in Bonn for logistical reasons), the country intends to leave its mark on this year’s summit by stoking the idea of climate risk insurance.

The new testimonials from military experts may convince other delegations that the time has come to establish more such schemes.


SOLOMON ISLANDERS FACE RISING SEA LEVELS

Life on the water

At high tide, Lau Lagoon’s manmade islands barely rise above the waterline. During king tides and
 strong winds, which are becoming increasingly frequent, some islands are now completely submerged.


SOLOMON ISLANDERS FACE RISING SEA LEVELS

The only way is up

As the sea level rises, more and more of the lagoon’s residents are building their homes on stilits for a few extra feet of grace.


SOLOMON ISLANDERS FACE RISING SEA LEVELS

Times of change

John Kaia, 52, is chief of the Aenabaolo tribe on the island of Tauba1. He says that over his lifetime he has seen dramatic changes to the climate – and his people’s way of life.
Press link for more: DW.COM

CO2 Emissions Rising Faster Than Ever! #StopAdani #Qldvotes #Auspol 

A record surge in atmospheric CO2. Emissions rise faster than ever!
Yesterday (30/10), both the BBC and the Guardian posted an article proving the state of the world is atrocious.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), concentrations of atmospheric CO2 surged to a record high in 2016. 

What is more, the pace with which this process is taking place is accelerating. 

The year 2016 saw average concentrations of CO2 hit 403.3 ppm, up from 400 ppm in 2015.

 This is the largest increase the WMO watch programme has ever witnessed. 

Before 2016, the largest increase – 2.7 ppm – occurred in 1997-1998 when an El Niño was active (every El Niño impacts the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by causing droughts that limit the uptake of CO2 by plants and trees). 

Now the figure is 3.3ppm. It is also 50% higher than the average of the last 10 years, which is extreme.

 The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago, in the mid-Pliocene Epoch.

While emissions from human sources have slowed down somewhat in the last couple of years, the cumulative total of atmospheric CO2 continues to spike. 

Since 1990 alone, there has been a 40% increase in total radiative forcing. 

The rise in CO2 and CO2e (equivalent) is due the Earth’s response to human warming. 

This means that, at one unknown point, climate change will be out of our hands: total emissions will continue to increase even if we decrease CO2 emissions from human sources (not that we significantly succeed in this or that there is a plan for achieving it). 

The problem is not only that human activity creates climate change, but that climate change destroys sinks, such as forests, that it warms oceans and seas and destroys the permafrost.

 This explains the spike of methane levels over the last 10 years.

Incredibly, there is still doubt.

 As professor Nisbet from Royal Halloway says:
“The rapid increase in methane since 2007, especially in 2014, 2015, and 2016 (…) was not expected in the Paris agreement. 

Methane growth is strongest in the tropics and sub-tropics. 

The carbon isotopes in the methane show that growth is not being driven by fossil fuels. 

We do not understand why methane is rising. 

It may be a climate change feedback. It is very worrying” 
And Erik Solhein, the head of UN Environment added that “The numbers don’t lie. 

We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed” 

The numbers do not lie, but one has to use the right ones. 

The global CO2 measure tells far from the whole story.

 Atmospheric levels of gasses like methane, nitrous oxide, and a host of less common industrial chemicals are also all on the rise in the Earth’s atmosphere due to human emissions. 

According to research by the Advanced Global Atmosphere Gases Center at MIT, the total heat forcing equal to CO2 (this is the CO2 equivalent measure which adds all the other gases) was about 478 ppm during the spring of 2013 – almost two years before the Paris Agreement was signed (December 2015) (see here and here). 

The Paris Agreement does not contain the word “methane” 
Needless to say, in 2013, the situation – ca. 480 ppm CO2e – was already nothing short of fearsome. 

The last time the world saw such a measure of comparable atmospheric greenhouse gas heat forcing was during the Miocene around 15-20 million years ago. 

At that time, global temperatures were 3-4 C warmer. 

Today, CO2e stands at ca. 492 ppm. 

It is impossible that the IPCC was unaware of it. 

For one, Natalia Sakhova and her colleagues have been publishing papers on methane venting into the atmosphere from sediments of the East Siberian Ice Arctic Shelf since the 1990s.

That tropical forests could transform from a sink to a source due to rising temperatures has also been documented in the literature since the 1990s.

 According to an OECD study of 2011, GHG could reach 685 ppm of CO2e by 2050.

 In 2013, Michael Mann wrote that we will likely lock in a 2 C short term warming this century and a probable 4 C warming long-term. 


According to Mann in 2013, if the current, high-velocity pace of emission continues, we will likely hit 2C warming by 2036, setting off extraordinary, severe and irreversible global changes over a very short period. 

