The Present Threat to Coastal Cities From Antarctic and Greenland Melt

GR: With rising global temperature and increasing threat of rapid glacial melt, Scribbler concludes:

“The only way to lower this risk [coastal city inundation] is to rapidly reduce to zero the amount of carbon hitting the atmosphere from human sources while ultimately learning how to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. The present most rapid pathway for carbon emissions reductions involves an urgent build-out of renewable and non-carbon based energy systems to replace all fossil fuels with a focus on wind, solar, and electrical vehicle economies of scale and production chains. Added to various drives for sustainable cities and increasing efficiency, such a push could achieve an 80 percent or greater reduction in carbon emissions on the 2-3 decade timescale with net negative carbon emissions by mid Century. For cities on the coast, choosing whether or not to support such a set of actions is ultimately an existential one.” –RobertScribbler (The Present Threat to Coastal Cities From Antarctic and Greenland Melt | robertscribbler)

India, Once a Coal Goliath, Is Fast Turning Green – The New York Times

GR:  Here’s some good news. In a surprising development, India has begun moving from coal to solar energy. The country’s air-pollution problems are part of the reason. The rapid decline in the price of solar power is also a factor.

Smog enveloping buildings on the outskirts of New Delhi in November 2014. Credit Roberto Schmidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The next bit of good news I would like to see is a decline in India’s population. In the words of Indian conservationist Dr. K. Ullas Karanth, “India is renowned as the land of the tiger and the elephant; many of our gods are depicted riding peacocks or tigers. But sadly, the equation that existed between people and wildlife centuries ago has vanished, and our protected areas, which comprise a mere 4 percent of India’s landscape, are now mere islands amidst a sea of people, with tremendous demands and pressures being put upon them.”

MUMBAI, India — “Just a few years ago, the world watched nervously as India went on a building spree of coal-fired power plants, more than doubling its capacity and claiming that more were needed. Coal output, officials said, would almost triple, to 1.5 billion tons, by 2020.

“India’s plans were cited by American critics of the Paris climate accord as proof of the futility of advanced nations trying to limit their carbon output. But now, even as President Trump pulls the United States out of the pact, India has undergone an astonishing turnaround, driven in great part by a steep fall in the cost of solar power.

“Experts now say that India not only has no need of any new coal-fired plants for at least a decade, given that existing plants are running below 60 percent of capacity, but that after that it could rely on renewable sources for all its additional power needs.

“Rather than building coal-fired plants, it is now canceling many in the early planning stages. And last month, the government lowered its annual production target for coal to 600 million tons from 660 million.

“The sharp reversal, welcome news to world leaders trying to avert the potentially deadly effects of global warming, is a reflection both of the changing economics of renewable energy and a growing environmental consciousness in a country with some of the worst air pollution in the world.

“What India does matters, because it is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States. And its energy needs are staggering — nearly one-quarter of its population has no electricity and many others get it only intermittently.

“With India’s power needs expected to grow substantially as its economy continues to expand, its energy use will heavily influence the world’s chances of containing the greenhouse gases that scientists believe are driving global warming.

“Much attention at the time of the signing of the Paris agreement was focused on the role President Barack Obama played in pushing India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, to sign. In doing so, Mr. Modi committed India to achieving 40 percent of its electricity capacity from nonfossil-fuel sources by 2030.” –Geeta Anand (Continue reading.)

Second Biggest Jump in Annual CO2 Levels Reported as Trump Leaves Paris Climate Agreement

GR: CO2 emissions really increased last year. As pointed out in this article, CO2 stays in the atmosphere for many years. The CO2 we are emitting is adding to what is already up there. For our safety, emissions need to fall rapidly, not increase or remain constant. According to Steve Montzka, a NOAA scientist, we have to cut our emissions by 80 percent to get the concentration to stop rising and level off.

Last year’s increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration was nearly double the average pace since detailed measurements started in 1979. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

“As President Donald Trump prepared to pull the United States out of the global Paris climate agreement this week, scientists at NOAA reported that 2016 had recorded the second-biggest jump in atmospheric carbon dioxide on record.

“Last year’s increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration was nearly double the average pace since detailed measurements started in 1979.

