Planet News !

Planet News !2021-04-29T16:37:17+01:00

System change investing: High impact, high return

System change investing: High impact, high return Frank Dixon Wed, 05/12/2021 - 01:30 The sustainable/responsible investing (SRI) market is over $30 trillion and growing faster than traditional investments. Over the past 20 years, SRI and the sustainability movement in general have provided large benefits to business and society. But in spite of this good work, environmental and social conditions are declining rapidly in many areas. Clearly new approaches are needed. Nearly all SRI and corporate sustainability strategies focus on changing companies and addressing symptoms, such as climate change, poverty and other major environmental and social challenges. This work is essential, but not enough. Root causes must be addressed to resolve the major challenges in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Reductionist thinking and resulting flawed systems are the primary root causes. Flawed economic and political systems unintentionally compel companies to degrade the environment and society. Sustainability cannot be achieved unless the cause of unsustainability is effectively addressed. A growing number of financial institutions are addressing system change. Approaches include assessing the portfolio, sector and economy-wide impacts of investing, addressing the SDGs, assessing impacts relative to planetary limits and science-based targets, investing in ecosystem restoration, and addressing poverty, gender equality and other social issues. These approaches are highly beneficial, but still mainly focused on symptoms. For example, the solution to climate change and deforestation largely does not involve addressing these problems directly. It requires resolving the systemic factors that created the problems in the first place. SCI represents the first investment approach that has the potential to achieve the SDGs because it focuses on root causes. Systems change investing (SCI) switches the focus of SRI from company change and symptoms to system change and root causes. Over the past 20 years, investor interest through SRI encouraged nearly all large companies to implement sustainability strategies. SCI uses the same proven approach. The process involves rating companies on system change performance, and then using this research for positive screening, negative screening, engagement and other ESG/SRI strategies. SCI represents one of the most powerful short-term system change strategies available to humanity. It uses investing to engage the financial and corporate sectors in the most important sustainability issue. SCI represents the first investment approach that has the potential to achieve the SDGs because it focuses on root causes. A large and growing number of investors want their investments to benefit society. SCI can provide the highest possible sustainability benefits. This will attract new investments and position asset managers as global SRI leaders. SCI also can substantially increase investment returns. It identifies systemic risks and opportunities that are not assessed by traditional financial and ESG analysis and provides strong indicators of superior management and stock market potential. System change traditionally has not been the responsibility of the financial and corporate sectors. But flawed systems are causing large problems for business and society. As has occurred throughout history, all flawed systems change, usually by collapsing. Keeping current systems the same is not an option. Either we will change them voluntarily or nature and reality will change them involuntarily, probably through collapse. COVID, growing political division and many other problems strongly indicate that our flawed systems already are in the process of changing. We probably do not have much time left for voluntary system change. Investors and companies are far better off taking a seat at the system change table and helping to guide the process in ways that protect business and society. How to do SCI SCI evolved from pioneering ESG experience. In 2003, as the head of research for the largest ESG research company, I saw that no company could come close to fully eliminating negative environmental and social impacts. If they tried, their costs would go up and they would put themselves out of business. This is a system problem, not a company problem. I estimated that system change was at least 80 percent of the sustainability solution but getting nearly 0 percent of the attention in the SRI area. I realized that investing could be used to drive system change, like it was being effectively used to drive corporate sustainability. As a result, in the same year, I developed the first model for rating corporate system change performance. But it soon became clear that much more information about system change was required to do SCI effectively. SCI rating is more complex than ESG because the context or frame of reference is much broader. The frame of reference for ESG largely is mitigating negative corporate impacts. The SCI frame of reference ultimately is the whole Earth system and its sub-element human society. I used whole-system thinking to identify the systemic changes needed in all major areas of society, and published this research in the Global System Change books. Once system change overall is clear, the optimal corporate role in driving it can be identified. Aspects of this become metrics in system change rating models. There are many ways to do SCI. I developed several models, including introductory, action-focused and whole system approaches. To illustrate, metric categories in a whole system SCI model include context, business consciousness, ESG strategy, system change strategy, mid-level system change, high-level system change, systemic risks, systemic opportunities and results. SCI will face the same types of challenges that ESG faced 20 years ago. These include limited data, proxy use, showing financial relevance and resistance to changing profitable systems. These can all be overcome with ESG experience and system change knowledge. In sum, SCI represents the next generation of ESG. It enables nearly all equity and debt investments to become system change investments. It is perhaps the most powerful short-term driver of system change. SCI provides substantial profit, growth and leadership opportunities for the financial community. Pull Quote SCI represents the first investment approach that has the potential to achieve the SDGs because it focuses on root causes. Topics Finance & Investing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

Is 'net zero' much ado about nothing?

Is 'net zero' much ado about nothing? Joel Makower Tue, 05/11/2021 - 02:11 It feels almost quaint to remember way back when "80 by 50" — an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — was a bold goal for a company or government entity to make. It was seen by many as audacious, possibly unachievable, but still a necessary target. The "way back when" in this case seems to be around 2014. Ah, yes: The good old days. Today, "80 by 50" would not pass muster. Net zero is the near-universal goal of nations, states, provinces, cities, companies, universities and others. And even that goal sometimes gets knocked as being too little, too late. This week, as the full fleet of GreenBiz weekly newsletters focuses on the topic of net zero, I thought it might be helpful to start off with some simple questions that seem to encircle that goal. The five questions below represent just a sampling of issues surrounding what net zero means — and doesn’t. These questions and others will be central to our upcoming (and free) VERGE Net Zero conference in August. First, what is net zero? For those not yet up to speed, net zero refers to the goal of emitting no greenhouse gases by a specific date, typically 2050. However, Germany just committed to reaching this goal by 2045. Corporate signatories to the Climate Pledge have committed to net zero by 2040. IBM said it would reach that milestone in 2030. The bar continues to move. Such commitments often are coupled with an interim goal of cutting emissions in half by, say, 2030. The overriding question whether net zero will be largely a check-the-box activity or a truly disruptive force. The answer is up for grabs. Net zero can be achieved, first and foremost, by cutting or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and, secondarily, by offsetting any remaining emissions through such actions as planting trees, investing in renewable energy projects that replace fossil-fuel energy, or investing in novel carbon-removal technologies such as direct air capture. The concept of net zero goes back nearly a decade, in the run-up to the 2015 COP21 climate conference in Paris. According to one telling, a group of female climate leaders met at a Scottish estate in 2013 to discuss bold climate goals that could be enacted two years later in Paris. After a heated debate, they agreed that the goal should be to pursue net zero by midcentury. In the Paris Agreement that ultimately resulted, negotiators agreed "to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century." That is, to achieve net-zero emissions. Is net zero the same as carbon neutral? The terms are often used interchangeably, although there are subtle but critical differences. You can become carbon neutral simply by buying offsets — for a year’s worth of driving or air travel, for example. Net zero would require that you drive or fly as little as possible, offsetting only what’s unavoidable. The same principle holds for any other activity — for a company, building, factory, product, community or nation. In some cases (as with ExxonMobil, for example), companies have committed to net-zero carbon intensity, a term that means that the amount of carbon per unit of measure does not increase, even as overall emissions may rise. Exxon has come under fire from activist investors for a stance that, critics say, disingenuously claims to be net zero but, in fact, will lead to an increase in overall emissions in the coming years. Does net zero rely too much on offsets? Companies are being increasingly criticized for investing more into offsets than into actual emissions reductions. That is, simply buying offsets in lieu of any emissions reductions is taboo. But, given that there is no universal standard about how much offsetting is the "right" amount, it’s an open field for organizations to claim pretty much whatever they want. But that could change. The Science Based Targets initiative is working on what it calls "the first global standard for net-zero business." Is net zero achievable with existing technologies? Most experts believe we have the technologies, although some are not yet cost-competitive. But many are. Cutting energy use — the first step in reducing emissions — relies on a sizable toolbelt of well-oiled energy-efficiency technologies with relatively fast returns on investment. The next steps are harder, however. Electrification — transforming cars, buildings, factories and other things to operate on electricity rather than, say, oil or natural gas — is a fast-emerging field. And affordable, enabling technologies — electric vehicles and grid battery storage, among them — are quickly coming to market. Beyond that is carbon capture, a portfolio of technologies that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and store them securely for decades or centuries, including in products such as concrete. And there are carbon-free fuels that show great promise, such as blue and green hydrogen, but that are still nascent and expensive. Is net zero greenwash? Some think so. Critics say that the overreliance on offsets and unproven technologies, combined with the roughly three-decade time horizon to achieve most net-zero goals, enable companies to continue business as usual for the foreseeable future while still maintaining a net-zero stance. As a result, as I noted a couple months back, net zero may be in for a backlash. "Far from signifying climate ambition, the phrase ‘net zero’ is being used by a majority of polluting governments and corporations to evade responsibility, shift burdens, disguise climate inaction, and in some cases even to scale up fossil fuel extraction, burning and emissions," stated the watchdog group Corporate Accountability, which published a report last fall on "How ‘net zero’ targets disguise climate inaction." "The term is used to greenwash business-as-usual or even business-more-than-usual," it continued. "At the core of these pledges are small and distant targets that require no action for decades and promises of technologies that are unlikely ever to work at scale, and which are likely to cause huge harm if they come to pass." Activists, including investors, aren’t likely to accept any old net-zero commitment without holding it to intense scrutiny. For companies, that means the bar likely will rise over time. The overriding question, at the end of all this, is how companies and others will lean into their net-zero commitments in the years ahead — whether they will be largely check-the-box activities or a truly disruptive force. Right now, the answer is up for grabs. These are among the issues worth pondering, debating and embracing. Indeed, they’ll be front and center at our upcoming Net Zero event. Nothing less than our lives and future rest on the answers. I invite you to follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz, and listen to GreenBiz 350, my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote The overriding question whether net zero will be largely a check-the-box activity or a truly disruptive force. The answer is up for grabs. Topics Energy & Climate Emissions Reduction Net-Zero Offsets Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage, via Shutterstock

