Category Archives: Climate Change

New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe

Repost from Bloomberg
[Editor: Spectacular photos – click to enlarge.  – R.S.]

Swedish forest fires, retreating glaciers and arid cropland attest to a new reality.

By Jonathan Tirone, April 9, 2019, 5:05 AM PDT
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Dust, sand and smoke hang over Portugal and Spain as seen from the International Space Station on 6 August 2018. Source: ESA

Climate change is picking up pace in Europe, thrusting farmers and power generators onto the front lines of a battle with nature that threatens to upend the lives of the half billion people who occupy the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Last year was the third hottest on record and underlines “the clear warming trend” experienced in the last four decades, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which operates a network of satellites for the European Union that collects weather, soil, air and water data.

Copernicus lenses captured dozens of images illustrating how climate change is unfolding on Europe’s landscape. The images were made available to coincide with a gathering of 15,000 scientists in Vienna at an annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, which assesses the issue each year.

The convention in the Austrian capital is a locus of discovery, where scientists present research and compare notes. The European Space Agency, which operates the Copernicus network, is boosting its 2019 presence after it developing a series of open-source data tools designed to help economies adapt to the hotter and drier seasons already impacting crop yields, power generation and river transport.

Fires in Sweden
Heatwaves and little rain led to rarely seen forest fires in Sweden in July 2018. Source: ESA

Rainfall across central and northern Europe was 80 percent below average levels, resulting in agricultural losses and wildfires. Satellite photos showed dozens of Swedish forests burning in July that destroyed more than $100 million worth of woodland.

“As temperatures rose during the year, so did the duration of sunshine,” Copernicus said in a statement. “Parts of central and northern Europe experienced up to 40 percent more sunshine hours than average with Germany being the sunniest on record.”

Alpine Snowfall
Cloudless days let Copernicus snap this shot across the 1,200-km Alps.  Source: ESA

Not all of the impacts are negative. The preponderance of cloudless days in northern Europe helped Germans generate a record amount of solar power last year. Their 45 gigawatts of installed capacity provided Europe’s biggest economy with some 9 percent of its electricity while forcing utilities to integrate more variable flows of power from renewables onto their grids.

 

But that sunshine took a toll on another source of European power—hydroelectricity. Alpine glaciers, whose melting waters help top off hydro power plants across Austria and Switzerland, are disappearing at a faster pace.

“Glacier retreat would have a large impact on the Alps since glaciers are an important part of the region’s ecosystem, landscape and economy,” said Harry Zekollari, a climate scientist in Switzerland. “They attract tourists to the mountain ranges and act as natural fresh water reservoirs. Glaciers provide a source of water for hydroelectricity, which is especially important in warm and dry periods.”

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Copernicus data show aridity is likely to deepen and spread through mid century. Source: Copernicus Climate Change Service operated by ECMWF

It’s because of those long-term weather trends that that the EU is trying to get more policy makers and businesses to use satellite data and imagery to help planning. Its data feeds Barcelona’s Vortex SL, which aids renewable energy developers to find places with the best wind currents and weather patterns before installing turbines and panels. Marex Spectron Group Ltd.use Copernicus data in forecasting coffee, sugar and cocoa yields. The EU project said it even helped Heineken NV brew a better beer by lowering the amount of water it needs in the process.

 

relates to New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe
Lush Belgian fields in July 2017 were scorched by heat a year later. Source: ESA

The pain felt by European farmers was evident from space, according to Copernicus, which published images showing how the normally lush cropland of central and northern Europe were burnt crisp by heat and lack of rain.

 

“Dry conditions were especially persistent in Germany, where the April-September period was the second-driest on record, leading to heavy agricultural production losses,” the scientists wrote.

In order to avoid the catastrophic effects of runaway climate change—rising seas, super-storms, famine and war—the world needs to invest some $2.4 trillion a year through 2035 in order to cut fossil fuel emissions. Even a rise of 1.5 degrees would have massive consequences, including a “multi-meter rise in sea levels” over hundreds to thousands of years and a mass extinction of plants and animals.

