Global Warming Study: We need early shutdowns (premature retirements) of fossil fuel plants

Early Fossil Plant Shutdowns Will Be Needed to Hit 1.5°C Average Warming Target

By Chris Mooney, The Energy Mix, July 14, 2019 [Full Story: Washington Post]
Photo: Koshy Koshy/Wikipedia

The world already has enough fossil fuel plants and high-emitting industrial facilities, buildings, and cars to drive average global warming above a 1.5°C threshold, according to an article earlier this month in the journal Nature.

“1.5°C carbon budgets allow for no new emitting infrastructure and require substantial changes to the lifetime or operation of already existing energy infrastructure,” write a team of researchers led by Dan Tong of the University of California Irvine.

The study concludes that existing fossil infrastructure “merely needs to continue operating over the course of its expected lifetime, and the world will emit over 650 billion tons of carbon dioxide, more than enough to dash chances of limiting the Earth’s warming to a rise of 1.5°C (or 2.7°F). That’s a level of warming that has become increasingly accepted as a scientific line-in-the-sand,” the Washington Post reports.

“And it gets worse: Proposals and plans are currently afoot for additional coal plants and other infrastructure that would add another nearly 200 billion tons of emissions to that total. Some of these are now actually under construction. In other words, human societies would need not only to cancel all such pending projects but also timeout existing projects early, in order to bring emissions down adequately.”

The Post points to the 41 gigatons of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year, 36 of them from fossil fuel burning and cement production, and compares those totals to the 420- to 580-gigaton carbon budget remaining to produce a 50 to 66% chance of limiting average warming to 1.5°C.

“That amounts to between 10 and 14 years at current emissions, with one year, 2018, already used up and another, 2019, halfway gone,” writes climate specialist Chris Mooney. “What the new study is saying is that existing infrastructure translates into about 16 years of current emissions just on its own, with another roughly five years in the pipeline in the form of currently planned infrastructure.”

While other research on fossil infrastructure has presented a less dire verdict, Mooney adds, “the new study contends that it contains the latest, and most plausible, estimates. Its figures for existing fossil fuel infrastructure are for 2018.”

Study co-author Ken Caldeira of Stanford University’s Carnegie Institution for Science was involved in a similar study a decade ago, and found that existing infrastructure equated to only 1.2°C average warming.

“A decade ago, we found, there’s not enough infrastructure, and now, over the past decade, we have built enough stuff,” he told the Post. “And a lot of that stuff that was built, was built in Asia—the rise of China, and to a lesser extent India and the other southeast Asian countries, [is] the biggest change in direction regarding amount of infrastructure.”

Part of the problem is that those new plants are “younger”, the Post notes, meaning a longer expected operating life before they’re shut down. “And the picture is actually worse than the study suggests, because the research does not include emissions caused by human-led deforestation of tropical forests and other landscapes.”

Elmar Kriegler of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said the new article “shows the huge role that the buildup of coal-fired power plants and heavy industry in China has played over the past 15 years,” driving recent increases in global CO2 emissions and accounting for half of the future emissions associated with new infrastructure. “If this buildup of coal infrastructure is going to repeat itself in other rapidly growing economies, notably India and South East Asia, the world will stand no chance to hold warming to well below 2.0°C.”

At the same time, “whether it is already too late for limiting warming to 1.5°C, as the authors claim in their headline, is too early to say,” Kriegler continued. “As the article points out, this will depend on whether the world can prematurely retire some of the heavy polluting infrastructure that has been put in place.”

The Post notes that some of those early retirements are already taking place, as solar and wind undercut coal and other forms of fossil fuel generation on price. The article also holds out hope for carbon capture technology to remove CO2 from existing fossil infrastructure.

“To me, the optimistic take on it is that most of the emissions associated with the higher warming scenarios come from infrastructure that’s yet to be built,” Caldeira said. “So avoiding those outcomes is still within our control, and it’s largely a political and social decision.”

But he cautioned: “I’m just hoping that nobody will be writing a decade in the future, ‘Oh, we built enough infrastructure to go through 2.0°C, but we can still avoid 2.5.’

