Category - Global Warming

Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Bill

The Canadian Press, By Alexander Panetta, February 24

Washington – U.S. President Barack Obama made good Tuesday on a threat to veto a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, bringing the two sides in the long-running controversy to a rare point of agreement: their battle is far from over.

”The president’s veto of the Keystone jobs bill is a national embarrassment,” said the top Republican in the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

”We are not going to give up in our efforts to get this pipeline built — not even close.”

[…]

Even the White House concurred that the issue is far from settled. It pointed out that Tuesday’s announcement was a step in a long, winding process — not a final destination.

The president cast the veto as a matter of procedural principle. In his letter to Congress, Obama said the bill he was scrapping had improperly tried to usurp presidential authority.
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Are Siberia’s mysterious craters caused by climate change? Scientists find four new enormous holes in northern Russia

The Daily Mail (UK), By Will Stewart, February 23

Moscow – Four new mysterious giant craters have appeared in the Siberian permafrost in northern Russia, sparking fears that global warming may be causing gas to erupt from underground.

Scientists spotted the new holes, along with dozens of other smaller ones, in the same area as three other enormous craters that were spotted on the Yamal Peninsula last year.

The craters are thought to be caused by eruptions of methane gas from the permafrost as rising rising temperatures causes the frozen soil to melt.

[…]

‘We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area,’ Professor Bogoyavlensky told The Siberian Times.

‘Five are directly on the Yamal peninsula, one in Yamal Autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr peninsula.

‘We have exact locations for only four of them.

‘The other three were spotted by reindeer herders.

‘But I am sure that there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them. I would compare this with mushrooms.

‘When you find one mushroom, be sure there are few more around. I suppose there could be 20 to 30 craters more.’

The Siberian Times: Dozens of new craters suspected in northern Russia

Scientists urge global ‘wake-up call’ to deal with climate change

Climate change has advanced so rapidly that work must start on unproven technologies now, admits US National Academy of Science

The Guardian, By Suzanne Goldenberg, February 10

Climate change has advanced so rapidly that the time has come to look at options for a planetary-scale intervention, the National Academy of Science said on Tuesday.

The scientists were categorical that geoengineering should not be deployed now, and was too risky to ever be considered an alternative to cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
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Sao Paulo warns of severe water rationing

AFP, January 28

Authorities in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s richest state and economic hub, have warned they are considering severe water rationing if the country’s worst drought in 80 years continues.

Officials outlined draconian plans for alternating cuts that would leave areas without water for five days at a time.

“If the rain persists in not falling into the Cantareira reservoir system, the solution would be for very heavy rationing,” said Paulo Massato, director of the state water company Sabesp.

Sabesp runs the Cantareira system, which supplies nearly half of the Sao Paulo metropolitan area, South America’s largest city with some 20 million people.

“The rationing would see two days with water and then five without,” he said late Tuesday.

[…]

Unless it rains soon, supplies could run out altogether by March.


Brazil Drought: Worst Water Crisis In 80 Years Affecting Four Million People In Country’s South East

IBT Times, January 25

Water cuts and blackouts have spread across large areas of south-east Brazil as a result of the worst drought in the country since 1930. The drought has hit Brazil’s three most populous states: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Minas Gerais.

More than four million people have been affected by water rationing and power cuts. In the Madureira district of Rio residents have mounted demonstrations, beating empty buckets and cans to express their frustration. The district has been without tap water since before Christmas. Other cities have seen similar demonstrations.

The drought first hit in São Paulo, where hundreds of thousands of residents have had water supplies cut. The region should normally be experiencing its rainy season.

São Paulo state suffered similar serious drought problems last year. At an emergency meeting of five government ministers in the country’s capital, Brasilia, Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira says that the three states must save water.

“Since records for Brazil’s south-eastern region began 84 years ago we have never seen such a delicate and worrying situation,” said Teixeira.

SF Gate: First-ever rainless January in S.F. history

2014 officially the hottest year on record

NASA and NOAA scientists report 2014 was 0.07F (0.04C) higher than previous records and the 38th consecutive year of above-average temperatures

The numbers are in. The year 2014 – after shattering temperature records that had stood for hundreds of years across virtually all of Europe, and roasting parts of South America, China and Russia – was the hottest on record, with global temperatures 1.24F (0.69C) higher than the 20th-century average, US government scientists said on Friday.