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Different crop types around Emmelrod in the Netherlands. Green shows summer crops, red is potatoes, orange is market crops, yellow is cereals and blue depicts grassland. Source: ESA

To avoid the worst outcomes posed by living on a hotter and drier planet, Copernicus is trying to help farmers by giving them access to satellite images overlaid with data, which could help agriculture identify crop strains that can keep up with the changing climate.

Countries need to “develop and consolidate innovative approaches, tools and methods for characterizing high-impact events and quantify loss and damage,” according to the World Meteorological Organization’s state of the climate report.

Silted Bay
Farm runoff silting up the bay by Mont-Saint-Michel during planting season. Source: ESA

 

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    This List Of Climate Change Solutions May Be Key To Reversing It

    Repost from Forbes
    [Editor: I’m not sure about this.  It starts out sounding a bit like a “sell job.”  In fact, they are trying to sell a book, but you can view the list of 100 solutions here: drawdown.org/solutions-summary-by-rank.  Interesting, and possibly helpful guide to positive actions that can be taken.  – R.S.]

    This List Of Climate Change Solutions May Be Key To Reversing It

    Devin Thorpe, Mar 22, 2019, 09:00am


    “Brilliant” is the word one source used to describe Project Drawdown’s ranked list of 100 climate change solutions, begging the meta question, should the list be on the list.

    Having a variety of climate change solution options is only useful if everyone who should know they exist does know, making a credible list of climate solutions potentially as important as the solutions on the list.

    In 2017, Project Drawdown, published the New York Times bestseller Drawdown, edited by the founder, Paul Hawken, 72. (Be sure to watch the full interview with Hawken in the player at the top of the article.)

    Mehjabeen Abidi Habib, the author of Water in the Wilderness, based in Pakistan, the seventh most vulnerable country to climate change effects, serves on the Project Drawdown advisory board. She sees the effort as evidence “that it is not too late to make choices to change our world view and the actions that arise from the current paradigm.”

    Jason F. McLennan, founder and chair of the International Living Future Institute and CEO of McLennan Design has known Hawken for years and notes that his work was mentioned in Drawdown. “I think it’s brilliant is the short answer,” he says. “It doesn’t spend time and energy on pointing fingers or criticizing things.  It focuses on positive solutions.”

    Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) who counts Hawken as a friend notes that the project is intended “not just to slow down climate change but reverse it.”

    Daniel J. Siegel, MD, author of Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence and a clinical professor at UCLA School of Medicine agrees with the Congressman, adding, “My take on Project Drawdown is that it is a scientifically solid, insightful guide to some of the most important and effective steps we are taking to reverse global warming.”

    Habib highlights the optimism embedded in the project. She notes that Hawken says in the introduction that climate change is “happening for us” to help us create a better world.

    Credibility from Sound Science

    Project Drawdown is no mere journalistic attempt to document and prioritize the science of climate change. It is a serious, multi-year, ongoing scientifically-driven research project to identify the most impactful climate change interventions, ranking them according to their potential to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, with the goal in mind to ultimately draw down the levels of atmospheric carbon and reverse climate change.

    Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, serves on the board, bringing political clout. “We [Hawken and I] had worked together on every State of the State I gave as Governor of Maryland from 2010 to 2015.  Paul kindly asked me join the Drawdown Board in 2016.”

    John Elkington, founder and chief pollinator for Volans, says, “Critically, the mathematical modeling involved has given the rankings far greater credibility than other initiatives.”

    “As a scientist, the strategy of Project Drawdown is an important approach to seeing how we can find a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and reverse the direction of climate change from the disasters that await to a more promising future,” says UCLA’s Siegel, approving of the approach. Pakistan’s Habib also approves. Fearing that the approach might be US-centric, she was pleased to see “the universality of its priorities.”

    Headshot of Paul Hawken

    Paul Hawken CREDIT: PAUL HAWKEN

    Hawken explains the approach, “Project Drawdown gathers and facilitates a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions.”

    A bestselling author, Hawken is himself a highly regarded climate voice, frequently being quoted as an expert in the media. He points out that the Project Drawdown team is not doing primary research, rather they are aggregating and reviewing published data. “There is the data. You can find it yourself,” he suggests, arguing for the objectivity of the approach.