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    Benicia Lights for Liberty: “A Long Way From Home” – Poem by Mary Susan Gast

    A LONG WAY FROM HOME

    By Mary Susan Gast
    (Italics sung to the traditional spiritual tune, “Motherless Child”)
    Nikki Basch Davis, Welcome To This World Little One (used with permission)

    Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
    Sometimes I feel like a fatherless child,
    Sometimes I feel like a tossed-away child,
    A long way from home,
    A long way from home.

    See, here’s the thing,
    Mr. Candidate for the U.S. House of
    Representatives,
    Ms. Fox News Sage,
    and other Assorted Apologists
    for the detention of children,
    The crying and the sobbing and the calling out
    For Mami and Papi
    That you write off
    As nothing more than you’d hear
    On a typical morning
    At the neighborhood daycare dropoff,
    Or that you equate to a summer camp experience,
    Really is intrinsically, substantially, irreconcilably
    Different.

    At daycare—at least at the daycares I’ve known—
    Nobody wrenches you away from your mother
    While she’s nursing you,
    Nobody wrestles your father away from you
    While he screams your name and you scream in terror,
    Nobody loads you on a plane and dumps you
    In the middle of the night
    In places with names like Grand Rapids or Topeka.
    At summer camp nobody keeps you in a cage where you sleep
    when you can, scrunched and contorted,
    Tormented by lice, covered by the bleak aluminum wisp of a blanket,
    Where you wake for weeks on end in the same soiled clothes,
    Your cough untreated, your fears untended,
    Stalked by nightmares that don’t dissipate with the dawn.
    Where there is no play, no food that warms and nourishes,
    Where the exuberant unruly energy for which childhood is noted
    Withers, wailing and clutching its forsaken heart.

    And most of all—
    Listen up, here—
    Most of all the difference is
    That at the end of the day, at the end of camp,
    The person who dropped you off
    Picks you up, and takes you home, undamaged.
    Back to the people who love you.

    [I hope] Some day you’ll feel like an eagle in the air,
    Some day you’ll fly like an eagle in the air,
    Some day you’ll be like an eagle in the air,
    A long way from home—no more!
    You’ll find your way home.

    Mary Susan Gast © 2018

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      Benicia Lights for Liberty – reflections, references and follow-ups

      By Roger Straw, July 14, 2019

      Wow, what an amazing show of support – 400 plus in attendance!

      Crowd of 400 at Benicia Lights for Liberty Candlelight Vigil, July 12, 2019 [Photo credit: Larnie Fox]
      Crowd of 400 at Benicia Lights for Liberty Candlelight Vigil, 7/12/19 [Photo credit: Larnie Fox]
      On Friday evening here in Benicia, we showed up in huge numbers to call for an end to our government’s cruelty and mismanagement at the US southern border.

      Caring individuals from Benicia, Vallejo, Martinez and beyond sang, listened, carried protest signs, mingled and lit candles to show solidarity with immigrant families who seek asylum here in our nation that has historically welcomed the world with open arms:

      Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
      A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
      Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
      Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
      Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
      The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
      “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
      With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
      Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
      The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
      Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
      I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
      – Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus

      Benicia joined over 800 cities worldwide in Lights for Liberty events, calling for an end to human detention camps.

      More than one of our guest speakers whose everyday work is helping immigrants showed surprise and deep appreciation at the size of the gathering.  The support we showed paid off in immediate terms for caregivers and organizers – they learned they are NOT alone in our communities, that they have support in their outreach and solidarity and in their shock and disapproval over the callous policies of the Trump administration.

      I will list here a number of resources coming out of our candlelight vigil.  Enjoy – and take note where you can contribute going forward…

      Two videos of the Benicia Lights for Liberty candlelight vigil

      Produced by Benicia’s activist videographer, Constance Beutel, the first is a 22 minute HIGHLIGHTS version.  The second is a FULL version of the evening’s program, running for just over an hour.

