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  1. Urgent emission reductions needed to achieve 1.5°C warming limit; “not yet geophysically impossible” but requires ambitious emissions reductions

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    • limiting the increase in global average temperatures above pre-industrial levels to 1.5°C is not yet geophysically impossible, but likely requires more ambitious emission reductions than those pledged so far
    • Contrary to many other studies, this finds we have more than 700 billion tons left to emit to keep warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius, with a two-thirds probability of success. “That’s about 20 years at present-day emissions
    • From their study: Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C [abstract below]
      • Assuming emissions peak and decline to below current levels by 2030, and continue thereafter on a much steeper decline, which would be historically unprecedented but consistent with a standard ambitious mitigation scenario (RCP2.6), results in a likely range of peak warming of 1.2–2.0°C above the mid-nineteenth century.
      • limiting warming to 1.5°C is not yet a geophysical impossibility, but is likely to require delivery on strengthened pledges for 2030 followed by challengingly deep and rapid mitigation
    September 18, 2017 University of Oxford read full ScienceDaily article here

    [Scientists] investigated the geophysical likelihood of limiting global warming to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”  …the paper concludes that limiting the increase in global average temperatures above pre-industrial levels to 1.5°C, the goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, is not yet geophysically impossible, but likely requires more ambitious emission reductions than those pledged so far….

    ….’This paper shows that the Paris goals are within reach, but clarifies what the commitment to ‘pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C’ really implies. Starting with the global review due next year, countries have to get out of coal and strengthen their existing targets so as to keep open the window to the Paris goals. The sooner global emissions start to fall, the lower the risk not only of major climatic disruption, but also of the economic disruption that could otherwise arise from the need for subsequent reductions at historically unprecedented rates, should near-term action remain inadequate.’…

    A group of prominent scientists on Monday created a potential whiplash moment for climate policy, suggesting that humanity could have considerably more time than previously thought to avoid a “dangerous” level of global warming. The upward revision to the planet’s influential “carbon budget” was published by a number of researchers who have been deeply involved in studying the concept, making it all the more unexpected. But other outside researchers raised questions about the work, leaving it unclear whether the new analysis — which, if correct, would have very large implications — will stick.In a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, a team of 10 researchers, led by Richard Millar of the University of Oxford, recalculated the carbon budget for limiting the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above temperatures seen in the late 19th century. It had been widely assumed that this stringent target would prove unachievable — but the new study would appear to give us much more time to get our act together if we want to stay below it.

    What this paper means is that keeping warming to 1.5 degrees C still remains a geophysical possibility, contrary to quite widespread belief,” Millar said in a news briefing…..

    It is very hard to see how we could still have a substantial CO2 emissions budget left for 1.5 °C, given we’re already at 1 °C, thermal inertia means we’ll catch up with some more warming even without increased radiative forcing, and any CO2 emissions reductions inevitably comes with reduced aerosol load as well, the latter reduction causing some further warming,” Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany said by email.

    …In 2013, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculated that humanity could emit about 1,000 more gigatons, or billion tons, of carbon dioxide from 2011 onward if it wanted a good chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees C — launching the highly influential concept of the “carbon budget.”

    The allowable emissions or budget for 1.5 degrees C would, naturally, be lower. One 2015 study found they were 200 billion to 400 billion tons. And we currently emit about 41 billion tons per year, so every three years, more than 100 billion tons are gone. No wonder a recent study put the chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C at 1 percent. Peters said that according to the prior paradigm, we basically would have used up the carbon budget for 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2022.

    That’s what makes the new result so surprising: It finds that we have more than 700 billion tons left to emit to keep warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius, with a two-thirds probability of success. “That’s about 20 years at present-day emissions,” Millar said at the news briefing….

    Richard J. Millar, Jan S. Fuglestvedt, Pierre Friedlingstein, Joeri Rogelj, Michael J. Grubb, H. Damon Matthews, Ragnhild B. Skeie, Piers M. Forster, David J. Frame & Myles R. Allen. Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. Nature Geoscience Published online doi:10.1038/ngeo3031

    ABSTRACT: The Paris Agreement has opened debate on whether limiting warming to 1.5°C is compatible with current emission pledges and warming of about 0.9°C from the mid-nineteenth century to the present decade. We show that limiting cumulative post-2015 CO2 emissions to about 200GtC would limit post-2015 warming to less than 0.6°C in 66% of Earth system model members of the CMIP5 ensemble with no mitigation of other climate drivers, increasing to 240GtC with ambitious non-CO2 mitigation. We combine a simple climate–carbon-cycle model with estimated ranges for key climate system properties from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Assuming emissions peak and decline to below current levels by 2030, and continue thereafter on a much steeper decline, which would be historically unprecedented but consistent with a standard ambitious mitigation scenario (RCP2.6), results in a likely range of peak warming of 1.2–2.0°C above the mid-nineteenth century. If CO2 emissions are continuously adjusted over time to limit 2100 warming to 1.5°C, with ambitious non-CO2 mitigation, net future cumulative CO2 emissions are unlikely to prove less than 250GtC and unlikely greater than 540GtC. Hence, limiting warming to 1.5°C is not yet a geophysical impossibility, but is likely to require delivery on strengthened pledges for 2030 followed by challengingly deep and rapid mitigation. Strengthening near-term emissions reductions would hedge against a high climate response or subsequent reduction rates proving economically, technically or politically unfeasible.

