06 Aug 2012:
Rise in Extreme Heat Events
Linked to Climate Change, Study Says
A new NASA study has found that extreme heat events are far more likely to occur than five decades ago, a phenomenon that researchers link to climate change. In an analysis of long-term statistical trends
, a team of researchers led by James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies describes how “extremely hot” summers — defined as abnormally high mean summer temperatures that affected less than 1 percent of the planet’s land area between 1951 and 1980 — have become far more routine in the last three decades. According to their analysis, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, about 10 percent of land areas in the Northern Hemisphere have experienced such temperatures since 2006. And while the chances of experiencing extreme heat events from the 1950s to the 1980s were less than 1 in 300, the odds now are closer to 1 in 10. “This is not some scientific theory,” Hansen told the Associated Press
. “We are now experiencing scientific fact.” The shifting trend, he said, was behind last year’s Texas drought and the 2010 Russian heat wave. This summer, Hansen said, is also shaping up to fit into the new “extreme” category.
03 Aug 2012:
NASA Study Quantifies
Vast Amount of Dust Reaching North America
A new NASA study calculates that nearly 64 million tons of dust, pollution, and other tiny particles enter the atmosphere above North America from other continents each year
, nearly as much as the 69 million tons of
aerosols produced domestically through natural processes and human activities. The vast majority of the particles entering the atmosphere, scientists say, consist of natural dust and not pollutants. In a first-of-its-kind study, NASA researchers used satellite data and wind speed estimates to calculate that about 88 percent of the microscopic particles, or 56 million tons, consists of dust carried in wind currents, particularly during the spring when an increase in cyclones and mid-latitude westerlies propel powerful atmospheric currents across the Pacific Ocean. According to the study, published in the journal Nature
, about 60 to 70 percent comes from Asia, and the remaining 30 to 40 percent comes from Africa and the Middle East. But only about 5 percent of the dust drops within the lowest 1.2 miles of the atmosphere, where it can be inhaled by humans. NASA scientists say the study provides critical insights into how aerosol particles across the planet affect air quality and the climate
02 Aug 2012:
Planet’s Carbon Storing Capacity
Keeping Pace with Human Emissions
A new study finds that earth’s oceans and lands continue to absorb more than half of the human-caused greenhouse gas emissions
, suggesting that the planet has not yet reached its carbon-storage capacity even as emissions continue to escalate. Writing in the journal Nature
, a team of U.S. scientists calculate that the world’s natural systems — including seas, forests, and soils — have absorbed about 55 percent of the roughly 350 billion tons of greenhouse gases emitted during the last 50 years. With human-based emissions rising steadily over five decades, those systems have had to absorb an ever-increasing amount of carbon, storing an estimated 5 billion tons in 2010 compared with 2.4 billion tons in 1960, the study found. These calculations are consistent with findings by the Global Carbon Project, according to Reuters
. The planet’s capacity to store carbon has been a critical factor in preventing an even greater increase in global temperatures, but authors of the new study say that storage capacity will not remain indefinitely. “It’s not a question of whether or not natural sinks will slow their uptake of carbon, but when,” said Ashley Ballantyne, a researcher at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study.
31 Jul 2012:
U.S. Meat Producers Call for
Pause in Ethanol Quotas in Wake of Drought
U.S. meat, poultry, and dairy producers are urging the Obama administration to suspend a quota for corn-based ethanol production, warning that the renewable fuels standard could trigger a food crisis as a prolonged
drought pushes corn and soybean prices to record levels. In a letter sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a coalition that includes the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council asked for a one-year waiver on federal ethanol quotas
, saying that the ongoing drought in the U.S. Midwest has slashed the amount of corn available to feed livestock and poultry. The current renewable fuels standard would require that 13.2 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be produced in 2012 and 13.8 billion gallons in 2013. In 2012, the meat producers say, those quotas would consume nearly 40 percent of all U.S.-produced corn. “The extraordinary and disastrous circumstances created for livestock and poultry producers by the ongoing drought in the heart of our grain growing regions requires that all relevant measures of relief be explored
,” the letter said.
