nuclear

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

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

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).

LNG, Recession,China & Wind reduce US carbon emissions (Less Coal) #auspol 

Energy Technologies, Markets, and Government Policies’ 

Major Impacts on U.S. Carbon Emissions, 2005-2016
Energy-and-Policy-Developments-rect
The U.S. continues to make fairly good progress in reducing its fossil fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions since the mid-2000’s. 

This article updates a previously posted analysis, which detailed government policies, technologies and market factors that have most enabled the U.S. to continue reducing its total fossil fuels consumption and carbon emissions.
2005-16 U.S. Carbon Emissions – U.S. carbon emissions from fossil fuels consumption peaked just before the 2007-09 Great Recession. 

Following the recession and the relatively slow economic recovery, U.S. fossil fuels carbon emissions have continuously declined on average.
Figure 1


Data Source – EIA MER carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels consumption.
U.S. fossil fuels’ carbon emissions nearly peaked at 6,000 million metric tons per year (MMT/yr.) in 2005. 

Total carbon emissions have declined by 935 MMT/yr. or 16% 2005-16. 

This level of carbon emissions’ reduction represents over half of the U.S. Paris Climate Agreement pledge made late last year.
The reduction in U.S. fossil fuels carbon emissions has been primarily due to a large decline in coal consumption. 

Coal consumption has declined due to the combination of ‘fuels-switching’ to lower carbon power generation sources and accelerated retirements of Coal Power plants.


 To better understand the impacts of different government policies, energy technologies and market related factors lets first review the changes of fossil fuels demand and carbon emissions for each U.S. ‘End-Use’ Sector.
Figure 2


Data source – EIA MER.

 Note: EIA data has been modified by separating the Power Sector’s carbon emissions from the four End-Use Sectors’ total emissions. 

The carbon emissions for the Transportation Sector are based on motor fuels consumption and the Power, Industrial, Residential & Commercial Sectors emissions are based primarily on heating fuels consumption.
The Power Sector’s reduction in carbon emissions is the largest contributor to total reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16; 71% of the total reduction. 

This emission reduction is primarily due to a combination of ‘fuels switching’ to lower carbon natural gas fuel and expansion of renewable power generation. 

The Industrial Sector is the second largest contributor to reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16; 11% of the total.

 This carbon emission reduction has been unfortunately due primarily to the decline in U.S. Manufacturing Sector’s production output and the increased imports.
The Transportation Sector’s carbon emissions declined significantly following the 2007-09 Recession, up to 2012.

 This was due to a combination of increased vehicle’s fuel efficiency (CAFE) and renewable fuels (RFS2) standards, and, reduced vehicle’s usage or decrease in average vehicle miles travelled (VMT) 2008-12. 


 Total petroleum motor fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions has unfortunately begun increasing significantly 2012-16. 

This has been due to increased vehicles purchases & registrations (largely SUV’s and Light Duty Trucks recently), increasing VMT and total increased fuels consumption by the growing U.S. population (2.3 million per year average growth 2005-16). 

Fortunately, the net Transportation Sector’s overall decline of carbon emissions contributed to 9% of total U.S. emissions reduction, 2005-16.
The Residential Sector’s natural gas and petroleum heating fuels consumptions also declined significantly over the past decade and contributed to 7% of total U.S. carbon emissions reduction 2005-16. 

This was due primarily to increased efficiency technologies and possibly improved Resident’s consumption behaviors.

 Increased Residential energy efficiency has been support by numerous State and Federal energy efficiency policies and programs (EERE for example). 

Although the Commercial Sector’s fossil fuels consumption should have been influenced-reduced by similar EERE policies, its reduction in carbon emissions only contributed to < 2% of total U.S. reduced carbon emissions 2005-16.
Major Contributing Factors to Reduced U.S. Carbon Emissions – Since 2005 total U.S. fossil fuels consumption and mix have changed very significantly. 

