Global warming news

5 facts about coal trade, global warming

Associated Press: As the Obama administration weans the U.S. off polluting fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America's unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution. Here are five things to know about the issue: As U.S. reduces coal use, demand rises globally Over the past six years, the U.S. has cut consumption by 195 million tons as power plants have burned cheaper natural gas instead. The Environmental Protection...
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14 concepts will be obsolete after catastrophic climate change

Washington Post: Naomi Oreskes is a professor of the history of science at Harvard University. Erik Conway is a historian of science and technology at the California Institute of Technology. They are the co-authors of “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future” (Columbia University Press), from which this article is excerpted. It’s 2393. A historian is recounting the collapse of Western civilization due to catastrophic climate change. In her anniversary lecture, she explains how the carbon-combustion...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Planning to sink: What happens when Kiribati drowns?

PBS: Venice isn’t the only piece of land sinking today. The nation of Kiribati, made up of 33 tiny islands far out in the Pacific Ocean, is getting smaller as rising sea levels continue to swallow the land by an average of 3.7 millimeters a year, according to the National Tidal Centre of Australia. “Never in history has a state disappeared because of a physical problem,” said Michael Gerrard, Director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. To deal with the country’s uncertain...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Climate change may slowdown crop yield, study finds

Blue and Green: Climate change makes 20 times more likely for corn and wheat crop production to decrease, significantly affecting food prices and availability in the long-term, according to a new study. Scientist from Stanford University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have said in a new study that although a massive and severe crop production slowdown is unlikely, global warming increase the risk of losses by 20 times. There is therefore a substantial risk of decreasing production of wheat...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Pacific summit to urge action on climate change

Agence France-Presse: Pacific island leaders will renew calls for meaningful action on climate change at a regional summit opening in Palau on Tuesday, amid fears rising seas will swamp their low-lying nations. Many of the 15 nations represented at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) lie barely a metre (three feet) above sea level, and regard themselves as the frontline of climate change, an issue they say threatens their very existence. While emissions controls and carbon footprints can seem like abstract concepts in the...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Half of Britain to be opened up to fracking

Telegraph: Ministers are this week expected to offer up vast swathes of Britain for fracking in an attempt to lure energy companies to explore shale oil and gas reserves. The Department for Energy and Climate Change is expected to launch the so-called "14th onshore licensing round', which will invite companies to bid for the rights to explore in as-yet untouched parts of the country. The move is expected to be hugely controversial because it could potentially result in fracking taking place across more...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Latin America, Africa & Asia: Community Forests and Their Peoples Need Enhanced Protections

Latin Post: A new report argues that expanding and strengthening the community forest rights of indigenous and rural people in Latin America, Africa and Asia can lead to less deforestation and contribute to lower carbon dioxide emissions. The report "Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change," sponsored by the World Resources Institute and Rights and Resources Initiative, studied 14 forest rich countries including, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua,...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

'We've only 20 years to save Ireland from climate catastrophe.'

Independent: ENVIRONMENTAL experts have warned that we have just 20 years to act over climate change or it will be too late. Speaking at the MacGill Summer School yesterday, they warned that the clock is ticking and if nothing is done we will see dire consequences. Dr John Sweeney of NUI Maynooth and An Taisce and Laura Burke of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spoke at the morning session which was titled 'Climate change is for real – what can and should we do?" They told the packed hall in...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Extreme weather: Canadians better get used to it

Globe and Mail: Floods (again) in southern Manitoba. Ferocious forest fires (again) in the Northwest Territories. Memories still fresh from last year’s terrible floods in Calgary. Summer in Canada. Canada’s climate is changing, and with that change goes more extreme weather conditions. We are not immune from global warming caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions; we just have to adapt differently from other places. Weather is, of course, day-to-day, month-to-month stuff. Climate change is certainly not responsible...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Study: Climate change to slowdown growth of global crop yields

Medical news: The world faces a small but substantially increased risk over the next two decades of a major slowdown in the growth of global crop yields because of climate change, new research finds. The authors, from Stanford University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), say the odds of a major production slowdown of wheat and corn even with a warming climate are not very high. But the risk is about 20 times more significant than it would be without global warming, and it may require planning...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

If All The Ice Melts, What Happens To Hockey?

National Public Radio: A report from the National Hockey League says climate change could threaten the sport's future. NPR's Scott Simon talks to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about the league's sustainability plan.
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Fresh Focus on Siberian Permafrost as Second Hole is Reported

New York Times: I had a Skype chat Wednesday about Siberian permafrost in the context of climate change with Marina Leibman, a top Russian permafrost expert who had just returned from examining the unusual crater spotted on the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia late last week. We talked just before fresh reports circulated about reindeer herders finding another such hole in the region. I hope you’ll watch our chat, which I regret I have not yet had time to transcribe (if you are in the mood, I’d be grateful for help;...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

China's planned coal-to-gas plants to emit over one billion tons of CO2

There is a potential storm on the horizon of China's energy policy: coal-to-gas.

