Global Warming...New Report...and it ain't happy news

Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 13 Nov, 2021 02:33 pm
The fossil fuel lobby held its line, and we got a weak climate deal (but still better than feared).
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2021 07:29 am
@Walter Hinteler,
COP26 has produced resolutions that would have barely been thinkable just a few years ago. But the pressure to take energetic action to stop global warming was extreme.

Opinion @ DW:
The climate-protection glass is half-full, not half-empty

Was that a good or bad climate conference that we just saw in Glasgow? Opinions on it are as varied as the conference itself was chaotic and opaque. Never before, say scientists, has the gap between the measures necessary to stem climate change and the slow steps taken by states been as big as it is now. And the pressure on them to take action is also greater than it has ever been. The global climate-protection movement Fridays for Future, for one, made its presence powerfully felt in Glasgow.

Coal phaseout on the agenda for first time
The final statement from the conference, in a first for any UN climate meeting, expressly mentions the necessity of rapidly phasing out fossil-fuel energy sources, even if the way this was formulated was continually watered down at the behest of wealthy and newly industrializing nations.

Poor countries have been promised that financial aid from the richer Global North to help them adapt to the effects of climate change will be doubled within just a few years. After months of obstinately frosty relations, the US and China, the two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases worldwide, pulled themselves together to issue a joint statement, promising to double their efforts.

The goal of preventing the Earth from warming more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels before the end of the century is now the measure of all things; no one talks anymore about the 2-degree goal that was previously the focus of debates on climate policy. That is an almost breathtaking advance in view of the resolutions made at earlier climate meetings.

Two realities

But not in view of the realities facing us. Scientists say the decade leading up to 2030 will be all-decisive in the fight against global warming. The British hosts of the conference reacted to this prognosis by pushing through a whole array of initiatives by individual nations during the days in Glasgow: to limit the greenhouse gas methane, to protect forests in poor countries, to end subsidies for fossil fuels — all before 2030.

However, upon closer inspection, all these initiatives prove to be as voluntary and unbinding as ever — as are the resolutions announced by the climate conference.

Reliability and trust
All climate conferences are about reliability and trust. The resolutions can barely be enforced by legal means; their objective is always to generate positive momentum and something like joint support from all the some 90 UN member states. And they aim to produce pressure in the rich nations, whose citizens regard climate change with growing concern.

But trust is in short supply. During the pandemic, the poor countries of the Global South have seen exactly with what dizzying sums the industrialized nations have been propping up their economies. That makes it even harder for them to swallow that the rich North tends to the miserly when it comes to the long-promised financial aid to help them adapt to climate change.

The coal phaseout and reality

And even though phasing out fossil fuels has now been resolved upon at the climate conference, a look at the situation on the ground in countries like China, South Africa, Poland and even Germany shows just how much clout the coal lobby still has. China is now promising to become climate-neutral by 2060 — a timeframe that is laughable in view of the warnings by experts.

But a real alternative to the yearly arduous and nerve-racking climate meetings is simply not in sight. It is only at them that all UN member states talk with one another on the topic. And perhaps the common line that they all are looking for could be summed up thus: In as many countries as possible, the fight against greenhouse gases must take on a similar status to that of the concern for economic growth.

Growth and sustainability have long ceased to be contradictory; it is a question only of will. And of action, as with abandoning fossil energy — and abandoning it quickly at that. At least the Glasgow conference agreed on that.

Germany, too, is facing increasing pressure to speed up its phaseout of coal-fired energy, which the former government planned to complete by 2038. Doing anything else would now mean breaking the pledges made in Glasgow.

And poor countries will not put up with the yearly conferences for much longer if they do not receive noticeably more money. For all of these reasons, if I have to decide whether the glass of international climate protection is half-full or half-empty after Glasgow, I would say: half-full.

0 Replies
Reply Tue 16 Nov, 2021 10:44 am
‘COP26 Hasn’t Solved the Problem’: Scientists React to U.N. Climate Deal

The Glasgow Climate Pact is a step forward, researchers say, but efforts to decarbonize are not enough to limit global temperature rises to two degrees Celsius

Government ministers at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) have reached a deal on further steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after discussions overran by 24 hours.

On 13 November, representatives from nearly 200 countries agreed the final text of the deal, which pledges further action to curb emissions, more frequent updates on progress and additional funding for low- and middle-income countries.