Since then, nothing has happened to change this gloomy picture.
It is absolutely necessary to understand the problem of the Earth’s response to human induced climate change. 

Natural carbon sinks on land and ocean buffer us from the full impact of carbon emissions.

 But we cannot assume this will continue indefinitely. 

The warmer the world becomes, the more difficult it will become to prevent further warming: even less emissions can lead to proportionally larger impacts. 

Natural carbon sinks become less effective and even become sources.


This is happening right now. 

The Earth’s tropical forests are now so degraded that they are emitting more carbon than all of the traffic in the United States.

 A healthy forest sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, whereas forests that are degraded by drought, wildfires and deforestation release previously sequestered carbon.

 In short, land ecosystems, mainly forests, have been mitigating part of the fossil fuel problem – they sucked CO2 out of the atmosphere, about 25% of our fossil fuel emissions. 

Not any longer. 

Another study showed that warming soils are now releasing much more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought.

 This means another disastrous feedback loop exists that will trigger giant carbon releases in a cycle that will be (practically) impossible to stop.

It is true that emissions from energy decreased in the last three years. 

Emissions from land use, agriculture, aviation and shipping have not stalled.

 Increased use of biomass is still often calculated as zero-emission, which is nonsensical. 

CO2e is now already above what was considered the limit for a 2 degrees C rise – this limit was 450 ppm CO2e. 

We are now over 490 ppm CO2e and the concentrations are rising.

 It is not possible otherwise, also because the earth itself contributes to the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly because of increasing emissions of CO2 and methane from wetlands, permafrost areas and sea beds. 

The IPCC, in its wisdom, does (or did) not count these contributions and so they do (or did) not exist. 

The world will pay a heavy prize for this ostrich policy.

The permafrost thaw caused by fossil fuel emissions already releases relatively large amounts of CO2, NH4 and NO2. 

Any reasonable discussion of our global situation therefore has to stop limiting the discussion to fossil fuel CO2 emissions and start evaluating the true global situation with regard to the planetary carbon cycle and the global warming of all the greenhouse gases.
The estimate is that about 50% of total global fossil fuel emissions over the past 100 years have been absorbed by land and oceans. 

If the sinks are exhausted or overwhelmed by permafrost or shallow marine sediment outgassing, it is possible that, in the worst case, a 50% reduction in the use of fossil fuels (again: not that there is a viable strategy to achieve this) would have no effect on the growth rate of atmospheric CO2.

It can be realistically expected that, IF every country meets its self-determined emissions goals, global temperature will increase by 3.7 degrees C at 2100 – and that is being optimistic!

 According to Friedrich et al. (see my article on this here and here for Friedrich et al.) a rise of 4.8 and 7.4 degrees can be in the making by 2100.
For CO2 emissions to fall, the use of fossil fuels has to decrease and brought to zero. 


This can only happen if they become so expensive that any other source is cheaper.

 It also means major changes in manufacturing, agriculture, transport and energy efficiency. 

It means changing and re-scaling the macroeconomic architecture.

We all know this, but it does not square with any reasonable projections of oil, natural gas and coal production.

 For example, the American EIA estimated future consumption of liquids and natural gas give annual rates of increase of 1.1 and 1.9 percent through 2040. 

Coal production also increases, albeit more slowly at 0.6 percent per year.

The idea that in such a world emissions will drop is magical thinking. 

The idea that climate change can be addressed in a technological way, leaving existing power relations intact is magical thinking – not only a myth, but a pertinent lie.

What is actually the “effort” that the “landmark” Paris Agreement expects countries to make?

 In 2015, the US budget was $3.800 billion.

 In 2016, the Department of Energy (DoE) budget request for all of energy efficiency, renewable energy and nuclear energy was $4 billion. 

This is a mere 0.1%. 

Where does most of this money end up?

 It goes to big multinationals in order to strengthen “competitiveness,” “create jobs” and “markets and growth” and to “reduce business risks,” as 360 big corporations wrote to Trump in an open letter, asking him to not quit the Paris Agreement.
Trump quit Paris and it is inherently stupid and regressive. 

But the Paris Agreement is also regressive.

At the end of 2017, CO2 and other GHGs are rising, they are rising faster than ever, temperatures are rising, new feedbacks and potential horrors are being discovered almost every day. 

As I wrote before, ‘this historical milestone that will safeguard the future of humanity’ (Cameron) contains no reference to “coal,” “oil,” “fracking,” “shale oil,” “fossil fuel” or “carbon dioxide.” 

The words “zero,” “ban,” “prohibit” or “stop” do not occur in it.

 The word “adaptation” occurs 85 times, although the responsibility to adapt is nowhere mentioned. 

Liability and compensation are explicitly excluded. 

There is no action plan.

 The proposed emission cuts by the nations are voluntary.