These changes have been strongly influenced by a number of factors, including market price, recent technology developments, and past-recent Government policies & regulations.
Figure 3


Data source – EIA MER.
‘Fuels switching’ from coal to lower carbon natural gas in the Power Sector has clearly been the largest contributing factor towards total U.S. carbon emissions reduction 2005-16. 


During 2005-16 coal-to-natural gas ‘fuels switching’ has reduced total U.S. fossil fuels carbon emissions by 50%.

 Major contributing factors for making the switch from coal-to-natural gas have been heating fuel market prices, shutdown-retirement of over 30% of Coal Power Plants and a 7% increase in Natural Gas Power Plants since 2005. 

The Coal Power Plant shutdowns are largely the result of substantially growing compliance costs for the EPA regulations including the Clean Air Mercury Rule and the future likely impacts of the developing EPA Clean Power Plan.
Natural Gas Power Plants ‘net generation’ has grown due to both increased utilization of available Power Plants’ capacities and construction of new-higher efficiency Power Plants.

 The major factor to increased coal-to-natural gas ‘fuels switching’ has been almost a 2/3rds. drop in natural gas market prices since 2005; while coal prices remained fairly constant during the same period.
Wind Power is the next largest contributing factor towards U.S. reduced carbon emissions.


 During 2005-16, the combination of Federal and State regulations created major incentives and/or mandates for the construction, power generation, and production tax credits for new-recently built Wind Power. 

Total net Wind Power generation grew 13-fold 2005-16 and the percentage of total U.S. electric power net generation from Wind Power increased from 0.4% (2005) up to 5.7% in 2016. 

Wind Power contributed to 14% of U.S. total carbon emissions reduction, 2005-16.
The reduction in the fossil fuels and power consumption in primarily the Residential & Commercial Sectors was third largest (13% of the total) contributing factor for reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16. 

This was due to a combination of increased energy efficiency technologies installations and use, and, other factors that encouraged and/or led to reduced fossil fuels consumption by most Consumers in the Residential and Commercial Sectors. 

Part of the reduced energy consumption was likely due in-part to the relatively slow recovery from the 2007-09 Great Recession and Middle Class average wage stagnation; which limits most Residents’ discretionary income during this period.
The next factor that contributed to 11% of total reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16 was reduced fossil fuels and power consumption of the Industrial Sector. 

While efficiency improvements likely contributed to a small fraction of reduced fossil fuels consumption and carbon emissions, the major impact was unfortunately due to reduced U.S. domestic ‘durable goods’ production & manufacture. This included slowdown of many Industries/Manufacturing facilities’ outputs such as steel production, building materials & hardware-parts fabrication, vehicles & appliances manufacturing, etc.

 These and other domestically produced-manufactured durable goods have been overwhelmingly replaced by increased imports, and trade deficits.
One factor rarely covered in the Media is the fact that U.S. Industries are among the most energy efficient and least carbon intensive compared to most off-shore sources of imported durable goods from countries such as China. 

The net result has been very significant and growing ‘carbon leakage’. 

In other words, the reduction in the U.S. Industrial Sector’s durable goods production 2005-16 may have reduced U.S. carbon emissions by about 100 MMT/yr., but at the expense of shifting these carbon emissions to other countries, primarily China.


 The full lifecycle impact of shutting down U.S. domestic durable goods production with generally lower efficiency Chinese durable goods imports, and shipping them from Asia-to-North America via marine transport, has increased ‘Total World’ carbon emissions. 

This has most likely resulted in a net-increase of World carbon emissions by an additional 25-50 MMT/yr. (added leakage) greater than if the U.S. Consumer durable goods had been produced domestically.
The next largest factor (8%) to reduced U.S. carbon emissions 2005-16 has been largely due to the Transportation Sector’s compliance with Federal regulations. 

The combination of increased Renewable Fuels (blending) and CAFE standards have had the largest impacts on reducing vehicles petroleum motor fuels consumption and offsetting the growing Population’s use of transportation vehicles; lighter duty cars & trucks, and heavier duty/commercial trucks, railroad, and marine.