  2. The Great Decoupling: the story of energy use, economic growth, and carbon emissions in four charts.

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    July 2017 see article and visualizations at AnthropoceneMagazine here

    …For the past 15 years, global economic growth rose twice as fast as global energy demand and CO2 emissions. The changes have been the most dramatic since 2010. And within the past three years (2014–2016), emissions stabilized—at least temporarily—while the global economy continued growing. That is a first.

    ….Energy efficiency is responsible for most of the decoupling to date. But the transformation to zero carbon fuels must dramatically accelerate to keep up with growing energy demands and increasing world population. Only then will decoupling be complete….

  3. Allowing polluters to offset carbon emissions by paying forest owners effectively reduces greenhouse gases, Stanford study finds

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    • A pioneering California program to sell carbon offsets has surprising environmental benefits – including providing habitat for endangered species – and provides lessons for initiatives under development in other states and countries.
    • The program as a whole leads to emissions reductions that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise, the Stanford scientists found after analyzing metrics used to confirm individual projects’ robustness.

    See more here: Carbon Offsets Really Do Help Lower Emissions Aug 15 2017 Scientific American

    By Rob Jordan August 14, 2017 read full Stanford News article here

    You can’t grow money on trees, but you can earn money for letting trees grow. Or at least you can through a pioneering California program that allows forest owners around the United States to sell carbon credits to companies required by the state to reduce emissions. Researchers at Stanford analyzed the program and found that the initiative has valuable environmental benefits beyond just offsetting greenhouse gases….

    ….“California provides the first proof of concept with a government program that credits standing forests.”

    ….Forest offsets, which account for the majority of offsets in California’s cap and trade market, involve forest owners changing the way they manage their land so trees will store more carbon…cutting trees less often, reforesting previously forested land or improving forests through various management practices…

    For each additional ton of carbon dioxide their trees store, forest owners can earn a credit – worth about $10 currently – to sell to California companies required to reduce or offset their greenhouse gas emissions. Since it started in 2013, the program has earned forest owners about $250 million, while offsetting 25 million tons of carbon – an amount equal to 5 percent of California’s annual passenger vehicle emissions.

    …Although California’s cap and trade program allows the use of forest offsets up to an amount equaling 8 percent of a polluter’s emissions, the volume issued so far is only 2 percent of total capped emissions. Because the pool of available offsets is quite small, polluters still need to reduce their own emissions directly, rather than relying on purchasing offsets. The program as a whole leads to emissions reductions that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise, the Stanford scientists found after analyzing metrics used to confirm individual projects’ robustness.

    Still, Anderson and her co-authors warn against using forest offsets in large numbers because they may distract from urgent and drastic emissions reduction priorities elsewhere….

    Anderson, Christa M, Field, Christopher B, Mach, Katharine J. Forest offsets partner climate-change mitigation with conservation. Front Ecol Environ 2017; 15(7): 359365, doi:10.1002/fee.1515

  4. 10 Cities Taking a Nature-Driven Approach to Innovation

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    • Our most advanced and sophisticated cities also need to be sustainable and preserve natural areas
    • The smartest cities in the world are integrating nature to create a truly sustainable city.
    BY SKIP DESCANT / AUGUST 4, 2017 read full govtech article here

    It’s not enough for the country’s most advanced and sophisticated cities to be at the forefront of technological innovation with “smart” parking meters or informational kiosks. They also need to be sustainable and show an ability to preserve natural areas, according to Anil Ahuja, an engineering professional regarded as the “Smart Cities Guru” and author of the 2016 book Integration of Nature and Technology for Smart Cities.

    Ahuja has compiled the Top Ten U.S. Cities Integrating Nature & Technology report to highlight which cities are leaders at balancing new technology with good nature policies.

    “A smart city doesn’t just provide technology or economic solutions,” he said in a statement. “The smartest cities in the world are integrating nature to create a truly sustainable city. I have identified a number of cities in the United States that are excellent examples for other smart cities to model themselves after.”