30 Jul 2012:
Recent Historic Drought
May Be the ‘New Normal,’ Study Says
A multi-year drought from 2000 to 2004 that lowered crop productivity and reduced water levels across western North America may become “the new normal” over the next century
as the climate warms, a new study says. In an analysis of climate models and precipitation projections, a team of scientists predicts that 80 of the 95 years between 2006 and 2100 will have precipitation levels as low, or lower, than levels experienced during the recent historic drought. That drought — which, based on tree ring data, was worse than any other experienced by the western U.S. in many centuries — caused crop productivity to drop by 5 percent, reduced runoff in the upper Colorado River basin by half, and triggered increased mortality in forests. In addition, the dry conditions cut the carbon sequestration capacity of forests across the western U.S., Canada, and Mexico by 51 percent, said Beverly Law, a scientist at Oregon State University and co-author of the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience
. As forest vegetation wilted, it caused more CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, amplifying global warming, according to the study.
Unusual Number of Grizzly and
Hybrid Bears Spotted in High Arctic
Two Canadian biologists have reported sighting a handful of grizzly bears and hybrid grizzly/polar bears at unusually high latitudes in the Arctic, indicating that the interbreeding of the two bear species is becoming more common as the climate warms and grizzlies venture
Photo courtesy of Jodie Pongracz
A hybrid polar/grizzly bear in the Canadian Arctic
farther north. The sightings of three grizzly bears and two hybrid bears, made in late April and May by biologists from the University of Alberta, represent an unprecedented cluster of these animals at such high latitudes. The biologists even took DNA samples from a grizzly bear at 74 degrees North latitude. Scientists suggested that some grizzly bears may be leaving the Canadian Arctic mainland and traveling roughly 400 miles over sea ice as they pursue a caribou herd that annually migrates over ice from the mainland to Victoria Island in the High Arctic. Unable to get back because of rapidly melting ice, some of these grizzly bears have evidently managed to adapt to life in the polar bear’s world, eating seals as they overwinter and mating with polar bears.
27 Jul 2012:
Powerful Storms Linked to
Depletion of Ozone Layer, Study Says
A new study warns that a surge in powerful storms, perhaps linked to a warming climate, could be causing a depletion of the planet’s protective ozone layer
. Writing in the journal Science
, Harvard researchers explain that water vapor inserted into the normally dry stratosphere by strong thunderstorms is triggering chemical reactions with now-banned chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, essentially creating ozone-destroying conditions identical to those occurring over the Antarctic, high southern latitudes, and parts of the Arctic. That, in turn, could lead to an increase in UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface, posing a higher risk of skin cancer for humans as well as potentially harmful conditions for some plants and crops. Lead author James G. Anderson said more research is necessary, including direct measurements of the effects of water vapor on ozone chemistry. But he said that given recent research linking climate change to an increase in extreme weather events, these findings could portend increased ozone loss in years to come. “It’s the union between ozone loss and climate change that is really at the heart of this,” Anderson told the New York Times
. “Now, they’re intimately connected.”
26 Jul 2012:
Pulling Carbon From Air
Should Be Pursued Despite Costs, Study Says
Columbia University scientists say that technologies to extract carbon dioxide from the air will likely become a critical part of any strategy to stabilize the global climate and should not be abandoned because of high costs
. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, the researchers from the university’s Earth Institute argue that the use of technologies to remove emissions at the source — such as at coal-powered plants — will not go far enough because they don’t address the transportation sector, which accounts for up to half of global CO2 emissions. In addition, the scientists say that the shift to renewable energy sources will likely not occur fast enough. Technologies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere on a large scale — such as forests of artificial trees or the use of absorbent liquids that extract CO2
— could help avert potentially dangerous warming. While the costs will likely be high at first, the paper said, they will come down as the technologies are more widely deployed. “The field of carbon sequestration as a community is too timid when it comes to new ideas,” said Klaus Lackner, lead author of the paper.