Researchers have expressed relief that the meeting did not fail to produce an agreement, but some left COP26 dissatisfied at the lack of stronger commitments to reduce emissions, and failure to agree “loss and damage” finance for countries that are vulnerable to climate change.

“COP26 has closed the gap, but it has not solved the problem,” says Niklas Hoehne, a climate researcher at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He adds that countries now need to come forward with more ambitious pledges to tackle climate change, he adds.

Curbing emissions

The final 11-page document, called the Glasgow Climate Pact, says that greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 for global warming to be maintained at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. It notes that, under existing emissions reduction pledges, emissions will be nearly 14% higher than in 2010 by 2030.

Countries acknowledged the need to reduce emissions faster, and also agreed to report on progress annually. For the first time in a COP text, nations agreed to begin reducing coal-fired power (without carbon capture) and to start to eliminate subsidies on other fossil fuels.

However, following objections from China and India, a promise in earlier drafts of the text to “phase out” coal was changed to “phase down”.

India’s climate and environment minister Bhupender Yadav told the conference that richer nations should not expect poorer countries to stop subsidizing fossil fuels such as gas. The lowest-income households rely on these to keep energy costs down, he said.

The deal also includes commitments from some countries on ending deforestation, reducing methane emissions and a pledge from the financial sector to move trillions of dollars of investments into companies that are committed to net-zero emissions. However, modelling suggests that the promises will still not be enough to limit global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, the goal stated in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

If countries meet their 2030 targets, global temperatures will still rise 2.4 °C above pre-industrial levels by 2100, according to an analysis by Hoehne and colleagues that was published on the website Climate Action Tracker during the first week of COP26.

“We are well aware that ambitions have fallen short of the commitments made in Paris,” COP26 president Alok Sharma told the conference in a speech shortly before the negotiations concluded. “We have kept 1.5 degrees alive. But its pulse is weak, and it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”

Charlie Gardner, a conservation biologist at the University of Kent, who joined demonstrations outside the conference with the protest group Scientist Rebellion, says more radical action is needed, such as ending fossil fuel production more quickly and transitioning economies away from constant growth.

Loss and damage

The issue of climate finance—funding from wealthy nations to help low- and middle-income countries transition away from fossil fuels—was heavily discussed during the meeting.

There was considerable anger over the failure by high-income nations to meet an earlier pledge to provide $100 billion in climate finance annually from 2020. “The message coming out of this COP is every country for themselves,” says Sara Jane Ahmed, a climate-finance researcher who advises the finance ministers of the V20, a group of 20 countries that are vulnerable to climate change.

However, the Glasgow Climate Pact includes a commitment to double ‘adaptation finance’—funding to help the lowest income countries improve climate resilience—to $40 billion by 2025. This form of finance is currently around a quarter of the $80 billion climate finance available every year to low- and middle-income countries.

The deal also commits to continue work on a definition of climate finance that would be acceptable to all countries. This is essential if trust between developed and developing nations is to be regained, says Clare Shakya of the International Institute of Environment and Development, a London-based think tank. At the moment, different countries define climate finance in different ways. For example, some count development aid (which might include funding for clean water or schools) as climate finance. Some countries also count loans as climate finance, whereas others say climate finance should be provided as grants.

Nations failed to agree on whether to create a “loss and damage” fund, a kind of insurance policy which would compensate climate-vulnerable countries for damage resulting from emissions that they did not create. But the COP26 deal includes plans for an office connected to the United Nations—known as a technical assistance facility—that will continue to research the idea.

“On the ground, it is clear that countries are suffering loss and damage from climate change as we speak, and these costs are being borne disproportionately,” says conservationist Malik Amin Aslam, an advisor to Pakistan’s COP26 delegation. He is confident that such a fund will be created eventually, but thinks that there will be many more discussions first.

The price of carbon

COP26 negotiators also finalized the rules that govern international cooperation and carbon markets, ending a prolonged debate over how to implement this part of the Paris climate agreement. The new rules create an accounting system that is intended to prevent double-counting of emissions reductions. When one company or country invests in emissions reductions that take place in another, for example, the new framework ensures that the reductions are only recorded once when reported to the United Nations.

Most scientists and environmentalists applauded the outcome. “It’s basically as good as one could hope for,” says Robert Stavins, an economist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A common accounting framework will enable separate trading schemes, such as those currently operating in Europe, China and parts of the United States to connect with each other, creating a more international market.