There could be 50 coal-to-gas projects operational within the next decade, producing 225 billion cubic metres of synthetic natural gas [SNG] per year, if all of the planned ones go ahead, according to comprehensive new research by Greenpeace China.

These 50 would emit around 1.087 billion tons of CO2 per year if they are developed, according to the new analysis. To put this in perspective, it is around one eighth of China's CO2 emissions in 2011 (8.71 billion tons), and much more than the CO2 cuts from coal control measures by 2020 (655 million tons).

If China builds all 50 coal-to-gas plants without carbon capture and storage, and isn't prevented from doing so by a global climate deal, the world's largest emitter of CO2 will put out a significant amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Read more:

It will also exceed its own targets set out by the National Energy Administration's (NEA) for coal-to-gas, which is 50 billion cubic metres of SNG by the end 2020.

This comes as the NEA warns operators against "blind development" of coal-to-gas [in Chinese] projects with disregard for the environment, highlighting the need for regulatory approval covering environmental and water standards.

Carbon emissions could balloon

There are only two existing coal-to-gas pilot projects in China currently - Datang's Inner Mongolia Keqi plant and Qinghua's Xinjiang plant. Beijing is investing in the Datang plant in a bid to get dispose of their air pollution and get gas in return, but a study by Tsinghua University found this would increase net carbon emissions - as well as coal and water consumption.

There are around 48 in the pipeline. This includes three under construction, 16 that have been given the green light to go ahead, and 11 that have been newly signed between mid-2013 amid new regulations to get the plants approved faster in June this year.

Even if only the plants that are operational, under construction and have been given the green light to go ahead (21 in total - see map above) become operational, Greenpeace projects CO2 emissions of around 0.402 billion tons per year (from 83.3 billion cubic metres of gas). To put that into context, the US's CO2 reduction target by 2020 is 0.396 tons.

In contrast, NEA's 2020 target for coal-to-gas is equivalent to around 0.242 billion tons of CO2 per year - hinting at a potential uncontrolled boom in the sector.

CO2 emissions from coal-to-gas in China in 2020 | Create Infographics

These sound like huge amounts of CO2. But how much is it relative to burning the same amount of regular natural gas or your run-of-the-mill coal-firing? Quite a bit, it turns out (and obviously a lot more than clean energy).

In a 2013 paper published in Nature Climate Change researchers from Duke University highlighted that nine newly signed coal-to-gas deals would mean seven times more CO2 emissions than if they were from burning natural gas.

The same study states that when SNG is used to generate electricity its greenhouse gas emissions from the whole process from start to finish are around 36-82% higher than coal power.

A peer-reviewed modelling study in the journal Energy Policy from earlier in 2013 found that life-cycle CO2 emissions are 20-108% higher than coal when SNG is used for cooking, heating, and power generation. The authors concluded that coal-to-gas expansion was not compatible with China's 2020 carbon reduction targets.

Datang's Inner Mongolia plant, one of the demonstrator projects, is contracted to provide Beijing with four billion cubic metres of SNG a year - as a result of Beijing having to adhere to a strict coal cap to curb its air pollution problem. This will result in a significant net increase in coal consumption - and thus of CO2 emissions by around 3.77 million tons - according to research by Tsinghua University (Report on China's Low-carbon Development, 2014 [in Chinese]).

All of this analysis hinges on the fact that carbon capture and storage or carbon capture, use, and storage are at the extremely early stages of development - though the process of turning coal-to-gas is suited to capturing the CO2. It's just the storage that's then the issue - both technically and financially.

Coal consumption up

Coal-to-gas uses more coal than regular coal burning to produce the same amount of power.

Much of the reduction in coal consumption in the provinces fighting air pollution (0.118 billion tons) could be offset by increased coal consumption by the coal-to-gas industry(0.103 billion tons) in 2017 - or could even surpass it if the industry overshoots the NEA's targets, according to the Greenpeace analysis.

Coal-to-gas would therefore be a significant reverse for the biggest coal consumer in the world - its demand for the black stuff has been slightly reducing recently.

Furthermore, China may set an absolute cap on its CO2 emissions from 2016 as a result of severe air pollution, and its health impacts. This would be on top of China's 2013 National Air Pollution Plan, which resulted in various provinces and cities including Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei committing to coal consumption reduction targets.