11 young professionals on the future of sustainable finance

11 young professionals on the future of sustainable finance Deonna Anderson Mon, 05/10/2021 - 01:30 With ESG gaining more attention and more companies committing to reaching net-zero emissions in the coming decades or otherwise pledging to do better by people and the planet, it’s inevitable that the next generation of professionals in the field will define the future of sustainable finance. "Finance professionals make up a fraction of the global population but are positioned to make and incentivize decisions that can shape the trajectory of the global economy," observed Ogechukwu Anyene, energy consulting manager at PowerAdvocate, who was part of the Emerging Leaders cohort at GreenBiz Group’s inaugural GreenFin event. The Emerging Leaders program aims to foster a community of sustainability professionals that is diverse and representative of the world in which we live. “The Emerging Leaders program provides a forum where environmentally focused youth can explore and learn about climate solutions and sustainability efforts across public and private sectors,” said Alex Liftman, global environmental executive at Bank of America, which sponsored the program at GreenFin. "These students [and young professionals] are the next generation of both workforce and problem solvers. Their creative thinking and perspective will help build more sustainable solutions for the future." During GreenFin, Anyene was one of 12 students and young professionals who joined the conversations about the transition to net-zero, the need for more action when it comes to social and environmental justice, and the role of artificial intelligence in sustainable finance and ESG reporting. When the conference wrapped up, we asked them what they had learned about the power of finance in advancing a clean, more just economy. Below are answers from most of the latest cohort of Emerging Leaders. Alfre Wimberley Legislative analyst at the North Carolina Conservation Network An overarching theme that I learned in multiple sessions is that the private industry can only do so much on its own. There needs to be a standardized regulatory framework to clearly label what is sustainable and what is just behavior so that firms can respond to that and reconfigure their client offerings and portfolios to reflect those standards and progressive benchmarks. Financial institutions are powerful in fueling these changes, and many already are in that process. Nonetheless, additional education from leaders in the equity and sustainability fields can clarify the practical steps needed to assist players in the financial sector in meeting their organizational goals in these two areas while ensuring their behavior has the intended impact of making our world more equitable and sustainable. Marjan Kris Ramos Abubo Blank scholar at UC Davis School of Law With the current social and political climate and the broader push for sustainability across all sectors, it is without a doubt that sustainable finance is integral to propelling us into the greener future. Participating in this conference challenged me to think outside of my silo, learn about how different mechanisms work hand in hand, and pushed me to reimagine what it means to use existing (albeit imperfect) economic tools to prioritize equity and justice in the finance sector. This event has also made me realize the overlapping goals that both public and private actors possess and how integrated decision-making can really push society in the direction toward environmental equity, even if the approaches we offer may not be the same.  At the end, I have the privilege to participate in these processes and remain involved in this green transition. Ignoring the realities of climate change — and recognizing the disparate impacts that environmental harms have on systemically vulnerable populations — compels me to continue finding collaborative solutions and frameworks that can work for us all, the "tide that lifts all boats." Betty Cheong Associate, Corporate Engagement at CDP Finance has a lot of power in advancing a clean and more just economy through providing the capital for companies in order to transition to the low-carbon economy. In regards to GreenFin, I was particularly impressed with the amount of times that carbon pricing was brought up. There are challenges in terms of getting the right price, but I think that it’s a very powerful tool in mitigating climate change. It is definitely something I will keep my eyes on. There was also a lot of talk on incorporating ESG in emerging markets, and I completely agree with that. We must ensure that when capital is redirected to the low-carbon economy, that emerging markets are incorporated as well. All in all, I really enjoyed the sessions put on by GreenFin, and can’t wait to attend next year's conference. Ogechukwu Anyene Energy consulting manager at PowerAdvocate My experience as an Emerging Leader at GreenFin 21 was engaging, insightful and inspiring, to say the least. The conference truly contextualized the power of finance in promoting a clean, more just economy from a variety of vantage points. For example, within the investment value chain, investment managers can work with stakeholders such as asset managers and corporations to identify opportunities to financially back innovative and potentially transformative startups in the market aiming to advance a green and fair economy. My biggest takeaway from GreenFin21 is the responsibility that comes with a powerful, mobilizing force such as finance. Finance professionals make up a fraction of the global population but are positioned to make and incentivize decisions that can shape the trajectory of the global economy. That being the case, it is incumbent for the finance community as a whole to ensure that colleagues, portfolio companies and more hold financial viability as well as ESG factors, in equal parity when doing business. Vanshaj Verma Energy markets, Procurement & Sustainability Consultant at E&C Project appraisal is one of the key elements in the feasibility analysis of any initiative, which means that the financial health of any project or initiative is crucial for its forthcoming success. Tying in this analogy to our present-day world means that any economy’s progress in the coming years would be driven by practices, policies and programs that are sustainable for our neighborhoods, our cities, our countries and our Earth. Therefore, an immediate conclusion that can be drawn from here is that financing a cleaner and greener economy is extremely essential. The plausible threats posed by changing weather patterns, melting glaciers, increasing emissions and declining animal and plant species can no longer be brushed under the carpet. And to reverse and prevent these phenomena, a lot of corrective initiatives and programs would have to be created and executed, which in turn are based on a strong financial foundation — hence highlighting how powerful can "finance" be.   Bryanna Briley Advisor support associate at Horizons Sustainable Financial Services GreenFin21 provided a wealth of information and resources about the present and the future of sustainable finance. In a society that is hyper-focused on capital as the primary way people support themselves and engage with the world, it is only logical to surmise that there must be a way to employ financial power in transforming the economy. Over the two days of keynotes and breakout sessions, I learned that data is imperative for the success of bringing ESG values to the forefront of the economy. Businesses and financial institutions need to be convinced that there is equity in making sustainable choices. The pandemic spurred new energy and action into emphasizing ESG, which is encouraging. It was inspiring to hear about an acknowledgment that gender is relevant in all facets of finance, especially as a woman of color trying to find my place in this field. It was also exciting to hear about the work the Dallas Fort Worth airport is doing to make commitments to sustainable changes, because this kind of modeling will be imperative in making similar changes with other municipalities. This conference made me certain that brilliant strides are being made in environmental and climate concerns, and these strides are financially backed which will make all of the difference. Gabrielle Xu Investments Leadership Development Program at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, U.S. Finance is essential for advancing a clean, more just economy. Many have cited the past year as an inflection point for sustainable investing. Institutional investors and individuals alike are displaying unprecedented interest in ESG due to a convergence of factors including the global health crisis and accelerating climate events. Coming face to face with inequalities exposed during the pandemic has forced leaders to address DEI in the workplace. Intensifying climate events like wildfires and rising sea levels have affected more people than ever. It is time to act — and to act, we need finance. The financial sector touches all stakeholders, from businesses to consumers, and is the backbone of the economy. Sustainable finance can create long-term value by managing risks and returns, as well as by building more resilient systems for the future. Investors can intentionally invest in companies that have a positive social impact and exclude companies that do not. Investors can engage with businesses about their ESG practices. Investors can commit to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Finance spans all sectors and can be used in countless ways to advance a clean, more just economy. It is apparent that any organization that doesn’t consider ESG will be exposed to future operational risks. The business case has been made, and stakeholder interests are now aligning. Finance is a powerful tool that can (and should) be actively used for good, to serve the communities in which we live and work. Sheryl Owen Global sustainability expert at SDG Advocate Financial institutions can unlock opportunities for under-resourced communities to join the fight against climate change, while supporting their bottom line. Through GreenFin 21, I have learned that investors that are best poised for the future are those that actively engage with companies through the "power of purpose." Utilizing private funds that are funneled toward bridging the gap between social impact and environmental goals is key and has been demonstrated to be profitable for companies. The current green bonds used to offset GHG emissions can be expanded to identify a roadmap that supports individuals within a corporation’s community or supply chain. Active engagement with your purpose means that there needs to be a development of thoughtful metrics, a roadmap for how to get there and constant reassessment of strategies implemented. The problem of how to tackle a just transition to a green economy can only be solved through reevaluation and is key in any ESG portfolio that wants to continuously see progress that serves a local or global community need.  Richa Agarwal MES candidate at the University of Pennsylvania & ESG Intern — Artisan Sustainable Emerging Markets Team GreenFin 21 was a great reminder that this is a fantastic time to be part of the sustainability realm and play a part in building and assuring a just, sustainable and inclusive economy worldwide in this decisive decade. The opportunity to meet such stellar emerging leaders and industry leaders was comforting as these remarkable people are leading and fighting the battle for a cleaner and equitable world. With such great minds at work, the hope is that it is only a function of time that sustainable finance will become mainstream. With the pandemic having aggravated income and social inequality globally, from the conversation at GreenFin 21, it is clear that many practitioners, financiers, regulators are slowly but progressively aligning and transitioning to a clean and just economy. My main takeaway was that in order to expedite action and transition, we must focus on ESG transparency and engagement. While finance can unlock many opportunities, stakeholders must actively initiate collaborative conversations and actions that consider the voices of the entire value chain, especially with those previously underrepresented and in the emerging world. Along with the focus on better disclosures, we must come together on action globally. GreenFin 21 validated that tremendous environmental, social and fiscal opportunities exist in redefining capitalism which can address social inequalities, injustices and climate change. Overall, it was reassuring to hear prominent not-for-profits, banks, asset holders, insurers and businesses talk about the power of finance that can support a value shift, turn pledges into progress, and that ESG is here to stay! Mecca Luster Impact Investing and returned Peace Corps Volunteer I've learned that finance professionals can no longer sit on the sidelines and lean on our counterparts in the social sector to do the heavy lifting. It's time we reframe our thinking about investing as more than an opportunity to create individual wealth. Sustainable finance is an opportunity to give our counterparts in the social sector the financial support they've needed for decades. It is about amplifying the voices and leaders that have been fighting for clean energy, civil rights and equitable healthcare for decades. Looking to these activists for technical assistance should be the norm in all ESG investing. I hope the finance industry will finally shed the vestiges of extractive capital creation and instead push to be boldly and unapologetically impactful. Anjali Sindhuvalli Sustainability Across the Curriculum intern, University of Georgia student I once thought that utilizing finances in order to stabilize the circular economy relied on purely individual efforts — after all, each dollar spent is a choice that supports particular global supply chains, initiatives and resources. However, I have learned about the power of collaboration and of taking into account the differences between stakeholder and investor preferences in order to create a cleaner economy. Although interests may not align, the purchasing power of these groups can be harnessed to pinpoint cleaner financial decisions. As large investment firms push for the expansion of the green bond market, the public, private and nonprofit sectors may all benefit from cooperative efforts and linked supply chains when manufacturing and distributing products. I hope to see an increased push for carbon-neutral investments and economic structures that are available to people of all financial and social classes. I am honored to be selected as an emerging leader, and I had a wonderful time attending the sessions and the breakouts. Are you a student or young professional interested in advancing the circular economy? Applications for the Circularity 21 Emerging Leaders program are open until May 14. Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin 21 Emerging Leaders Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock metamorworks Close Authorship