But although the final text references the rights of indigenous peoples who manage vast tracts of threatened tropical forest, some activists have questions whether the new rules go far enough. “We will have to watch closely the implementation of this new carbon scheme, as references to the rights of Indigenous peoples are relatively weak,” says Jing Corpuz, an Igorot lawyer and chief policy lead of the organization Nia Tero. “The good news that we have more protections than we would have had under the rapidly growing voluntary carbon market.”

A recent analysis of the climate commitments put forward before COP26 estimated that the world would save around $300 billion annually by 2030 if a global carbon market were in place. If those savings were reinvested climate mitigation, it would more than double the projected annual emissions reductions in 2030, says Jae Edmonds, a climate scientist at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in College Park, Maryland. “There are tremendous opportunities here,” Edmonds says.

Inclusivity issue

Although COP26 resulted in a final deal, the meeting drew criticism that many representatives of different non-governmental groups—including researchers—were prevented from observing the discussions.

There were nearly 12,000 such representatives categorized into nine constituencies, such as business, young people and researchers. Tracy Bach, an environmental lawyer who co-leads the researchers’ group Research and Independent Non-Government Organizations, says that for much of the conference only one representative from each constituency was allowed to observe negotiations inside the rooms. At previous COP summits many more observers have been permitted, she says.

The UK government had previously said that COP26 was the most inclusive COP summit ever, because around 40,000 people (including government delegates) were allowed to attend, compared to the 22,000 at COP25 in Madrid. “Most observers came to COP to engage in the negotiation process,” Bach says. “Giving more people a badge [to enter the conference centre] without letting them directly observe the negotiations is not engagement, and does not make this COP necessarily more inclusive,” she adds.

Patricia Espinosa, who heads the UN climate convention secretariat in Geneva, told the meeting that the experience of observers at COP26 will be reviewed immediately “to reflect on how we can ensure greater inclusivity moving forward”.

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Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 17 Nov, 2021 02:29 pm
Climate change increases the chance of wildfires in California and elsewhere in the West.

Hotter Summer Days Mean More Sierra Nevada Wildfires, Study Finds
The hottest summer days in the Sierra Nevada in California greatly increase the risk that wildfires will ignite or spread, and as the planet keeps warming the risks will increase even more, scientists said Wednesday.

The research, which examined daily temperatures and data from nearly 450 Sierra Nevada fires from 2001 to 2020 and projected the analysis into the future, found that the number of fires could increase by about 20 percent or more by the 2040s, and that the total burned area could increase by about 25 percent or more.

The findings “show how short events like heat waves impact fires,” said Aurora A. Gutierrez, a researcher at the University of California Irvine and the lead author of a paper describing the work in the journal Science Advances. “We were able to quantify that.”

As for the projections over the next two decades, she said, “We are getting hotter days and that’s why the risk of fires is increasing into the future.”

Wildfires are increasing in size and intensity in the Western United States, and wildfire seasons are growing longer. California in particular has suffered in recent years, including last summer, when the Sierra Nevada experienced several large fires. One, the Dixie Fire, burned nearly a million acres and was the largest single fire in the state’s history.

Recent research has suggested that heat and dryness associated with global warming are major reasons for the increase in bigger and stronger fires.

The findings of the new study are generally in keeping with that earlier research, but there is an important difference. Most earlier studies looked at temperature and other data aggregated over monthly to annual time scales. The new research looked at daily data.

“What makes this novel is that we were trying to identify the role of individual temperature extremes on individual dates,” said Jim Randerson, the senior author on the paper and a UC Irvine professor of earth systems science.

Over the past 20 years, the researchers found, a 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degree Fahrenheit) increase in mean summer temperature increased the risk of a fire starting on a given day — either by human activity or a lightning strike — by 19 to 22 percent, and increased the burned area by 22 to 25 percent.

Dr. Randerson gave an example of why extremely hot weather can lead to more, and more easily spreading, fires.

“If it’s a normal day, say 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and you accidentally create a spark and there’s an ignition, you can probably stomp on it, or local fire agencies can come and put it out,” he said. The vegetation still contains a significant amount of moisture that the heat from the fire must evaporate first. That slows the spread of flames.

