Global Warming

Oil Should Remain in the Ground

A new study says that oil and gas production around the world must fall by 3% each year, with 58% of known petroleum reserves remaining in the ground, to hold global heating to the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal in the Paris Agreement.

“There’s a good likelihood the rates of decline are going to have to be even larger, and the total amount of carbon that’s going to stay in the ground is also going to be larger,” said James Price at University College London, involved in the analysis.

While some oil companies have cut their plans for future oil and gas extraction as they transition to low-carbon energy, Price says the outlook is bleak for cooperation from countries that rely on revenue from oil and gas.

Global Warming

Dwindled Giant

South America’s once- mighty Paraná River is now at its lowest level since 1941, causing thousands of acres of wetlands to dry up as well as threatening public water supplies and the livelihoods of fishermen and farmers.

Experts say they don’t know if this is part of a natural cycle or climate change. But there has been a three-year period of below-normal rainfall at the river’s source in southern Brazil. Low water levels have also created a 50% drop in hydroelectric power at generating plants along the Argentina-Paraguay border.

Global Warming

Polluters Are Trying to Ensure They’re Never Held Responsible for Climate Change

Last week, Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc from Louisiana to New York — but that wasn’t the only part of the country or world experiencing extreme weather events. The day before Ida raged through New Orleans, fire tornadoes blazed in California, a state currently grappling with more than a dozen active wildfires. The entire Pacific Northwest has been plagued by drought and heat waves all summer. The turmoil hasn’t been limited to North America. Italy, Lebanon, Siberia, Spain, Turkey, and Greece have been experiencing wildfires, while the Chinese province of Shaanxi has been struggling with extreme flooding and landslides.

The culprit is easily identified: man-made climate change. In recent years, “attribution science,” or the science of identifying causal connections between climate change and individual weather events, has become much more accurate. And last month, for the first time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserted that human activity is the driving force behind planetary warming. “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land,” noted the new report.

According to the well-established “polluter pays” legal principle, those responsible for this warming should be held liable for the cost. Sure enough, the fossil fuel industry has increasingly found itself in the legal crosshairs of governments, impacted communities, students, and activists all over the world, especially in light of investigations showing that companies like Exxon knew about the dangers of climate change decades ago, did little to address it, and even misled the public on the dangers.

According to a January report from the UN’s Environment Programme, the number of climate change cases filed against countries and corporate actors nearly doubled in the past few years, with at least 1,550 cases filed as of July 2020. In the United States alone, twenty-four climate lawsuits — including some related to climate change–fueled wildfires — are currently moving through the courts. In February, the International Bar Association even released a model for litigants to pursue legal action related to climate change.

But the biggest polluters have yet to face meaningful consequences for planetary destruction — and it remains to be seen if they ever will. As efforts mount to hold polluters accountable, fossil fuel companies and other corporate interests are working overtime to leverage the US court and political system to avoid responsibility for the climate crisis — and offload the costs of environmental damage onto taxpayers.

Global Warming

Disasters Soar

Natural disasters such as deadly heat waves and floods are now occurring five times more often than they did 40 years ago, which the U.N. weather agency says is directly linked to human-driven global heating.

The World Meteorological Organization’s new “Atlas” reviews the human tragedies and economic losses from weather extremes and water, and is said to be the most detailed ever produced. It shows that such disasters have killed more than 2 million people since 1970 and have cost $3.64 trillion in losses.

Global Warming

Chile Megadrought

A blob of warm water in the southern Pacific is fueling a decade-long megadrought in Chile, and climate change is at least partly to blame, scientists say.

The “Southern Blob” east of New Zealand is driving hot and dry conditions in Chile, with snow caps melting on the Andes, reservoirs running low and once-lush landscapes withered. Chilean authorities this year were forced to truck water to some 400,000 people living in rural areas.

That massive blob – wider than the continental United States – is now 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than it was 40 years ago. Areas of nearby ocean, however, have warmed much more slowly during that time, and are just 0.2C to 1C warmer, the study shows.

The heat from the blob warms the air directly above it and winds carry the heated air toward Chile. This impacts pressure trends, affecting rainfall and resulting in dry conditions in Chile.

Global Warming

Annual Streams Drying up

Small streams that dry up for part of the year are easy to overlook. But these intermittent streams are everywhere, making up more than half of Earth’s waterways. They help purify surface water and provide crucial habitat for creatures such as the Sonoran Desert toad, fairy shrimp, and Wilson’s warbler. Now, a study has found that ephemeral streams across the continental United States have become less reliable over the past 40 years, likely as a result of climate change. Some are dry for 100 days longer per year than in the 1980s.

Global Warming

Landmark UN Climate Report

A newly released IPCC report shows that global heating is widespread, rapid and intensifying, and that extreme weather such as wildfires and floods will become more commonplace unless drastic and sustained changes are made – urgently.