What Biden's infrastructure plan fails to reimagine

What Biden's infrastructure plan fails to reimagine Suz Okie Mon, 05/10/2021 - 01:15 "This is the moment to reimagine." Among the countless details, proposals and impassioned appeals within the American Jobs Plan Fact Sheet, the outline for the Biden administration’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, this line struck a chord with me.  While the drafters of the plan have employed considerable imagination — redefining not just what infrastructure can include but expanding the aspirational scope of what it can achieve — I fear the powers that be will fail to adequately reimagine not what we build, but how we build it.  From material selection to designing for disassembly, how we make our infrastructure can define or inhibit the "new economy" that the administration (and the moment) calls for. Today’s planning decisions will determine how many emissions we release or capture; what value can be reclaimed when tomorrow’s infrastructure is decommissioned; which communities will be affected or improved by the materials we extract, produce and recover. If the plan’s aim is truly to "build back better" — using climate change mitigation, social equity and economic opportunity as measures for success — the Biden administration must reimagine with the end and next life of infrastructure in mind.  The end is just the beginning Perhaps counterintuitively, as we design the new we must consider what happens when it gets old. To assure infrastructure maintains a positive impact, providing value throughout its lifespan (or new value down the road), it’s imperative to consider and prepare for end-of-life. Unfortunately, politicians, city planners and companies often fail to do just that: a symptom that is evident in the lack of waste management, recycling, composting and repair infrastructure outlined in Biden’s otherwise quite comprehensive plan. But a little infrastructure pre-planning is critical to achieving the three goals most prominently woven throughout the plan. Here’s my (non-comprehensive) take on how.  Materials can mitigate the climate crisis No matter how you slice it, building new infrastructure will require greenhouse gas emissions. Planning for end of life, however, can extend the useful life of embedded emission while avoiding further emissions down the road.  Take for example steel. The plan will require a tremendous volume: an estimated 50,000 net tons for every $1 billion in infrastructure spending, equating to more than 180 million tons of CO2 emissions, based on 2018 data. Building steel structures for disassembly — employing techniques such as modular design and connection design— would ensure that invested carbon can live on through reuse and recycling. Given its versatility and durability, steel is considered a strong candidate for reuse, and recycled steel requires 85 to 90 percent less energy than primary production.  Reuse provides economic opportunity Much like carbon, the materials that make up our infrastructure contain embedded economic opportunity. Without pre-planning, we will fail to capture this value as infrastructure reaches the end of its useful life. One area of the proposal screaming for such considerations is the expansive, proposed investment in electric vehicles and renewable energy. The products required — from EV batteries to solar panels — contain precious and finite metals, and (by association) value.  How we build these products today — not the mention the regulatory system and infrastructure within which they’ll be decommissioned —  will discern how successfully we can recycle, reuse and reclaim value tomorrow. In solar modules alone, end-of-life planning could mean the difference between a projected $60 million market for recovered materials or a million tons of e-waste by 2030.  Foresight ensures social equity Failing to plan for end-of-life management can have grave consequences on our communities. For proof, look no further than the deteriorating lead pipes in Flint, Michigan and the more than 500,000 children in the United States with elevated levels of lead in their bloodstream. Being cognizant of how materials will degrade and selecting materials that are nontoxic will ensure they can be used again and again without harming our most vulnerable.  I must admit, I’m hesitant to add to the cacophony of criticisms that Biden’s infrastructure plan has received. In many ways I find the bold, expansive proposal refreshing (and given the state of our politics, it’s likely to evolve dramatically before any yellow construction tape goes up.) But as the White House notes, it’s not just about fixing our infrastructure but "fixing it right ... this is no time to build back to the way things were."  Topics Circular Economy Infrastructure Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off How we make our infrastructure can define or inhibit the “new economy” that the administration (and the moment) calls for. Shutterstock yuttana Contributor Studio Close Authorship

Thought for the day

An ice cave that looks like a wave in Iceland

Ice cave in Iceland that looks like a wave photography by Horour Bjorgvin Magnusson


Celebrating Earth Day 2021 !

The theme for Earth Day 2021 is ‘Restore Our Earth’, urging everyone to focus on how we can both reduce our impact on the planet and actively repair ecosystems.

EARTHDAY.ORG™ works in countries around the world to drive meaningful action for our planet across:

  • Food & Environment: Simply put, the event’s organisers want you to combat climate change by changing your diet – better known as reducing your “foodprint.” While we should all be working to reduce our foodprints, there are several factors to consider, such as access, availability, health, and sustainability.

  • Climate Literacy: Climate and environmental awareness, when combined with civic education, is expected to create jobs, develop a green consumer market, and enable people to meaningfully engage with their governments in the fight against climate change, according to Earth Day organisers. They believe that climate and environmental education should be mandatory, measured, and include a strong civic participation aspect in every school around the world.
  • The Canopy Project: By planting trees all over the world, this initiative aims to enhance our common climate. Since 2010, Earth Day organisers have worked with global partners to plant tens of millions of trees with The Canopy Project, reforesting areas in desperate need of rehabilitation.

  • The Great Global Clean Up: Did you know that unregulated burning of household waste causes 270,000 premature deaths per year, and that 2 billion people lack access to waste collection services? It’s also reported that 79 percent of all […]

Nine-year-old is first UK person to have air pollution listed on death certificate

The Government has been urged to set much tougher legally binding pollution targets by the coroner in an inquest into a nine-year-old girl who died of a fatal asthma attack after being exposed to toxic air.

Philip Barlow, assistant coroner for Inner South London, ruled in a landmark second inquest last year that air pollution contributed to the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah from an asthma attack.

In a report to prevent future deaths, he said legally binding targets for particulate matter in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK and the Government should take action to address the issue.

The WHO limit is 10 micrograms of tiny “particulate” matter per cubic metre – and if the UK were to introduce such a limit about 15 million people would be living in areas with illegally high levels of pollution.The current UK – and EU – limit is 25 micrograms per cubic metre, which far exceeds the level of air pollution any part of the country, yet air pollution is responsible for an estimated 36,000 early deaths a year.

Mr Barlow also said greater public awareness of air pollution information would help individuals reduce their personal exposure.

And he warned the adverse effects of pollutants were not being sufficiently communicated to patients and their carers by medical staff

Responding to the report, Ella’s mother Rosamund Kissi-Debrah called on the Government to act on the recommendations in the coroner’s report, warning “children are dying unnecessarily because the Government is […]

Overshoot or Omnicide?