Air pollution and water scarcity in the northwest

The need to reduce smog in the eastern part of China has resulted in the idea that coal should be turned to gas in remote regions to the west, such as Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang. Unfortunately this shift has (at least) two consequences: it transfers air pollution to remote communities in northwestern China and sucks up loads of water from what is an already dry and arid region.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek (March 2013)

Proponents of coal-to-gas tend to argue it reduces air pollution emissions, including the stuff that makes up smog such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

But researchers at Tsinghua University have warned (Report on China's Low-carbon Development, 2014 [in Chinese]) that the coal-to-gas technology may not effectively lower the emission of air pollutants such as NOx  - the main contributor to China's smog problem.

In Xinjiang province, near Qinghua's Xinjiang pilot coal-to-gas plant, there have been reports of health impacts from air pollution - and protests.

The dean of the Research Institute of Coal Industry Planning and Design, Zhou Tong, commented [in Chinese]: "This is a process of pollution transfer which I feel is not rational... It is neither desirable nor feasible to keep yourself clean by piling the garbage at your neighbor's door."

Coal-to-gas also results in huge issues for water since it uses a lot of it in its processes. Five to six tonnes of water is needed for each 1,000 cubic metres of SNG produced.

Around 80% of the predicted output of SNG from the 50 plants will come from areas of high or extremely high water risk - areas of high demand or low supply - according to a Greenpeace analysis using a map from World Resources Institute.

Christine Ottery EU Energy and Climate Reporter at Greenpeace UK.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Climate change may reduce corn, wheat crop yields

Bloomberg: Rising temperatures caused by climate change increase the odds that corn and wheat yields will slow even as global demand for the crops for food and fuel increases in the next 10 to 20 years, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters. There is as much as a 10 percent chance the rate of corn yields will slow and a 5 percent probability for wheat because of human-caused climate change, said David Lobell, the associate director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Antarctic fur seals, once hunted to near extinction, now face climate threat

Christian Science Monitor: Climate change appears to be pulling the ecological rug out from under a once-stable population of Antarctic fur seals. Their numbers on a remote island in the South Atlantic are falling, even though an increasing proportion of survivors are displaying greater genetic variation – a trait generally thought to boost an organism's ability to adapt to environmental stress. That's the pattern a pair of scientists has detected in a new study of the seal population, which researchers have been scrutinizing...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Profile of academic feud: What do 97 percent of scientists believe about climate change?

ClimateWire: Academic disputes are different from bar fights. At a House hearing last month, someone suggested to Sarah Green that she meet Richard Tol, a climate change economist who had attacked her research moments before in front of a panel of lawmakers. Green declined politely, with a wry smile. Tol, a professor of economics at Britain's University of Sussex, had no idea Green was in the hearing room. The two have never met, although they have been tussling in obscure journals. The point of contention...
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Rubin: Climate change inaction will kill economy

Hill: Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin says climate change is a "present danger" to the U.S. economy. In a Washington Post op-ed, Rubin writes that the U.S. should incorporate climate change-related finances into yearly budget expenditures for the federal government. "While we can’t define future climate-change risks with precision, they should be included in economic policy, fiscal and business decisions because of their potential magnitude," Rubin writes. Rubin's op-ed comes as the Senate...
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Scientists Identify Possible 'Tipping Point' of Global Warming

Nature World: Scientists have long been concerned that global warming may push the Earth's climate system past a "tipping point," and a new study from Oregon State University (OSU) may have finally identified that threshold. According to the research, synchronization of climate variability in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans is that tipping point - where rapid melting of ice and further warming may become irreversible. This is what happened a few hundred years before the rapid warming that took place...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

United States: Climate mitigation plan needed

Vancouver Sun: Are the forest fires ripping through British Columbia’s vast stands of beetle-killed forests on the parched Interior plateau a portent of the growing economic consequences of impending climate change? There’s compelling evidence they are, and that we should be paying close attention. First, there’s the trend to mild winters that permit the pine beetle, whose population is normally controlled by severe temperatures, to both grow explosively and broaden its range exponentially. In a scant decade,...
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States against EPA rule on carbon pollution would gain, study finds

New York Times: Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma are among the most vocal Republican skeptics of the science that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, but a new study to be released Thursday found that their states would be among the biggest economic winners under a regulation proposed by President Obama to fight climate change. The study, conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Rhodium Group, both research organizations, concluded that...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Growth, global warming threaten African species

Voice of America: Researchers meeting in Cameroon say Africa may lose up to 30 percent of its animal and plant species by the end of the century due to global warming, population growth and unregulated development. The researchers from 20 African, American and European universities say sub-Saharan Africa is losing forest land faster than any place on Earth. Loggers are cutting down trees to meet unrelenting timber demand from China, Europe and the United States. Meanwhile, countries are recording 3 percent population...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Community Forests: An Undervalued Approach to Climate Change Mitigation

Deforestation and other land changes produce about 11 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions globally. A new report reveals an undervalued and often-overlooked strategy for curbing these emissions—strengthening the rights of forest communities.