 To possibly further reduce future U.S. carbon emissions the EPA has substantially increased future CAFE standards and more recently began developing new efficiency regulations for heavier duty vehicles. 

Despite expanding these vehicle related carbon emission regulations, the growth in Transportation Sector vehicle fleets and usage (increased VMT), resulted in increasing petroleum consumption since 2012.
Increases in Nuclear, Solar and Hydropower+biomass+Geothermal Power net generation(s) have reduced U.S. total carbon emissions by a total of about 4%. Growth in Nuclear and Hydropower have been due to increased capacity factors or utilization of existing Power Plants. 

Growth in Solar and Geothermal has been due to increased power generation capacity construction, and, biomass is some combination thereof.
In Conclusion – The U.S. was the World’s largest emitter of carbon emissions before 2007; the year U.S. emissions from fossil fuels peaked.
 In 2007 China’s rapidly growing (and lower energy efficient) economy led to their country’s carbon emissions exceeding the U.S. and becoming the largest & continuously growing source of the World’s total carbon emissions ever since.

 Two other major events occurred beginning about 2007: the Great Recession, and the rapid development of U.S. domestic Oil & Gas ‘hydraulic fracturing’ technologies. Oil and Gas market prices peaked during the recession, then fell to 10-year lows due to increased market supply.

 Unlike crude oil which is primarily influenced by World markets (and/or OPEC), domestic natural gas prices continued to decline following the recession and most the following recovery years. 


This factor led to natural gas increasingly replacing alternative Power Section fuel sources; coal & some petroleum. 

During this same period, renewables (primarily Wind Power) and consumption efficiencies technologies continued to grow & evolve, and reduce the need for some fossil fuels.
The obvious question is: “Will the U.S. continue to make similar progress in the near future?”. 


The answer to this question is of course fairly complex, with significant uncertainties. 

Even though the new Administration has stated they plan to restore the Coal Industry, their ability to accomplish this is somewhat limited. 

Since domestic U.S. natural gas production is projected to continue growing and maintain its lower costs relative to alternative coal fuels, it’s unlikely that ‘fuels switching’ will decline in the near future. 

Also, since a large number of States have adopted regulations that mandate reducing their in-state power supplies’ carbon emissions, and even if the Federal Government temporarily cancels the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the likelihood of the Power Sector replacing recently retired Coal Power Plants in the foreseeable future is very small; i.e. too risky for most investors. 

And, as long as many States continue with their lower carbon power supplies mandates and the Federal Government continues to support Wind & Solar Power capacity growth and power generation subsidies, these renewable power sources should continue to grow significantly in the foreseeable future.
Assuming the Residential & Commercial efficiency improvements continue to expand, this should hopefully result in offsetting increased good & services consumption by the U.S.’s continually growing Population.

 Also, if the new Administration successfully grows the Economy at rates significantly > 2% (U.S. GDP average growth 2009-2016) and the Industrial Sector’s durable goods production increases (reduced imports/trade deficits), World carbon emissions should actually decline at greater rates than increased U.S. Industrial Sector carbon emissions.
Sustaining and possibly growing Nuclear and Hydropower will likely continue to be major challenges.

 If the current Administration truly supports growing the Nuclear Power Industry as stated during the recent campaign, then significantly expanding this zero-carbon technology will definitely help reduce future U.S. carbon emissions. 

Hydropower will likely still face major Environmentalist resistance, which has hindered this major-existing zero carbon power generation source for decades.
Possibly the largest future challenges to further and continuously reducing U.S. fossil fuels consumption and associated carbon emissions will be the Transportation Sector and offsetting the continuously growing Population’s use of all modes of transportation.


 Unless accelerating the expansion of alternative lower-zero carbon transportation fuels & technologies become a reality in the near future, the U.S. could likely continue experiencing increased Transportation Sector petroleum consumption and carbon emissions. 