Questions and Answers with Sam CaranaAbove image shows a non-linear blue trend based on 1880-2020 NASA Land+Ocean data that are adjusted 0.78°C to reflect a pre-industrial base, to more fully reflect strong polar warming, and to reflect surface air temperatures over oceans. This blue trend highlights that the 1.5°C threshold was crossed in 2012 (inset), while the 2°C threshold looks set to be crossed next year and a 3°C rise could be reached at the end of 2026. Overshoot?The blue trend in the image at the top shows the temperature rise crossing 1.5°C in 2012. Could this have been a temporary overshoot? Could the trend be wrong and could temperatures come down in future, instead of continuing to rise, and could temperatures fall to such extent that this will bring the average temperature rise back to below 1.5°C?To answer this question, let's apply the method followed by the IPCC and estimate the average temperature rise over a 30-year period that is centered around the start of 2012, i.e. from 1997 to the end of 2026. The IPPC used a 30-year period in its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, while assuming that, for future years, the current multi-decadal warming trend would continue (see image below).As said, the image at the top shows the temperature rise crossing 1.5°C in 2012. For the average temperature over the 30-year period 1997-2026 to be below 1.5°C, temperatures would have to fall over the next few years. Even if the temperature for 2021 fell to a level as low as it was in 2018 and remained at that same lower level until end 2026, the 1997-2026 average would still be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial. Furthermore, for temperatures to fall over the next few years, there would need to be a fall in concentrations of greenhouse gases over the next few years, among other things. Instead, greenhouse gas levels appear to be rising steadily, if not at accelerating pace.What did the IPCC envisage? As the image below shows, the IPCC in AR5 did envisage carbon dioxide under RCP 2.6 to be 421 ppm in 2100, while the combined CO₂e for carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide would be 475 ppm in 2100. The image below, based on a study by Detlef van Vuuren et al. (2011), pictures pathways for concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, for each of four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs).Above image shows that, for RCP 2.6 to apply in the above study, there is little or no room for a rise in these greenhouse gases. In fact, the study shows that methane levels would have to be falling dramatically. At the moment, however, methane concentrations show no signs of falling and instead appear to be following if not exceeding RCP 8.5, as discussed in a recent post and as also illustrated by the images below. Greenhouse gas levels are risingAs the image below shows, the carbon dioxide (CO₂) level recorded at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, was 421.36 parts per million (ppm) on April 8, 2021.  The N20 satellite recorded a methane peak of 2862 ppb on the afterrnoon of March 29, 2021, at 487.2 mb, as the image below shows.A similarly high methane peak was recorded by the MetOp-1 satellite at 469 mb on the morning of April 4, 2021. Below are the highest daily mean methane levels recorded by the MetOp-1 satellite at selected altitudes on March 10 or 12, for the years 2013-2021, showing that methane levels are rising, especially at the higher altitude associated with 293 mb. Similarly, nitrous oxide levels show no signs of falling, as illustrated by the image below.Methane grew 15.85 ppb in 2020, how fast could CO₂e rise? Rising greenhouse gas levels and associated feedbacks threaten to cause temperatures to keep rising, in a runaway scenario that cannot be reverted even if emissions by people were cut to zero.Peaks in greenhouse gas levels could suffice to trigger the clouds feedback, which occurs when a CO₂e threshold of around 1,200 ppm is crossed, and the stratocumulus decks abruptly become unstable and break up into scattered cumulus clouds. Once the clouds tipping point is crossed, it will be impossible to undo its impact, in line with the nature of a tipping point. In theory, CO₂ levels could come down after the stratocumulus breakup, but the stratocumulus decks would only reform once the CO₂ levels drop below 300 ppm.A recent post repeated the warning that by 2026, there could be an 18°C rise when including the clouds feedback, while humans will likely go extinct with a 3°C rise and most life on Earth will disappear with a 5°C rise. In conclusion, once the clouds feedback gets triggered, it cannot be reverted by people, because by the time the clouds feedback starts kicking in, people would already have disappeared, so there won't be any people around to keep trying to revert it.[ click on images to enlarge ]Methane levels are rising rapidly. The image to the right shows a trend that is based on NOAA 2006-2020 annual gobal mean methane data and that points at a mean of 3893 ppb getting crossed by the end of 2026. Why is that value of 3893 ppb important? On April 8, 2021, carbon dioxide reached a peak of 421.36 ppm, i.e. 778.64 ppm away from the clouds tipping point at 1200 ppm, and 778.64 ppm CO₂e translates into 3893 ppb of methane at a 1-year GWP of 200. In other words, a methane mean of 3893 ppb alone could cause the clouds tipping point to get crossed, resulting in an abrupt 8°C temperature rise. Such a high mean by 2026 cannot be ruled out, given the rapid recent growth in mean annual methane levels (15.85 ppb in 2020, see inset on image). Additionally, there are further warming elements than just carbon dioxide and methane, e.g. nitrous oxide and water vapor haven't yet been included in the CO₂e total. Moreover, it may not even be necessary for the global mean methane level to reach 3893 ppb. A high methane peak in one single spot may suffice and a peak of 3893 ppb of methane could be reached soon, given that methane just reached a peak of 2862 ppb, while even higher peaks were reached over the past few years, including a peak of 3369 ppb recorded on the afternoon of August 31, 2018.  Abrupt stratocumulus cloud shattering  [ click on images to enlarge ]Catastrophic crack propagation is what makes a balloon pop. Could low-lying clouds similarly break up and vanish abruptly? Could peak greenhouse gas concentrations in one spot break up droplets into water vapor, thus raising CO₂e and propagating break-up of more droplets, etc., to shatter entire clouds?In other words, an extra burst of methane from the seafoor of the Arctic Ocean alone could suffice to trigger the clouds tipping point and abruptly push temperatures up by an additional 8°C. Omnicide?This brings the IPCC views and suggestions into question. As discussed above, for the average temperature to come down to below 1.5°C over the period 1997-2026, temperatures would need to fall over the next few years. What again would it take for temperatures to fall over the next few years? Imagine that all emissions of greenhouse gases by people would end. Even if all emissions of greenhouse gases by people could magically end right now, there would still be little or no prospect for temperatures to fall over the next few years. Reasons for this are listed below, and it is not an exhaustive list since some things are hard to assess, such as whether oceans will be able to keep absorbing as much heat and carbon dioxide as they currently do. By implication, there is no carbon budget left. Suggesting that there was a carbon budget left, to be divided among polluters and to be consumed over the next few years, that suggestion is irresponsible. Below are some reasons why the temperature is likely to rise over the next few years, rather than fall.How likely is a rise of more than 3°C by 2026?• The warming impact of carbon dioxide reaches its peak a decade after emission, while methane's impact over ten years is huge, so the warming impact of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere is likely to prevent temperatures from falling and could instead keep raising temperatures for some time to come. • Temperatures are currently suppressed. We're in a La Niña period, as illustrated by the image below. [ click on images to enlarge ]As NASA describes, El Niño events occur roughly every two to seven years. As temperatures keep rising, ever more frequent strong El Niño events are likely to occur. NOAA anticipates La Niña to re-emerge during the fall or winter 2021/2022, so it's likely that a strong El Niño will occur between 2023 and 2025. • Rising temperatures can cause growth in sources of greenhouse gases and a decrease in sinks. The image below shows how El Niño/La Niña events and growth in CO₂ levels line up.  • We're also at a low point in the sunspot cycle. As the image on the right shows, the number of sunspots can be expected to rise as we head toward 2026, and temperatures can be expected to rise accordingly. According to James Hansen et al., the variation of solar irradiance from solar minimum to solar maximum is of the order of 0.25 W/m⁻². • Add to this the impact of a recent Sudden Stratospheric Warming event. We are currently experiencing the combined impact of three short-term variables that are suppressing the temperature rise, i.e. a Sudden Stratospheric Warming event, a La Niña event and a low in sunspots. Over the next few years, in the absence of large volcano eruptions and in the absence of Sudden Stratospheric Warming events, a huge amount of heat could build up at surface level. As the temperature impact of the other two short-term variables reverses, i.e. as the sunspot cycle moves toward a peak and a El Niño develops, this could push up temperatures substantially. The world could be set up for a perfect storm by 2026, since sunspots are expected to reach a peak by then and since it takes a few years to move from a La Niña low to the peak of an El Niño period. • Furthermore, temperatures are currently also suppressed by sulfate cooling. This impact is falling away as we progress with the necessary transition away from fossil fuel and biofuel, toward the use of more wind turbines and solar panels instead. Aerosols typically fall out of the atmosphere within a few weeks, so as the transition progresses, this will cause temperatures to rise over the next few years. Most sulfates are caused by large-scale industrial activity, such as coal-fired power plants and smelters. A significant part of sulphur emissions is also caused by volcanoes. Historically, some 20 volcanoes are actively erupting on any particular day. Of the 49 volcanoes that erupted during 2021, 45 volcanoes were still active with continuing (for at least 3 months) eruptions as at March 12, 2021. • Also holding back the temperature rise at the moment is the buffer effect of thick sea ice in the Arctic that consumes heat as it melts. As Arctic sea ice thickness declines, more heat will instead warm up the Arctic, resulting in albedo changes, changes to the Jet Stream and possibly trigger huge releases of methane from the seafloor. The rise in ocean temperature on the Northern Hemisphere looks very threatening in this regard (see image on the right) and many of these developments are discussed at the extinction page. There are numerous further feedbacks that look set to start kicking in with growing ferocity as temperatures keep rising, such as releases of greenhouse gases resulting from permafrost thawing and the decline of the snow and ice cover. Some 30 feedbacks affecting the Arctic are discussed at the feedbacks page. • The conclusion of study after study is that the situation is worse than expected and will get even worse as warming continues. Some examples: a recent study found that the Amazon rainforest is no longer a sink, but has become a source, contributing to warming the planet instead; another study found that soil bacteria release CO₂ that was previously thought to remain trapped by iron; another study found that forest soil carbon does not increase with higher CO₂ levels; another study found that forests' long-term capacity to store carbon is dropping in regions with extreme annual fires; a recent post discussed a study finding that at higher temperatures, respiration rates continue to rise in contrast to sharply declining rates of photosynthesis, which under business-as-usual emissions would nearly halve the land sink strength by as early as 2040; the post also mentions a study on oceans that finds that, with increased stratification, heat from climate warming less effectively penetrates into the deep ocean, which contributes to further surface warming, while it also reduces the capability of the ocean to store carbon, exacerbating global surface warming; finally, a recent study found that kelp off the Californian coast has collapsed. So, both land and ocean sinks look set to decrease as temperatures keep rising, while a 2020 study points out that the ocean sink will also immediately slow down as future fossil fuel emission cuts drive reduced growth of atmospheric CO₂.  Where do we go from here? [ image from earlier post ] The same blue trend that's in the image at the top also shows up in the image on the right, from an earlier post, together with a purple trend and a red trend that picture even worse scenarios than the blue trend. The purple trend is based on 15 recent years (2006-2020), so it can cover a 30-year period (2006-2035) that is centered around end December 2020. As the image shows, the purple trend points at a rise of 10°C by 2026, leaving little or no scope for the current acceleration to slow, let alone for the anomaly to return to below 2°C.The red trend is based on a dozen recent years (2009-2020) and shows that the 2°C threshold could already have been crossed in 2020, while pointing at a rise of 18°C by 2025. In conclusion, temperatures could rise by more than 3°C by the end of 2026, as indicated by the blue trend in the image at the top. At that point, humans will likely go extinct, making it in many respects rather futile to speculate about what will happen beyond 2026. On the other hand, the right thing to do is to help avoid the worst things from happening, through comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan. Links• Climate Plan• NOAA Global Climate Report - February 2021 - Monthly Temperature Anomalies Versus El Niño• NOAA Northern Hemisphere Ocean Temperature Anomaly • NOAA Sunspots - solar cycle progression• Smithsonian Institution - Volcanoes - current eruptions• IPCC Special Report Global Warming of 1.5 ºC - Summary for Policy Makers• IPCC AR5 WG1 Summary for Policymakers - Box SPM.1: Representative Concentration Pathways• The representative concentration pathways: an overview - by Detlef van Vuuren et al. (2011)• Young people's burden: requirement of negative CO₂ emissions - by James Hansen et al. (2017)• 2020: Hottest Year On Record• What Carbon Budget?• Most Important Message Ever • High Temperatures October 2020• Temperature keep rising• More Extreme Weather• Extinction• Feedbacks• Sudden Stratospheric Warming • Possible climate transitions from breakup of stratocumulus decks under greenhouse warming - by Tapio Schneider  et al.• Iron mineral dissolution releases iron and associated organic carbon during permafrost thaw - by Monique Patzner et al.• Global maps of twenty-first century forest carbon fluxes - by Nancy Harris et al.• A trade-off between plant and soil carbon storage under elevated CO2 - by César Terrer et al.• Forests' long-term capacity to store carbon is dropping in regions with extreme annual fires • Decadal changes in fire frequencies shift tree communities and functional traits - by Adam Pellegrini et al.• NOAA - Annual Mean Growth Rate for Mauna Loa, Hawaii• NOAA - Trends in Atmospheric Methane• The Climate Data Guide: Nino SST Indices - by Kevin Trenberth & NCAR Staff (Eds)• NASA - El Niño• Historical change of El Niño properties sheds light on future changes of extreme El Niño - by Bin Wang et al.• NOAA - ENSO: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions, April 12, 2021• Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020 - by Lijing Cheng et al.• Large-scale shift in the structure of a kelp forest ecosystem co-occurs with an epizootic and marine heatwave - by Meredith McPherson et al.• External Forcing Explains Recent Decadal Variability of the Ocean Carbon Sink - by Galen McKinley et al. (2020)• Maximum warming occurs about one decade after a carbon dioxide emission - by Katharine Ricke et al. • Blue Ocean Event • Confirm Methane's Importance• FAQs

Confirm Methane's Importance

Agriculture, land use and forestry responsible for half of people's greenhouse gases emissions?The image on the right updates an image from an earlier post, illustrating the difference between using a Gobal Warming Potential (GWP) for methane of 150 over a few years versus 28 over 100 years. The IPCC in its special report Climate Change and Land assessed the impact of AFOLU (agriculture, forestry, and other land use) versus the impact of fossil fuel, etc., by using a GWP for methane of 28 over 100 years, referring to AR5, an earlier IPCC report. Since AR5 was published, a study found methane's 100-year GWP to be 14% higher than the IPCC value. The image on the right therefore uses a short-term GWP for methane of 171 in the panel on the right-hand side, 14% higher than the 150 used earlier. When using this 171 GWP for methane and when including pre- and post-production activities in the food system, AFOLU (agriculture, forestry, and other land use) causes about half of people's 2007-2016 emissions. The black bar for methane at a GWP of 171 in the panel on the right-hand side further shows a far greater impact caused by fossil fuel, etc., in particular by the use of natural gas for heating buildings, generating electricity, etc.Methane's one-year GWP is 200The image below shows a trendline that is based on IPCC AR5 data that were similarly updated by 14% and that indicates that methane's one-year GWP is 200. Methane Levels Rising RapidlyNOAA data show that methane's global mean for November 2020 was 1891.9 ppb, i.e. 16.3 ppb above the 1875.6 ppb global mean for November 2019. Social Cost of MethaneIn a January 2021 executive order, President Biden called - among other things - for an update of the 'social cost of methane', to take account of climate risk, of environmental justice, and of intergenerational equity, and to have a dollar figure for agencies to use when monetizing the value of changes in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from regulations and other relevant agency actions. Of course, it should be painfully clear by now that the unfolding climate collapse is an existential threat, making it obviously and vitally important to act on methane. We simply cannot afford to delay action, we cannot afford to do so financially nor in any other way. So, what can and should be done? Above suggestion to take strong action was posted Nov. 9, 2020 at facebookEven when issuing a mandate, e.g., for a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy, the question remains how this is best implemented. To what extent could bans help speed up the necessary transition to clean, renewable energy? Examples are banning cars from entering (parts of) cities, banning the construction of new coal-fired power plants, banning fracking and banning natural gas hookups in new construction.Image from the 2014 post Biochar Builds Real AssetsThe Climate Plan likes local communities to decide what works best in their area, while recommending local feebates as the preferred policy tool. Indeed, fees that are set high enough can effectively ban specific alternatives. Furthermore, instead of using money, local councils could add extra fees to rates for land where soil carbon falls, while using all the revenues for rebates on rates for land where soil carbon rises; that way, biochar effectively becomes a tool to lower rates, while it will also help improve the soil's fertility, its ability to retain water and to support more vegetation. That way, real assets are built.We cannot afford to delay actionMean global carbon dioxide was 413.28 ppm in November 2020. Mean global methane was 1891.9 ppb in November 2020, which at a 1-year GWP of 200 is 378.38 ppm CO₂e. Together, CO₂ and methane add up to 791.66 ppm CO₂e, which is 408.34 ppm CO₂e away from the 1200 ppm CO₂e clouds tipping point.This 408.34 ppm CO₂e translates into a methane equivalent of 2042 ppb of methane (again using a 1-year GWP of 200), in other words, it would add about 5 Gt of methane, an amount similar to the methane that is aready in the atmosphere now. Such a methane burst of about 5 Gt alone could suffice to raise the CO₂e level to 1200 ppm and trigger a further 8°C global temperature rise due to the couds feedback.How likely is a large methane burst? Remember the warnings by Natalia Shakhova et al., who more than a decade ago concluded abrupt release of ;up to 50 Gt from the vast amounts of methane stored in the form of hydrates and free gas to be highly possible at any time. A recent study found methane leaking from a large pool of deep, preformed methane, indicating a large potential for abrupt future releases.Keep in mind that the clouds feedback could aso be triggered with a much smaller methane burst, since such an event would also come with a collapse in industrial activity and the associated fall in sulfate cooling, numerous additional feedbacks, and huge rises in greenhouse gas emissions, next to the temperature rise due to such a methane burst itself. The total potential rise in global air temperature at land-ocean surface level from 1750 to 2026 could be 18°C when including the clouds feedback. Also keep in mind that humans will likely go extinct with a 3°C rise and most life on Earth will disappear with a 5°C rise.High peak levelsOminously, some very high peak levels were recently recorded by the MetOp-1 satellite in the afternoon at 469 mb, i.e. 2930 ppb on March 3 and 2878 ppb on March 4.As discussed in an earlier post, next to seafloor methane, there are further warming elements that could contribute to a rapid acceleration of the temperature rise.ConclusionThe situation is dire and calls for immediate, comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan.Links• Climate Plan• IPCC special report Climate Change and Land• IPCC Report Climate Change and Land• Radiative forcing of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide: A significant revision of the methane radiative forcing - by Maryam Etminan et al. (2018)• IPCC keeps feeding the addiction• How much warming have humans caused?• Most Important Message Ever• January 2021 executive order by President Biden on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis• NOAA mean global carbon methane• NOAA mean global carbon dioxide• Why stronger winds over the North Atlantic are so dangerous• Feedbacks in the Arctic• When will we die?• A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026?• Methane Hydrates Tipping Point threatens to get crossed• Arctic Hit By Ten Tipping Points• Crossing the Paris Agreement thresholds• 2°C crossed• Most Important Message Ever• Blue Ocean Event• Record Arctic Warming• There is no time to lose• Warning of mass extinction of species, including humans, within one decade• Extinction• Frequently Asked Questions: How much methane is stored in hydrates and how much of this could be released, say, within a few years?• Source apportionment of methane escaping the subsea permafrost system in the outer Eurasian Arctic Shelf - by Julia Steinbach et al.• 2020: Hottest Year On Record