A day after international researchers warned that human activities had pushed the planet to the brink, new evidence of climate change arrived. The world was the hottest it has been since systematic records began in 1880, especially on the oceans, which the agency confirmed were the driver of 2014’s temperature rise.

The global average temperatures over land and sea surface for the year were 1.24F (0.69C) above the 20th-century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) reported. Nasa, which calculates temperatures slightly differently, put 2014’s average temperature at 14.67C – 0.68C above the average – for the period 1951-80.

The scientists said 2014 was 0.07F (0.04C) higher than the previous records set in 2005 and 2010, and the 38th consecutive year of above-average temperatures.

That means nobody born since 1976 has experienced a colder-than-average year.

Robert Scribbler: Denying The Neverending Heatwave: NASA, NOAA, JMA Show 2014 Broke New Records; But Will Republicans Ever Listen to Science?

If you are younger than 29 years old, you haven’t lived in a month that was cooler than the 20th century average. — Dr. Marshall Shepherd, former President of the American Meteorological Society

Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says

New York Times, By Carl Zimmer, January 15

A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found. Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health.

“We’re lucky in many ways,” said Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University and another author of the new report. “The impacts are accelerating, but they’re not so bad we can’t reverse them.”

The Guardian: Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of – Clothing-shed synthetic microfibers reach the ocean.

The Methane Monster Roars

Truthout, By Dahr Jamail, January 13

During a recent hike in Washington State’s Olympic National Park, I marveled at the delicate geometry of frost-covered ferns. White crystalline structures seemed to grow from the green leaves, encasing them in a frozen frame of temporary beauty.

Progressing further up into the mountains, I stopped to lunch and sip hot coffee from a thermos while gazing across a river valley at a snow-covered mountainside, sizing up a frozen waterfall for a possible ice climb in the future. Yet I found myself beginning to wonder how many more winters ice would continue to form there.

The disparity of the beauty before me with my troubled thoughts about the planet has found no reconciliation. I had been collecting data and conducting interviews for articles about methane releases in the Arctic for weeks, and pondering the information through the holidays only led me into depression. Going out into the mountains helped, but also provoked grave concerns for our collective future.

[…]

According to a study published in Nature Geoscience, twice as much methane as previously thought is being released from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, a 2 million square kilometer area off the coast of northern Siberia. The recent study’s researchers found that at least 17 teragrams (17 million tons) of methane are being released into the atmosphere each year, whereas a 2010 study had found only seven teragrams heading into the atmosphere.

Coal Companies Are Selling Coal To Themselves To Get More Government Subsidies

Climate Progress, By Claire Moser, January 7

In what is being described as a fundamental shift in how the coal industry does business, over 40 percent of all coal produced in Wyoming is now being first sold not to a power plant or a utility, but to a subsidiary of the same company that mined the coal — a 17-fold increase since 2004 for the U.S.’s largest coal-producing state.

According to a new report by the Center for American Progress, these inside deals between coal companies and their own subsidiaries (known as “captive transactions”) are aimed, in part, at intentionally dodging federal and state royalty payments and maximizing taxpayer-funded subsidies from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The CAP review, released on Tuesday, found that five of the largest coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana have collectively created a network of 566 subsidiary companies through which they sell and market coal. Peabody Energy alone, which operates the country’s largest coal mine in Wyoming, boasts 242 domestic and foreign subsidiaries, with names like Coal Sales II, LLC.

Under current regulations, coal companies pay royalties on the first sale to another company after mining coal on federal land. The coal then can be bought and sold multiple times until it reaches a final destination and is sold to an end user, such as a power plant where it is burned for electricity. By building up hundreds of subsidiaries, coal companies have been able to sell to their own companies and partners, allegedly paying royalties based on an artificially low sale price. The CAP analysis presents evidence that captive transactions are common practice in the coal industry and regularly exploited to evade royalty payments and maximize subsidies.

“Increasingly, the major coal companies are selling Powder River Basin coal not on an open market, but to an elaborate network of shell companies that they own and control,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Public Lands Project at CAP in a press release. “This gaming of the system is costing federal and state governments millions of dollars in lost royalty payments and giving the Powder River Basin an unfair advantage over other U.S. coal producing regions.”