Governments around the world legally recognize at least 513 million hectares of community forests, land held collectively by either rural populations or Indigenous Peoples. This area stores about 37 billion tonnes of carbon—29 times the annual carbon footprint of all the passenger vehicles in the world. Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change, a new report from WRI and the Rights and Resources Initiative, shows that by protecting and expanding the amount of officially recognized community forests, national governments can meet their climate goals while also improving citizens’ livelihoods.

A Look at Community Forests Around the World

Community forests are lands held collectively by either rural communities or Indigenous Peoples based on a shared history, language, culture, or lineage. Some community forests are legally held and officially recognized by governments, while others are held based on custom only, often with no legal recognition or government protection. This lack of legally recognized rights leaves communities vulnerable to losing their land to settlers, cattle ranchers, illegal loggers, or companies—and it leaves forests vulnerable to being cut down.

Governments that do legally recognize and help protect community forests, however, are seeing significant benefits. The report shows that such community forests tend to be more carbon-rich than other forests—so recognizing and enforcing the legal rights of forest communities presents an enormous opportunity to fight climate change. Here’s a look at the carbon-storage potential in legally recognized forests in Latin America, Africa, and Asia:

In many countries in Latin America, rural communities and Indigenous Peoples have spent decades fighting for legal recognition of their forest rights. Brazil, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Mexico offer strong forest rights and significant areas of legally recognized community forests—areas that sequester considerable amounts of carbon. For example, the Carmelita community in the Guatemala Maya Biosphere Reserve sustainably manages its legally recognized forest, harvesting timber and non-timber products that generate thousands of U.S. dollars in monthly income for the community.

However, in other Latin American countries, such as Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru, rights are weaker. While national laws recognize communities’ rights to their forests, government agencies undermine those rights by failing to expel illegal settlers and loggers or allocating community forests for mining and hydrocarbon extraction. So while these community forests store significant carbon, they could store even more with stronger rights that limit deforestation and degradation.

Most forests in Africa are still claimed by governments despite the reality that many forests are held by communities under long-established customs and traditions. In Tanzania and Niger, where governments recognize community forest rights, the carbon dividends have been substantial. Thanks to increased forest rights in Niger, farmers added 200 million trees to the landscape over the past 20 years, which store 30 million tonnes of carbon.

In Nepal, 32 percent of the population benefits from community forestry. It’s one of the country’s most important poverty-reduction programs, improving the conditions of forests, curbing climate change, and providing increased economic benefits to communities. By contrast, in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, the government routinely allocates community forest for use as palm oil plantations, mining, and other conflicting land uses.

Communities Protect Their Forests

Local communities and Indigenous Peoples tend to be better protectors of forests than companies, large-scale farmers, and even government agencies. Communities have a vested interest in sustainably managing their forests, as they rely on them for food, medicines, building materials, products to sell, and other services. That’s why deforestation rates in community forests are so much lower than in forests managed by other entities. For example, much unlike forest in the surrounding areas, the Gaviões Indigenous People in the Brazilian Amazon largely prevent deforestation on their land because they have strong rights and are vigilant in the protection of their forest land boundaries.

Strengthening community forest rights is not just a land and resource problem—it is a climate change problem. As governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders work to reduce emissions from deforestation, it’s important that they recognize a win-win solution—empowering the local communities who call the forests home.


Read more [wri.org]

For Californians, higher costs dampen support for clean energy

Reuters: An overwhelming majority of California residents support the state's mandate for reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, so long as they do not bear the higher costs of cleaner energy themselves, a new public opinion poll shows. Eighty percent of adults surveyed believe climate change poses a serious threat to California's economy and lifestyle, and 68 percent back a 2006 law for lowering statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. But support for specific initiatives to...
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Solar and wind power to compete for £50m under new subsidy regime

BusinessGreen: Renewable energy projects such as wind, solar power and geothermal energy developments will each year have to compete for a share of £205m under the UK's new clean energy subsidy regime, the government revealed today. But the solar power industry accused the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) of undermining the development of the cheapest renewable technologies, after it emerged they would have access to just £50m of the annual funding pot. DECC revealed the long-awaited draft budgets...
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Calcifiers Struggle Changing Oceans

Nature World News: Calcifiers like mollusks, starfish and corals are struggling to survive in a changing ocean as a result of climate change, according to new research. These organisms use calcium from their environment to create hard carbonate skeletons and shells that are necessary for stability and protection. But as atmospheric carbon dioxide rises, the world's oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic. This impact of global climate change threatens the survival of calcifying species because of the reduced...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Following Africa's Water: A Threat of Scarcity

Nature World: Irrigation systems are essential for maintaining food production in Africa. However, compared to the developed worlds, African farmers have barely any water access. Now researchers are warning that some deprived parts of the continent are due for even more water scarcity in the wake of climate change. As first described by Nature World News last month, churning atmospheric winds are utterly reforming what is "normal" weather for the globe, and are reallocating some very important patterns for...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Climate change ravaging Antarctic fur seals