25 Jul 2012:
Entire Greenland Ice Sheet
Experiences Significant Surface Melting
New NASA satellite images show that the surface of virtually the entire ice sheet covering Greenland experienced melting in mid-July
, a phenomenon not
seen in three decades of satellite observations. Temperatures rose so high that ice on the Greenland’s highest peak, Summit Station, turned to slush, NASA said. Until the severe melting earlier this month, the greatest extent of surface melting observed by satellites over the past three decades covered about 55 percent of the ice sheet; on July 12, 97 percent of the ice sheet experienced surface melting. Ice cores from Greenland show that such melting events have occurred roughly every 150 years, but Greenland’s ice sheet has been experiencing rapid melting in the past decade and if another major melting event occurred within the next 10 years it could disrupt the stability of the ice sheet
, said Thomas Mote, a climatologist at the University of Georgia. “When we see melt in places that we haven’t seen before, at least in a long period of time, it makes you sit up and ask what’s happening,” NASA scientist Waleed Abdalati told the BBC
24 Jul 2012:
Evolution of Polar Bear
Followed Changes in Climate, Study Says
An analysis of sequenced polar bear genomes provides new insights into how climate change and interbreeding with brown bears led to the evolution of the modern-day polar bear
. In an analysis of the nuclear genomes of 28
Photo courtesy of Andrew Derocher
brown, black, and polar bears, an international team of researchers found evidence that polar bear populations fluctuated with climate shifts over the last million years, with populations increasing during cooler periods and declining during periods of warmer temperatures. Their findings also suggest that during periods of glacial retreat, polar bears came into greater contact with brown bears as their ranges overlapped. “Maybe we’re seeing a hint that in really warm times, polar bears changed their life style and came into contact, and indeed interbred, with brown bears,” said Stephan Schuster, a scientist at Pennsylvania State University and co-lead author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
. While earlier research indicated that polar bears have only existed for about 600,000 years, the new research suggests that the polar bear may have evolved into a distinct species 4 to 5 million years ago.
Maya Lin: A Memorial to
A Vanishing Natural World
The woman who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is now focused on the mass extinction of species, a threat she is highlighting on a dynamic interactive Web site. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Maya Lin talks about the origins of her What is Missing? project, the media techniques she and her collaborators are using to draw attention to the biodiversity crisis, and the actions that give her hope that we can reverse the tide of nature’s destruction. “I am going to try to wake you up to things that are missing that you are not even aware are disappearing,” Lin said.
Read more and listen to an audio podcast
19 Jul 2012:
Shows Ability to Trap CO2 in Ocean
An eight-year German research effort has shown that under the right conditions seeding the ocean with iron can trigger phytoplankton blooms that suck carbon out of the air and trap it deep in the ocean,
a potentially important breakthrough in the nascent field of climate geoengineering. Reporting in the journal Nature
, scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research said that adding 14 tons of iron sulfate to the Southern Ocean near Antarctica resulted in a significant phytoplankton bloom extending more than 300 feet deep. That bloom consisted of large masses of algae, mainly composed of diatoms, which absorbed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. More than 50 percent of the carbon-rich algae then sunk to a depth of more than 3,000 feet, where it is likely to be trapped for centuries. The German research team conducted the iron-seeding experiment in 2004 and then spent eight years analyzing the data. Previous iron-seeding experiments have had difficulty tracking the path of CO2 pulled out of the atmosphere because of swirling currents and other complications. But the Wegener team said its experiment had succeeded because scientists found a 40-mile-wide column of water that was isolated from other ocean currents.
18 Jul 2012:
Increase in Extreme Weather
Influencing Opinion on Climate Change
With 70 percent of Americans now agreeing that global warming is affecting weather in the U.S., the public is showing increasing support for measures
that would tackle the problem of climate change, according to a new survey. Conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, the survey showed that 60 percent of Americans would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports legislation that would reduce the federal income tax and make up for that decrease in revenue by increasing taxes on fossil fuels. The ongoing survey — which divides the U.S. public into six categories on global warming, from the alarmed to the dismissive — showed that an overwhelming majority of people who identified themselves as alarmed, concerned, or cautious about global warming say that if people with their views worked together, they could influence politicians’ views on global warming. The people in these three groups, as well as people who described themselves as disengaged on the issue of global warming, said by a wide margin that they trusted President Obama more than Mitt Romney as a source of information on climate change.