But on a 100-degree day, Dr. Randerson said, the vegetation is so dry, with so little moisture to evaporate, that a fire spreads quickly, and grows.

“You get rapid expansion,” he said, “and eventually a fire so big it can last for weeks and weeks.”

John Abatzoglou, who studies the influence of climate change on wildfires at the University of California, Merced, said the work “adds to the growing scientific literature of climate-driven fire potential in forests of the West.”
0 Replies
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2021 09:07 am
How climate change may shape the world in the centuries to come

As 2100 looms closer, climate projections should look farther into the future, scientists say

It’s hard to imagine what Earth might look like in 2500. But a collaboration between science and art is offering an unsettling window into how ongoing climate change might transform now-familiar terrain into alien landscapes over the next few centuries.

These visualizations — of U.S. Midwestern farms overtaken by subtropical plants, of a dried-up Amazon rainforest, of extreme heat baking the Indian subcontinent — emphasize why researchers need to push climate projections long past the customary benchmark of 2100, environmental social scientist Christopher Lyon and colleagues contend September 24 in Global Change Biology.

Fifty years have passed since the first climate projections, which set that distant target at 2100, says Lyon, of McGill University in Montreal. But that date isn’t so far off anymore, and the effects of greenhouse gas emissions emitted in the past and present will linger for centuries (SN: 8/9/21).

To visualize what that future world might look like, the researchers considered three possible climate trajectories — low, moderate and high emissions as used in past reports by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — and projected changes all the way out to 2500 (SN: 1/7/20). The team focused particularly on impacts on civilization: heat stress, failing crops and changes in land use and vegetation (SN: 3/13/17).

For all but the lowest-emission scenario, which is roughly in line with limiting global warming to “well under” 2 degrees Celsius relative to preindustrial times as approved by the 2015 Paris Agreement, the average global temperature continues to increase until 2500, the team found (SN: 12/12/15). For the highest-emissions scenario, temperatures increase by about 2.2 degrees C by 2100 and by about 4.6 degrees C by 2500. That results in “major restructuring of the world’s biomes,” the researchers say: loss of most of the Amazon rainforest, poleward shifts in crops and unlivable temperatures in the tropics.

The team then collaborated with James McKay, an artist and science communicator at the University of Leeds in England, to bring the data to life. Based on the study’s projections, McKay created a series of detailed paintings representing different global landscapes now and in 2500.

The team stopped short of trying to speculate on future technologies or cities to keep the paintings based more in realism than science fiction, Lyon says. “But we did want to showcase things people would recognize: drones, robotics, hybrid plants.” In one painting of India in 2500, a person is wearing a sealed suit and helmet, a type of garment that people in some high-heat environments might wear today, he says.

The goal of these images is to help people visualize the future in such a way that it feels more urgent, real and close — and, perhaps, to offer a bit of hope that humans can still adapt. “If we’re changing on a planetary scale, we need to think about this problem as a planetary civilization,” Lyon says. “We wanted to show that, despite the climate people have moved into, people have figured out ways to exist in the climate.”

2000 vs. 2500

High greenhouse gas emissions could increase average global temperatures by about 4.6 degrees Celsius relative to preindustrial times. As a result, extreme heat in India could dramatically alter how humans live in the environment. Farmers and herders, shown in 2000 the painting at left, may require protective clothing such as a cooling suit and helmet to work outdoors by 2500, as shown in the painting at right.


If greenhouse gas emissions remain high, the U.S. Midwest’s “breadbasket” farms, as seen below in 2000 in the painting at left, could be transformed into subtropical agroforestry regions by 2500, researchers say. The region might be dotted with some versions of oil palms and succulents, as envisioned in the painting at right, and rely on water capture and irrigation devices to offset extreme summer heat.

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Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 22 Nov, 2021 01:17 am
Measurement data from the research vessel "Polarstern" indicate that smoke from forest fires travels to unimagined heights in the atmosphere. This could possibly put the ozone layer at risk.

The results, published last month by Ohneiser and his colleagues in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, suggest that climate change could have unexpected effects on atmospheric chemistry: According to the paper, smoke from ever-larger forest fires is penetrating the stratosphere, a quiet, isolated layer above the troposphere. Once there, it possibly depletes the ozone layer, which shields harmful UV radiation. "Until recently, the global impact of smoke was thought to be small," says Catherine Wilka, a stratospheric chemist at Stanford University. Now it is emerging as a new frontier in climate research.