Agence France-Presse: A food shortage likely caused by climate change is shrinking a South Antarctic fur seal colony and changing the profile of its surviving members, researchers said Wednesday. South Georgia island's Antarctic fur seal pups have a lower average birth weight, and there are fewer breeding adults -- who hold out longer to reproduce than in the past, according to study results published in the journal Nature. Only the biggest animals survive to adulthood and reproduce. These are classic symptoms...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Philippine province proves mass storm deaths can be avoided

Reuters: Nearly 100 people were killed in the Philippines last week when Typhoon Rammasun roared through, raising doubts about efforts to end the heavy tolls from storms that are only expected to get more intense as the global climate changes. But in Albay province, which bore the brunt of the strongest storm in the new typhoon season, no one was killed, proving that deaths can be prevented provided there is the will to force people to do what is necessary to save their own lives. "Tools of leadership...
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Philippine province proves mass storm deaths can be avoided

MANILA (Reuters) - Nearly 100 people were killed in the Philippines last week when Typhoon Rammasun roared through, raising doubts about efforts to end the heavy tolls from storms that are only expected to get more intense as the global climate changes.







Read more [Reuters]

Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change

Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change analyzes the growing body of evidence linking community forest rights with healthier forests and lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

This report makes a strong case for strengthening the rights of indigenous and local communities over their forests as a policy tool for mitigating climate change.


Read more [wri.org]

RELEASE: Strengthening Community Forest Rights is Critical Tool to Fight Climate Change, Says Major New Report

RELEASE: Strengthening Community Forest Rights is Critical Tool to Fight Climate Change, Says Major New Report July 23, 2014

Read this press release in Spanish

Community forests around the world hold 37.7 billion tonnes of carbon

Editor’s note: The full report, executive summary brochure and high-resolution infographics are available to download here.

Read more
Read more [wri.org]

Forest Rights Offer Major Opportunity to Counter Climate Change

Inter Press Service: The international community is failing to take advantage of a potent opportunity to counter climate change by strengthening local land tenure rights and laws worldwide, new data suggests. In what researchers say is the most detailed study on the issue to date, new analysis suggests that in areas formally overseen by local communities, deforestation rates are dozens to hundreds of times lower than in areas overseen by governments or private entities. Anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of worldwide...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Court Ruling May Reverberate on ‘Social Cost’ Carbon

Climate Central: Greenhouse gas emissions from burning and extracting coal, oil and natural gas drive climate change, and as communities feel the effects of a warming world -- rising seas, burning forests and withering crops -- communities' pocketbooks take a hit, too. That's called the social cost of carbon. And if a recent federal court decision stands, the U.S. government may have to calculate those climate-related costs from any new fossil fuels development on public lands before a new project can be approved....
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Report: Gulf and Atlantic Coasts Not Prepared for Sea-Level Rise

National Geographic: The U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts are not ready for the increased flooding and stronger storms that are expected from climate change, scientists say. The National Research Council report, released today, warns that the past few years have seen "a dramatic rise in coastal-storm-related losses" along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, thanks to an increase in population and a rise in the number of homes and other structures built in at-risk areas. "There's a huge sense of urgency here," says Greg...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Researchers identify possible glitch in Antarctic ice measurements

Ars Technica: With all the attention given to every nuance of climate data, areas of research that would have never attracted much public interest sometimes find themselves in the spotlight. So it is with the process of measuring sea ice cover. People pay careful attention because it appears to be a leading indicator of climate change. In the Arctic, where the warming has been most intense, sea ice is retreating rapidly, with record lows having been set every few years over the past decades. But at the other...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

7 Charts Explain Changing U.S. Power Sector Emissions

Our ability to harness ever-expanding amounts of data is completely transforming our understanding of environmental problems and solutions. Our Climate Insights blog series leverages data from CAIT 2.0, WRI’s climate data explorer, to shed light on the many dimensions of climate change that shape society, policy, and global development.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a carbon dioxide pollution standard that sets state-based targets for power sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions out to 2030. The new EPA standard gives states flexibility in how they meet the emissions standard by letting them reduce emissions in ways that work for their power sectors.

But where do U.S. power sector emissions come from? And how have they changed over time? Today, WRI released an update of its U.S. state GHG emissions data via CAIT 2.0, our climate data explorer. These and other data can provide valuable context for the proposed standard by helping to answer questions about emissions from the U.S. power sector and other sources, as well as related historic developments.

How Have U.S. Power Sector Emissions Changed in the Last 40 Years? To embed in your site copy: <iframe src='http://cait2.wri.org/visuals/timeline.htm' scrolling="no" style="width: 675px; height: 350px; border: 0"></iframe>

The CAIT 2.0 U.S. data, together with data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)1, show the historic trend of power sector CO₂ emissions. Between 1973 and 2005, U.S. power sector CO₂ emissions increased by almost 90 percent. However, after emissions nearly stabilized between 2005 and 2007, the United States reversed the trend of rising CO₂ emissions in recent years.