    Empowering Solutions

    Governor O’Malley explains the potential impact of Project Drawdown, “There is a management wisdom ‘things that get measured are the things that get done.’ But when it comes to reversing global warming no one before had done the basic work of measuring the potential impact of the range of human solutions to this human-caused problem.  Drawdown has now done that.”

    “Project Drawdown reminds us to never underestimate what we can do,” says Betsy Taylor, president of the consulting firm Breakthrough Strategies. “Together, we can address the climate threat and make everyone safer.”

    As a clear sign that the work is being taken seriously, Penn State is launching two programs based specifically on Project Drawdown, according to Tom L. Richard, director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment there. First, is an undergraduate “Drawdown Scholars” program over this coming summer with 40 student-faculty teams working to improve and enhance the analytical models for implementing the solutions. The second is to host an international conference called “Research to Action: The Science of Drawdown.”

    The impact of Project Drawdown isn’t just academic or theoretical. In Pakistan, Habib notes action is being taken based on the list. Noting that the most impactful item on the list is refrigerant management, caused the government to prioritize this by policy. “Just today, a project preparation grant has been received to help Pakistan prepare to phase out old refrigerators and phase in energy efficient refrigerators.”

    One Problem With Many Solutions

    “This is an impressive project, but what is perhaps most striking is the sheer diversity of the solutions available to us, from converting to green-­energy technologies to transitioning to healthier plant-rich diets,” notes Congressman Ryan. “Project Drawdown reminds us that although the challenges we face are great, they come with exciting opportunities to change the world for the better.”

    Project Drawdown ranks 80 existing interventions that are already being scaled by their potential for carbon impact. The list also includes 20 additional interventions that are proven but are not yet scaling.

    Commenting on the wide range of solutions listed by Project Drawdown, Robyn O’Brien, vice president of replant Capital, says, “None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something. It allows you to pick something that you are passionate about, to leverage it with what you are good at and drive change.”

    “I think the list of climate interventions also highlight surprising things that need their due. The focus on women and girls is huge. So, too, is the focus on food waste. These are things we need to solve for multiple reasons,” says McLennan, whose work on living building is included in Drawdown. Noting that refrigerant management is number one and is “something we can address without too much difficulty,” he says, is an example of the “mundane” on the list.

    The list isn’t just interesting or clever in its diversity. “Project Drawdown’s comprehensive framework is proving a powerful lens through which to focus our university’s research, education and outreach expertise on this critical issue,” Richard says.

    Similarly, Governor O’Malley says, “So instead of merely connecting the scientific dots that take us all straight to hell, we can now combine that science with current technical know-how to measure, model, and map our way to a future where we Drawdown more carbon from the atmosphere every day than we pump into it.”

    The List Changes Perceptions

    One way that the list is having an impact is changing perceptions of both climate activists and so-called “climate deniers.”

    “The ranking has proved to be a very powerful way of challenging people’s preconceptions of how we impact the climate – and of where the most powerful leverage points are for reversing global warming,” Elkington says.

    UCLA’s Siegel says, “As a psychotherapist, I see one of the most powerful contributions of Paul Hawken and Project Drawdown as being the way we can have realistic hope instead of the doom and gloom one often hears when people speak of climate change.”

    Penn State’s Richard says, “Project Drawdown offers a positive vision of the future; that the widespread implementation of these solutions can lead to a world of health and abundance rather than one of poverty and insecurity.”

    O’Malley puts it more starkly, “ Drawdown is not the final horseman of the Apocalypse; it is, on the contrary, a roadmap to a new era of human opportunity and higher standards of living. ”

    A New View of Climate Economics

    Several of the people reached for comment, noted that Project Drawdown provides a refreshing view of climate economics.

    McLellan noted, “that doing the right thing can be great economically for the world.”

    Hawken explains that implementing wind power will have a positive financial return for the world of over $7 trillion over 30 years for that single intervention.

