Category - Environment

Your Festive Meal Could Be More Damaging Than a Long-Haul Flight

The Guardian, By George Monbiot, December 25

The figures were so astounding that I refused to believe them. I found them buried in a footnote, and assumed at first that they must have been a misprint. So I checked the source, wrote to the person who first published them, and followed the citations. To my amazement, they appear to stand up.

A kilogramme of beef protein reared on a British hill farm can generate the equivalent of 643kg of carbon dioxide. A kilogramme of lamb protein produced in the same place can generate 749kg. One kilo of protein from either source, in other words, causes more greenhouse gas emissions than a passenger flying from London to New York.

This is the worst case, and the figure comes from a farm whose soils have a high carbon content. But the numbers uncovered by a wider study are hardly reassuring: you could exchange your flight to New York for an average of 3kg of lamb protein from hill farms in England and Wales. You’d have to eat 300kg of soy protein to create the same impact.

[…]

As the world’s people adopt the western diet, a paper in the Climatic Change journal estimates, the methane and nitrous oxide produced by farming could rise to the equivalent of 13bn tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2070. This is more than all human activities combined can safely produce without exceeding 2C of global warming. Climate breakdown looks inevitable – unless we all change our diets.

Two months in, Porter Ranch gas leak compared to BP Gulf oil spill

Los Angeles Daily News, By Susan Abram, December 19

The smell came from the canyons and drifted over their neighborhoods in late October, but most residents who live in the gated communities of Porter Ranch thought the northerly gusts of wind common to their area would sweep the stench of rotten eggs away.

Instead, the odor persisted.

It became a phantom that haunted them during their twilight jogs and on their morning walks on dusty horse trails. It was there in their dens where they watched TV and in bedrooms where their children slept. It was even there on the playgrounds of nearby elementary schools.

“It was smelling really bad,” said Susan Gorman-Chang, who along with her husband, George, has lived in Porter Ranch for more than 20 years. Now, the couple has chosen to leave the area. “Our neighbor called the fire department. It was that bad.”

The Southern California Gas Co. knew what was happening a day before the fire department was called. They knew methane was leaking from a 40-year-old well in Aliso Canyon above the Santa Susana Mountains, that it was spewing tons of gas into the air. Several days later, they informed residents through letters that the agency would plug the leak as fast as possible.
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Götterdämmerung: – Noises Off

  Being the first in a planned Twilight series of observations and ruminations on the state of the world and its denizens, past, present and future.

Return On Investment: As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

  When I was a teenager, I drove a 1924 Star. It rattled, creaked, squeaked, clinked, clanked, banged, jangled, clattered and protested mightily when called upon to actually move, but it did get me to school and an occasional jaunt into the countryside. We had to scrounge up old tires and spare parts, even machining some pieces in shop class, since Durant Motors was long out of business. Keeping it on the road became increasingly difficult and complicated. I finally decided it wasn’t worth the time, money and cussing. It might have had some value to an antique auto collector, but it had a negative ROI as a useful means of transportation. As I look around, a great deal of what I see reminds me of that old car.
There are a lot of individual pieces that need to work together. And they aren’t.
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Peaceful Paris climate gathering descends into clashes with police

Anti-capitalists take over climate protest to rail against ban on marches imposed after terror attacks on city.

The Guardian, By Karl Mathiesen, November 29

A day of celebration and hope in Paris disintegrated into rioting and clashes with police on Sunday, after anti-capitalists and anarchists hijacked a peaceful event organised by climate activists earlier in the day.

About 200 protesters, some wearing masks, fought with police on a street leading to la place de la République, which has become a gathering place for Parisians since the terror attacks on 13 November that killed 130 people. Witnesses said floral and other tributes were trampled in the melee.

About 100 protesters were arrested and the gathering was cleared by police using batons and teargas.

Earlier on Sunday, there had been a carnival atmosphere in the square before the climate summit due to begin on the city’s outskirts on Monday. Thousands of shoes, including a pair belonging to Pope Francis, had been symbolically laid in the square to represent a climate march that was cancelled by authorities after the terror attacks.

The Guardian Live Blog: Global climate march 2015: hundreds of thousands march around the world – as it happened

France bows to Obama and backs down on climate ‘treaty’

FT, By Anne-Sylvaine Chassany & Pilita Clark, November 28

Paris / London – France has offered a key concession to the US on the eve of historic climate talks in Paris, saying a new global climate accord will not be called a “treaty” and might not contain legally binding emissions reduction targets.

In a significant climbdown, Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, said signatories to the planned deal would still be legally required to meet many of its terms but most likely not the carbon-cutting goals underpinning the agreement.