Many drivers have contributed to this decline, including fuel-switching from coal to natural gas, new renewable energy generation, reduced power consumption as a result of the economic downturn, new vehicle rules, and state energy efficiency policies. However, these trends likely won’t suffice to further decrease emissions. Current projections suggest that without future policy actions (such as the proposed EPA power plant standard), power sector CO₂ emissions are expected to increase slowly again.

What Does the Power Sector Contribute to U.S. Emissions? To embed in your site copy: <iframe src='http://cait2.wri.org/visuals/us-sec.htm' scrolling="no" style="width: 100%; height: 420px; border: 0"></iframe>

The power sector comprises the largest share of U.S. GHG emissions, contributing nearly one-third of all emissions from all sectors. For the United States to meet its economy-wide emissions-reduction pledge of 17 percent below 2005 by 2020, cuts in power sector emissions are essential. WRI’s analysis has already shown that the power sector represents the biggest opportunity to cut GHG emissions.

What Does Each State Contribute to U.S. Power Sector Emissions?

Power sector emissions vary considerably among U.S. states. To highlight some of these differences, the left map shows that states that rely largely on fossil fuels, have large industrial sectors, and/or have relatively large populations—such as Texas, Florida, and the states of the Midwest—currently contribute the most power sector emissions. In comparison, the map on the right shows power sector emissions per person. Here, states that produce power from fossil fuels but have relatively small populations are the largest contributors. Notably, however, the emissions figures in both maps only consider the production of power within each state, although that power may be consumed by out-of-state businesses and homes.

How Much Does Each State’s Power Sector Contribute to Its Total Emissions? To embed in your site copy: <iframe src='http://cait2.wri.org/visuals/percentage-power.htm' scrolling="no" style="width: 100%; height: 520px; border: 0"></iframe>

The emissions landscape within states can be diverse. The graph above shows the percentage of state GHG emissions that come from the power sector (in blue). Emissions contributions from the power sector vary from nearly 60 percent for Wyoming to less than 2 percent in Idaho and Vermont, which generate most their electricity from hydro and nuclear power plants, respectively.

How Have State Power Sector Emissions Changed Since 2005? To embed in your site copy: <iframe src='http://cait2.wri.org/visuals/reductionsHighest.htm' style="width: 100%; height: 520px; border: 0"></iframe>

Cutting power sector emissions is not new at the state level. According to the 2011 U.S. data available through CAIT 2.0, 42 states reduced their emissions relative to 2005, the baseline used in the U.S. GHG reduction pledge. The graph above shows the 10 states with the most significant reductions. All of them reduced their power sector GHG emissions by more than 30 percent in just six years. Many of these states are also part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative market-based program to reduce emissions.

To embed in your site copy: <iframe src='http://cait2.wri.org/visuals/reductionsLargest.htm' scrolling="no" style="width: 100%; height: 520px; border: 0"></iframe>

For the top 10 emitters, shown in the graph above, the results are more variable. While Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and Indiana were able to reduce power sector emissions by more than 10 percent between 2005 and 2011, other large emitters, like Texas and Kentucky, slightly increased their emissions during this time period. WRI analysis shows the existing policy and infrastructure opportunities some states can take to reduce their power sector emissions.

How Are the Sources of U.S. Power Sector Emissions Changing? To embed in your site copy: <iframe src='http://cait2.wri.org/visuals/plantYears.htm' scrolling="no" style="width: 100%; height: 620px; border: 0"></iframe>

The coming years will be a crucial time for power sector decision-makers to make choices about how power will be generated in the decades to come, as a significant fraction of existing U.S. power plants are approaching the end of their useful life. At the end of 2012, around 51 percent of all generating capacity was more than 30 years old. While most gas-fired capacity is fewer than 20 years old, 74 percent of coal-fired power plants are older than 30 years (see figure, above). As a result, the EIA projects that nearly 60 Gigawatts – or more than one-sixth – of coal-fired power capacity will retire between 2010 and 2020.

Explore More State-Level Emissions Data

The U.S. GHG emissions dataset available through CAIT 2.0, as well as data provided by the EIA and other organizations, provide critical context for evaluating and understanding the proposed EPA standard and other domestic climate policy initiatives. Good data and smart policies can help the United States cost-effectively reduce its emissions to achieve its 2020 reduction target and go even further in the post-2020 era.