Electric vehicles (EV) are probably the most feasible solution to reducing and eliminating the need for petroleum motor fuels. 

Besides massively expanding light duty EV fleets, States and the Federal Government need to consider other commercial vehicle alternatives such as electric powered railroads & mass transit, medium-heavier duty on-road EV’s, and other transportation modes that can feasibly and cost effectively be powered by lower carbon electric power sources in the future.

Press link for more: The Energy Collective

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

We’re currently on track for 3C or more Global Warming! #auspol #science

PARIS, France — Expansion of renewable energy cannot by itself stave off catastrophic climate change, scientists warned Monday.
Even if solar and wind capacity continues to grow at breakneck speed, it will not be fast enough to cap global warming under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the target set down in the landmark 2015 Paris climate treaty, they reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“The rapid deployment of wind, solar and electric cars gives some hope,” lead author Glen Peters, a researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, Norway, told AFP.
“But at this stage, these technologies are not really displacing the growth in fossil fuels or conventional transportation.”

Earth is overheating mainly due to the burning of oil, gas and especially coal to power the global economy.
Barely 1C (1.8F) of warming so far has already led to deadly heat waves, drought and super storms engorged by rising seas.

The 196-nation Paris Agreement set a collective goal to cap warming, but lacks the tools to track progress, especially at the country level.
To provide a better toolkit, Peters and colleagues broke down the energy system into half-a-dozen indicators — GDP growth, energy used per unit of GDP, CO2 emissions per unit of energy, share of fossil fuels in the energy mix, etc.
What emerged was a sobering picture of narrowing options.
Barely a dent
“Wind and solar alone are not sufficient to meet the goals,” Peters said.
The bottom line, the study suggests, is how much carbon pollution seeps into the atmosphere, and on that score renewable have — so far — barely made a dent.
Investment in solar and wind has soared, outstripping fossil fuels for the first time last year. And renewables’ share of global energy consumption has increased five-fold since 2000.
But it still only accounts for less than three percent of the total.
Moreover, the share of fossil fuels — nearly 87 percent — has not budged due to a retreat in nuclear power over the same 15-year period.
Even a renewables Marshall Plan would face an unyielding deadline: To stay under 2C, the global economy must be carbon neutral — producing no more CO2 than can be absorbed by oceans and forests — by mid-century.
Compounding the challenge, other key policies and technologies deemed essential for holding down temperatures remain woefully underdeveloped, the study cautioned.
In particular, the capacity to keep or pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it securely — a cornerstone of end-of-century projections for a climate-safe world — is practically non-existent.
Vetted by the UN’s top climate science panel, these scenarios presume that thousands of industrial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities will be up-and-running by 2030.
As of today, there are only one or two, with a couple of dozen in various stages of construction.
Negative emissions
Another form of clean energy penciled into most medium- and long-term forecasts that does not yet exist on any meaningful scale is carbon-neutral biofuels.
The idea is that CO2 captured while plants grow will compensate for greenhouse gases released when they are burned for energy.
On paper, that carbon pollution will also be captured and stored, resulting in “negative emissions” — a net reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.
But here again, reality is dragging its feet.
“It is uncertain whether bioenergy can be sustainably produced and made carbon-neutral at the scale required,” the researchers noted.
All of these technologies must come on line if we are to have a fighting chance of keeping a lid of global warming, which is currently on track to heat the planet by 3C to 4C (5.4F to 7.2F), the study concluded.
Market momentum alone is not enough, Peters added.
“There need to be a shift in focus,” he said in an email exchange.
“Politician seem happy to support wind, solar and electric vehicles through subsidies. But they are not willing to put prices” — a carbon tax, for example — “on fossil fuels.”
“Unless the emissions from fossil fuels goes down, the 2C target is an impossibility.”
In an informal survey last week of top climate scientists, virtually all of them said that goal is probably already out of reach. CBB