18 Jul 2012:
Two Geoengineering Experts
Preparing Small Experiment with Sulfates
Two Harvard professors say they are developing an experiment that would release a small quantity of sulfate particles into the atmosphere
to see how well they combine with water vapor to reflect some of the sun’s rays back into space. Physicist David G. Keith and atmospheric chemist James G. Anderson are proposing that the experiment be done using a balloon launched from a NASA facility in New Mexico. The researchers said they would inject “micro” amounts of sulfate particles into the atmosphere and that there was no chance they would affect climate, either locally or globally. The men vehemently denied a report in the Guardian
that they were planning to inject tens or hundreds of pounds of sulfate particles into the atmosphere. Keith, a leading scientist in the controversial field of geoengineering
the planet’s climate to counter global warming, said the experiment was designed to measure the impact of releases of sulfate particles, including the possibility that they would interact with chlorine and harm the earth’s ozone layer. Keith said outdoor geoengineering experiments should be conducted only with public funds and after a thorough public review.
17 Jul 2012:
Severe Drought in U.S.
Is The Worst Dry Spell Since 1956
The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) says that 55 percent of the Lower 48 states suffered from moderate to extreme drought in June, the largest area affected by drought since 1956.
With searing heat and drought conditions only intensifying in July, corn and soybean crops in the U.S. Midwest are suffering badly
, threatening to increase food and fuel prices and cut food aid and grain exports from the world’s top producer of key crops. “We’re moving from a crisis to a horror story,” said Purdue University agronomist Tony Vyn. “I see an increasing number of fields that will produce zero grain.” The current drought now covers a larger area than the famous 1936 drought, although other droughts in the Dust Bowl years — particularly the extreme drought of 1934 — still rank higher, the NCDC said in a report.
Several years of drought in the mid-1950s were also worse than the current dry spell, which is the sixth most severe drought since the U.S. began keeping records in 1895.
16 Jul 2012:
Warmer Ocean Waters
Lead To a Glut of Lobsters in Maine
Warmer Atlantic Ocean temperatures off the coast of Maine have caused the state’s bountiful supply of lobsters to shed their shells and come onto the market six weeks earlier than normal, creating a glut that has driven prices sharply down.
The state’s 5,000 lobster fishermen are receiving less than $3-per-pound at the dock for their catch, which is below the $4-per-pound break-even point. As a result, many lobsterman have stopped fishing and are waiting for the oversupply of lobster to ease before heading back out on the water. An extremely mild winter and spring in New England has increased ocean temperatures, which in turn has caused Maine’s lobsters to shed their shells far earlier than normal. The abundance of so-called soft-shelled lobsters led to the largest lobster harvest on record in June, state officials said. The warmer temperatures also caused a boom in lobsters in Canada, which has exacerbated the glut. Soft-shelled lobsters are more difficult to ship out of state than hard-shelled ones, meaning Maine’s processing plants are overflowing with the crustacean, causing prices to plummet.
13 Jul 2012:
Majority of Americans Believe
Climate is Warming, Weather Less Stable
The majority of Americans believe the climate is getting warmer and that global weather patterns are becoming more unstable, according to a new poll
. In a poll conducted by the Washington Post
and Stanford University last month, six in 10 respondents said that weather patterns have been more unstable during the last three years than in the past; almost as many respondents said that average temperatures had increased during the last three years. According to the poll, more than half believe that “a great deal” or a “good amount” can still be done to reduce future warming, although 70 percent opposed tax increases on electricity use or gasoline to change individual behaviors. This latest poll comes just days after a new report from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) said that climate change has increased the probability of extreme weather events. The NOAA report noted that the changing climate made last year’s historic drought in Texas 20 times more likely to occur than conditions during the 1960s.