“The accord needs to be legally binding. It’s not just literature,” Mr Fabius told the Financial Times. “But it will probably have a dual nature. Some of the clauses will be legally binding.”
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Isolation of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Part I

Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, By James Hansen, November 27

Earlier this year I received a message from a long-time reader of my Communications, who was persuaded of the urgency of the climate problem. As a significant supporter of the Democratic Party, he had the opportunity to meet President Obama, and he was preparing a specific question: would the President be willing to “meet with Jim Hansen”, who, the supporter asserted, understood the problem as well as anyone and has “some viable ways to fix the problem”?

Obama’s response: he had already read my stuff (presumably meaning my book), but would be interested in talking if it were about policy (presumably meaning that he was already convinced about the reality of the science). My response to the supporter was that we should check whether the offer was real after my long-overdue “Ice Melt” paper was submitted for publication.

This summer, after submitting the paper, my supporter tried valiantly, but dolefully reported that he could not get through, the President was too well protected. Not so easily deterred, I reported the matter to Obama’s Science Adviser, John Holdren, and sent him my Ice Melt paper. Holdren responded that it was a valuable paper, but he ignored my request to meet the President.

The Guardian: Naomi Klein: Now Marches Are Banned at the Paris Climate Conference – What’s at Stake

Amazon trees are found to be at risk

AP, By Seth Borenstein, November 22

Washington – A first-of-its-kind examination of the Amazon’s trees found that as many as half the species may be threatened with extinction or heading that way because of massive deforestation. Among the more than 5,000 tree species in deep trouble: the ones that produce Brazil nuts and mahogany.

An international team of 158 scientists found that depending on the degree to which deforestation comes under control in the next 35 years, between 36 and 57 percent of the 16,000 tree species in the tropical rainforest area would be considered threatened. The study is published in Friday’s edition of Science Advances.

The range rests on whether cutting down the region’s forest continues at the rate of the late 20th and early 21st centuries or slows to lesser levels proposed in 2006, study authors said. If deforestation continues at the same pace, nearly 8,700 tree types are in trouble, but the number of species at risk could be as low as 5,500 if nations are able to cut back as planned, said study coauthor Nigel Pitman, from the Field Museum in Chicago.

Paris attacks: State of emergency could restrict public demonstrations during Paris climate talks

ABC.au, By Peter Burton, November 17

What impact will the attacks have on the Paris Climate Change Conference scheduled to begin in 12 days?

While already complicated, the talks will now take place within a state of emergency that is threatening to limit public participation.

Events in Paris continue to unfold at a dizzying pace. But in the coming days we will learn a lot by paying attention to how parties use (and abuse) the language of freedom and liberty.

New NASA Data Shows Brazil’s Drought Deeper Than Thought

Reuters, October 30

Ottawa – New satellite data shows Brazil’s drought is worse than previously thought, with the southeast losing 56 trillion liters of water in each of the past three years – more than enough to fill Lake Tahoe, a NASA scientist said on Friday.

The country’s most severe drought in 35 years has also caused the Brazil’s larger and less-populated northeast to lose 49 trillion liters of water each year over three years compared with normal levels, said NASA hydrologist Augusto Getirana.

Brazilians are well aware of the drought due to water rationing, power blackouts and empty reservoirs in parts of the country but this is the first study to document exactly how much water has disappeared from aquifers and reservoirs, Getirana said.

“It is much larger than I imagined,” Getirana told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “With climate change, this is going to happen more and more often.”

Worst Climate Threat You Never Heard of Is Stronger Than CO2

Bloomberg, By Alex Nussbaum, October 29

The biggest global warming battle you’ve never heard of kicks off in Dubai this weekend.

Climate negotiators from across the globe will gather in the Persian Gulf city to debate how to get rid of hydrofluorocarbons — a class of hundreds of artificial chemicals used in refrigerators, air-conditioners, fire suppressants and other widely used products. While less common than greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide or methane, HFCs can be thousands of times more potent, pound for pound, at heating up the planet.

They’re also gaining in popularity as demand for air conditioning, refrigeration and other services is expected to soar in developing countries in coming decades. The result: HFCs are now the world’s fastest growing greenhouse gases and projected to rise even more in the future.

A worldwide agreement coming out of the United Nations-run meeting in Dubai to quickly get rid of HFCs may keep the equivalent of 100 billion tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere by 2050 and avoid a half-degree Celsius of warming by century’s end, proponents say. That’s about a quarter of the 2-degrees Celsius (3.6-degree Fahrenheit) limit that scientists say is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.