Press link for more: News info.inquirer

Wind energy creates jobs. #auspol 

US wind energy jobs reach 100,000 according to US DOE
Employment in the US wind energy industry is higher than that at nuclear, natural gas, coal, or hydroelectric power plants according to the DOE. These wind jobs can be found across the nation, with nearly 25 percent of American wind workers being employed in Texas alone. More growth in the industry is possible, according to DOE’s Wind Vision report, with the potential to create 380,000 jobs by 2030.
“Wind means opportunity and job security for over 100,000 Americans” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “The Department of Energy’s new jobs data underscore the incredible impact of wind power in creating American jobs. Wind workers directly contribute to our nation’s energy independence and economic success story. We’re especially proud of helping America’s veterans find well-paying jobs after their service, employing them at a rate that is 50 percent higher than the national average.”
DOE’s new data validates the jobs growth reported in AWEA’s own annual report. At the end of 2015, AWEA estimated 88,000 Americans were employed in the US wind industry, a 20 percent increase from 2014 levels. Given near-record amounts of wind power under construction and recent wind manufacturing facility expansions in states like Colorado, Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin, AWEA expects wind industry employment grew significantly in 2016.
AWEA’s detailed jobs analysis, including state-by-state breakdowns, will be released this spring as part of the US Wind Industry’s Annual Market Report 2016.

Press link for more: Renewable Energy

Beyond the coal rush part 3: The transition begins #auspol 

Change in the world’s energy system is happening fast in some countries, not at all in others. 

We’ve heard the battles of local people fighting for their homes, their farms and forests against the expansion plans of coal mining companies. 


And despite coal’s low market price in 2016, solar PV is on its way to becoming the cheapest source for electricity. Global investment in renewable energy is now higher than in fossil fuels. 

Some countries understand the urgency to reduce the amount of coal burnt for electricity. China has a policy to shift away from coal and has begun an energy transition. 

The nation has plans to reduce coal in its energy mix to 60% by 2020 and then reduce further. 

China’s wind capacity alone is already 100GW. Australia’s total generating capacity is 60GW. Change is under way. Electricity will be cheaper and cleaner. The challenge is for the world to rebuild its energy system quickly to minimise damage from a warming planet.

Press link for more: Radio National Science Show

Cashing In on Climate Change #auspol 

You’ve saved your money and amassed a surplus. 

You’ve read a few books on investing and gleaned the basics — the importance of diversification, of investing for the long term, and of buying and holding rather than trying to beat the market. 

But you also know that human-caused climate change will (if it hasn’t already) start eroding economic output. Extreme weather, droughts and crop failures could mean mass migration and political instability. As Henry Paulson, the former Treasury secretary, recently put it, the “greenhouse-gas crisis” won’t burst like the housing bubble of 2008 because “climate change is more subtle and cruel.”

What’s a climate-aware investor to do?
Individuals aren’t the only ones contemplating this question. Sixty-nine percent of Fortune 500 companies reported more demand for “low carbon” products this year, according to the nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project. And some of the country’s largest pension funds, including the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and New York State’s retirement fund, have begun tilting away from fossil fuels.

This approach has been called “socially responsible investing.” But these days, money managers aren’t doing it only because they think it’s morally correct; they also worry that, over the long term, fossil fuels are a losing bet.
Some experts told me that the historic accord on limiting greenhouse-gas emissions reached in Paris last year was a turning point in how investors think about climate change. The United States and China, the world’s two largest emitters, ratified it in September. It’s now unclear what will happen to the agreement; President-elect Donald J. Trump has said he wants to pull the United States out of it.