This Is The Climate Report South Carolina Spent Years Hiding

Business Insider, By Chelsea Harvey, December 29

With the recent release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s newest climate report, the pressure is on localities more than ever to understand, expect, and curb emissions ahead of our planet’s future warming.

While the United States has pledged to cut down on its carbon output, the states are slower in picking up the tab — and some seem to be unable to understand the severity of the situation. Others are even allegedly willing to hide the truth.

Several states have been exposed for their past questionable climate practices, and South Carolina is one of those that has fallen under public scrutiny over a state-sponsored climate report that has stayed on the shelf for more than a year after it was declared ready for public release.

Back in November 2011 South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) completed a report on local effects of climate change. At the time, then-DNR director John Frampton pronounced the document ready for public review.

But, the report was not released.

Almost 7,000 UK properties to be sacrificed to rising seas

Properties worth over £1bn will be lost to coastal erosion in England and Wales over the next century, with no compensation for homeowners, as it becomes too costly to protect them.

The Guardian, By Damian Carrington, December 28

Almost 7,000 homes and buildings will be sacrificed to the rising seas around England and Wales over the next century, according to an unpublished Environment Agency (EA) analysis seen by the Guardian. Over 800 of the properties will be lost to coastal erosion within the next 20 years.

The properties, worth well over £1bn, will be allowed to fall into the sea because the cost of protecting them would be far greater. But there is no compensation scheme for homeowners to enable them to move to a safer location.

In December 2013, a huge tidal surge flooded 1,400 homes along the east coast and saw numerous homes tumble into the ocean. Earlier this month, the environment secretary, Liz Truss, visited Lowestoft on the anniversary of the surge, which flooded the town.

Natural gas flaring in Eagle Ford Shale already surpasses 2012 levels of waste and pollution

AP, December 21

San Antonio — Gas flaring in the most profitable shale field in the U.S. is on pace to surpass to 2013 levels of waste and pollution in South Texas, according to a newspaper analysis of state records published Sunday.

The Eagle Ford Shale burned off more than 20 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the first seven months of this year, according to the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees the oil and gas industry. The tons of pollutants released into the air already exceed levels for 2012.

Experts say plummeting oil prices likely won’t stifle Eagle Ford production anytime soon.

The San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/1ATJFNW ) also found some of the top sources of flaring in 2014 lacked state-mandated permits to flare natural gas. The goal of flaring is to incinerate impurities, but it generates air pollution and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that scientists say contributes to climate change.

Railroad Commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye said Friday that the agency sent violation notices to three energy companies after the newspaper asked about their permitting status.

Scientists are worried Greenland might melt even faster than expected

Washington Post, By Chris Mooney, December 15

Just two weeks ago, we learned from twin scientific publications that the massive ice sheet of West Antarctica, which could cause over 10 feet of sea level rise, may be less stable than previously thought.

And now, this week, two studies suggest virtually the same thing about the still more massive ice sheet of Greenland, which, if it were to melt entirely, could raise global sea levels by as much as 23 feet — an outcome that, while it surely would not happen in our lifetimes, would dramatically reshape the world’s coastlines.

The reason for the increased worry is similar in both cases.

The researchers suggest that prior computer modeling efforts – including estimates from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – may be just too conservative. They may not capture the full dynamics of what is happening with these ice sheets in a warming world.

PhysOrg: Massive study provides first detailed look at how Greenland’s ice is vanishing
Auto World News: Greenland Ice Sheet is Melting More Rapidly Than Previously Believed

Last-minute deal reached at U.N. climate talks

CBS/AP, December 14

Lima, Peru – After late-night wrangling at U.N. talks in Peru, negotiators early Sunday reached a compromise deal that sets the stage for a global climate pact in Paris next year.

The main goal for the two-week session in Lima was relatively modest: Reach agreement on what information should go into the pledges that countries submit for a global climate pact expected to be adopted in Paris. But even that became complicated as several developing nations rebelled against a draft decision they said blurred the distinction between what rich and poor countries can be expected to do.