Snowstorms, the breach of the Arctic vortex and the effects of ice meltwater on the oceans

by Andrew GliksonWarnings by leading climate scientists regarding the high sensitivity of the atmosphere in response to abrupt compositional changes, such as near-doubling of greenhouse gas concentrations, are now manifest: According to Wallace Broecker, (the “father” of climate science) “The paleoclimate record shouts out to us that, far from being self-stabilizing, the Earth's climate system is an ornery beast which overreacts to even small nudges, and humans have already given the climate a substantial nudge”. As stated by James Zachos, “The Paleocene hot spell should serve as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of climate”. As snowstorms such as the “Beast from the East” (2018) and “Storm Darcy” (2021) sweep the northern continents, reaching Britain and as far south as Texas and Greece, those who still question the reality and consequences of global climate change, including in governments, may rejoice as if they have a new argument to question global warming. However, as indicated by the science, these fronts result from a weakened circum-Arctic jet stream boundary due to decreased temperature polarity between the Arctic Circle and high latitude zones in Europe, Russia and North America. The reduced contrast allows migration of masses of cold Arctic air southward and of tropical air northward across the weakened jet stream boundary, indicating a fundamental shift in the global climate pattern (Figure 1). Figure 1. (A) Extensions from the Arctic polar zone into Europe and North America; (B) Extension into North America; (C) weakening and increasing undulation of the Arctic jet stream boundary (NOAA) allowing intrusion of air masses of contrasted temperature across the boundary.The weakening of the Arctic boundary is a part of the overall shift of climate zones toward the poles in both hemispheres, documented in detail in Europe (Figure 2). Transient cooling pauses are projected as a result of the flow of cold ice meltwater from Greenland and Antarctica into the oceans, leading to stadial cooling intervals. Figure 2. Migration of climate zones in Europe during 1981-2010 and under +2°C. Faint pink areas represent advanced warming. (A, left) Agro‐climate zonation of Europe based on growing season length (GSL) and active temperature sum (ATS) obtained as an ensemble median from five different climate model simulations during the baseline period (1981–2010). (B, right) Ensemble median spatial patterns of agro-climate zones migration under 2°C global surface warming according to model RCP8.5. Gray areas represent regions where no change with respect to the baseline period is simulated.A combination of ice sheet melting and the flow of melt water into the oceans on the one hand, and ongoing warming of tropical continental zones on the other hand, are likely to lead to the following: Storminess due to collisions of cold and warm air masses;As the ice sheets continue to melt, the cold meltwater enhances lower temperatures at shallow ocean levels, as modelled by Hansen et al. (2016) and Bonselaer et al (2018) (Figure 3A), as contrasted with warming at deeper ocean levels over large parts of the oceans. This transiently counterbalances the effects of global warming over the continents arising from the greenhouse effect; The above processes herald chaotic climate effects, in particular along continental margins and island chains.Figure 3. A. 2080–2100 meltwater-induced sea-air temperature anomalies relative to the standard RCP8.5 ensemble (Bronselaer et al., 2018), indicating marked cooling of parts of the southern oceans. Hatching indicates where the anomalies are not significant at the 95% level; B. Negative temperature anomalies through the 21st-22nd centuries signifying stadial cooling intervals (Hansen et al., 2016); C. A model of Global warming for 2096, where cold ice melt water occupies large parts of the North Atlantic and circum-Antarctica, raises sea level by about 5 meters and decreases global temperature by -0.33°C (Hansen et al., 2016). The extreme rate at which the global warming and the shift of climate zones are taking place virtually within a period less than one generation-long, faster than major past warming events such as at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary 56 million years ago, renders the term “climate change” hardly appropriate, since what we are looking at is a sudden and abrupt event. According to Giger (2021) “Tipping points could fundamentally disrupt the planet and produce abrupt change in the climate. A mass methane release could put us on an irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.”Computer modelling does not always capture the sensitivity, complexity and feedbacks of the atmosphere-ocean-land system as observed from paleoclimate studies. Many models portray gradual or linear responses of the atmosphere to compositional variations, overlooking self-amplifying effects and transient reversals associated with melting of the ice sheets and cooling of the oceans by the flow of ice melt. According to Bonselaer et al. (2018) “The climate metrics that we consider lead to substantially different future climate projections when accounting for the effects of meltwater from the Antarctic Ice Sheet. These differences have consequences for climate policy and should be taken into account in future IPCC reports, given recent observational evidence of increasing mass loss from Antarctica” and “However, the effect on climate is not included (by the IPCC) and will not be in the upcoming CMIP6 experimental design. Similarly, the effects of meltwater from the Greenland Ice Sheet have so far not been considered, and could lead to further changes in simulated future climate”. Depending on future warming the effect of Antarctic ice meltwater may extend further, possibly becoming global. By contrast to ocean cooling, further to NASA’s reported mean land-ocean temperature rise of +1.18°C in March 2020 above pre-industrial temperatures, relative to the 1951-1980 baseline, large parts of the continents, including central Asia, west Africa eastern South America and Australia are warming toward mean temperatures of +2°C and higher. The contrast between cooling of extensive ocean regions and warming of the continental tropics is likely to lead to extreme storminess, in particular along continent-ocean interfaces.The late 20th century to early 21st century global greenhouse gas levels and regional warming rates have reached a large factor to an order of magnitude faster than warming events of past geological and mass extinction events, with major implications for the nature and speed of extreme weather events. For these reasons the term “climate change” for the current extreme warming, which is reaching +1.5°C over the continents and more than +3°C over the Arctic over a period shorter than one century, no longer applies. The world is looking at an extremely rapid shift in the climatic conditions that have allowed civilization to emerge.Andrew GliksonA/Prof. Andrew GliksonEarth and Paleo-climate scientistThe University of New South Wales,Kensington NSW 2052 AustraliaBooks:The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia

A Sketch for Teaching the Anthropocene in the Alps

By Heidi E. Danzl (trans. Kristy Henderson) The Alps can be considered a hot spot for climate change due to changing growing seasons and tree lines, species migration, more intense weather events, increased glacial melt, droughts, mudslides, avalanches, flooding, and the omnipresence of micro-technofossils. They are therefore well suited to teaching the Anthropocene and exploring its impacts. In the following, I sketch several ideas for teaching the Anthropocene based on existing cultural events, institutions, and practices within contemporary Alpine communities.