    …[For example] Portland, Ore., promotes energy efficiency through a number of residential, commercial and government initiatives. It was the first city to create a local action plan to reduce carbon emissions. Portland aims to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

    Ahuja’s top cities for integrating nature and technology listed alphabetically are:

    • Boston – Engaging its citizens through crowdsourced mobile technology to enable smart government.
    • Chicago – Leveraging data to make cities healthier, more efficient and more livable.
    • Los Angeles – Leveraging big data, mobile and cloud based technologies to save energy and improve efficiency.
    • New York – Maximizing real-time traffic information to reduce congestion, improve the flow of traffic and decrease carbon emissions.
    • Orlando – Recognized for its approach to smart operation of transportation, security and emergency management and energy waste reduction programs.
    • Portland, Ore. – Investing in IoT sensor networks and leveraging smart agriculture applications and big data to benefit the local region.
    • San Diego – Adopting the Climate Action Plan, which will improve public health and air quality, conserve water, and use current resources more efficiently.
    • San Francisco – Multiple initiatives including waste reduction, electric car charging and building performance optimization.
    • Seattle – A pioneer and leader for establishing and increasing the adoption of green standards.
    • Washington, D.C. – A leader in smart mobility and for its ratio of park acres to citizens.
  5. How California Plans to Go Far Beyond Any Other State on Climate

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      Read full NY Times article here

    Last August, the State Legislature set a goal of slashing emissions more than 40 percent below today’s levels by 2030, a far deeper cut than President Barack Obama proposed for the entire United States and deeper than most other countries have contemplated. So how will California pull this off?

    On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law expanding the state’s cap-and-trade program, which is expected to play a big role. But cutting greenhouse gases this deeply will involve more than cap and trade. The state plans to rethink every corner of its economy, from urban planning to dairy farms.

    Until now, most states have followed a standard playbook for curbing emissions. Market forces have replaced older coal plants with cheaper and cleaner natural gas, while state mandates have added modest shares of wind and solar power to the grid. As a result, domestic carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 14 percent since 2005 at relatively little cost.

    But California has now plucked most of that low-hanging fruit. The state’s emissions are nearly back to 1990 levels, it barely uses any coal and it has installed as many solar panels as the rest of the country combined. Per capita, California has the third-lowest emissions in the nation, after New York and the District of Columbia, which means further cuts will come less easily than they would for a state like Texas.

    “Each additional increment of carbon reduction is tougher than the previous one,” said Dan Reicher, director of the Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford. He added, “California will have to reach deeper into the bag of technologies” to cut emissions from more stubborn polluters like oil refineries and cement plants.

    …In January, California’s Air Resources Board, which has broad latitude to carry out the state’s climate laws, detailed one possible strategy for cutting emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

    First, by law, California must get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, up from 25 percent today. That’s a herculean task in itself: The state is already straining to cope with sharp swings in solar power during afternoons and will soon have to juggle ever-larger shares of intermittent renewable electricity, by deploying batteries, reworking its grid or taking other novel approaches.

    Second, the board envisioned the number of electric cars and other zero-emissions vehicles on California’s roads rising to 4.2 million by 2030 from 250,000 today. Freight trucks would have to become more efficient or electrified, while cities would need to adopt far-reaching strategies to promote mass transit, biking and walking.

    But a major push on renewable power and transportation would get California just one-fourth of the way toward its goal. Other cuts would come from doubling efficiency savings from buildings and industry, no mean feat in a state that already has some of the strictest building codes in the country. The state would also need to lower the carbon content of its gasoline supply under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, possibly by increasing biofuel use.

    One-third of the reductions in the proposal would come from curbing emissions of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — from landfills, wastewater facilities and manure piles at dairy farms. No state has ever regulated agriculture so aggressively, and dairy farmers are pushing back, warning that capturing methane from millions of cows could prove untenable.

    …So, as a complement to these efforts, Mr. Brown insisted on expanding another major program: cap and trade.Mr. Brown has promoted California’s policies as a way of convincing the world that the United States won’t abandon the fight against climate change, even after Mr. Trump announced a withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. “I want to do everything we can to keep America on track, keep the world on track,” Mr. Brown said in May.

    California is responsible for only 1 percent of global emissions. But it could contribute even more to the world’s efforts by advancing new tools to tackle climate change, like floating deepwater wind farms.

    If the state stumbles, that could provide valuable lessons, too. By 2030, California plans to close its last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, which provides 9 percent of the state’s electricity. The idea is to replace that lost power with renewables and efficiency. If that proves unworkable, it could offer a warning to other states facing nuclear shutdowns.

    California’s push to make cap and trade effective could also have global ramifications, especially since Europe has failed to gain traction with its emissions-trading program and China is testing its own version

  6. Carbon in Atmosphere Is Rising, Even as Emissions Stabilize; natural sinks weakening?

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    • Atmospheric carbon dioxide rose at record rate in 2015 and 2016
    • Still rising in 2017 despite lack of El Nino and a leveling off of carbon emissions from human activities
    • Are natural sinks weakening?