11 Jul 2012:
New European Auto Standards
Would Cut CO2 Emissions By One Third
The European Union has introduced strict new auto emissions standards
that officials say would cut carbon dioxide emissions by a third by 2020. The new standard, which must be approved by all member states and the
European Parliament, would require that new passenger cars emit no more than 95 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven, compared with 130 grams today, and 147 grams per kilometer for vans. Connie Hedegaard, the European commission’s climate chief, said the new standards would help European automakers compete with foreign manufacturers and cut fuel costs for consumers. According to EU estimates, the average driver would save about €340 in fuel during the first year, and between €2,900 and €3,800 during the lifetime of the vehicle. In addition, the EU predicts it would save about 160 million tons of imported oil. Greenpeace officials, however, called the plan too weak
, saying that, among other loopholes, it allows manufacturers to continue producing heavy-emitting vehicles in return for building zero-emitting electric cars, regardless of how many electric vehicles are sold.
10 Jul 2012:
Corals Facing Open Ocean
More Vulnerable to Warming, Study Finds
U.S. scientists say coral reef systems exposed to the open ocean are most vulnerable to warming ocean temperatures
. In a new study, researchers at the University of North Carolina write that three distinct coral zones located within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System in Central America — including the foreef (closest to the ocean), the nearshore (closest to the shore), and the backreef (directly behind the reef crest) — saw an increase in average summer sea surface temperatures from 1982 to 2008. But while they observed a decline in skeletal growth in corals facing the ocean during that period, coral growth rates in the other two zones remained relatively stable. According to their findings, published in the journal Nature Climate Change
, the ocean-facing corals were more vulnerable to warming conditions because historically they had experienced cooler and more stable seawater. “However, because backreef and nearshore coral colonies have historically been exposed to warmer and more variable seawater temperatures, they seem to be less affected,” said Karl Castillo, a postdoctoral researcher at UNC and lead author of the study.
06 Jul 2012:
Coral Reef Systems Collapsed
During Earlier Changes to Climate
An increase in ocean temperatures that occurred 4,000 years ago triggered a collapse of coral reef systems in the eastern Pacific
that lasted for about 2,500 years, according to a new study. In an analysis of 17-foot core samples taken from the frameworks of coral reefs off the Panama coast, scientists from the Florida Institute of
Technology found that the reefs stopped growing during a period that coincided with the start of a period of dramatic swings in the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, including periods when ocean temperatures elevated significantly. They say this gap in growth also occurred in reef systems as far away as Japan and Australia. “For Pacific reefs to have collapsed for such a long time and over such a large geographic scale, they must have experienced a major climatic disturbance,” said Lauren Toth, a co-author of the study published in the journal Science
. While the scientists said the results may foretell similar catastrophic events for reef systems worldwide as ocean temperatures rise as a consequence of climate change, they noted that it also suggests that coral systems may have the resilience to rebound if climate change is mitigated or reversed.
02 Jul 2012:
Leatherback Turtle Declines
Will Escalate As Climate Warms, Study Finds
A warming climate could exacerbate threats facing leatherback turtle populations in the eastern Pacific Ocean, creating conditions that could trigger a 75 percent reduction in turtle numbers by the end of the century
, a new study says. Even under existing
conditions, turtle births ebb and flow each year, researchers say, with eggs and hatchlings more likely to survive in cooler, rainier seasons, and a greater number of male hatchlings occurring in predominantly female leatherback populations in these conditions. After modeling these population dynamics in light of projected changes in temperature and precipitation in the turtles’ critical nesting areas, particularly the beaches of Costa Rica, researchers from Drexel and Princeton universities projected an increase in egg and hatchling mortality. According to their findings, leatherback populations could decline 7 percent per decade through 2100. A key in preserving turtle populations in the future will be manipulating beach conditions to encourage as many good hatchlings as possible, the researchers say.