The unexpected smoke layer in the High Arctic winter stratosphere during MOSAiC 2019–2020
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Reply Mon 22 Nov, 2021 04:43 am

Antarctic ice sheet changed alarmingly quickly in the past – and it may be happening again now

Patterns of rapid ice loss in the past could predict style of future Antarctic ice sheet retreat.
A chunk of the Antarctic ice sheet breaks off into the freezing water below

Scientists fear the retreat of the Antarctic ice sheet has already passed a critical tipping point that will inevitably lead to sea level rise over the coming centuries.

The melting of the Antarctic Ice Sheet may have already passed a point of no return, a new study has found, and scientists say it could contribute to sea level rise over coming centuries and possibly millennia.

The study, published overnight in Nature Communications and co-authored by Dr Zoë Thomas and Professor Chris Turney from UNSW Sydney, used geological data from Antarctica combined with computer models and statistical analyses to understand how recent changes compared to those from the past going back thousands of years.

“Our study reveals that during times in the past when the ice sheet retreated, the periods of rapid mass loss ‘switched on’ very abruptly, within only a decade or two,” says Dr Thomas.

“Interestingly, after the ice sheet continued to retreat for several hundred years, it ‘switched off’ again, also only taking a couple of decades.”

Dr Thomas says the Antarctic Ice Sheet went through many of these on/off episodes, each time contributing to global sea level rise as the world warmed at the end of the last ice age, about 20,000 years ago.

The researchers’ findings confirm computer modelling that had indicated that the diminishing ice sheet had passed a critical tipping point leading to irreversible loss of parts of the ice sheet below sea level.

“We have already observed over the last two decades that the Antarctic Ice Sheet has suddenly started losing ice which has contributed to rising sea levels around the world,” says Prof. Turney.

“But the satellite data showing this speed-up only go back about 40 years, so we needed longer records to put this change in context.”

Looking for clues

The researchers examined the gritty sediments released from melting icebergs that settled into mud on the sea floor for clues to the ice sheet’s history of retreat and growth phases.

By counting the amounts of this iceberg-rafted sediment through the core, the scientists were able to identify eight phases with high amounts of debris which they interpreted as retreat phases of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Each phase showed the same pattern - the ice sheet destabilised within a decade, contributed to global sea level rise for centuries to a millennium, and then subsequently re-stabilised equally rapidly.

Combining the sediment record with computer models of ice sheet behaviour, the team showed that each episode of increased iceberg calving reflected increased loss of ice from the interior of the ice sheet, not just changes in the already-floating ice shelves.

Professor Nick Golledge from Te Puna Pātiotio, the Antarctic Research Centre at Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University of Wellington, led the ice-sheet modelling.

“We found that iceberg calving events on multi-year time scales were synchronous with discharge of grounded ice from the Antarctic Ice Sheet,” he says.

Warning signs

Dr Thomas then applied statistical methods to the model outputs to see if early warning signs could be detected for tipping points in the ice sheet system. Her analyses confirmed that tipping points did indeed exist.

“If it just takes one decade to tip a system like this, that’s actually quite scary because if the Antarctic Ice Sheet behaves in future like it did in the past, we must be experiencing the tipping right now,” she says.

Lead author Dr Michael Weber, from the Institute of Geosciences at the University of Bonn, led the team that recovered cores of the sediment from the Southern Ocean.

“Our findings are consistent with a growing body of evidence suggesting the acceleration of Antarctic ice-mass loss in recent decades may mark the beginning of a self-sustaining and irreversible period of ice sheet retreat and substantial global sea level rise,” he says.

“When we might see the eventual stabilisation of the ice sheet is unknown, because it will depend significantly on how much future climate warming occurs.”

0 Replies
Reply Wed 24 Nov, 2021 05:04 am
Europe must ban Bitcoin mining to hit the 1.5C Paris climate goal, say Swedish regulators

Faced with a sharp rise in energy consumption, Swedish authorities are calling on the European Union to ban "energy intensive" crypto mining.

Erik Thedéen, director of the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, and Björn Risinger, director of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, said cryptocurrency's rising energy usage is threatening Sweden's ability to meet its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Between April and August this year, the energy consumption of Bitcoin mining in the Nordic country rose "several hundred per cent," and now consumes the equivalent electricity of 200,000 households, Thedéen and Risinger said.