“Once CO2 is in the atmosphere, the heat-trapping gas persists there for decades as new emissions pile in, which means that even if global emissions level off—as they have started to do—the planet is on a path toward more warming, rising sea levels and increased heat waves and droughts in the decades ahead.

“Concentrations of other greenhouse gases, including methane and nitrous oxide, also increased last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest update to its greenhouse gas index. The heating effect of all combined greenhouses gases in the atmosphere increased by 2.5 percent in 2016, according to the index.

“The warming effect of these chemicals we’re tracking has increased by 40 percent since 1990,” said Steve Montzka, a NOAA scientist who co-authored the update. “Even though emissions are leveling off, CO2 is so long-lived that the concentration is still increasing.”

“Getting the atmospheric concentration to also level off would require reducing emissions by 80 percent, he said.

“That 80 percent cut is exactly what is targeted under the Paris climate agreement, but the goal is in doubt as the Trump administration rolls back climate and energy policies meant to lower emissions in the United States, historically the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gas pollution.”

“All the indicators are going in the wrong direction, and warning bells are ringing so loud as to be deafening,” said Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist in the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “Without the Paris agreement, the acceleration will likely continue and we will exceed 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial by the 2050s or earlier.” –Bob Berwyn (Continue reading: Second Biggest Jump in Annual CO2 Levels Reported as Trump Leaves Paris Climate Agreement | InsideClimate News.)

Look at the methane increases in the NOAA chart below. Though methane concentrations are still quite low, the rapid increase since about 2008 is probably from thawing permafrost. If the acceleration continues, global warming may exceed all the model predictions. [Reading and commenting on stories such as this one feels a bit like reading a science fiction story presented as news reports as in World War Z by Max Brooks.]

Pollution From Canada’s Oil Sands May Be Underreported

GR: Almost every day, we learn that the many forces contributing to climate change are more powerful than we thought, or we learn that they are occurring faster than we thought, or both. And apparently, the picture is even gloomier than all the bad news has told us, because our measurement methods have been faulty.

“Canadian scientists have found that the standard way of tallying air and climate pollution from Alberta’s oil sands vastly understates pollution levels there — by as much as 4.5 times, according to a Canadian government study published Monday.

“The study shows that air samples collected using aircraft may be a more accurate way to tally air and climate pollution from oil and gas production than using industry estimates.

Suncor Energy oil sands plant near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.Credit: Suncor/flickr

“Accurate accounting of the oil and gas industry’s pollution is critical for scientists to understand how fossil fuel production affects the climate and to find ways to cut the pollution to address air quality and climate change, said Allen Robinson, director of the EPA-funded Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions at Carnegie Mellon University, who is unaffiliated with the study.

“Both the U.S. and Canadian governments rely on energy companies’ self-reported emissions estimates in order to count all the pollution from oil and gas operations. Few actual pollution measurements are taken.

“If official tallies underestimate the actual emissions, climate models will likewise underestimate the extent to which fossil fuel pollution is contributing to climate change, Robinson said. The Canadian research shows that the energy industry has been underreporting its emissions and it highlights the challenges the industry faces in accurately estimating emissions from very complex equipment.

“Scientists in both the U.S. and Canada have found that measuring greenhouse gases and other kinds of air pollution using satellites or air samples gathered from airplanes paints a vastly different picture of fossil fuel emissions than those reported by government environmental agencies.

“For example, research using satellite data found a previously undetected hotspot of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — over oil and gas fields in northwest New Mexico. Most leaking methane from oil and gas fields isn’t included in EPA emissions estimates.

“Another study, conducted by Harvard University researchers, used air samples gathered from towers and airplanes to show that methane emissions from various sources in southern states are five times higher than EPA estimates.

“The Canadian research team measured emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in the air above oil sands operations in Alberta. VOCs, most of which are not greenhouse gases, have an indirect effect on the climate. They produce ozone, which is a greenhouse gas and can harm human health.

“Ozone can allow methane to linger longer in the atmosphere than it would under normal conditions. The longer methane, which has about 86 times the power of carbon dioxide to warm the globe over the span of 20 years, remains in the atmosphere the more it helps to warm the climate.” –Bobby Magill (Continue reading:  Pollution From Canada’s Oil Sands May Be Underreported | Climate Central.)

An oil sands operation in eastern Alberta. Credit: Kris Krug/flickr