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The false promise of natural gas

Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., Howard Frumkin, M.D., Dr.P.H., and Brita E. Lundberg, M.D.

New England Journal of Medicine »

Gas is associated with health and environmental hazards and reduced social welfare at every stage of its life cycle. Fracking is linked to contamination of ground and surface water, air pollution, noise and light pollution, radiation releases, ecosystem damage, and earthquakes. Transmission and storage of gas result in fires and explosions. The pipeline network is aging, inadequately maintained, and infrequently inspected. One or more pipeline explosions occur every year in the United States. In September 2018, a series of pipeline explosions in the Merrimack Valley in Massachusetts caused more than 80 fires and explosions, damaged 131 homes, forced the evacuation of 30,000 people, injured 25 people, including two firefighters, and killed an 18-year-old boy. Gas compressor stations emit toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene, 1,3-butadiene, and formaldehyde. Wells, pipelines, and compressor stations are disproportionately located in low-income, minority, and marginalized communities, where they may leak gas, generate noise, endanger health, and contribute to environmental injustice while producing no local benefits. Gas combustion generates oxides of nitrogen that increase asthma risk and aggravate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Compounding these hazards are the grave dangers that gas extraction and use pose to the global climate. Gas is a much more powerful driver of climate change than is generally recognized. As much as 4% of all gas produced by fracking is lost to leakage, and these releases appear to have contributed to recent sharp increases in atmospheric methane.4 Methane is a potent contributor to global warming, with a heat-trapping potential 30 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 100-year span and 85 times greater over a 20-year span. Gas burned in stoves and boilers additionally contributes to global warming by generating carbon dioxide. Together, this evidence suggests that the purported advantage of gas over coal and oil has been greatly overstated.

Read the whole article in the NEJM »

Hottest days on record for Australia

Bob Henson, Weather Underground »

Australia is having a December heat wave for the ages, with some of the most widespread and intense heat ever observed on the island continent. The nationally averaged high temperature on Wednesday was an astounding 40.9°C (105.6°F), beating the previous daily record of 40.3°C from January 7, 2013. Even more impressive, Thursday topped the Wednesday reading by a full degree Celsius, coming in at 41.9°C (107.4°F).

Thursday’s reading is almost certainly the hottest nationally averaged high not only for Australia but for any continent on Earth at any time of year. All other continents see at least some of their summer heat modulated by the presence of either tropical rainforests or cooler midlatitude/high-latitude regions.

Read the whole article at Weather Underground »

Related » Australia Experiences Hottest Day on Record: Meteorologists » The Daily Beast

Climate change is already destroying New England’s fisheries

Audrey Gray, writing in The New Republic »

But deep down, we know better. And if the national discussion hasn’t moved to climate change in the Northeast yet, it soon will. The effects are already profound—they just happen to be underwater.

Fourth-generation fisherman Al Cottone holds no illusions of being spared climate impacts in 2019. He captains one of the 15 fishing boats still active in the waters around Gloucester, Massachusetts. Not a decade ago, there were 50. To fish in the Gulf of Maine—the ocean inlet spanning from Cape Cod up to the southern tip of Nova Scotia—is to navigate one of the fastest-warming bodies of water on the planet. “It’s not something you see with your naked eye,” Cottone told me. “But fish are definitely reacting differently, and I’m attributing it to climate change. We’re seeing them in deeper water—they’re trying to get the right temperature at depth.”

Read the whole article at The New Republic »

Sweden’s central bank divested from Alberta and reinvested in BC

Geoff Dembicki, writing for TheTyee.ca »

When Sweden’s central bank announced it would sell off Alberta government bonds because of the province’s high carbon emissions, the reaction from Alberta’s political leaders was swift and defensive.

[…]

The bank was concerned with Alberta’s total emissions, and by that measure the province is doing terribly. Its oil sands alone did more damage to the climate last year than the entire economy of B.C., and Alberta’s per capita carbon emissions of 62.4 tonnes dwarf those of the U.S. (15.53 tonnes) or even Saudi Arabia (16.85 tonnes).

Heidi Elmér, the head of Riksbank’s markets department, explained that bond issuers like Alberta are no longer a good fit for an international financial institution that’s trying to become more sustainable. Divesting from Alberta and reinvesting in bonds from lower-emitting provinces like B.C. hasn’t hurt the bank’s performance, she said. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Read the whole article at TheTyee.ca »

One in ten new cars sold in the UK in November were hybrid or electric

A record 10.2% of cars sold in the UK in November were plug-in hybrid or pure electric.

Lawrence Allan, writing in Autocar »

Hybrid and fully electric models reached a record market share of 10.2% last month, according to figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Over 16,000 hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric models were registered, with battery electric vehicles registering a 228% rise over the same period last year. That’s despite the overall UK car market shrinking by 1.3% year-on-year.

Amazon.com plans three solar power projects in the US and Spain

Jon Fingas, writing in Engadget »

Amazon continues to face criticism for its lack of environmental commitments, but it’s making at least some strides toward reducing its impact on the planet. The internet giant has unveiled plans for three new solar power projects, two of them in the US and one in Spain. The American plants in Lee County, Illinois and Northern Virginia will offer a combined capacity of 180MW and produce about 400,000MWh of electricity per year. A solar farm southeast of Sevilla, meanwhile, will offer up to 149MW of capacity for Amazon’s Spanish efforts.