In an open letter, the directors of Sweden's top financial and environmental regulators called for an EU-wide ban on "proof of work" cryptocurrency mining, for Sweden to "halt the establishment" of new crypto mining operations and for companies that trade and invest in crypto assets to be prohibited from describing their business activities as environmentally sustainable.

Proof of work

The key issue driving the Swedish regulators' intervention is the "proof of work" system used to mint many cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin and Ether, the world's two largest tokens.

Under the proof of work system, computers must solve mathematical puzzles in order to validate transactions that occur on a given network.

The process is designed to become more difficult as the number of blocks of validated transactions in the chain increases, meaning more computing power - and therefore energy - is required.

This leads to an arms race among miners, who compete to be the first to validate a new block and claim the prize of a new crypto coin: the more powerful your hardware, the more likely you are to get the coin.

44 times around the world

In recent months, the Nordic countries have seen a rise in crypto mining as producers attracted by lower energy prices and a relative abundance of renewable electricity flee China's crackdown on the industry.

The growth of crypto mining brings with it an opportunity cost, Thedéen and Risinger said, as Sweden's renewable energy is diverted away from industrial, transport and domestic uses, and into Bitcoin and other tokens.

"It is currently possible to drive a mid-size electric car 1.8 million kilometres using the same energy it takes to mine one single Bitcoin,” they said.

“This is the equivalent of forty-four laps around the globe. 900 bitcoins are mined every day. This is not a reasonable use of our renewable energy".

Euronews Next has contacted the Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic environment ministries and the European Commission to ask whether or not they support the call to ban proof of work mining.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 24 Nov, 2021 06:43 am
For better or for worse? Not for albatrosses. The actually monogamous animals separate more often when they feel global warming, according to a study. The results could also be relevant for other animal species.

Environmental variability directly affects the prevalence of divorce in monogamous albatrosses
In many socially monogamous species, divorce is a strategy used to correct for sub-optimal partnerships and is informed by measures of previous breeding performance. The environment affects the productivity and survival of populations, thus indirectly affecting divorce via changes in demographic rates. However, whether environmental fluctuations directly modulate the prevalence of divorce in a population remains poorly understood. Here, using a longitudinal dataset on the long-lived black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) as a model organism, we test the hypothesis that environmental variability directly affects divorce. We found that divorce rate varied across years (1% to 8%). Individuals were more likely to divorce after breeding failures. However, regardless of previous breeding performance, the probability of divorce was directly affected by the environment, increasing in years with warm sea surface temperature anomalies (SSTA). Furthermore, our state-space models show that warm SSTA increased the probability of switching mates in females in successful relationships. For the first time, to our knowledge, we document the disruptive effects of challenging environmental conditions on the breeding processes of a monogamous population, potentially mediated by higher reproductive costs, changes in phenology and physiological stress. Environmentally driven divorce may therefore represent an overlooked consequence of global change.
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Reply Thu 25 Nov, 2021 07:01 am
Timothy Snyder: Judenplatz 1010

A Speech to Europe 2019

May 2019
I would not dream of telling you as Europeans who to vote for in the coming European elections. But I will say this as an American: do not vote for the party that denies global warming, because the party that denies global warming is telling you three things about itself. It is telling you that it will lie about everything, it is telling you that it does not care about the fate of your children and grandchildren and it is telling you that it is the creature of hydrocarbon oligarchs.
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 25 Nov, 2021 02:44 pm
Saving History With Sandbags: Climate Change Threatens the Smithsonian
Beneath the National Museum of American History, floodwaters are intruding into collection rooms, a consequence of a warming planet. A fix remains years away.

WASHINGTON — President Warren Harding’s blue silk pajamas. Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves. The Star Spangled Banner, stitched by Betsy Ross. Scripts from the television show M*A*S*H.

Nearly two million irreplaceable artifacts that tell the American story are housed in the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Institution, the biggest museum complex in the world.

Now, because of climate change, the Smithsonian stands out for another reason: Its cherished buildings are extremely vulnerable to flooding, and some could eventually be underwater.

Eleven palatial Smithsonian museums and galleries form a ring the National Mall, the grand two-mile park lined with elms that stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol.