The Lima agreement was adopted hours after a previous draft was rejected by developing countries who accused rich nations of shirking their responsibilities to fight global warming and pay for its impacts.

Peru’s environment minister presented a new, fourth draft just before midnight and said he hoped it would satisfy all parties, giving a sharply reduced body of remaining delegates an hour to review it.

“As a text it’s not perfect, but it includes the positions of the parties,” said the minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, who was the conference chairman and had spent all afternoon and evening meeting separately with delegations.

[…]

However, it weakened language on the content of the pledges, saying they “may” instead of “shall” include quantifiable information showing how countries intend to meet their emissions targets. Also, top carbon polluter China and other major developing countries opposed plans for a review process that would allow the pledges to be compared against one another before Paris.

[…]

“I think it’s definitely watered down from what we expected,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Sam Smith, chief of climate policy for the environmental group WWF, said: “The text went from weak to weaker to weakest and it’s very weak indeed.”


Climate talks draw criticism from green activists

ITV News, December 14

The agreement UN members have reached on climate change at talks in Peru has been dismissed as a step backwards by environmentalists.

Late-night wrangling between United Nations members in Lima secured agreement between developing and rich nations on a framework for making firm pledges to cut pollution at a summit in Paris next year.

But Friends of the Earth’s international climate campaigner Asad Rehman said:


The only thing these talks have achieved is to reduce the chances of a fair and effective agreement to tackle climate change in Paris next year.

Once again poorer nations have been bullied by the industrialised world into accepting an outcome which leaves many of their citizens facing the grim prospect of catastrophic climate change.

We have the ingenuity and resources to build the low carbon future we so urgently need – but we still lack the political will.

[…]


The Guardian: Lima climate change talks reach global warming agreement

The biggest issue left unresolved for Paris is the burden for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The draft text retains language of “common but differentiated responsibilities” that has over the years given developing countries a pass on cutting emissions. That language remains in the text although with a rider “in light of different national circumstances”. Stern acknowledged to reporters the issue was likely to come up again at Paris.

And the text adopted on Sunday no longer makes it mandatory for countries to provide detailed information about their prospect reductions targets.

Campaigners said that would make it increasingly difficult to be sure the deal would manage to keep warming within the 2 degree threshold.

Bolivia after the floods: ‘the climate is changing; we are living that change’

Bolivia’s worst floods in 60 years submerged villages, ruined crops and destroyed homes. Some indigenous communities in the jungle are adapting to a more resilient way of living; others are forced out to the cities

The Guardian, By Sam Jones, December 8

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia – Nature used to give those who live along the river Beni fair warning of looming threats. If rings appeared around the sun, the leaves of the ambaibo tree twisted to reveal their white undersides or lines of ants began to march into people’s houses, members of the indigenous Tacana nation took it as a sign that heavy rain was on the way.

But neither portents nor two months of ceaseless downpours prepared them for the deluge in northern Bolivia in February, drowning their livestock, ruining their crops, and sweeping vipers and anacondas through their half-submerged villages.

“Some people were saying it was the end of the world,” says Wenceslao Mamio, the phlegmatic corregidor, or chief, of the Capaina community. “We were flooded as never before and left under a metre and a half of water. The waters killed our crops – bananas, cassava, pineapples, avocados, everything – as well as our pigs, ducks and chickens.”

Those who could grabbed their children and animals and ran as the river burst its banks and its rain-swollen waters rushed 50m into their homes and fields. Not all of Capaina’s 140 inhabitants, however, were quick enough.

California drought the worst in 1,200 years, new study says

Mercury News, By Paul Rogers, December 5

The last three years of drought were the most severe that California has experienced in at least 1,200 years, according to a new scientific study published Thursday.

The study provides the state with breathtaking new historical context for its low reservoirs and sinking water tables, even as California celebrated its first good soaking of the season.

Analyzing tree rings that date back to 800 A.D. — a time when Vikings were marauding Europe and the Chinese were inventing gunpowder — there is no three-year period when California’s rainfall has been as low and its temperatures as hot as they have been from 2012 to 2014, the researchers found.

“We were really surprised. We didn’t expect this,” said one of the study’s authors, Daniel Griffin, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota’s department of geography, environment and society.