    He notes that the estimate for this and other interventions improves over time as technology progresses and data grows, even since the book was published in 2017. “About 70% of the solutions are actually very profitable and the other 20% are breaking even and 10% cost money,” Hawken says. “I think what people say is, ‘Well, my god, it’s a cost, you know, we can’t afford it.’ We say, ‘We can’t afford not to,’” he says.

    Challenges and Limitations

    Despite the praise, it is clear that Project Drawdown is not a climate cure-all. “

    The key question now is whether we can muster the political will to advance Project Drawdown’s inspiring set of solutions,” points out Taylor.

    John Wick, founder of the Marin Carbon Project, spoke with me at length. He is both a fan of and a collaborator with Project Drawdown. Still, he notes that there is still work to be done.

    “I would say that that first draft the first list was a proof of concept and that there are other things that that are possibly even more exciting and more will more directly result in wholesale carbon harvesting from the atmosphere and stabilizing the climate. But they weren’t ready for primetime,” he says. “And so what we did with Project drawdown was establish a process whereas new things can come in to this process. And as we perfect the modeling I expect that the [final] draft results will be different.”

    O’Malley notes that realizing the potential impact of Project Drawdown will require local adoption. “The global macro-model was a needed and important breakthrough, but success will depend upon our ability to make that model actionable in the small places close to home all over the globe. Cities, towns, and farmlands. Counties and States.”

    Implicitly making the case for including the Drawdown list on the list, Hawken says, “ We solve [climate change] by creating the tools, knowledge and capacity for self-organization to address these issues worldwide. ” Whether the list should be on the list or not, here’s to effective self-organization.

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      America Cares About Climate Change Again – Jay Inslee and more

      Repost from The Atlantic

      America Cares About Climate Change Again

      For the first time in years, a broad spectrum of climate advocates is playing offense.
       By ROBINSON MEYER, MAR 19, 2019
      Jay Inslee, Democratic governor of Washington, launches his presidential campaign in Seattle.
      Jay Inslee’s long-shot, climate-focused presidential campaign is only one of several new campaigns, run by Democrats across the ideological spectrum. LINDSEY WASSON / REUTERS

      Suddenly, climate change is a high-profile national issue again.

      It’s not just the Green New Deal. Around the country, the loose alliance of politicians, activists, and organizations concerned about climate change is mobilizing. They are deploying a new set of strategies aimed at changing the minds—or at least the behaviors—of a large swath of Americans, including utility managers, school principals, political donors, and rank-and-file voters.

      They make a ragtag group: United by little more than common concern, they don’t agree on an ideal federal policy or even how to talk about the problem. They do not always coordinate or communicate with one another. And while their efforts are real, it remains far too early to say whether they will result in the kind of national legislative victories that have eluded the movement in the past.

      But for the first time since November 8, 2016, if not far earlier, climate advocates are once again playing offense.

      This mobilization starts at the top of the U.S. political system. Earlier this month, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announced that he would run for president to elevate climate change as a pressing national issue. Inslee’s launch did not mention his White House–ready biography—he’s a former star athlete who married his high-school sweetheart—and focused entirely on his decades-long climate focus.

      “I’m the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number-one priority,” Inslee said in his launch video. His campaign raised $1 million in its first three days, a surprisingly large figure for a single-issue underdog candidate.

      [ Read: Jay Inslee’s risky bet for 2020 ]

      Other national political leaders are trying different strategies. Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who has made climate a signature issue, announced that he would not run for president because his considerable fortune would be better spent fighting carbon pollution directly. Instead, he will fund a new campaign called Beyond Carbon for the Sierra Club, an extension of the club’s wildly successful Beyond Coal campaign, also bankrolled by Bloomberg. Beyond Coal says it has helped close 285 of the country’s 530 coal plants, a major reason for the overall decline in U.S. carbon emissions.

      This widespread public concern about climate change is already being reflected in policy made at the state level. New Mexico will soon become the third state to set a goal for 100 percent carbon-free electricity. Last week, lawmakers passed a mandate that by 2045, 80 percent of the state’s power must come from renewable sources and 20 percent from carbon-free sources. The governor cheered the measure and is expected to sign it.