The extreme rate of global warming: IPCC Oversights of future climate trends

by Andrew GliksonIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and comprehensive summaries of the peer-reviewed literature raise questions regarding the assumptions inherent in computer modelling of future climate changes, including the supposed linearity of future global temperature trends (Figure 1).Figure 1. Global mean surface temperature increase as a function of cumulative total global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from various lines of evidence. IPCCComputer modelling does not necessarily capture the sensitivity, complexity and feedbacks of the atmosphere-ocean-land system as observed from paleoclimate studies. Underlying published IPCC computer models appears to be an assumption of mostly gradual or linear responses of the atmosphere to compositional variations. This overlooks self-amplifying effects and transient reversals associated with melting of the ice sheets. Leading paleoclimate scientists have issued warnings regarding the high sensitivity of the atmosphere in response to extreme forcing, such as near-doubling of greenhouse gas concentrations: According to Wallace Broecker, “The paleoclimate record shouts out to us that, far from being self-stabilizing, the Earth's climate system is an ornery beast which overreacts to even small nudges, and humans have already given the climate a substantial nudge”. As stated by James Zachos, “The Paleocene hot spell should serve as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of climate”.Holocene examples are abrupt stadial cooling events which followed peak warming episodes which trigger a flow of large volumes of ice melt water into the oceans, inducing stadial events. Stadial events can occur within very short time, as are the Younger dryas stadial (12.9-11.7 kyr) (Steffensen et al. 2008) (Figure 2) and the 8.2 kyr Laurentian cooling episode,Despite the high rates of warming such stadial cooling intervals do not appear to be shown in IPCC models (Figure 1).Figure 2. The younger dryas stadial cooling (Steffensen et al., 2008). Note the abrupt freeze and thaw boundaries of ~3 years and ~1 year.Comparisons with paleoclimate warming rates follow: The CO₂ rise interval for the K-T impact is estimated to range from instantaneous to a few 10³ years or a few 10⁴ years (Beerling et al, 2002), or near-instantaneous (Figure 3A). An approximate CO₂ growth range of ~0.114 ppm/year applies to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) (Figure 3B) and ~0.0116 ppm/year to the Last Glacial Termination (LGT) during 17-11 kyr ago (Figure 3C). Thus the current warming rate of 2 to 3 ppm/year is about or more than 200 times the LGT rate (LGT: 17-11 kyr; ~0.0116 ppm/yr) and 20-30 times faster than the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) rate of ~0.114 ppm/year.Therefore the term “climate change” for the extreme warming reaching +1.5°C over the continents and more than +3°C over the Arctic over a period of less than 100 years, requires reconsideration.However, comparisons between the PETM and current global warming may be misleading since, by distinction from the current existence of large ice sheets on Earth, no ice was present about 55 million years ago.Figure 3. (A) Reconstructed atmospheric CO₂ variations during the Late Cretaceous–early Tertiary, based on -Stomata indices of fossil leaf cuticles calibrated using inverse regression and stomatal ratios (Beerling et al. 2002);(B) Simulated atmospheric CO₂ at and after the Palaeocene-Eocene boundary (after Zeebe et al., 2009);(C) Global CO₂ and temperature during the last glacial termination (After Shakun et al., 2012) (LGM - Last Glacial Maximum; OD – Older dryas; BA - Bølling–Alerød; YD - Younger dryas) Observed climate complexities leading to the disturbance of linear temperature variations include: The weakening of climate zone boundaries, such as the circum-Arctic jet stream, allowing cold air and water masses to shift from polar to mid-latitude zones and tropical air masses to penetrate polar zones (Figure 4), induce collisions between air masses of contrasted temperatures and storminess, with major effects on continental margins and island chains. Amplifying feedbacks, including release of carbon from warming oceans due to reduced CO₂ solubility and therefore reduced intake from the atmosphere, release of methane from permafrost and from marine sediments, desiccated vegetation and extensive bush fires release of CO₂. The flow of cold ice melt water into the oceans from melting ice sheets—Greenland (Rahmstorf et al., 2015) and Antarctica (Bonselaer et al., 2018)—ensuing in stadial cooling effects, such as the Younger dryas and following peak interglacial phases during the last 800,000 years (Cortese et al., 2007; Glikson, 2019). Figure 4. Weakening and undulation of the jet stream, shifts of climate zones and penetration of air masses across the weakened climate boundary. NOAA. In the shorter term such international targets as “zero emissions by 2050” apparently do not include the export of petroleum, coal and gas, thus allowing nations to circumvent domestic emission limits. Australia, the fifth biggest miner and third biggest exporter of fossil fuels, is responsible for about 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. At present the total CO₂+CH₄+N₂O level (mixing ratio) is near 500 ppm CO₂-equivalent (Figure 5). From the current atmospheric CO₂ level of above ~415 ppm, at the rise rate of 2 - 3 ppm/year, by 2050 the global CO₂ level would reach about 500 ppm and the CO₂-equivalent near 600 ppm, raising mean temperatures to near-2°C above preindustrial level, enhancing further breakdown of the large ice sheets and a further rise of sea levels. Figure 5. Evolution of the CO₂+CH₄+N₂O level (mixing ratio) Andrew GliksonDr Andrew GliksonEarth and Paleo-climate scientistANU Climate Science InstituteANU Planetary Science InstituteCanberra, AustraliaBooks:The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia

More Extreme Weather

As temperatures rise, the weather is getting more extreme. Around the globe, extreme weather events are striking with ever greater frequency and intensity. In 2020, in the U.S. alone, a record number of 22 climate and weather disasters took place that each caused damage of more than 1 billion dollar, while jointly causing the deaths of 262 people. Rising temperatures cause stronger storms, droughts, heatwaves and forest fires. Rising temperatures are also behind the cold weather that is currently hitting large parts of North America. Two mechanisms that, by distorting the Jet Stream, are contributing to more extreme weather are described below. Distortion of the Jet Streams - two mechanismsThe Jet Streams used to circumnavigate the globe in narrow bands. World climate zones used to be kept well apart by stable Jet Streams. On the Northern Hemisphere, the coldest point used to be the North Pole, so wind used to flow from the tropics to the North Pole, while the wind was moved to the side due to Earth's turning. Polar Jet Stream and Subtropical Jet Stream - NOAA imageThis resulted in two Jet Streams forming, circum-navigating the globe in relatively narrow and straight bands, i.e. the Polar Jet Stream at 60°N and the Subtropical Jet Stream at about 30°N.   Polar Jet Stream (blue) and SubtropicalJet Stream (red) - NOAA imageFirst mechanism distorting the Jet StreamThe first mechanism distorting the Jet Stream is that, as the Arctic gets hit much harder by temperature rises, the difference in temperature decreases between the North Pole and the Equator. This slows down the speed at which wind travels from the Tropics to the North Pole, in turn making the Jet Stream more wavy, just like a slow-moving river over flat land will take a winding route and meander. For years, Jennifer Francis et al. warned that this will cause more extreme weather in mid latitudes. Arctic-News described Deformation of the Jet Stream as Opening the Doorways to Doom, i.e. one of the feedbacks (#10) of accelerated Arctic warming.Second mechanism distorting the Jet StreamDue to the rapid temperature rise of the Arctic Ocean, the North Pole is increasingly not the coldest place on the Northern Hemisphere.Instead, the air over Greenland, North Canada and Siberia is increasingly more cold than before, and can be much colder than the North Pole, as illustrated by the ClimateReanalyzer image on the right. This creates temperature and pressure conditions over the East Pacific and over North America that make the Jet Stream branch out. On the next image on the right, the Jet Stream can be seen running over the West Pacific at speeds as high as 387 km/h or 241 mph (green circle) andmoving within a relatively narrow band.The Jet Stream is then confronted with much different conditions over North America that make the Jet Stream branch out widely (white arrows), with one branch moving north and going circular over the Arctic Ocean, while at the other end a branch can be seen dipping below the Equator.As a result of these two distortion mechanisms, cold air that used to stay contained over the North Pole, can descend more easily over Siberia and North America, causing more extreme weather, while also taking away opportunities for the sea ice to build up to the strength and depth than it used to have. The combination image below shows forecasts for February 6, 2021.On the above combination image, the left panel shows that, not far apart from each other and at the same time, temperature anomalies over North America are forecast to approach the top end and the bottom end of the scale. The right panel shows that temperatures over North America and Siberia are forecast to be much lower than over the Arctic Ocean.As the temperature difference between land and ocean gets stronger on the Northern Hemisphere in Winter, the transfer of water vapor and heat to the atmosphere increases (#25 on the feedbacks page, image right). Storms and clouds forming over the North Atlantic trap heat and move much heat toward the North Pole.   Formation of clouds can be further facilitated by aerosols (feedback #9). A recent study looks at how melting sea ice can cause more release of iodine into the atmosphere, seeding the growth of new clouds that trap longwave radiation that would otherwise go into space. The combination image below shows in the left panel how a branch of the Jet Stream is forecast to be moving over the North Pole at speeds as high as 107 km/h or 67 mph on February 16, 2021. Hours later that day, as the globe in the right panel shows, the surface temperature on the North Pole is forecast to be -18°C, i.e. warmer than the white-blue color (about -20°C) that covers most of North America. As the globe in the left panel of the combination image below shows, temperature anomalies in Texas were approaching the bottom end of the scale on February 15, 2021, i.e. -32°C or -57.6°F (below 1979-2000), while the globe in the right panel shows that on February 16, 2021, temperature anomalies in between Greenland and the North Pole were forecast to approach the top end of the scale, i.e. 32°C or 57.6°F (above 1979-2000). Above freezing at North Pole?As the combination image below shows, the temperature at the North Pole is forecast to be 0°C or 32°F, panel right, on February 22, 2021, 18:00 UTC, while temperature anomalies at the North Pole are forecast to be at the top end of the scale, i.e. 32°C or 57.6°F above 1979-2000. The light-blue color over the North Atlantic on the globe on the left is a cold anomaly resulting from cold air moving from North America over the Atlantic Ocean (forecast initiated Feb.15, 2021, 18:00 UTC). Ominously, sea ice is breaking up north of Greenland. And ominously, the N20 satellite recorded methane levels as high as 2835 ppb at 399.1 mb on the afternoon of February 17, 2021. Conclusion The situation is dire and calls for immediate, comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan. Links • 2020: Hottest Year On Record • NOAA - U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Overview• Climate Reanalyzer • Nullschool• Feedbacks in the Arctic • Polar jet stream appears hugely deformed• Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid‐latitudes - by Jennifer Francis et al.• Opening the Doorways to Doom (feedback #14)• Role of iodine oxoacids in atmospheric aerosol nucleation - by Xu-Cheng He et al.• Cloud-Making Aerosol Could Devastate Polar Sea Ice • Climate Plan

Global Climate Change: What you must know Today

Climate change links with disturbance in the concentration of greenhouse gases, resulting in the rise of average global temperature. As goes by the studies, the effects of global climate change are impacting every sphere of life today. While this is very much told about climate change in the current sources of information, some facts still […] The post Global Climate Change: What you must know Today appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Dazzling and Dangerous: Epidemics, Space Physics, and Settler Understandings of the Aurora Borealis

By Jennifer Fraser and Noah Stemeroff Earlier this year, Explore, a multimedia company that operates the largest live nature camera network on the planet, noticed that one of its livestreams was going viral. The feed in question broadcasts from Churchill, Manitoba. Positioned directly beneath the auroral oval, this camera offers viewers a chance to catch a glimpse of the spectacular auroral displays that grace the city’s skyline nearly three hundred days of every year.

What Carbon Budget?

