March 31 2018

March 31 2018

Easter Island, emissions rising, hot times in the arctic, the little things that run the world

The New York Times has an article (with integrated drone video) that reviews the impact of sea level rise and coastal erosion on Easter Island, where many of the famous statues and tombs are being threatened. The Times also reviews the post-Katrina fortifications in New Orleans, which have reduced flood risk in the City at great cost. The San Francisco Public Press has a well-researched article on new sea level rise guidance from the California Ocean Protection Council, which is meant to support local land use decisions. A Boston Globe editorial calls for action to create resiliency in their city to the impacts of climate change.

An op-ed in the New York Times reviews the causes and implications of the recent three months of hot temperatures in the arctic, which among other impacts has driven a decline in arctic sea ice that is greater than at any time in the past 1,450 years. In Scientific American Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University reviews the major changes underway in the arctic, which is transforming faster than predicted, and the implications of these changes for global weather patterns.

Beer enthusiasts take note: Climate Central reports on the impact of a changing climate on production of barley and hops, including the fact that in 2017 Montana farmers planted 23% less barley for the beer market due to this crop’s susceptibility to damage from heat and drought. An Arizona public radio station examines the impact of climate change on craft brewing in their state.

Bill McKibben writes on e360 that considering natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to a renewable future is a problem. He notes that by switching from coal to gas in the electricity sector the US is reducing emissions of carbon dioxide but not reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases.

Inside Climate News reports that the national science academies of 22 Commonwealth countries, including the UK, Canada, India and Australia, issued a “Consensus Statement on Climate Change,” declaring that the “Commonwealth has the potential, and the responsibility, to help drive meaningful global efforts and outcomes that protect ourselves, our children and our planet.” The statement notes that “member countries of the Commonwealth will need to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions at or shortly after the middle of this Century.” This statement joins the other unprecedented joint statements from scientific academies, including the U.K. Science Communiqué on Climate Change and the joint statement of the National Academies of Science.

The Washington Post reports that after three years of virtually no growth, carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuel rose again in 2017 according the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA said that the 1.4% increase, which was also projected previously by the Global Carbon Project, demonstrates that current global efforts to control emission are insufficient to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement (the New York Times examines why emissions increased). Financial firm Lazard released its annual results on the cost of energy last November, and Climate Progress highlights Lazard’s conclusion that building new renewable capacity is already cheaper than running existing coal and nuclear plants in many places in the US. So change is coming, but still not fast enough.

Scientific American reviews the growing concern about assuming negative emissions technologies can be used to meet the 2°C target. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented more than 100 2°C scenarios in its fifth assessment report, and nearly all of them assumed that negative emissions technology would be viable and widely used (particularly bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or BECCS). Researchers increasingly warn that BECCS is not feasible at the scale necessary to meet the target without causing massive environmental or social disruptions.

Capitol Public Radio reports on how one skeptical rancher in northeastern California has become convinced that farming practices that conserve ecological functions and sequester carbon are also good for the bottom line. Time Magazine describes how the oil industry is beginning to acknowledge the inevitable slackening in demand for oil, due especially to the impact of EV’s on future demand for gasoline. The New Yorker has a great profile of California Governor Jerry Brown, including a look at his work to extend the state’s cap and trade law.

Renown biologist E.O. Wilson writes in the New York Times about the need for species conservation, making the important point of human dependence upon ecosystems. Humans have only described about one in five of the species on the planet, and Wilson notes that we are particularly ignorant of the creatures he likes to call

“the little things that run the world.” They teem everywhere, in great number and variety in and on all plants, throughout the soil at our feet and in the air around us. They are the protists, fungi, insects, crustaceans, spiders, pauropods, centipedes, mites, nematodes and legions of others whose scientific names are seldom heard by the bulk of humanity….Do not call these organisms “bugs” or “critters.” They too are wildlife. Let us learn their correct names and care about their safety. Their existence makes possible our own. We are wholly dependent on them.