02 Jul 2012:
African Savannas May Shift
To Forest as CO2 Levels Rise, Study Says
Large areas of African savanna may slowly transform into forest ecosystems by the end of the century
as atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide continue to rise, a new study says. While earlier studies have suggested that rising CO2 “fertilization” will not trigger global vegetation shifts, researchers from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Goethe University Frankfurt say that savanna ecosystems may actually be vulnerable to relatively quick “regime shifts” as plants and trees struggle for ecosystem dominance. According to their findings, savanna trees “were essentially CO2 starved under pre-industrial CO2 concentrations, and… their growth really starts taking off at the CO2 concentrations we are currently experiencing,” said Steven Higgins, lead author of the study published in Nature
. According to their projections, small changes in the factors that regulate the ecosystem could potentially trigger a cascade of events that reinforce each other, causing the system to change even more rapidly.
28 Jun 2012:
Wildfires Across Western U.S.
Depicted in NASA Satellite Image
A new map released by NASA
depicts the large scale of wildfires sweeping across the western U.S. and Mexico, where experts say exceptionally dry conditions have made many regions a tinderbox. The map, based on
satellite data collected by the agency’s Ozone Mapper Profile Suite, illustrates high atmospheric concentrations of aerosols (including smoke particles) from Mexico to Montana. Intense fires in Colorado, Utah, and Nevada are marked by dark brown and rust-red on the map, reflecting a high concentration of smoke and aerosols. High aerosol concentrations also are visible over parts of Texas and Mexico, probably as a result to a combination of dust and fires in dry regions. A fire official in Colorado, where ten separate fires are currently burning, said that a light winter snow pack, dry conditions, and the long-term effects of climate change combined to make the region especially susceptible to fires this year
26 Jun 2012:
Forests in Southwest U.S.
Fail to Regenerate After Fires, Study Says
Mountain forests scorched by wildfires in the southwestern U.S. in recent years have failed to regenerate as forest ecosystems because of rising temperatures, decreased precipitation, and human intervention, according to a U.S. researcher
. Speaking at an environmental conference this week in Colorado, Craig Allen, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, described how since the mid-1990s the Southwest’s alpine forests have increasingly been replaced by grasslands and shrublands following fires, The New York Times
reports. While southwestern fires in the distant past typically remained close to the forest floor — a natural cycle that prevented the overcrowding of trees — a combination of cattle devouring grassy surface vegetation, new government policies to prevent fires, and a drier climate have significantly altered this ecosystem. As a result, Allen said, forest fires now climb to the top of the canopy and the species that live in mountainous areas, including ponderosa pines and juniper, cannot regenerate as temperatures climb and precipitation decreases. “These forests did not evolve with this type of fire,” Allen said.
25 Jun 2012:
U.S. Atlantic Coast Already
‘Hotspot’ of Sea Level Rise, Study Says
A 600-mile stretch of the U.S. East Coast is experiencing rates of sea level rise that are three to four times greater than the global average
, according a new study. In a new analysis, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that sea levels from Boston, Mass. to Cape Hatteras, N.C. have risen 2 to 3.7 millimeters per year since 1990, compared with a global average of 0.6 to 1 millimeters per year. According to the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change
, sea levels appear to be rising in this mid-Atlantic region because a major Atlantic current that carries tropical water to the north is slowing down; that warmth expands seawater, which can lead to higher sea levels. “Many people mistakenly think that the rate of sea level rise is the same everywhere as glaciers and ice caps melt… [but] as demonstrated in this study, regional oceanographic contributions must be taken into account
in planning for what happens to coastal property,” said Marcia McNutt, director of the USGS.
22 Jun 2012:
Rio+20 Summit Ends, With
Little Faith Seen in Government Solutions
Twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro promised an era of aggressive action on biodiversity loss and global warming, the United Nations Rio+20 sustainability summit ended Friday with recriminations and a growing sense that international institutions will play an increasingly diminished role in solving environmental problems.
