Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: emissions

  1. 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.

  2. 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…

     

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

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  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Global CO2 emissions are flat for 3rd year, but need decline

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    • CO2 emissions globally have been level 3 years in a row
    • CO2 emissions decoupling from economy as new energy sources emerge
    • CO2 emissions need to decline; only 50 years left to get to zero

    Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter Monday, March 20, 2017  Full story here

    For the third year in a row, the carbon dioxide emissions that drive climate change worldwide have been level. The emissions pause is particularly noteworthy because it comes despite a growing global economy, the International Energy Agency announced. That’s a sign that carbon emissions are “decoupling” from the economy as other sources of energy come online.

    Researchers measured 32.1 metric gigatons of CO2 emissions in 2016, the same as in the previous two years. That’s even as the global economy grew 3.1 percent. The stagnation, according to IEA, is due to the growth of renewable energy, more switching from coal to natural gas, improved energy efficiency programs, and additional nuclear facilities coming online.

    … Emissions declined in both the United States and China, and stayed level in Europe. That’s because of increased natural gas usage and a reduction in coal usage in the United States and China. Dangerous smog levels in major cities have also forced the Chinese government to crack down on air pollution. In the United States, emissions dropped 3 percent, to the lowest level since 1992, as the economy grew 1.6 percent. In China, emissions declined 1 percent, while the economy grew 6.7 percent. The country also expanded the reliance of its electrical grid on hydro and wind sources as well as nuclear.

    Three years without emissions growth is notable, but it needs to be turned into a decline, said Glen Peters, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo in Norway. He said the ultimate goal is to get to zero, and there’s only about 50 years left to hit that target.

    “It’s a meaningful first start, some baby steps; we’re starting to turn around and look at walking in the right direction,” he said. “If emissions are going to go down, they’ve got to go flat first, so this is the first step, so the important thing is to make sure they don’t start rising again. The next thing is to concentrate on making sure they go downwards.”…

  7. Arctic sea ice may vanish even if world achieves climate goal – study

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    Ice-free Arctic with 1.5 C?

    March 6, 2017 Reuters  Full article here

    Arctic sea ice may vanish in summers this century even if governments achieve a core target for limiting global warming set by almost 200 nations in 2015, scientists said on Monday. …Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, governments set a goal of limiting the rise in average world temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, with an aspiration of just 1.5C (2.7F).

    The 2 degrees Celsius target may be insufficient to prevent an ice-free Arctic,” James Screen and Daniel Williamson of Exeter University in Britain wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change after a statistical review of ice projections.

    A 2C rise would still mean a 39 percent risk that ice will disappear in the Arctic Ocean in summers, they said. Ice was virtually certain to survive, however, with just 1.5C of warming.And they said they estimated a 73 percent probability that the ice would disappear in summer unless governments make deeper cuts in emissions than their existing plans. They estimated temperatures will rise 3C (5.4F) on current trends….

    James A. Screen & Daniel Williamson  Ice-free Arctic at 1.5 °C? Nature Climate Change (2017) doi:10.1038/nclimate3248  Published online 06 March 2017

  8. Scientists uncover huge 1.8 million square kilometers reservoir of melting carbon under Western United States

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    Posted: 13 Feb 2017 06:07 AM PST  full story here

    New research describes how scientists have used the world’s largest array of seismic sensors to map a deep-Earth area of melting carbon covering 1.8 million square kilometers. Situated under the Western US, 350km beneath Earth’s surface, the discovered melting region challenges accepted understanding of how much carbon Earth contains — much more than previously understood. 

    ….He continued, “Under the western US is a huge underground partially-molten reservoir of liquid carbonate. It is a result of one of the tectonic plates of the Pacific Ocean forced underneath the western USA, undergoing partial melting thanks to gasses like CO2 and H2O contained in the minerals dissolved in it.”

    ….As a result of this study, scientists now understand the amount of CO2 in Earth’s upper mantle may be up to 100 trillion metric tons. In comparison, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the global carbon emission in 2011 was nearly 10 billion metric tons — a tiny amount in comparison. The deep carbon reservoir discovered by Dr. Hier-Majumder will eventually make its way to the surface through volcanic eruptions, and contribute to climate change albeit very slowly.

    “We might not think of the deep structure of Earth as linked to climate change above us, but this discovery not only has implications for subterranean mapping but also for our future atmosphere,” concluded Dr Hier-Majumder, “For example, releasing only 1% of this CO2 into the atmosphere will be the equivalent of burning 2.3 trillion barrels of oil. The existence of such deep reservoirs show how important is the role of deep Earth in the global carbon cycle

    Saswata Hier-Majumder, Benoit Tauzin. Pervasive upper mantle melting beneath the western US. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2017; 463: 25 DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.12.041

  9. Recalculating the Climate Math-The numbers on global warming are even scarier than we thought.

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    The future of humanity depends on math. And the numbers in a new study released Thursday are the most ominous yet.

    Those numbers spell out, in simple arithmetic, how much of the fossil fuel in the world’s existing coal mines and oil wells we can burn if we want to prevent global warming from cooking the planet. In other words, if our goal is to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius—the upper limit identified by the nations of the world—how much more new digging and drilling can we do?

    Here’s the answer: zero.

    That’s right: If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production….

  10. Carbon emissions flat for the third straight year; 22 years left at current rate to stay under 2C

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    see full article here

    …Scientists published a projection suggesting that for the third straight year, global carbon dioxide emissions did not increase much in 2016. The news comes from the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists who measure how much carbon dioxide humans emit each year, as well as how much is subsequently absorbed by plants, land surfaces and oceans. The difference between the two determines the amount of carbon dioxide that remains in the atmosphere and drives global warming.

    this flattening occurred despite steady global economic growth above 3 percent, which has typically been coupled with higher emissions. And now, the group reports, 2016 appears to be similar to 2014 and 2015, based on early projections. It will be about a 0.2 percent increase above the emissions levels of 2015, the group calculates, or barely a rise at all….

    China saw carbon dioxide emissions decrease by 0.7 percent in 2015 and is forecast to see an additional 0.5 percent decline in 2016. U.S. emissions are falling even faster. They declined by 2.6 percent in 2015 and are expected to fall an additional 1.7 percent this year…By comparison, in 2015 there was strong 5.2 percent emissions growth in India.

    slightly more than 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide are expected to have been emitted in 2016 from fossil fuel use and industrial activity. And after the oceans and the land take away their part, the rest of that carbon will stay there for a very long time, steadily warming the planet.

    (That 36 billion tons does not include emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, or the releases of additional carbon dioxide from deforestation and other nonindustrial causes. Including these gases and sources only increases our impact on the planet further.)…

    …if global warming is ever to stop — and if we’re ever to cool the planet back down again — eventually emissions have to go to zero. Thirty-six billion tons is very far, indeed, from that. In fact, it’s looking increasingly likely that we may have to find some way to make emissions go negative (pulling more from the air than we put in) in the second half of this century.

    The new research also suggests that, starting in 2017, the world will have only 800 billion tons, or gigatons, of carbon dioxide left to emit if it wants to preserve a two-thirds chance of preventing the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. This is the remaining global carbon “budget.” Based on emissions of 36 billion tons per year, we would bust the budget in 22 years….

    Global Carbon Project: http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/