But that land was once marsh. And as the planet warms, the buildings face two threats. Rising seas will eventually push in water from the tidal Potomac River and submerge parts of the Mall, scientists say. More immediately, increasingly heavy rainstorms threaten the museums and their priceless holdings, particularly since many are stored in basements.

At the American History museum, water is already intruding.

It gurgles up through the floor in the basement. It finds the gaps between ground-level windows, puddling around exhibits. It sneaks into the ductwork, then meanders the building and drips onto display cases. It creeps through the ceiling in locked collection rooms, thief-like, and pools on the floor.

Staff have been experimenting with defenses: Candy-red flood barriers lined up outside windows. Sensors that resemble electronic mouse traps, deployed throughout the building, that trigger alarms when wet. Plastic bins on wheels, filled with a version of cat litter, to be rushed back and forth to soak up the water.

So far, the museum’s holdings have escaped damage. But “We’re kind of in trial and error,” said Ryan Doyle, a facilities manager at the Smithsonian. “It’s about managing water.”

An assessment of the Smithsonian’s vulnerabilities, released last month, reveals the scale of the challenge: Not only are artifacts stored in basements in danger, but floods could knock out electrical and ventilation systems in the basements that keep the humidity at the right level to protect priceless art, textiles, documents and specimens on display.

Of all its facilities, the Smithsonian ranks American History as the most vulnerable, followed by its next door neighborh, the National Museum of Natural History.

Scientists at the nonprofit group Climate Central expect some land around the two museums will be underwater at high tide if average global temperatures rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels. The planet has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius and is on track to rise 3 degrees by 2100.


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Reply Sun 28 Nov, 2021 07:56 am
Green Technologies Have a Glaring Problem of Scale

In the context of the massive attention paid to climate change, nations around the world have committed to substantially reducing and even eliminating their carbon emissions by 2050. Achieving these goals relies on several ‘green’ technologies that would form the basis of a future energy system. As envisioned, mass deployment of these technologies will encounter fundamental physical limits that call into question their ability to function as replacements for their equivalents in the current energy system. By placing firm targets, nations around the world have committed to terminating their carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 to offer confidence that a better world is achievable if only society implements the right policies and employs the correct technologies. This assumption is inaccurate, based on a view that is at odds with nature.

Due to unavoidable physical constraints, future green technologies offer little promise for achieving economies of scale. Many of the improvements suggested to improve their performance remain marginal and frequently come with the environmental costs of additional embedded energy requirements, extensive land use and greater material complexity. The outcomes achieved under laboratory conditions are not guaranteed to be viable at the scale necessary for them to make a significant difference.

Efforts to improve energy efficiency remain essential, but those efforts are not likely to reduce aggregate energy use. The vehicles and appliances of 2050 will likely be more efficient than those of today, but precisely because of their greater efficiency there will be many more of them. Under almost any scenario, global electricity demand will increase between now and 2050 and meaningful reductions in carbon emissions will need to come from changes in the primary energy supply.

The technological vision implied by national pledges for a carbon neutral 2050 assumes that future societies will be able to: 1) Harvest nearly all the energy society uses directly from renewable natural sources (sun, wind, currents, waves, vegetation); 2) Store large amounts of electricity over long periods, and 3) Collect carbon dioxide molecules from mixed gases and dispose of them. A further implied assumption is that governments and citizens will be willing to pay the costs of environmental externalities independent of their cost, including the costs of avoiding a predicted climate disaster.

Technologies designed to capture the radiant energy of the sun or the kinetic energy of the wind must accommodate the inherent randomness of these sources. Nature’s tendency to favor disorder over order (i.e., the 2nd law of thermodynamics) complicates the goal of extracting net energy from sources that rely directly on meteorological conditions. Moreover, the engineering devices deployed to convert these sources into electricity are subject to physical laws that limit their practical efficiency actually converting solar radiation and moving air into useful energy.

Centuries of searching for chemically compatible materials for a battery that can store significant energy, charge quickly, sustain many charge-discharge cycles, and do so safely and reliably have yielded batteries capable of powering appliances but still not well suited to powering vehicles or electric grids. Todays’ electric cars use a considerable amount of energy to transport their own battery packs. Utility scale batteries require massive capital outlays for equipment that offers hours, not days, of storage capacity. Huge economic rewards await those who can solve the technical puzzle of safe, reliable, energy dense batteries, but so far this object remains elusive.