Orbital changes are responsible for the Milankovitch cycles that make Earth move in and out of periods of glaciation, or Ice Ages. In line with these cycles, July insolation has slowly decreased over the last 12,000 years. While insolation was at a peak some 12,000 years ago, temperatures rose only slowly at first, as the ice receded that was formed during the most recent Ice Age. Some previous temperature reconstructions did suggest that a peak on temperature was reached around 6,000 to 7,000 years ago, followed by a decrease in temperature that continued until the industrial age. However, Samantha Bova and colleagues found that most of the records used in such reconstructions represented seasonal temperatures rather than annual ones. They developed a method of evaluating individual records for seasonal bias and after adjusting for this, they found that the mean annual sea surface temperature has been rising steadily for the past 12,000 years, due to retreating ice sheets during the period from 12,000 to 6,500 years ago and, more recently, due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Paris AgreementThe Paris Agreement calls for a global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with efforts taken to ensure that the temperature doesn't exceed 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. So, what are pre-industrial levels? The 'pre-' in pre-industrial means before, suggesting that pre-industrial levels refers to levels as they were in times before the Industrial Revolution started. While emission of greenhouse gases did rise strongly since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the rise in emission of greenhouse gases by people had already started some 7,000 years ago with the rise in modern agriculture and associated deforestation. As this new study shows, the temperature has risen steadily since. A recent post confirms earlier warnings that the temperature may already have risen by more than 2°C, and it looks even more that way when moving the baseline back 7,000 years. Moreover, this recent post again warns that the temperature rise is accelerating as tipping points are getting crossed, feedbacks are growing stronger and further heating elements are kicking, all interacting in non-linear ways to speed up the temperature rise.So, where are those efforts that politicians pledged they would be taking? What Carbon Budget?Instead of making a genuine effort, most politicians and mainstream media keep telling people that there was a carbon budget to be divided among polluters, as if people should happily continue to consume the polluting products that are pushed by advertisers, for decades to come. In reality, however, there is no carbon budget, there is no pollution budget. Instead, there is just a huge pollution debt to be paid and every minute of delay causes exponential growth of this debt and of the prospect of rapid human extinction and ultimately extinction of all life on Earth. Carbon dioxide levels[ click on images to enlarge ]The IPCC image on the right shows CO₂ concentrations (up to 2000 ppm) and, underneath, the temperature rise (relative to 1986-2005) for the various RCPs.What is RCP2.6? As the IPCC described in AR5, the temperature does not rise above 1.5°C (relative to 1850-1900) under the RCP2.6 scenario, and CO₂ concentrations do not rise above 421 ppm. It looks like CO₂ concentrations will soon cross this 421 ppm threshold, given that the average daily CO₂ level recorded at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, was 419.12 ppm on February 4, 2021, a record high. The next day, February 5, 2021, the daily level was even higher, 419.45 ppm. The annual peak is typically reached in May, so levels can be expected to rise further over the next few months and cross the 421 ppm threshold soon. Crossing the 421 ppm threshold implies that the RCP2.6 scenario is no longer applicable and that politicians won't be able to honour the pledges made at the Paris Agreement without geoengineering.How much could temperatures rise? The IPCC image shows that the IPCC at the time when AR5 was written expected the temperature to rise by 3.7°C (with a range of 2.6°C to 4.8°C) under RCP8.5 by 2081–2100 relative to 1986–2005, and to keep rising beyond 2100 and reach 7.4°C and possibly 9.4°C relative to 1986–2005 over time.The IPCC adds that, by 2100, CO₂ concentrations would reach 936 ppm under RCP 8.5., but when also (next to CO₂ concentrations) including the prescribed concentrations of CH₄ and N₂O, the combined CO₂-equivalent concentrations for RCP8.5 is expected to rise to 1313 ppm by the year 2100.Meanwhile, a study discussed in an earlier post found that when the 1200 ppm CO₂-e gets crossed, the clouds feedback starts to kick in that can push the temperature up by an additional 8°C.In line with IPCC AR5 figures, methane's Global Warming Potential (GWP) over a few years is 150.Since AR5 was published, a study found methane's 100 year GWP to be 14% higher than the IPCC value. When applying an extra 14% to methane's short-term GWP of 150, it rises to 171.Let's take the above (February 5, 2021) CO₂ level of 419.45 ppm and add the WMO 2019 level of methane of 1877 ppb, which with a short-term GWP of 171 translates into heating equivalent of 320.967 ppm CO₂. Together, the existing CO₂ and methane add up to 740.417 ppm CO₂e, which is 459.583 ppm CO₂e away from the 1200 ppm CO₂e cloud tipping point. In other words, a methane burst alone could drive up the methane level in the atmosphere by 2688 ppb, resulting in the cloud feedback tipping point to get crossed and the temperature to rise by an additional 8°C. Alternatively, the 1200 ppm CO₂e tipping point could get crossed due to a combination of warming elements, as depicted in the chart below, from a recent post, which would result in a total rise of 18°C when the cloud feedback is added on top.  MethaneA reduction in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere isn't the only thing that's needed to avoid the worst of the looming temperature rise. There are many further lines of action that need to be implemented urgently, including efforts to reduce methane levels. Ominously, high methane levels were recorded by the N20 satellite on the morning of January 20, 2021. The combination image below shows levels as high as 2636 ppb at 695 mb (panel left) and 2806 ppb at 487 mb (panel right). High methane levels were also recorded on January 30, 2021 pm. The combination image below shows that the SNPP satellite recorded levels as high as 2704 ppb at 487 mb (panel left), while the MetOp-2 satellite recorded levels as high as 2344 ppb at 469 mb (panel right). On February 4, 2021 pm, the MetOp-1 satellite recorded methane levels of 3071 ppb at 469 mb, as illustrated by the image in the right.High peak methane levels are very worrying; what makes it even more threatening is that so much of the Arctic Ocean on above images is showing to be covered by high methane levels. This supports fears expressed earlier, such as in this recent post, about methane's present and future role in accelerating the temperature rise. Nitrous oxideThe image on the right shows nitrous oxide levels at Barrow, Alaska, over the past few years. Clearly, action to avoid nitrous oxide releases is also needed urgently.  ConclusionThe situation is dire and calls for immediate, comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan. Links• Seasonal origin of the thermal maxima at the Holocene and the last interglacial - by Samantha Bova et al. • Palaeoclimate puzzle explained by seasonal variation• Important Climate Change Mystery Solved by Scientists • Milankovitch (Orbital) Cycles and Their Role in Earth's Climate - by Alan Buis (NASA news, 2020) • Milankovitch cycles - Wikipedia• Insolation changes• Paris Agreement • IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report — Figure 2.8• IPCC AR5 Report, Summary For Policymakers• Most Important Message Ever• Radiative forcing of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide: A significant revision of the methane radiative forcing - by M. Etminan et al.• When Will We Die?• Possible climate transitions from breakup of stratocumulus decks under greenhouse warming - by Tapio Schneider et al.• A World Without Clouds• 2020: Hottest Year On Record • Climate Plan

Animal Cruelty: It’s Time You Actively Fight The Menace

Animal cruelty practices are making over the world every day where millions of animals are killed ruthlessly. And perhaps there seems no end to this brutality of people starving their dogs to death or killing them to dine on a delicious meal for the day.  The animal cruelty cases present several menaces acts, including intentional […] The post Animal Cruelty: It’s Time You Actively Fight The Menace appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Global Warming, Sea-Ice Loss Intensify Polar Bear Decline

The unabated global warming and the melting Arctic sea ice can result in the extinction of Polar years in the near-century, say the scientists. Meanwhile, studies show that all the 19 subpopulations of polar bears have experienced ice loss over the current times. If not taken charge, the situation would worsen, forcing the animals to […] The post Global Warming, Sea-Ice Loss Intensify Polar Bear Decline appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Book Review: Elizabeth Hennessy, On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galápagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden

By Rodrigo Salido Moulinié The reports said they wanted to kill the turtle. They surrounded the research station and refused to let supplies go through to the 33 people—and the colony of reptiles—inside the building. Yet the fishermen went on strike and took the building not because they hated that turtle (they did not even intend to harm it), but because of what it meant: an allegory of the politics of conservationism, development, and the local making of science.

The peril of high atmospheric methane levels

by Andrew GliksonIt is hard to think of a more Orwellian expression than that describing the increase in toxic atmospheric methane gas as “gas-led recovery.”Several of the large mass extinctions of species in the geological past are attributed to an increase in atmospheric methane (CH₄), raising the temperature of the atmosphere and depriving the oceans from oxygen. Nowadays a serious danger to the atmosphere and for the life support systems ensues from the accelerated release of methane from melting Arctic permafrost, leaks from ocean sediments and from bogs, triggered by global warming. As if this was not dangerous enough, now methane is extracted as coal-seam-gas (CSG) by fracking (hydraulic fracturing) of coal and oil shale in the US, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. Methane-bearing formations, located about 300m-1000m underground, are fracked using a mixture of water, sand, chemicals and explosives injected into the rock at high pressure, triggering significant amounts of methane leaks into the overlying formations and escaping into the atmosphere (Figure 1). Figure 1. Schematic illustration of coal-seam-gas fracking (R. Morrison, by permission).CSG is made primarily of about 95-97% methane, which possesses a radiative greenhouse potential close to X80 times that of carbon dioxide (CO₂). The radiative greenhouse effect of 1 kg methane is equivalent to releasing 84 kg of CO₂ and decreases to 20 and 34 times stronger than CO₂ over a 100-year period. Global methane deposits (Figure 2) and Australian methane-bearing basins (Figure 3) are proliferating. Fugitive emissions from CSG are already enhancing the concentration of atmospheric methane above drill sites and range from 1 to 9 percent during the total life cycle emissions. The venting of methane from underground coal mines in the Hunter region of New South Wales has led to an atmospheric level in the region of 3,000 parts per billion, with methane levels of 2,000 ppb (parts per billion) extending to some 50 km away from the mines. Peak readings in excess of 3000 ppb represent an amalgamation of plumes from 17 sources. The median concentration within this section was 1820 ppb, with a peak reading of 2110 ppb. Compare this with mean methane values at Mouna Loa, Hawaii, of 1884 ppb. Figure 2. Global gas hydrate potential regions.Fugitive methane emissions from natural, urban, agricultural, and energy-production landscapes of eastern Australia. The chemical signature of methane released from fracking is found in the atmosphere points to shale gas operations as the source. Figure 3. Australian basins, oil and gas resources. The accumulation of many hundreds of billions tons of unoxidized methane-rich organic matter in Arctic permafrost, methane hydrates in shallow Arctic lakes and seas, bogs, and as emanated from cattle and sheep, has already enhanced global methane growth over the last 40 years at rates up to 14 ppb/year (Figure 4). Figure 4. Growth of atmospheric methane, Mouna Loa, Hawaii, between 1980-2020 and 2017-2020. NOAA. The current methane level of 1884 ppb, ~2.5 times the