 There is no enforceable compliance mechanism.
Meanwhile, warming atmospheric temperatures coupled with warmer ocean waters have combined to cause Antarctic sea ice to shrink by two millions kilometres in just the last three years.


At the other pole, recently released data showed that the Arctic ice cap melted down to hundreds of thousands of square miles below its average this past summer. 

The ice minimum for this year was 610.000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average, in addition to its being the eighth-lowest year in the 38-year satellite record (to compare: Germany’s surface is 137.983.6 square miles) 
Some time ago, I would have ended this article by writing that ‘if the world’s nations are serious about addressing climate change, the rise in CO2 concentrations needs to cease. 

The sinks need to balance the sources. 

If the sinks degrade and become a source, the game is up.’ But I do not believe that the world’s nations are serious about addressing global climate change.

 There is nothing concrete that points in that direction. 

And so the problem becomes unsolvable.

Press link for more: Flassbeck Economics

Time to address rising cost of climate change: US report #StopAdani 

The recent wildfires in California have caused more than $A80 billion damage. 

Jae C. Hong
AN INDEPENDENT US government agency says natural disasters have cost the country $US350 billion ($A453 billion) in the past decade and that it is time for Donald Trump’s administration to address climate change before it starts costing the country more.

The non-partisan auditing agency Government Accountability Office said the US had spent that amount just in responding to extreme weather events.
This includes relief money after hurricanes and wildfires, both of which the country has seen in the past few months.


Washington state Democrat Senator Maria Cantwell summed up the report to the New York Times as: “Basically telling us that this is costing us a lot of money … we need to understand that as stewards of the taxpayer that climate is a fiscal issue, and the fact that it’s having this big a fiscal impact on our federal budget needs to be dealt with.”
Much of the report states that climate change will impact various parts of the country with drought, low crop yields, road damage, increased wildfires, increased energy demands and coastal infrastructure damage – all deemed by GAO as “examples of potential economic effects of climate change”.


The agency noted some of the effects and damage costs are difficult to predict for events directly related to climate change but “one estimate projects that rising temperatures could cause losses in labour productivity of as much as $US150 billion by 2099, while changes in some crop yields could cost as much as $US53 billion”, the New York Times reports.
The GAO report recommends the Trump administration takes executive action on environmental regulations that will help curb emissions and protect the environment in order to minimise costs for the taxpayer.
Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins told the newspaper: “We simply cannot afford the billions of dollars in additional funding that’s going to be needed if we do not take into account the consequences of climate change.”
The report relied mostly on two national-scale studies but culled information from 28 other studies, 26 expert interviews, compared managing climate risks with leading practices for risk management, and performed economic analysis.
Director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO J. Alfredo Gomez told The Independent that “in typical protocol” the agency sent a draft report to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its administrator, Scott Pruitt.
The GAO requested a response within 30 days, however the EPA only provided technical comments there were a “clarification” on how GAO characterised one of the reference studies used, according to Mr Gomez.
He said the EPA did not provide an explanation as to why it did not otherwise respond to the report.
This is not the first or only ongoing study into the financial costs of not addressing climate change, as Mr Gomez noted.
A list is put together every two years called the High Risk List of “specific areas where government-wide action is needed to limit fiscal exposure to climate change,” he explained.
The GAO recommends the Trump administration focus on areas like defence-related installations – like military bases in coastal areas – that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, federal flood insurance programmes, as well as disaster aid.
However, the administration’s track record has been one of dismantling existing environmental legislation rather than passing and implementing.
In June, Mr Trump announced he was withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change, the deal agreed to by nearly 200 countries to curb global carbon emissions and help poorer countries adapt to a changing planet.
Mr Trump said he felt the accord, signed and put into enforcement by the Obama administration, as putting American workers – particularly in the coal industry – at an “economic disadvantage”.
Recently, Mr Pruitt said the EPA will be repealing and possibly replacing a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s environmental legacy and answer to meeting the goals outlined in the Paris accord: the Clean Power Plan.
According to the Washington DC-based Union of Concerned Scientists, power plants account for almost 40 per cent of the country’s emissions – “more than every car, truck, and plane in the US combined.”
If it had been left in place, the CPP would have reduced power plants’ carbon emissions by 2030 to a level 32 per cent lower than they were in 2005.
To counter, more than a thousand CEOs and sub-national government leaders have pledged to continue to fight climate change through business operations and regulations.
However, the overall reduction in carbon emissions of all these actors is still being calculated and may not equal the amount of reductions should the federal government be involved.
The GAO report was released just as the Senate is getting ready to vote on a nearly $40bn disaster relief package for Americans affected by the recent hurricanes and wildfires. It will also include provisions for flood insurance.
– Mythili Sampathkumar, The Independent

Press link for more: Sunshine Coast Daily