Read the whole article in Engadget »

More » Amazon Press Release

An ocean current critical to world weather is losing steam

National Geographic »

Fram Strait and the waters to the south, in the Greenland, Norwegian, and Irminger seas, make up the control room of a global “conveyor belt” of currents that stretches the length of the planet. Only in this region and one other, in the Antarctic, does water at the sea surface become heavy enough—dense with cold and salt—to sink all the way to the seafloor and race downhill along the deepening ocean bottom. That sinking powers the conveyor, known as the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, or AMOC—which in turn regulates temperatures and weather around the world.

A new report warns that the AMOC is one of nine critical climate systems that greenhouse-gas-fueled warming is actively pushing toward a tipping point. Crossing that threshold in one of these systems could trigger rapid and irreversible changes that drive other systems over the edge—leading to a global tipping cascade with catastrophic consequences for the planet. The analysis, released last week in Nature by an international group of leading climate scientists, says the tipping point risks are greater than most of us realize.

Read the whole article at National Geographic »

Video » 2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat and high-impact weather

 

World Meteorological Organization Provisional Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2019

Press Release »

Madrid, 3 December 2019 – The year 2019 concludes a decade of exceptional global heat, retreating ice and record sea levels driven by greenhouse gases from human activities. Average temperatures for the five-year (2015-2019) and ten-year (2010-2019) periods are almost certain to be the highest on record. 2019 is on course to be the second or third warmest year on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

The WMO provisional statement on the State of the Global Climate, says that the global average temperature in 2019 (January to October) was about 1.1 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019. CO2 lasts in the atmosphere for centuries and the ocean for even longer, thus locking in climate change.

Sea level rise has accelerated since the start of satellite measurements in 1993 because of the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, according to the report.

The ocean, which acts as a buffer by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide, is paying a heavy price. Ocean heat is at record levels and there have been widespread marine heatwaves. Sea water is 26 percent more acidic than at the start of the industrial era. Vital marine ecosystems are being degraded.

The daily Arctic sea-ice extent minimum in September 2019 was the second lowest in the satellite record and October has seen further record low extents. In Antarctica, 2019 saw record low ice extents in some months.

“If we do not take urgent climate action now, then we are heading for a temperature increase of more than 3°C by the end of the century, with ever more harmful impacts on human wellbeing,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “We are nowhere near on track to meet the Paris Agreement target.

“On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and “abnormal” weather. And, once again in 2019, weather and climate related risks hit hard. Heatwaves and floods which used to be “once in a century” events are becoming more regular occurrences. Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating  tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia,” said Mr Taalas.

“One of the main impacts of climate change is more erratic rainfall patterns. This poses a threat to crop yields and, combined with population increase, will mean considerable food security challenges for vulnerable countries in the future,” he said.

The report devotes an extensive section to weather and climate impacts on human health, food security, migration, ecosystems and marine life. This is based on input from a wide variety of United Nations partners.

Extreme heat conditions are taking an increasing toll on human health and health systems with greater impacts where there are aging populations, urbanization, urban heat island effects, and health inequities.  In 2018, a record 220 million more heatwave exposures by vulnerable persons over the age of 65 occurred, compared with the average for the baseline of 1986-2005.

Climate variability and extreme weather events are among the key drivers of the recent rise in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe crises. After a decade of steady decline, hunger is on the rise again – over 820 million people suffered from hunger in 2018.  Among 33 countries affected by food crises in 2018, climate variability and weather extremes a compounding driver together with economic shocks and conflict in 26 countries and the leading driver in 12 of the 26.

More than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019, 7 million being triggered by hazard events such as Cyclone Idai in southeast Africa, Cyclone Fani in south Asia, Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean, flooding in Iran, the Philippines and Ethiopia, generating acute humanitarian and protection needs.

Read the whole press release »

Apple, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, HP, Tesla, and others sign letter backing Paris Agreement and urging U.S. President to honor the commitment

70 CEOs and labor unions releasing a joint statement calling for the U.S. to remain in the Paris Agreement.

Amazon, Facebook, and other big U.S. tech companies afraid of Trump and/or keeping commitments to the environment, did not sign the statement.

Jon Fingas, via Engadget »

The CEOs of many companies, including tech giants like Apple, Adobe, Google, HP, Microsoft and Tesla, have signed a United For The Paris Agreement letter calling on the US to remain part of the effort to keep climate change in check. They argued that the international pact would “strengthen [US] competitiveness” by helping it lead the way in technologies that will usher in an eco-friendly future. It also sets “clear goals” that help with planning and spur innovation, the companies said.

[…]

The letter isn’t a binding commitment, and it’s unlikely to persuade a White House that has both ignored and tried to censor climate science. Nonetheless, it makes clear where numerous companies stand — and might pressure holdouts into changing their tune, if just for the sake of a better public image.

Read the whole article at Engadget »

More » United For The Paris Agreement, Tim Cook (Twitter), CNet, Apple Insider, 9to5Google, TechCrunch

EU to update rules on aviation with clampdown on CO2 output

Ewa Krukowska, writing in Bloomberg »

Ministers meeting in Brussels on Dec. 5 will ask the European Commission to present updated rules on the taxation of biofuels and sectors such as aviation, “taking into account their specificities and existing exemptions,” according to a draft of their communique seen by Bloomberg News. The wording signals that the preferential tax treatment of aviation fuel could be phased out, under a new set of regulations.

Tackling transport emissions is one of the biggest challenges for the EU, which is weighing a commitment to climate neutrality by 2050.

Carbon discharges from international aviation have more than doubled since 1990, bucking a broader European trend that’s seen total emissions drop 22% over that period. The United Nations says the industry is set to overtake power generation as the single biggest CO2 producer within three decades.

Read the whole article at Bloomberg »

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