2020: Hottest Year On Record

NASA data show that 2020 was the hottest year on record. The image below shows that high temperature in 2020 hit Siberia and the Arctic Ocean. In above images, the temperature anomaly is compared to 1951-1980, NASA's default baseline. When using an earlier baseline, the data need to be adjusted. The image below shows a trendline pointing at an 0.31°C adjustment for a 1900 baseline.  Additional adjustment is needed when using a 1750 baseline, while it also makes sense to add further adjustment for higher polar anomalies and for air temperatures over oceans, rather than sea surface water temperatures. In total, a 0.78°C adjustment seems appropriate, as has been applied before, such as in this analysis. For the year 2020, this translates in a temperature rise of 1.8029°C versus the year 1750. Three trends: blue, purple and red Will the global temperature rise to 3°C above 1750 by 2026? The blue trend below is based on 1880-2020 NASA Land+Ocean data and adjusted by 0.78°C to reflect a 1750 baseline, ocean air temperatures and higher polar anomalies, and it crosses a 3°C rise in 2026. The trend shows a temperature for 2020 that is slightly higher than indicated by the data. This is in line with the fact that we're currently in a La Niña period and that we're also at a low point in the sunspot cycle, as discussed in an earlier post. The blue trend also shows that the 1.5°C treshold was already crossed even before the Paris Agreement was accepted. The second (purple) trend is based on a shorter period, i.e. 2006-2020 NASA land+ocean (LOTI) data, again adjusted by 0.78°C to reflect a 1750 baseline, ocean air temperatures and higher polar anomalies. The trend approaches 10°C above 1750 by 2026. The trend is based on 15 years of data, making it span a 30-year period centered around end 2020 when extended into the future for a similar 15 year period. The trend approaches 10°C above 1750 in 2026. The trend is displayed on the backdrop of an image from an earlier post, showing how a 10°C rise could eventuate by 2026 when adding up the impact of warming elements and their interaction. The stacked bars are somewhat higher than the trend. Keep in mind that the stacked bars are for the month February, when anomalies can be significantly higher than the annual average. Temperature rise for February 2016 versus 1900.In the NASA image on the right, the February 2016 temperature was 1.70°C above 1900 (i.e. 1885-1914). In the stacked-bar analysis, the February 2016 rise from 1900 was conservately given a value of 1.62°C, which was extended into the future, while an additional 0.3°C was added for temperature rise from pre-industrial to 1900. Later analyses such as this one also added a further 0.2°C to the temperature rise, to reflect ocean air temperatures (rather than water temperatures) and higher polar anomalies (note the grey areas on the image in the right). Anyway, the image shows two types of analysis on top of each other, one analysis based on trend analysis and another analysis based on a model using high values for the various warming elements. The stacked-bar analysis actually doesn't reflect the worst-case scenario, an even faster rise is illustrated by the next trend, the red line. The third (red) trend suggests that we may have crossed the 2°C treshold in the year 2020. The trend is based on a recent period (2009-2020) of the NASA land+ocean data, again adjusted by 0.78°C to reflect a 1750 baseline, ocean air temperatures and higher polar anomalies. Where do we go from here? It's important to acknowledge the danger of acceleration of the temperature rise over the next few years. The threat is illustrated by the image below and shows up most prominently in the red trend.  Of the three trends, the red trend is based on the shortest period, and it does indicate that we have aready crossed the 2°C treshold and we could be facing an even steeper temperature rise over the next few years. We're in a La Niña period and we're also at a low point in the sunspot cycle. This suppresses the temperature somewhat, so the 2020 temperature should actually be adjusted upward to compensate for such variables. Importantly, while such variables do show up more when basing trends on shorter periods, the data have not be adjusted for this in this case, so the situation could actually be even worse.  At a 3°C rise, humans will likely go extinct, while most life on Earth will disappear with a 5°C rise, and as the temperature keeps rising, oceans will evaporate and Earth will go the same way as Venus, a 2019 analysis warned. Dangerous acceleration of the temperature rise There are many potential causes behind the acceleration of the temperature rise, such as the fact that the strongest impact of carbon dioxide is felt ten years after emission, so we are yet to experience the full wrath of the carbon dioxide emitted over the past decade. However, this doesn't explain why 2020 turned out to be the hottest year on record, as opposed to - say - 2019, given that in 2020 carbon dioxide emissions were 7% lower than in 2019.James Hansen confirms that the temperature rise is accelerating, and he points at aerosols as the cause. However, most cooling aerosols come from industries such as smelters and coal-fired power plants that have hardly reduced their operations in 2020, as illustrated by the image below, from the aerosols page. Above image shows that on December 17, 2020, at 10:00 UTC, sulfate aerosols (SO₄) were as high as 6.396 τ at the green circle. Wind on the image is measured at 850 hPa. Could the land sink be decreasing? A recent study shows that the mean temperature of the warmest quarter (3-month period) passed the thermal maximum for photosynthesis during the past decade. At higher temperatures, respiration rates continue to rise in contrast to sharply declining rates of photosynthesis. Under business-as-usual emissions, this divergence elicits a near halving of the land sink strength by as early as 2040. While this is a frightening prospect, it still doesn't explain why 2020 turned out to be the hottest year on record. Oceans are taking up less heat, thus leaving more heat in the atmosphere. The danger is illustrated by the image below. The white band around -60° (South) indicates that the Southern Ocean has not yet caught up with global warming, featuring low-level clouds that reflect sunlight back into space. Over time, the low clouds will decrease, which will allow more sunlight to be absorbed by Earth and give the world additional warming. A recent study finds that, after this 'pattern effect' is accounted for, committed global warming at present-day forcing rises by 0.7°C. While this is very worrying, it still doesn't explain why 2020 turned out to be the hottest year on record. Ocean stratification contributes to further surface warming, concludes another recent study: "The stronger ocean warming within upper layers versus deep water has caused an increase of ocean stratification in the past half century. With increased stratification, heat from climate warming less effectively penetrates into the deep ocean, which contributes to further surface warming. It also reduces the capability of the ocean to store carbon, exacerbating global surface warming. Furthermore, climate warming prevents the vertical exchanges of nutrients and oxygen, thus impacting the food supply of whole marine ecosystems.""By uptaking ~90% of anthropogenic heat and ~30% of the carbon emissions, the ocean buffers global warming. [The] ocean has already absorbed an immense amount of heat, and will continue to absorb excess energy in the Earth’s system until atmospheric carbon levels are significantly lowered. In other words, the excess heat already in the ocean, and heat likely to enter the ocean in the coming years, will continue to affect weather patterns, sea level, and ocean biota for some time, even under zero carbon emission conditions." Many feedbacks are starting to kick in with greater ferocity, with tipping points threatening to get crossed or already crossed, such as the latent heat tipping point, i.e. loss of the ocean heat buffer, as Arctic sea ice keeps getting thinner. As the above map also shows, the temperature rise is hitting the Arctic Ocean particularly hard. At least ten tipping points are affecting the Arctic, including the latent heat tipping point and the methane hydrates tipping point, as illustrated by the image below. [ from an earlier post ]A combination of higher temperatures and the resulting feedbacks such as stronger ocean stratification, stronger wind, decline of Arctic snow and ice and a distorted Jet Stream is threatening to cause formation of a lid at the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean that enables more heat to move to the Arctic Ocean. This could cause huge amounts of methane to erupt from the seafloor, thus contributing to cause the 1,200 ppm CO₂e cloud tipping point to get crossed, resulting in an extra 8°C rise, as an earlier post and a recent post warned. Dangerous acceleration of the temperature riseThe danger is that methane is erupting in the Arctic from the seafloor and that this increasingly contributes to methane reaching the stratosphere. While methane initially is very potent in heating up the atmosphere, it is generally broken down relatively quickly, but in the atmosphere over the Arctic, there is very little hydroxyl to break down the methane. Methane also persists much longer in the stratosphere, which contributes to its accumulation there. Large amounts of methane may already be erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, rising rapidly and even reaching the stratosphere. This danger is getting little public attention. The NOAA image on the right shows the globally-averaged, monthly mean atmospheric methane abundance derived from measurements from marine surface sites. Measurements that are taken at sea level do not reflect methane very well that is rising up from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean, especially where the methane rises up high in plumes. Satellite measurements better reflect the danger. The image on the right shows that the MetOp-1 satellite recorded peak methane levels as high as 2715 ppb at 469 mb on the morning of January 6, 2021. Most of the high (magenta-colored) levels of methane are located over oceans and a lot of them over the Arctic Ocean. The next image on the right shows the situation closer to sea level, at 586 mb, where even less of the high levels of methane show up over land, indicating that the methane originated from the seafloor. The third image on the righ shows the situation even closer to sea level, at 742 mb, and almost all high levels of methane show up over the Arctic Ocean and over areas where the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean border on the Arctic. Because methane is lighter than air and much lighter than water, methane erupting from the seafloor will quickly rise up vertically. While much of the methane that is released from the seabed can get broken down in the water by microbes, methane that is rising rapidly and highly concentrated in the form of plumes will leave little opportunity for microbes to break it down in the water column, especially where waters are shallow, as is the case in much of the Arctic Ocean. As methane hydrates destabilize, methane will erupt with an explosive force, since methane is highly compressed inside the hydrate (1 m³ of methane hydrate can release 160 m³ of gas). Such eruptions can destabilize further hydrates located nearby. Because of this explosive force, plumes of methane can rise at high speed through the water column. Because methane is so much lighter than water, large methane releases from the seafloor will form larger bubbles that merge and stick together, developing more thrust as they rise through the water. Because of this thrust, methane plumes will keep rising rapidly after entering the atmosphere, and the plumes will more easily push away aerosols and gases that slow down the rise in the air of methane elsewhere, such as where methane is emitted by cows. A further image of another satellite is added on the right. The N2O satellite recorded methane levels as high as 2817 ppb at 487 mb on the morning of January 10, 2021. Such sudden and very high peaks can hardly be caused by agriculture or wetlands, but instead they are likely caused by destabilization of methane hydrates in sediments at the seafloor. Further contributing to the danger is the fact that little hydroxyl is present in the atmosphere over the Arctic, so it is much harder for this methane to get broken down in the air over the Arctic, compared to methane emissions elsewhere. Finally, the edge of the stratosphere is much lower over the Arctic, as discussed in an earlier post.All this makes that methane that is erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean is more prone to accumulate in the stratosphere. Once methane is in the stratosphere, it's unlikely that it will come back into the troposphere. The IPCC AR5 (2013) gave methane a lifetime of 12.4 years. The IPCC TAR (2001) gave stratospheric methane a lifetime of 120 years, adding that less than 7% of methane did reach the stratosphere at the time. According to IPCC AR5, of the methane that gets broken down by hydroxyl in the atmosphere, some 8.5% got broken down in the stratosphere.ConclusionsThe situation is dire and calls for immediate, comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan. In the video below, Paul Beckwith discusses the situation: For another perspective, Guy McPherson discusses the situation in the video below, Edge of Extinction: Maybe I’m Wrong.  Links • Climate Plan • NASA Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index • What are El Niño and La Niña? • Multivariate El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Index Version 2 (MEI.v2)   • Temperatures keep rising • There is no time to lose • Possible climate transitions from breakup of stratocumulus decks under greenhouse warming, by Tapio Schneider et al. (2019) • A rise of 18°C or 32.4°F by 2026? • Most Important Message Ever • 2°C crossed • Crossing the Paris Agreement thresholds• Global Warming Acceleration - by James Hansen and Makiko Sato • Paying for emissions we’ve already released • Greater committed warming after accounting for the pattern effect - by Chen Zhou et al. • Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020 - by Lijing Cheng et al.• How close are we to the temperature tipping point of the terrestrial biosphere? - by Katharyn Duffy et al. • Methane hydrates tipping point threatens to get crossed • Temperatures threaten to become unbearable • Cold freshwater lid on North Atlantic• Aerosols• NOAA - Trends in Atmospheric Methane•  COVID-19 lockdown causes unprecedented drop in global CO2 emissions in 2020 - Gobal Carbon Project• Global Average Temperatures in 2020 Reached a RECORD HIGH of 1.55 C above PreIndustrial in 1750 - by Paul Beckwith • Edge of Extinction: Maybe I’m Wrong - by Guy McPherson • Extinction

Increasing Natural Disasters Are “Not So Natural” Afterall

Do you ever wonder why the news channels are always flashing news about a natural disaster raging in some or the other part of the world? The Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) states that the occurrence of natural disasters has hiked three-fold merely in the last four decades.  When the world is standing amidst a climate […] The post Increasing Natural Disasters Are “Not So Natural” Afterall appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

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