To prevent severe climate change we need to rapidly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The world emits around 50 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases each year [measured in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO 2eq)].1
To figure out how we can most effectively reduce emissions and what emissions can and can’t be eliminated with current technologies, we need to first understand where our emissions come from.
In this post I present only one chart, but it is an important one – it shows the breakdown of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2016.2 This is the latest breakdown of global emissions by sector, published by Climate Watch and the World Resources Institute.3,4
The overall picture you see from this diagram is that almost three-quarters of emissions come from energy use; almost one-fifth from agriculture and land use [this increases to one-quarter when we consider the food system as a whole – including processing, packaging, transport and retail]; and the remaining 8% from industry and waste.
To know what’s included in each sector category, I provide a short description of each. These descriptions are based on explanations provided in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report AR5) and a methodology paper published by the World Resources Institute.5,6
Posts tagged climate change
Designed to last more than 200 years, the Oosterscheldekering (Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier) is the largest in a series of 13 dams designed to protect the Netherlands from North Sea flooding. It spans about 9 km between the islands of Schouwen-Duiveland and Noord-Beveland, containing large sluicegate-type doors that can be closed under adverse weather conditions.
“Nine of the 10 hottest Julys have occurred since 2005—with the last five years ranking as the five hottest. Last month was also the 43rd consecutive July and 415th consecutive month with above-average global temperatures.”
Ok is the first glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years, all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.
Ágúst 2019, 415ppm CO2
Okjökull, or Ok Glacier, was the subject of a 2018 documentary called Not Ok, made by Rice anthropologists Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer. Narrated by former Reykjavík mayor and comedian Jón Gnarr, Not Ok tells how in 2014, Ok became the first glacier in Iceland to melt and thereby “lose its title” as a glacier. Scientists credit Ok’s melting to global warming. According to the filmmakers, scientists fear that all of Iceland’s 400-plus glaciers will be gone by 2200.
“By marking Ok’s passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth’s glaciers expire,” Cymene remarked in the press release. “These bodies of ice are the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and frozen within them are histories of the atmosphere. They are also often important cultural forms that are full of significance.” The monument is said to be the first of its kind in the world.
“an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty”
*Man, that was one hot summer.
We’re not building clean energy anywhere near fast enough - useful reminder by @jtemple
For a hundred years, in an Italian palazzo transplanted to the shores of a Swedish lake, the Sigtuna Foundation has been hosting conversations where people from different worlds meet — artists, scientists, theologians, poets. So it seems an appropriate location for the meeting where I’ve spent the past two days, called by Kevin Anderson, professor of climate leadership at Uppsala University, and known (among other things) for being “the climate scientists who doesn’t fly”. At his invitation, the Centre for Environment and Development Studies at Uppsala (CEMUS) brought a group of twenty of us together to ‘develop and collate insights from the social sciences, humanities and the arts, with the purpose of eliciting a richer picture of the challenges facing rapid societal transformation’ to have a chance of reaching the commitment to limit global warming to 2° made at the Paris COP.
I read the article published in Scientific American, and most of the report described in the article. The report is entitled, “Snow, Water, Ice, and Permafrost in the Arctic.”It is an assessment compiled every few years by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, the scientific body that reports to the governments that make up the Arctic Council, a forum for issues affecting the region. The last assessment came out in 2011. Here’s the link to the report if you want to read it.
My concern is obvious: the echo chamber. Those of us who are worried about climate change, including scientists and some politicians, will be concerned. Those who can take policy actions to address the causes of this problem, particularly in the US, will continue ignoring, avoiding or denying the problem. And Nero will keep on fiddling and the emperor has no clothes. Right?
The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the planet, suggests a huge assessment of the region. The warming is hastening the melting of Arctic ice and boosting sea-level rise.
The report, compiled by more than 90 scientists, documents the myriad changes already under way across the Arctic because of climate change—from declining sea ice and melting glaciers to shifting ecosystems and weather patterns. From 2011 to 2015, the assessment finds, the Arctic was warmer than at any time since records began around 1900 (see ’Arctic warming’).
Sea ice continues to decline, and the extent of snow cover across the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia each June has halved as compared to observations before 2000.