    By JUSTIN GILLISJUNE 26, 2017 Continue reading the main story

    CAPE GRIM, Tasmania — …For more than two years, the monitoring station here, along with its counterparts across the world, has been flashing a warning: The excess carbon dioxide scorching the planet rose at the highest rate on record in 2015 and 2016. A slightly slower but still unusual rate of increase has continued into 2017.

    Scientists are concerned about the cause of the rapid rises because, in one of the most hopeful signs since the global climate crisis became widely understood in the 1980s, the amount of carbon dioxide that people are pumping into the air seems to have stabilized in recent years, at least judging from the data that countries compile on their own emissions.

    That raises a conundrum: If the amount of the gas that people are putting out has stopped rising, how can the amount that stays in the air be going up faster than ever? Does it mean the natural sponges that have been absorbing carbon dioxide are now changing?

    …Scientists have spent decades measuring what was happening to all of the carbon dioxide that was produced when people burned coal, oil and natural gas. They established that less than half of the gas was remaining in the atmosphere and warming the planet. The rest was being absorbed by the ocean and the land surface, in roughly equal amounts.

    In essence, these natural sponges were doing humanity a huge service by disposing of much of its gaseous waste. But as emissions have risen higher and higher, it has been unclear how much longer the natural sponges will be able to keep up.

    Should they weaken, the result would be something akin to garbage workers going on strike, but on a grand scale: The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would rise faster, speeding global warming even beyond its present rate. It is already fast enough to destabilize the weathercause the seas to rise and threaten the polar ice sheets.

    The record increases of airborne carbon dioxide in 2015 and 2016 thus raise the question of whether this has now come to pass. Scientists are worried, but they are not ready to draw that conclusion, saying more time is needed to get a clear picture.

    Many of them suspect an El Niño climate pattern that spanned those two years, one of the strongest on record, may have caused the faster-than-usual rise in carbon dioxide, by drying out large parts of the tropics. The drying contributed to huge fires in Indonesia in late 2015 that sent a pulse of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Past El Niños have also produced rapid increases in the gas, though not as large as the recent ones.

    Yet scientists are not entirely certain that the El Niño was the main culprit; the idea cannot explain why a high rate of increase in carbon dioxide has continued into 2017, even though the El Niño ended early last year….

    ….Human activity is estimated to be pumping almost 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year, an amount that Dr. Canadell of the Global Carbon Project called “staggering.” The atmospheric concentration of the gas has risen by about 43 percent since the Industrial Revolution.  That, in turn, has warmed the Earth by around 2 degrees Fahrenheit, a large number for the surface of an entire planet.

  7. Sweden Passes Ambitious Climate Law to Be Carbon Neutral by 2045

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    Pacific Standard

    Sweden passed a new Climate Act on Thursday, legally binding the country to reach net-zero emissions by the year 2045. The act, which passed in parliament by a vote of 254 to 41, is even more ambitious than what the Scandinavian country pledged under the Paris Agreement: Under the new act, Sweden will reach carbon neutrality five years earlier.

    According to a recent analysis, Sweden is one of just three European countries with climate policies in line with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The country has had a carbon tax in place since the 1990s and has invested heavily in wind and solar since the early aughts. Sweden derives only 25 percent of its energy from fossil fuel....

    The new legislation… goes into effect in 2018…

     

  8. What price are Californians paying to fight climate change?

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  9. Bloomberg delivers U.S. pledge to continue Paris climate goals to U.N.

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    Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg submitted a statement to the United Nations on Monday that over 1,000 U.S. governors, mayors, businesses, universities and others will continue to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement abandoned by President Donald Trump last week.

  10. Nearly half of Fortune 500 have carbon reductions goals

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    With Government in Retreat, Companies Step Up Emissions Reductions Efforts

    By HIROKO TABUCHIAPRIL 25, 2017 Continue reading the main story

    Nearly half of the Fortune 500 biggest companies in the United States have now set targets to shrink their carbon footprints, according to a report published Tuesday by environmental organizations that monitor corporate emissions pledges. Twenty-five more companies adopted climate targets over the last two years, the groups said.

    Almost two dozen companies, including Google, Walmart and Bank of America, have pledged to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy, with varying deadlines, compared with just a handful in 2015. Google’s data centers worldwide will run entirely on renewable energy by the end of this year, the technology giant announced in December.

    “We believe that climate change is real, and it’s a severe crisis,” said Gary Demasi, who directs Google’s energy strategy. “We’re not deviating from our goals.”…

    …The laggards, by far, are energy companies. Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Phillips 66 — the largest emitters of the pack — all have no specific public targets to reduce greenhouse gases, improve energy efficiency or shift to renewable energy. Neither did nine out of 10 other companies in the energy sector.