      For great photos taken at the vigil, see:

      Listing of vigil expert speakers and their organizational contacts:

      • Cecilia Flores & Miriam Sammartino – Catholic Charities of Yolo & Solano Counties, offering a full range of immigration services to residents of Solano, Yolo and surrounding counties, including informational sessions, and individual and group processing of citizenship/naturalization applications. ccyoso.org, (707) 644-8909.
      • Bonnie Hamilton, M.D. – Retired pediatrician, advocate for children, educator on environment.  linkedin.com
      • Mina Diaz – Diaz & Loera Centro Latino, a bilingual, multi-service volunteer organization designed to meet the needs of Latino families and individuals in Vallejo. facebook.com/diazloeracentrolatino, (707) 319-0319.
      • Maria Ordonez – Vital Immigrant Defense Advocacy and Services (VIDAS), Santa Rosa based, expanding access to immigration legal resources and information through collaboration and technology.  immigrationadvocates.org/projects/, 707-654-8405.
      • Will Baker & Nick Gates – Solano County Rapid Response Network (SCRRN). Call SCRRN when you hear about ICE in neighborhood or work places. They will send immigration-trained lawyers & observers. They will determine if ICE is actually in the area or if it’s a false alarm. facebook.com/SolanoCountyRapidReponseNetwork/, (707) 800-4544.

      Here is the printed program for the vigil.

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        Benicia Lights for Liberty – a perspective, by Jean Walker

        Lights for Liberty, a candlelight vigil to end human detention camps – a particpant’s thoughts

        By Jean Walker, July 12, 2019

        The early evening summer sun simmered in the western sky, shining like a beacon upon the group gathered within and around the gazebo at Benicia City Park Friday evening. I later overheard the crowd estimate was at least 400 hundred people.

        My husband and I each had a black canvas camp chair slung across a shoulder. We carefully stepped across the grass, avoiding parents, toddlers, pre-teens, high school students, college kids, and oldsters like us. We found an empty spot, planted our chairs, and, as if on cue, Benicia City Councilmember Steve Young stepped up to the podium with the microphone near his face, speaking a welcoming message to all: “There are people, even in my own family, who tell me, ‘You’re so into politics .. I’m sick of politics .. I don’t pay any attention to politics.’ And all I can say to that is, you may not pay any attention to politics, but politics pays attention to you.”

        Young then introduced Benicia City Mayor Elizabeth Patterson who shared that the Benicia City Council adopted the Inclusive Tolerant Safe Community for Everyone resolution in late January 2017 by a vote of 3-2 (timesheraldonline.com/2017/02/08/benicia-city-council-declares-benicia-an-inclusive-city ). She stated this resolution was passed to show “unity and solidarity” against the “illegal and unconstitutional actions by the current administration.”

        Representatives from the offices of U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, State Senator Bill Dodd, and State Assembly Member Tim Grayson also spoke. Monica Brown, Benicia’s representative on the Solano County Board of Supervisors, urged everyone to vote “for compassionate caring leaders in all 50 states.”

        Dr. Bonnie Hamilton, pediatrician, read a first-person account written by Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier (published in The Atlantic: theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/07/border-patrols-oversight-sick-migrant-children/593224 ). “Dr. Sevier went to a Border Patrol warehouse in McAllen, Texas, where more than a thousand migrant children were being detained. She saw: a baby being fed from the same unwashed bottle for days; children with clear evidence of an infection; children with signs of malnutrition, dehydration, and sleep deprivation, and several children were exhibiting clear evidence of psychological trauma.”

        I learned a lot about local organizations that are helping immigrants:

        • Catholic Charities of Yolo & Solano Counties ( ccyoso.org )
        • Diaz & Loera Centro Latino (a bilingual, multi-service volunteer organization designed to meet the needs of Latino families and individuals in Vallejo). Find them on Facebook: facebook.com/diazloeracentrolatino
        • VIDAS 501(c)(3) (Vital Immigrant Defense Advocacy and Services), 707-654-8405
        • SCRRN (Solano County Rapid Response Network 707-800-4544). Call SCRRN when you hear about ICE in neighborhood or workplaces. They will send immigration-trained lawyers & observers. They will determine if ICE is actually in the area or if it’s a false alarm. On Facebook: facebook.com/SolanoCountyRapidReponseNetwork

        It was 9pm, the sun was just a soft peach glow below the horizon, and a cool breeze had begun to raise goosebumps on my arms. I pulled on a jacket and stood up with everyone, my little battery-lit candle high above my head, and sang with my heart, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, Everywhere we go, I’m gonna let it shine, We got the light of freedom, we’re gonna let it shine, All around the world, we’re gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

        Thank you to Lights for Liberty (lightsforliberty.org), specifically Sherry Vinson, and to the Progressive Democrats of Benicia (progressivedemocratsofbenicia.org), for sponsoring Friday evening’s vigil at Benicia City Park.

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