“The take-home message is that the Arctic is unravelling,” says Rafe Pomerance, who chairs a network of conservation groups called Arctic 21 and was a deputy assistant secretary of state for environment and development under US President Bill Clinton. “The fate of the Arctic has to be moved out of the world of scientific observation and into the world of government policy.”
The report increases projections for global sea-level rise, which takes into account all sources of melting including the Arctic. Their new minimum estimates are now almost double those issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013 for some emissions scenarios. In fact, the latest calculations suggest that the IPCC’s middle estimates for sea-level rise should now be considered minimum estimates.
In one scenario, which assumes that carbon emissions rise slightly above the goals set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement—but still see a considerable reduction—sea levels would increase by at least 0.52 metres by 2100, compared with 2006, the Arctic report says. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the minimum increase would be 0.74 metres.
Solarpunk is a movement in speculative fiction, art, fashion and activism that seeks to answer and embody the question “what does a sustainable civilization look like, and how can we get there?” The aesthetics of solarpunk merge the practical with the beautiful, the well-designed with the green and wild, the bright and colorful with the earthy and solid. Solarpunk can be utopian, just optimistic, or concerned with the struggles en route to a better world — but never dystopian. As our world roils with calamity, we need solutions, not warnings. Solutions to live comfortably without fossil fuels, to equitably manage scarcity and share abundance, to be kinder to each other and to the planet we share. At once a vision of the future, a thoughtful provocation, and an achievable lifestyle. In progress…
The recent declassification of tens of thousands of images from Cold War spy satellites is helping climate scientists compare Siberian terrain between then and now, and they’re showing some obvious signs of climate change.
It was common practice during the Cold War for the U.S. and Soviet Union to spy on each other using any means necessary, which included satellite and aircraft images from space to find military bases and possible signs of invasion. After the Soviet Union was broken apart, the U.S. released their images from Corona and Gambit, two reconnaissance satellites that were decommissioned in the 1980s.
The University of Virginia is now using those images to study the remote area of the Siberian tundra. By using images from current satellites, they are able to create a time lapse of the terrain. They found that the shrubbery and forested areas expanded by 26 percent since the 1960s images were taken.
“These spy images are a gold mine as a reference point,” said Howie Epstein, coauthor of the research. “We know from Earth-observing satellite data that the Arctic generally has been greening for 35 years or so. But the Siberian tundra had not been as closely observed until relatively recently.
“We now know that a lot of greening has been going on there, too, with tall shrubs and woody vegetation. The vegetation has been getting both taller and expanding in space and range.”
Though this may sound normal or even natural, Siberia has been widely affected by this expansion. Increased vegetation means an increase in carbon dioxide uptake or heat absorption, leading to a warmer regional climate and less snowfall overall. This has altered the ratio of plants to animals and affected the food web in the area.
“The Reef 2050 Plan was released by the Australian and Queensland governments in March 2015 and is the overarching framework for protecting and managing the Reef until 2050. The Plan is a world-first document that outlines concrete management measures for the next 35 years to ensure the Outstanding Universal Value of the Reef is preserved now and for generations to come.”
Shipping is by far the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly way to move commodities in bulk — moving one ton of cargo by sea emits four times less carbon dioxide than moving it by road, and 100 times less than by air. But that hardly means that the industry is green. If the shipping industry were a country, it would be the sixth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. So why was the shipping industry left out of the Paris Agreement? The simple answer is, it’s hard to pin emissions from shipping on any one country.
I’ve written and given a lot of talks on how building a sustainably prosperous global economy is an opportunity — a set of investments that will leave us better off, even while we avoid the worst of the planetary crisis we face. It’s only now becoming clear what the scale of that opportunity is. It is only now easy to see that a giant building boom is what successful climate action looks like. The Guardian reported last week on a new study saying that over the next 15 years, to meet our climate goals, we’ll need to shift $90 trillion worth of new infrastructure spending to low- or zero-carbon models
Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction
Everything Change features twelve stories from our 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest along with along with a foreword by science fiction legend and contest judge Kim Stanley Robinson and an interview with renowned climate fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi.
“a lot of near-future science fiction is also becoming what some people now call climate fiction. This is because climate change is already happening, and has become an unavoidable dominating element in the coming century. The new name thus reflects the basic realism of near-future science fiction, and is just the latest in the names people have given it; in the 1980s it was often called cyberpunk, because so many near-future stories incorporated the coming dominance of globalization and the emerging neoliberal dystopia. Now it’s climate change that is clearly coming, even more certainly than globalization. That these two biophysical dominants constitute a kind of cause and effect is perhaps another story that near-future science fiction can tell.”