  • LEARN MORE: CAIT 2.0 offers many functions to quickly compare emissions, perform analysis, and create your own visualizations. CAIT’s U.S. state level data set is now updated with 2011 emissions and covers all greenhouse gases, economic sectors and energy sub-sectors. Stay tuned for further updates and analysis by signing up for our newsletter.
  1. Data Source: EIA, Monthly Energy Review June 2014, Available at: http://www.eia.gov/environment/data.cfm#summary 


Read more [wri.org]

U.S. scientists urge 'national vision' to curb coastal risks in report

(Reuters) - A group of top scientists has called for a fundamental change to how the United States deals with risks to its Atlantic and Gulf coasts from storms and climate change in a National Research Council report released Wednesday.







Read more [Reuters]

Scientists converge to tackle climate change health problems

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: A diverse group of researchers in fields from urban planning to infectious disease will come together in Brisbane today to talk about the risks to health from climate change. The group has been brought out by the Australian Academy of Science, with the help of an endowment from the UK Royal Society, to come up with solutions before health problems associated with climate change get out of hand.
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Tanzania: Climate change could mean low crop yield, more malaria cases

Daily News: EXPERTS say Tanzania is currently suffering high economic costs due to extreme events due to climate change. The costs include low crop yields due to drought and floods, as well as increased cases of malaria and other diseases. Tanzania's economy is dependent on the climate, since a large proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP) is associated with climate sensitive activities, particularly agriculture. Therefore climate variability, such as extreme events like droughts and floods, has led...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Dear LEGO employees,

Hi. My name is Ian and I'm a campaigner with Greenpeace. I'm also a new dad and a big fan of LEGO. She's a little young now, but I know that in a few years my baby girl will be building her own dreams out of your colourful little bricks.

I am sure that you feel very privileged to work at LEGO. I feel the same about Greenpeace and in a way we are similar – trying to build a better world for the next generation and our children.

For me that's a world that has moved past fossil fuels and into a new era of clean energy. It means companies like LEGO pledging to go beyond oil (which, to your great credit, you have already promised to do). It means seeing the melting Arctic as a warning sign that we are pushing our planetary luck – and not as an opportunity to drill for more of the oil that caused the melting in the first place.

Looking at your company – and the programmes you have to reduce your environmental impact – I can't help imagining that most people at LEGO agree that drilling for more oil in the most extreme places like the Arctic is a bad idea. But for Shell, it's the core of their business plan.

I'm guessing that there are many people inside LEGO who recognise that the partnership with Shell should now come to an end, but they're finding it hard to speak up.

Here are a few points that might help those people make their case.

On July 1st, your CEO responded to our campaign by saying, "We expect that Shell lives up to their responsibilities wherever they operate and take appropriate action to any potential claims should this not be the case."

In the Arctic, Shell is absolutely not living up to its responsibilities. Last year the company was fined over $1m by the US government for clean air violations in Alaska, after belching noxious fumes from both of their drilling rigs and polluting the fragile Arctic environment.

In an even more serious incident, Shell's giant drilling platform Kulluk ran aground during a heavy storm, risking an oil spill off the beautiful Alaskan island of Kodiak. In its subsequent report, the US Coast Guard found that the oil company had moved the rig in a hurry in order to avoid paying a couple of million in state taxes.  

Don't take our word for it. The former US interior secretary Ken Salazar said that Shell 'screwed up' in Alaska. And the US Coast Guard issued a report into the grounding which lists a series of management errors and documents a reckless, risk taking culture at the oil giant.

Whichever way you look at it, Shell is not a responsible company. Its track record in the Arctic alone is appalling, and that's not to mention its regressive attitude to climate change, which basically assumes that there will be no concerted action to reduce emissions at all (here's an Economist piece from this week on that point). By the time your longer term sustainability goals are reached, Shell hopes to still be pumping oil, in open defiance of climate science and the millions of people who will suffer dearly from storms, rising seas and deadly hurricanes.

I'm sure that many people at LEGO are beginning to realise that Shell gets so much more from this partnership than you do. Your hard work in creating a company with respected values is being put at risk by the external partners your CEO is choosing to endorse.

We're happy to discuss this with LEGO at any time, but sadly Mr Knudstorp cancelled a meeting with us where we wanted to explain our position in more detail. We also tried to deliver a petition to your Copenhagen and London offices this week, but were told that no one was prepared to accept it.

In the meantime, please feel to leave a comment here – anonymously if you like – and let us know your thoughts on the deal with Shell. We'll try to respond to any points or questions you raise.

Yours faithfully,

Ian Duff

PS: In case you missed them, here are some quotes from what other people are saying about LEGO's deal with Shell.