      California, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia have adopted similar goals, all pegged to 2045. And their ranks could soon expand. Twelve more Democratic governors have promised to mandate the same 100 percent target, according to Rob Sargent, a campaign director at Environment America, a consortium of state-level environmental groups. “Six governors got elected in November running on 100 percent renewables,” he told me. “That wouldn’t have happened four or even two years ago.”

      Excitement is also coming from the grassroots. On Friday, thousands of U.S. students refused to go to school, participating in a worldwide student strike for climate action. The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led group that brought national attention to the Green New Deal in November, plans to hold 100 town-hall meetings in support of the plan across the country, organized by local chapters.

      This massive protest in Lisbon was one of hundreds of “climate strike” events held worldwide on Friday. The class boycott spilled into the United States for the first time last week. (Rafael Marchante / Reuters)

      Much of this activity is concentrated among Democrats. But public opinion has shifted in their favor on the issue. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say that the Republican Party’s position on climate change is “outside the mainstream,”according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last month. That represents a nine-point bump since October 2015, when the question was last asked.

      That poll was conducted in February, when the Democratic-led Green New Deal dominated media coverage. But a majority of Americans said that month that Democratic positions on climate change were “in the mainstream.”

      Within the party, rank-and-file Democrats seem to be taking the issue more seriously. Eighty percent of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers say that primary candidates should talk “a lot” about climate change—a result that suggests climate change is one of the Democratic Party’s top two issues, according to a CNN/Des Moines Register poll conducted by Selzer and Companythis month. Only health care merited such consensus concern among the group.

      That points to a potential upheaval in how important voters consider climate policy. In May 2015, when the same polling firm last posed a similar question to likely Democratic caucus-goers, climate change did not rank among the top five most important issues.

      And several recent polls have also identified a huge, nearly 10-point surge in worry about climate change among all Americans. “We’ve not seen anything like that in the 10 years we’ve been conducting the study,” Anthony Leiserowitz, a researcher at Yale, told me in January.

      Those national surveys found that Americans were motivated by a series of urgent new reports about climate science and an outbreak of extreme weather.

      [ Read: How to understand the UN’s dire new climate report ]

      Some Republicans say they’re taking notice. “I think we’re moving from the science of climate to the solutions of addressing climate, and that is a big shift in particular for Republicans,” says Heather Reams, the executive director of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a nonprofit that encourages GOP politicians to support renewable energy.

      This shift, if it is occurring, has yet to result in concrete policy proposals. Nor is it shared across the party. Some Senate Republicans have embraced “innovation” as a possible solution to climate change, but the Trump administration last week proposed zeroing out the budget for two major Department of Energy innovation programs. The programs will survive, however, in part because they have the support of Lamar Alexander, a powerful Republican from Tennessee who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.

      In the House, Republicans are far more skeptical of climate action. Representative Rob Bishop, a conservative lawmaker from Utah, has said the Green New Deal is nearly “tantamount to genocide.” The House GOP has offered very few climate policies of its own. An exception: Two Republicans—Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Representative Francis Rooney of Florida—last year co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to tax carbon emissions without increasing the federal budget.

      It’s still unclear whether the spike in public concern will translate to any lasting GOP shift. The Green New Deal, in all its ambition and haziness, has reframed the climate conversation around solutions, where Democrats have more to say right now; if moderate Democrats fell back to insisting on the acceptance of climate science alone, Republicans might be happy to meet them there.

      In any case, the views of the country’s most powerful Republican, President Donald Trump, seem extremely unlikely to change. So it’s left to his would-be 2020 opponents to heighten the contrast. At least eight candidates have made climate change a top issue, according to The New York Times. And announcing his candidacy for president last week, the former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas said that “interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy, and our climate have never been greater.” (He has yet to offer a concrete proposal on the issue.)

      Whether this focus on climate change produces new policy ideas remains to be seen. Yet even so, environmental groups and their allies are feeling whiplash at how far the conversation has come since 2016. Says Alex Trembath, the deputy director of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research center based in Oakland: “If you had asked me a year ago if we would’ve been talking this much about climate change now, I would’ve said, ‘Absolutely not.’”


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