– Kim Stanley Robinson
Everything Change is free to download, read, and share
Using a ‘ball and cup’ analogy to explain the transition of the earth system from the Holocene Epoch to a new Anthropocene Epoch- from ‘Stratigraphic and Earth System approaches to defining the Anthropocene’ by Will Steffen et al.
This is a useful tool to counter arguments that attribute climate change concerns to natural variability in the Earth’s climate, rather than taking into account human driven contributions from man-made carbon emissions.
Our planet shifts within the ‘cup’ of the current geological age from natural climatic and biosphere variability (marked by the broken green ‘Holocene envelope of natural variability’ line). Additional drivers from early agriculture and the onset of the industrial revolution have pushed the planet to a state, that while beyond the limits of natural variability, has still been relatively stable and which the natural controls (negative feedbacks) of the planet have been able to (generally) dampen (indicated by the red line of the ‘Holocene basin of attraction’).
However, and linked to significant shifts in the nature, rate and magnitude of human and technological development occurring since around 1950 (known as the ‘Great Acceleration’), the Earth is being pushed beyond these limits- and outwith the Holocene boundaries, and potentially into a new geological age (ie the Anthropocene).
The coastal village of Shishmaref, Alaska, voted Tuedsay to relocate due to climate change-induced rising sea levels, according to city council secretary Donna Burr. The community is home to about 600 people, most of whom are Inupiat Inuit, and welcomed votes from tribal and non-tribal residents alike. This isn’t the first time the village has voted to relocate. In 2002, residents chose to leave for the mainland, but a lack of federal funds made that impossible. The U.S. Department of the Interior has made $8 million available for all tribes seeking relocation — that’s far short of the estimated $200 million the village needs to move.
Photo of smoke from the Sand Fire from the Santa Monica Pier. Photo by Rob Dionne.
Here’s Jason Mark, the editor of Sierra, describing his reaction to this photo. The Sand Fire and the Soberanes fires are probably still smoldering, but when this photo was taken and Jason Mark saw it, the fires were raging. So keep that in mind as you read Jason’s short piece.
Hieronymus Beach. That’s what popped into my mind when I saw Rob Dionne’s unnerving photograph, captured last weekend as he stood on the Santa Monica Pier. The sky choked with a cloud of brown smoke, the babel-like crowds in the foreground, the broodiness of the whole scene—all of it recalled the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, the 16th-century Dutch artist who is best remembered for the dark allegories he created on canvas.
The sun-dampening smoke cloud came from the Sand Fire, a blaze in the Santa Clarita Hills north of Los Angeles that, since it broke out a week ago today, has scorched roughly 38,000 acres, destroyed 18 homes, and forced the evacuation of some 20,000 people. And that’s the less dangerous of the two wildfires currently tearing through California right now. In Big Sur, the Soberanes fire is barely contained as firefighters contend with the rugged landscape of the Los Padres National Forest. Earlier this week, a bulldozer operator died in the course of fire-containment operations there.
Fire ecologists are increasingly confident in their predictions that global warming is fueling wildfires in the American West as earlier springs, hotter summers, and drought combine to make fires more frequent and more intense. The “fire season”—an annual apocalypse once limited to the summer months—is now a year-round affair in some parts of the West.
That’s worth keeping in mind as you take in this amazing pic. What you’re seeing isn’t some glimpse of dystopia to come. Rather, the smoke eclipse over Santa Monica is part of the new normal, an all-too-ordinary scene of life on this smoldering planet.
In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs, according to the country’s head of climate change policy, Ramón Méndez. In fact, he says that now that renewables provide 94.5% of the country’s electricity, prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts. It was a very different story just 15 years ago. Back at the turn of the century oil accounted for 27% of Uruguay’s imports and a new pipeline was just about to begin supplying gas from Argentina.
Perhaps our descendants won’t condemn us for our apathy and inertia. After all, we will leave them the greatest man-made coral reefs the world has ever seen; streets where we used to live and breathe and dream. There is however hope, provided we don’t leave matters simply in the hands of the state and the markets. We will need to engage with engineers, architects, designers, writers, thinkers and, above all, citizens to anticipate and mitigate what may come. We can save our cities but only if we face the prospect that they may already be lost and work our way back from the end.