World leaders — with the notable absence of the heads of the U.S., U.K, Germany, and Russia — approved an agreement that lacked specifics, commitments, and measurable targets on how to promote sustainable economic development. Numerous conservationists and officials said that cities, local governments, the private sector, and environmental groups will now have to play the key role in fostering sustainable economic growth, slowing climate change, and preserving biodiversity. “The greening of our economies will have to happen without the blessing of world leaders,” said Lasse Gustavson, executive director of the World Wildlife Fund.
19 Jun 2012:
Major World Cities
Cite Progress in CO2-Reduction Effort
Speaking at the Rio+20 sustainability summit, the mayors of New York City and Rio de Janeiro will announce that 48 of the world’s largest cities are taking steps to cut 248 tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020
, the equivalent of removing 44 million cars from the road for a year. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said that four-dozen cities in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
are reducing emissions by launching energy efficiency programs, capturing methane in landfills, installing more efficient street lighting, and other initiatives. They cite the CO2 reductions as proof that cities can make significant progress on slashing greenhouse gases even in the absence of a global agreement on cutting carbon emissions. “We’re not arguing with each other about emissions targets,” Bloomberg told reporters in a teleconference. “What we’re doing is going out and making progress.” Bloomberg and Paes said that 59 cities have committed to cut their carbon emissions by a total of 1 billion tons by 2030, equivalent to the combined greenhouse gas emissions of Canada and Mexico.
18 Jun 2012:
Japan Feed-in Tariffs Approved
As Government Restarts 2 Nuclear Plants
Japan’s struggle over its energy future was on display over the last two days as the government okayed restarting operations at two nuclear power plants
while also approving an ambitious renewable energy feed-in tariff
in which utilities will pay a premium for electricity generated by solar, wind, and geothermal power. After shutting down the country’s 50 nuclear power plants following the Fukushima nuclear power meltdown, the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Saturday gave the green light to bring two nuclear reactors in western Japan back online. Despite public unease and a large street protest in Tokyo, the government said that post-Fukushima reforms had rendered the plants safe. Meanwhile, the government approved generous green energy feed-in tariffs as part of a drive to significantly expand renewable power generation.
Under the feed-in tariffs, utilities will pay 42 yen (53 U.S. cents) per kilowatt hour for solar-generated electricity and 23 yen per kilowatt hour for wind-generated electricity.
18 Jun 2012:
Online Twitter Campaign
Urges End to Fossil Fuel Subsidies
A coalition of activists today launched a 24-hour campaign on the social media network Twitter to pressure global leaders attending the Rio+20 summit to slash fossil fuel subsidies. Beginning at 8 a.m. GMT, participants started posting messages on the social media site using the hashtag #EndFossilFuelSubsidies
, a so-called “Twitterstorm” that organizers hope will call attention to the issue at the global summit in Brazil. By mid-morning the hashtag was the leading trend on Twitter. The campaign comes as a new report from Oil Change International
estimates that fossil fuel industries receive as much as $1 trillion in direct or indirect support from governments annually. “This world has a few problems where a trillion dollars might come in handy — and we’d have a few less problems if we weren’t paying the fossil fuel industry to wreck the climate,” said Bill McKibben
, founder of 350.org
, one of the groups organizing the Twitter campaign. While some countries have pushed for eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, the current draft of the Rio+20 agreement includes no such commitments
12 Jun 2012:
Heating of Forests Releases
Large Amounts of CO2 from Soil, Study Says
An experiment that heated forests in the eastern U.S. by 10 to 20 degrees F led to an increase in the release of carbon dioxide from soils by up to eight times
, according to a new study. When researchers from the University of California, Irvine and other institutions subjected experimental forest plots in Wisconsin and North Carolina to extreme warming, they found that woodland soils released unexpectedly large quantities of CO2, a finding that could have major implications as the world continues to warm. Soil, which takes its rich brown color from large amounts of decaying carbon in leaves and roots, stores twice as much CO2 as the atmosphere, and major releases of CO2 from soils could cause temperatures to rise significantly, the researchers said. “This suggests that soils could accelerate global warming through a vicious cycle in which human-made warming releases carbon from soils to the atmosphere, which, in turn, would warm the planet more,” said lead researcher Francesca Hopkins.