"Why does a company who clearly take great care in reducing the environmental impact need to partner up with a global oil company? I don't think they do. Which is why I signed the petition, and I think you should too." – Dad's blogger Henry Elliss, at Fatherhood Squared

"Greenpeace is right - Shell branded LEGO is ill judged"Wired  

"Greenpeace's argument is a powerful one: Lego has built its reputation on making the world a better place for children, and its partnership with Shell doesn't resonate with that." – Forbes

"Bravo, LEGO. Top notch corporate responsibility dodge there." – Salon

"Shell clearly benefits from its partnership. For Lego, the connection with Shell is a mixed bag." – TIME

And finally, one that is important for us: "Giving away Shell branded toys is one thing, but being best buddies with an organization the US government doesn't trust to drill for oil is something else entirely…" – MoviePilot

 

Ian Duff is an Arctic Campaigner at Greenpeace UK.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Climate change wins precarious slot in proposed development goals

Reuters: Proposed new global development goals, drafted by a U.N. working group, include a goal to take urgent action on climate change, despite opposition from some countries - even though the goal is weaker than many campaigners would like. How the "post-2015 development agenda' -- which will follow the expiring Millennium Development Goals -- should approach climate change has been a thorny issue for the past 18 months, not least because the world is simultaneously trying to hammer out a new deal to...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Global warming emissions from meat consumption rising rapidly

Mongabay: Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production have increased by more than 50 percent over the past 50 years and are set to zoom higher as the developing world consumes more meat, finds a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The research is based on analysis of the impacts of livestock production per calorie consumed, including water and fertilizer use, land area requirements, and other factors. It went beyond carbon dioxide, evaluating...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Report: Sunday shows give climate change more air time

Hill: Sunday shows have given climate change issues more air time in the first half of 2014 than in the last four years combined, according to a new analysis. The group Media Matters released the analysis Monday, which regularly tracks coverage of climate change by broadcast news, found that coverage in 2014 is substantially greater than previous years, but still down from its peak in 2009. The report credits a letter led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent late last year, which railed against Sunday...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Poll 60% back carbon tax if used for renewables

USA Today: Most Americans oppose a carbon tax, considered by many economists a cost-effective way to fight climate change, but they are willing to support it if the money is returned to them or used to fund renewable energy, a poll Monday finds. Only a third, or 34%, say they support taxing fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas that emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide when burned, according to researchers at the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy and Muhlenberg College's Institute...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Replacing coal, oil with natural gas will not help fight global warming, expert argues

ScienceDaily: Both shale gas and conventional natural gas have a larger greenhouse gas footprint than do coal or oil, especially for the primary uses of residential and commercial heating. Dr. Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology, came to this conclusion after assessing the best available data and analyzing greenhouse gas footprints for both methane (including shale gas and conventional gas) and carbon dioxide over a timescale of 20-years following emissions. The findings are...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Climate: Meat turns up the heat as livestock emit greenhouse gases

ScienceDaily: Eating meat contributes to climate change, due to greenhouse gasses emitted by livestock. New research finds that livestock emissions are on the rise and that beef cattle are responsible for far more greenhouse gas emissions than other types of animals. It is published by Climactic Change. Carbon dioxide is the most-prevalent gas when it comes to climate change. It is released by vehicles, industry, and forest removal and comprises the greatest portion of greenhouse gas totals. But methane and...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Climate Change Already Profound Impacts on Lakes in Europe

National Geographic: For perspective on how climate change is affecting lakes, those of us here in the U.S. can just look across the pond, where scientists and the agencies involved in meeting the European Union’s Water Framework Directive have amassed an impressive body of research on the topic. Not only are extreme weather events such as droughts and intense rainstorms becoming more common, climate warming is leading to increased algal growth and more frequent toxic algal blooms. It also affects the entire aquatic...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

California City Blocks New Power Plant, Cites Climate Change

Triple Pundit: When it comes to updating your neighborhood power plant these days, nothing is certain. But for NRG, California’s largest power plant operator, that message came home last month with an odd twist: The city of Oxnard voted to place a moratorium on the construction of a plant that would replace the current structure at its oceanside location. The reason? Climate change. Very often, shifting climate projections are used as the basis for updating facilities, like power plants, with infrastructures...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Combat global warming by taxing carbon

Oregonian: This month, energy experts from the United States, China, and 13 other nations released a report to the United Nations called "Pathways to Deep Decarbonization" offering practical paths for transitioning their countries away from fossil fuels. This is a response to the message relentlessly championed by the world's climate scientists: Stop burning things that release greenhouse gases by transitioning quickly to clean energy and low-carbon modes of transportation. If you have to burn stuff, capture...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Why Does Politics Keep Getting in the Way of Pricing Carbon?

Energy Collective: While a carbon price is every economists' favorite climate plan, real-world political constraints get in the way (just ask Australia!) In a new paper in Energy Policy, I examine a variety of political economy constraints that limit the environmental efficacy and economic efficiency of real-world carbon pricing policies. Households in the United States appear willing to pay just $80-200 per year to combat climate change, equivalent to a carbon tax of roughly $2-8 per ton. In contrast, estimates...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

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