The GRACE satellites are a pair of twin observing devices that orbit the Earth 137 miles from one another. The Earth’s gravitational pull on the satellites varies depending upon the mass of what is below them at a particular time — a mountain, an ocean — and so by measuring slight perturbations in the distance between the two satellites, scientists detect these mass changes. But when does the Earth’s mass change in a significant way, one that would suggest an important anomaly? Mostly, this does not happen with the ground, rocks, mountains — at least not on human time scales. But water at the Earth’s surface moves around a great deal — California’s drought has been picked up by GRACE, as has dramatic melting of the glaciers of Alaska.
Now, in the case of climate change, because there’s so many possible solutions, it’s not like the Manhattan Project. I don’t think anyone’s saying, “Hey, pick just one approach, and pick some ranch in New Mexico, and just have those guys kind of hang out there.” Here, we want to give a little bit of money to the guy who thinks that high wind will work; we want to give a little bit of money to the guy who thinks that taking sunlight and making oil directly out of sunlight will work. So there’s dozens of those ideas, and there’s enabling technologies for those ideas. That’s the kind of thing that we should be funding more of.
When Hansen testified before a Congressional committee in 1988, the atmospheric level of CO2 was just passing 350 parts per million. Now we’ve gone beyond 400 ppm, we’ve seen the rapid melt of the Arctic, the acidification of the planet’s oceans, and the rapid rise in extreme weather events. (Just lately: “thousand-year-rainfalls” in South Carolina and Southern California so far this month, and now a typhoon dropping a meter or more of rain on the Philippines.) Thanks to Exxon’s willingness to sucker the world, that world is now a chaotic mess. We’ve finally begun to see the rise of a movement large enough to challenge the power of the oil companies, and that means that Paris will come out better than Copenhagen, but the quarter-century wasted will never be made up.
Subsidies for fossil fuels amount to $1,000 (£640) a year for every citizen living in the G20 group of the world’s leading economies, despite the group’s pledge in 2009 to phase out support for coal, oil and gas. New figures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) show that the US, which hosted the G20 summit in 2009, gives $700bn a year in fossil fuel subsidies, equivalent to $2,180 for every American. President Barack Obama backed the phase out but has since overseen a steep rise in federal fossil fuel subsidies.
Those who reject the 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming often invoke Galileo as an example of when the scientific minority overturned the majority view. In reality, climate contrarians have almost nothing in common with Galileo, whose conclusions were based on empirical scientific evidence, supported by many scientific contemporaries, and persecuted by the religious-political establishment. Nevertheless, there’s a slim chance that the 2–3% minority is correct and the 97% climate consensus is wrong. To evaluate that possibility, a new paper published in the journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology examines a selection of contrarian climate science research and attempts to replicate their results. The idea is that accurate scientific research should be replicable, and through replication we can also identify any methodological flaws in that research. The study also seeks to answer the question, why do these contrarian papers come to a different conclusion than 97% of the climate science literature?
Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.
“Kiribati, as a nation faced with a very uncertain future, is calling for a global moratorium on new coal mines. It would be one positive step towards our collective global action against climate change and it is my sincere hope that you and your people would add your positive support in this endeavour”
A similar shift in the behavior of the jet stream has also contributed to the California drought and severe polar vortex winters in the Northeast over the past two years. An amplified jet-stream pattern has produced an unusual doldrum off the West Coast that’s persisted for most of the past 18 months. Daniel Swain, a Stanford University meteorologist, has called it the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” – weather patterns just aren’t supposed to last this long.
A look at how much water it takes to produce certain foods. (Los Angeles Times)
© AP Photo/NOAA, Corey Accardo In this aerial photo taken on Sept. 27, 2014, and provided by NOAA, some 35,000 walrus gather on shore near Point Lay, Alaska. Pacific walrus looking for places to rest in the absence of sea ice are coming to shore in record numbers on Alaska’s northwest coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirms an estimated 35,000 walrus wer photographed Saturday about 700 miles northwest of Anchorage. The enormous gathering was spotted during NOAA’s annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey.