But it’s worth noting that business interests — and Mr. Trump sells himself as a consummate businessman — were integral to making the Paris deal happen in the first place. They realize that “environmental stability is absolutely at the base of financial stability,” Christiana Figueres, the diplomat who organized the conference, told me. Extreme weather, like the 2011 monsoon floods that ravaged parts of South Asia where electronic components that go into hard disks and cars are built, have driven that lesson home.
Something more hopeful is happening as well. Renewable energy prices have dropped, and are nearly competitive with fossil fuels. China aims to build enough charging stations to power five million electric cars by 2020. What will happen, Ms. Figueres asked, if China phases out the combustion engine altogether? “You can begin to see the signals,” she said. “The tide is beginning to change.”
Advances in battery technology are part of this change. The wind doesn’t blow all the time, nor does the sun shine all day. Energy produced intermittently needs to be stored. A lack of easy storage options has been an obstacle to renewables. But battery costs have declined by more than 70 percent since 2008. Mark Fulton, a founding partner of Energy Transition Advisors, says that what’s about to happen with the battery and renewables is an old-fashioned technological disruption story, akin to the advent of the internet. From an investor’s standpoint, this kind of disruption could mean losing your shirt or, if you plan properly, handsome returns.

One of the myths around socially responsible investing is that aligning investments with ethics means lower returns. But that’s not the case. George Serafeim, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, and his colleagues analyzed data going back over 20 years. Companies that were committed to sustainability outperformed companies that weren’t, they found. A dollar invested in sustainability-minded companies in 1993 would have grown to $22.58 by 2014, but just $15.35 if invested in companies with no such commitments. Why might this emphasis increase profits? These firms may also be more likely to invest in human capital and be better run overall.
So what can an individual investor do? 

You might follow the Rockefeller Family Fund and divest from the fossil fuel companies entirely. The research firm MSCI offers fossil-free stock indexes — like the S.&P. 500 but without fossil fuel companies — as does a newer organization called Fossil Free Indexes. Various climate-aware mutual funds exist.

But even if you divest, says Jean Rogers, chief executive of the nonprofit Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, there’s no escaping the ripple effects of climate change. “Because it’s so ubiquitous, it’s very hard to diversify away from climate risk,” she told me.

Another approach is a kind of divestment lite. Asha Mehta, director of responsible investing at Acadian Asset Management, told me that her clients increasingly request a “decarbonization” of their portfolios. Worried that complete divestment might hobble a portfolio’s performance, however, Ms. Mehta might reduce a portfolio’s carbon footprint to, say, 80 percent of a benchmark like the S.&P. 500 by removing the biggest emitters.
A firm called Osmosis Investment Management takes a different tack. It researches the overall efficiency of companies — how many resources a firm uses to create how much product. And instead of excluding certain industries entirely, Osmosis chooses only the most efficient within a given sector. It caters to institutional investors, but plans to release a fund for individuals soon.
You can, of course, try to do what Osmosis does on your own; the Carbon Disclosure Project has a trove of information on how companies fare on the sustainability front. But here’s the problem. More than 5,600 corporations disclose sustainability information, but no standards govern these disclosures. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and others are working to devise such standards. Pressure is also mounting on the Securities and Exchange Commission to enforce the disclosure of sustainability information. The commission recently asked for feedback on reforming the disclosure process, and a good chunk of letters mentioned sustainability and climate change.
Under a Trump administration, it seems less likely that the S.E.C. will respond to these concerns. But that may have a paradoxical effect: If investors can’t count on regulators to enforce transparency on sustainability, says Sonia Kowal, the president of Zevin Asset Management, they may take matters into their own hands.

So if you’re concerned about how climate issues might damage your nest egg, you might begin by raising your voice. Ask your fund managers about their plans. And look at how the funds you own vote on sustainability-related issues, such as whether to calculate and disclose a company’s greenhouse gas emissions, or whether to develop a risk-assessment plan for climate change.
Some of the largest asset managers consistently vote against such resolutions. In so doing, critics argue that they work against their customers’ interests. An organization called Fund Votes tracks how mutual funds vote, and the nonprofit Ceres keeps a list of what happens with climate-related resolutions. The broader point is that climate-proofing your portfolio may require homework and some rabble-rousing.
Does that make you an activist? “The word I prefer is ‘investor advocate,’ ” Jackie Cook, who operates Fund Votes, told me. “You’re advocating for your own investments.”
For many, the perceived gap between socially responsible investing and good business has narrowed almost to the point of convergence. And maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. A Citi report from last year put the costs of climate change, without mitigation, at $44 trillion by 2060. Many analysts have pointed out that a yearslong drought preceded the conflict in Syria — an example of how shifting climate can encourage political instability that ripples around the world. And this year, a report from the World Economic Forum said that the No. 1 global risk in the next 10 years was water crises. Nos. 2 and 3 were climate adaptation failure and extreme weather.
The economy can be only as healthy as the planet that houses it. Pushing for transparency on sustainability issues, and asking money managers to consider climate change, is really the purest form of self-interest.