The technical problem of reliably removing carbon dioxide molecules from a mixed gas has been solved. Nonetheless, the removal process requires significant energy that reduces the net amount of useful energy generated when burning hydrocarbons. After decades of research and development, removing CO2 from a post combustion waste stream still requires 20-30% of the total energy generated under ideal conditions.

Clever engineering can finesse technical challenges but cannot overcome fundamental forces of nature. The technologies proposed for meeting future carbon-neutral energy commitments rely on manipulating materials and energy at increasingly microscopic scales. Typically, proposed technologies rely on employing sophisticated control systems or highly engineered materials that improve efficiency outcomes. However, even pilot-scale advances in green energy technologies may offer little proof of their success when scaled up to mass production and consumption as the same strict tolerances and controlled conditions become more difficult to achieve.

Successful technologies may not succeed instantly and need to emerge over time, but their success cannot be forced by government fiat or the mandates of Five-Year Plans. Widely diffused technologies generally exploit sound scientific principles that benefit the humans they are intended to serve. They offer economic benefit by adding value to goods and services that consumers are willing to pay for. They typically rely on some scientific phenomenon that can be enhanced through the diligence of engineers to innovate in applying it. For example, engineers have learned to control how we burn fuels to create optimal conditions for efficient heat generation and heat transport in power plants, homes and vehicles. The history of growth in digital processing and communication similarly relies on repeatedly exploiting basic principles in solid state physics with greater and greater engineering skill.

Confidence that green technologies can scale to dominate national energy systems remains based more on marketing claims than on demonstrated operational experience. The national goals set for 2050 present a supreme technological challenge to reduce environmental fallout while raising living standards for billions around the globe. Neither rich nor poor nations can afford to invest in technologies that achieve questionable benefits at the expense of accessible, reliable energy services for its citizens. Technologies that do not scale are destined to remain boutique technologies, the purview of the rich, environmental activists, and politicians that seize upon them to make empty promises.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 28 Nov, 2021 12:20 pm
The Australian government has used sweeping new powers to override state and territory government support for an international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

‘Vandals’: Victoria, Queensland fume over federal climate intervention
The Morrison government has used sweeping new powers to override state and territory government support for an international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal government has deployed recently passed laws to overturn the participation of five states and territories in the global Under 2 Coalition.

In an email dated 23 November, an official with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told his counterpart in the Victorian government that its participation in the coalition was “no longer in operation”.

The email warned the Victorian government that under the new Foreign Relations (States and Territories) Act 2020, sign up to the agreement was now illegitimate.

The email said Victoria had 14 days to tell the global organisation it had “failed to properly classify” the state’s involvement in a 2015 Memorandum of Understanding.

Two-hundred-and-sixty sub-national governments worldwide have signed up to the the Under 2 coalition, representing 1.75 billion people and 50% of the global economy. Members commit to keeping global temperature rises to well below 2C, with efforts to reach 1.5C. Thirty-five states and regions in the coalition have committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.

“[T]he MOU has also been invalidated for a number of other states and territories,” the official said, naming the ACT, Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia. He did not cite NSW, which has lately signed up.

Lily D’Ambrosio, Victoria’s energy, environment and climate change minister, said Dfat had used a technicality that was “illogical” to cancel her state’s participation.

“It’s just a really ridiculous technicality,” D’Ambrosio said. “It’s egregious. They are vandals.”

The move came less than a fortnight after the Glasgow climate summit ended. The Morrison government had weathered extensive criticism at the event for being among the few rich nations to avoid raising their 2030 emission reduction targets.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 30 Nov, 2021 11:05 am
Rain to replace snow in the Arctic as climate heats, study finds
Climate models show switch will happen decades faster than previously thought, with ‘profound’ implications
Today, more snow falls in the Arctic than rain. But this will reverse, the study suggests, with all the region’s land and almost all its seas receiving more rain than snow before the end of the century if the world warms by 3C. Pledges made by nations at the recent Cop26 summit could keep the temperature rise to a still disastrous 2.4C, but only if these promises are met.

Even if the global temperature rise is kept to 1.5C or 2C, the Greenland and Norwegian Sea areas will still become rain dominated. Scientists were shocked in August when rain fell on the summit of Greenland’s huge ice cap for the first time on record.

nature communications: New climate models reveal faster and larger increases in Arctic precipitation than previously projected
0 Replies

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