“We are investing increasingly in Tasmania … because it’s one of the cooler areas in Australia to grow grapes and if we are going to have climate change, you might as well start in a cooler climate,” said Cecil Camilleri, the manager of sustainable wine programs at Yalumba, the 165-year-old winemaking company that has snapped up three Tasmanian properties in the past 15 years. The average temperature in the Tamar Valley in the northeast of the state is around 17 degrees celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit), peaking at 22 degrees in the summer - well below the Barossa’s typical summer spike into the upper 30s.
Over the past week or so, one of the most prominent credit agencies, Standard & Poor’s, has, in a series of reports, attempted to quantify the financial impact of climate change. The company looked at the impact of changing weather patterns on various industries, including utilities and insurance.
This project explores cli-fi—fiction about climate change—in order to understand and categorize fictional scenarios about the future, and the role of human actors in those scenarios. This project uses digital methods to gather data from Amazon and Google Books, in conjuction with manual classification, in order to understand the current zeitgeist of climate change in fiction. Mainstream discourse suggests that the cli-fi genre aims to humanize the apocalyptic scenarios associated with climate change, and make relatable their potential outcomes:
Despite its relative youth (less than two decades), the ecological footprint (EF) is a commonly used term in environmental science, policy discussions, and popular discourse. The motivation behind the concept is sound—we must account for, and quantify, the impacts of humanity on Earth’s ecosystems if we are to manage the planet sustainably for the benefit of both human well-being and our natural heritage. The EF seeks to measure humanity’s use of renewable biological resources, which can then be compared to the planet’s capacity to regenerate these resources. The result of EF calculations that is quoted most widely is that humanity currently uses the equivalent of 1.5 Earths to support human needs. Therefore, we are already exceeding the planet’s carrying capacity in what amounts to “ecological overshoot”
Harbin’s landmark San Sophia church was barely visible Monday as heavy pollution forced the closure of schools and highways. (via http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/air-pollution-hits-harbin-in-northeast-china-closing-schools-and-roads/?partner=rssnyt)
PRC_Global_Climate (via http://www.pewresearch.org/key-data-points/climate-change-key-data-points-from-pew-research/)
The time has come: the new IPCC report is here! After several years of work by over 800 scientists from around the world, and after days of extensive discussion at the IPCC plenary meeting in Stockholm, the Summary for Policymakers was formally adopted at 5 o’clock this morning. Congratulations to all the colleagues who were there and worked night shifts. The full text of the report will be available online beginning of next week. Realclimate summarizes the key findings and shows the most interesting graphs.
This human-nature hybrid is true not just of the climate system, but of the planet as a whole, although it would be enough for it to be true of the climate system. We know from the new discipline of Earth system science that changes in the atmosphere affect not just the weather but the Earth’s hydrosphere (the watery parts), the biosphere (living creatures) and even the lithosphere (the Earth’s crust). They are all linked by the great natural cycles and processes that make the planet so dynamic. In short, everything is in play.
As things currently stand, the first two weeks of January 2013 now hold the records for the hottest Australian day on record, the hottest two-day period on record, the hottest three-day period, the hottest four-day period and, well, every sequential-days record stretching from one to 14 days for daily mean temperatures.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, took place from 26 November to 8 December 2012. It included the eighteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the eighth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8). The conference also included meetings by five subsidiary bodies: the thirty-seventh sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 37) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 37), the second part of the seventeenth session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 17), the second part of the fifteenth session of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC (AWG-LCA 15) and the second part of the Ad hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 1).
If Germany succeeds in making the transition, it could provide a workable blueprint for other industrial nations, many of which are also likely to face pressures to transform their energy consumption. “This Energiewende is being watched very closely. If it works in Germany, it will be a template for other countries,” says Graham Weale, chief economist at RWE, which is grappling with how to shut its nuclear power plants while keeping the lights on. “If it doesn’t, it will be very damaging to the German economy and that of Europe.”
That’s the sort of hard-headedness that I used to love about NASA - the idea that humans, if they just kept plugging away, could figure stuff out - and that other humans - astronauts and test pilots - would stake their very lives on it. Not this hand-wringing by deniers that argue we can’t figure anything out, we can’t afford to do anything, it’s all a vast hoax, and we shouldn’t try. A far cry from the can-do of NASA. How could guys that once put their very lives in the hands of science be so dumb about it as they get old?