Press link for more: New York Times

Losses of soil carbon under climate warming might equal US carbon emissions #auspol 

Map of predicted changes in soil C stocks by 2030-50 due to a 1°C rise in global average temperature. The darker red the color, the greater the carbon loss.

Image courtesy of the researchers
A new global analysis finds that warming temperatures will trigger the release of trillions of kilograms of carbon from the planet’s soils into its atmosphere, driven largely by the losses of soil carbon in the world’s colder places. The increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration will accelerate the pace of climate change. 

For decades, scientists have speculated that rising global temperatures might reduce the ability of soils to store carbon, potentially releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and triggering runaway climate change. Yet dozens of studies at single locations in different places around the world have produced mixed signals on whether this storage capacity will actually decrease—or even increase—as the planet warms.

A new study published in the journal Nature, based on 49 climate change experiments worldwide, including six in Minnesota, suggests that scientists might have been looking in the wrong places.
The study, led by College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences (CFANS) Department of Forest Resources Adjunct Professor T.W. Crowther, found that warming will drive the loss of at least 55 trillion kilograms of carbon from the soil by mid-century, adding an additional 17 percent on top of the projected emissions due to human-related activities during that period. That would be roughly the equivalent of adding to the planet another industrialized country the size of the United States and thus have a big impact by accelerating climate change
Critically, the researchers, including CFANS Dept. of Forest Resources Regents Professor and Institute on the Environment Fellow Peter Reich, found that carbon losses will be greatest in the world’s colder places, at high latitudes, which had largely been missing from most previous research. In those regions, massive stocks of carbon have built up over thousands of years and slow microbial activity has kept them relatively secure.
Most of the previous research had been conducted in the world’s temperate regions, where there were smaller carbon stocks to begin with. Studies that focused only on these regions would have missed the vast proportion of potential soil carbon losses, said Crowther, who conducted his research while a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology.
“Carbon stores are greatest in places like the Arctic and the sub-Arctic, where the soil is cold and often frozen. In those conditions microbes are less active and so carbon has been allowed to build up over many centuries,” said Crowther.
“But as you start to warm, the activities of those microbes increases, and that’s when the losses start to happen,” he said. “The scary thing is, these cold regions are the places that are expected to warm the most under climate change.”
The results are based on an analysis of data on stored soil carbon from dozens of climate warming experiments conducted over the past 20 years by more than 30 co-authors in different regions of the world.
The study predicts that for one degree of warming, about 30 petagrams of soil carbon will be released into the atmosphere.
“This is a big deal,” Reich said, “because the Earth is likely to have warmed by 2 degrees Celsius by mid-century, releasing as much carbon over that time period as will be emitted from fossil fuel burning in the United States.” A petagram is equal to 1,000,000,000,000 kilograms.
The study considered only soil carbon losses in response to warming. There are several other biological processes—such as faster plant growth as a result of carbon dioxide increases or slower plant growth due to climate warming and drought—that could dampen or enhance the effect of this soil carbon feedback. Several long-term experiments in Minnesota forests and grasslands led by Reich are addressing these questions. 
“Getting a handle on these kinds of feedbacks globally is essential if we’re going to make meaningful projections about future climate conditions,” said Crowther. “Only then can we generate realistic greenhouse gas emission targets that are effective at limiting climate change.” 

Press link for more: Twin Cities University