June 15 2019

June 15 2019

carbon offsets, attacking climate science instead of climate change, fighting fire with fire, surf’s up

ProPublica has an in-depth report about carbon offsets from forest conservation. The article describes how even one of the best programs in the world was running into practical, political and scientific obstacles that won’t be fixed with funding alone. This produces very poor results for those (like me) who try to offset carbon emissions (particularly for travel) by buying forest-based offsets. A UC Berkeley researcher says “we’re deluding ourselves if we think these forestry programs will be able to accurately quantify — and therefore, cancel out — the amount of pollution claimed in an offset.” I will continue to buy offsets, as I am convinced it will encourage (albeit imperfectly) conservation and restoration that will contribute to climate goals.

A New York Times op-ed notes that despite denial of climate science in the Republican party, the message of clean energy is growing more and more popular in Republican-controlled states like South Carolina. WFPL News reports on researchers charting a course for a low-carbon economy for Kentucky. Dave Roberts explains why natural gas is not a “bridge fuel” or a “middle ground” if we are to achieve even modest climate targets. An article in the Atlantic notes that Joe Biden has now released an ambitious climate plan, as have many other Democratic candidates. Biden’s plan has much in common with the Green New Deal, and Vox reviews how important the climate issue has become to democratic voters.

Rolling Stone reports on how the Trump Administration is planning to attack climate science instead of climate change. They plan to only report projections to 2040 and to eliminate the “business as usual” scenarios that project the most severe future impacts, changes designed to hide the serious threat posed by carbon emissions. (As Mike Mann notes in Newsweek, Trump is trying to roll back all programs to control carbon emissions, and then proposing not to look at the future impacts of these decisions.)

Meanwhile, an op-ed in the Washington Post describes the President’s latest ignorant comments about climate change, noting that Trump is “often wrong but never in doubt, a know-it-all on subjects about which he knows nothing.” Thomas Friedman writes in the New York Times that the Trump Administration’s policy is to revive all the dirty industries of the past, undermine the clean industries of the future, increase public health costs and accelerate the impacts of climate change. This policy is designed to harm our national security, economy, weather and industrial competitiveness.

The PBS NewsHour looks at how some towns have faced the challenge of flooding by a managed retreat away from the flood plain. The Washington Post reports on a federal program to buy out flood-prone properties rather than rebuild. While studies suggest this is more-cost effective for the taxpayers who underwrite federal flood insurance, there is a long wait to get buyout offers. Thomson Reuters Foundation reports from Pakistan on the local complexity of climate change’s impacts on glaciers. Most glaciers are melting and retreating due to higher temperatures while increased snowfall causes a few to advance.

InsideClimate News reviews the latest information about the link between climate change and tornadoes. There is no evidence that tornadoes are becoming stronger. However, climate change will increase atmospheric heat and moisture, and this will likely increase the number of days per year that are favorable for thunderstorms and tornadoes. Another article describes a recent study that projects deaths from heat waves under different climate-change scenarios.

USA Today reports that, due to record-breaking spring rainfall, flooding in at least eight states along the Mississippi River is the longest-lasting since the “Great Flood” of 1927. The Washington Post describes how the flooding is pushing many farmers to the economic brink by delaying the planting of corn. The New York Times reports that this year’s flooding has crippled the nation’s essential river commerce, an impact normally associated with drought. “Water, the very thing that makes barge shipping possible in normal times, has been present in such alarming overabundance this spring that it has rendered river transportation impossible in much of the United States.”

The Sacramento Bee has an in-depth look at fighting fire with fire; using prescribed burns to reduce the fuel load on the landscape. This is a practice that was historically shunned by fire managers, an attitude that continues to influence management agencies today, although this is slowly changing. Prescribed burns are used much more frequently in the southeast U.S., where certain topographic, ecological and cultural factors make it easier than in California.

The Washington Post reviews plant-based hamburger substitutes such as the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger. Mike Mann and Jonathan Brockopp write in USA Today that You Can’t Save the Climate by Going Vegan. An essay at VOX argues that worrying about our consumption patterns is to be caught in a “blame the victim” cycle, ignoring that political activism on climate change is vastly more important than individual consumer choices if we’re to avoid the worst projected impacts.

Climate Home News reports on the recent national goal announced by Finland to be carbon neutral by 2035. In an effort to demonstrate transparency and openness, government officials made this announcement by taking the tram to a public meeting at a library. Dave Roberts at VOX reviews California’s remarkable success with increasing energy efficiency over the last 40 years, and its progress on clean energy. Yale e360 reviews the status of vehicle emissions standards, noting that the Trump Administration is proposing to not require mileage improvements after 2020. This is a stance that will result in a lawsuit from California and several other states, and is not even supported by the auto industry.

Science Magazine summarizes the results of a new study of 20th century temperature trends, which concludes that emissions of carbon pollution by humans was an even more important driver than previously thought, reducing the influence of oceanic cycles (the study’s authors have a more detailed post at RealClimate). The Guardian reports on the warmest spring ever in Alaska, which is contributing to accelerated coastal erosion as permafrost melts.

The New York Times reports on how climate change is impacting Mt. Everest. One gruesome twist is that bodies of climbers who perished on the mountain and were covered in snow and ice are now appearing on the surface. The Washington Post reports on the relationship between climate change and big-wave surfing. This is a sport that is projected to get better as climate change increases the power of storms.

In a New York Times op-ed, Amory Lovins and Rushad Nanavatty conclude that the U.S. can cost-effectively reduce carbon emissions. They note the importance of harnessing businesses and market forces to drive our transition from fossil fuels, in combination with a strong federal research program.

(There will be no In Brief Climate News for June 30, as I’m taking a couple of weeks to get away from it all. Back to you again on July 15!)