The report, based on 14,000 scientific publications from around the world and prepared by 234 scientists from 66 countries, is the most comprehensive and up-to-date account of the physical science basis of human-caused climate change. It conclusively and definitively explains that human influence has warmed the climate at an unprecedented rate for at least the past 2,000 years. It is the first in a series of reports to be published over the coming months.

Some of the headline statements to emerge from the sobering report include:

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.”

“Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).”

“Many changes in the climate system become larger in direct relation to increasing global warming. They include increases in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.”

“Continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle, including its variability, global monsoon precipitation and the severity of wet and dry events.”

“Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.”

“Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.”

Global Warming

Ocean Currents Falter

The water in the Atlantic is constantly circulating in a complex pattern that influences weather on several continents. And climate scientists have been asking a crucial question: Whether this vast system, which includes the Gulf Stream, is slowing down because of climate change.

If it were to change significantly, the consequences could be dire, potentially including faster sea level rise along parts of the United States East Coast and Europe, stronger hurricanes barreling into the Southeastern United States, reduced rainfall across parts of Africa and changes in tropical monsoon systems.

Now, scientists have detected the early warning signs that this critical ocean system is at risk. Recent findings suggest the circulation system is gradually slowing down and may be approaching a tipping point at which it would abruptly transition to a much slower state.

Climate Perils

New studies find that Earth will suffer a growing number of devastating floods and deadly heat waves.

Chinese and U.K. scientists say that unless greenhouse gas emissions are significantly curbed, wet regions such as the tropics and areas with monsoons will not only get wetter, but they will also swing widely between wet and dry. More frequently stalled weather patterns will bring prolonged periods of heavy rain and their resulting flood disasters, such as those this summer in China and Western Europe. The stalled patterns will create more frequent “heat domes,” such as those triggering firestorms in western North America and southeastern Europe this summer.

Global Warming

‘Massive melting event’ strikes Greenland after record heat wave

Greenland’s enormous ice sheet has been struck by a “massive melting event,” with enough ice vanishing in a single day last week to cover the whole of Florida in two inches (5 centimeters) of water, Danish researchers have found.

Since July 27, roughly 9.37 billion tons (8.5 billion metric tons) of ice has been lost per day from the surface of the enormous ice sheet — twice its normal average rate of loss during summer.

High temperatures on July 28 caused the third-largest single-day loss of ice in Greenland since 1950; the second and first biggest single-day losses occurred in 2012 and 2019. Greenland’s yearly ice loss began in 1990. In recent years it has accelerated to roughly four times the levels before 2000.

Global Warming

Earth’s Vital Signs

An international coalition of more than 14,000 scientists has signed an initiative declaring that world leaders are consistently failing to cope with the main causes of climate change and the deepening climate emergency.

Writing in the journal BioScience, the group calls for the elimination of fossil fuel use, the slashing of pollutants, the restoration of ecosystems, a switch to plant-based diets and the stabilization of the planet’s human population. They say the planet’s vital signs are deteriorating at a record rate, and also call for climate change to be included in core curricula in schools for the generation that will have to cope with the hotter decades to come.

Global Warming

Climate Disasters

Atmospheric experts concede that they were shocked by the intensity of the recent European floods and the North American heat dome, saying their computer models are not yet able to project such extremes.

Some scientists say the next official predictions due out in August by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will already be outdated when released due to the rapidly intensifying climate emergency.

Freak weather events are now happening with greater frequency, ranging from the heaviest rain on record in parts of Japan and China this month to the record-breaking June heat across parts of India, Pakistan and Libya.

Global Warming

The Amazon rainforest – Carbon Sink to Carbon Factory

Forests absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from Earth’s atmosphere, making them a key part of mitigating climate change. But humans may have already rendered the world’s largest rainforest useless in — and perhaps even detrimental to — the battle against greenhouse gases, a new study finds.

According to the study, published July 14 in the journal Nature, the Amazon rainforest is now emitting more than 1.1 billion tons (1 billion metric tons) of CO2, a greenhouse gas, a year, meaning the forest is officially releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than it is removing.

The carbon balance tipped due to “large-scale human disturbances” in the Amazon ecosystem, the researchers wrote in their study, with wildfires — many deliberately set to clear land for agriculture and industry — responsible for most of the CO2 emissions from the region. These fires also reinforce a feedback loop of warming, the team found, with more greenhouse gases contributing to longer, hotter dry seasons in the Amazon, which lead to more fires and more CO2 pollution.

Global Warming

Desert plant life disappearing due to climate change

The steady decline of plants in Southern California’s portion of the Sonoran Desert — which includes Anza-Borrego Desert State Park — is caused by climate change-driven heat increases, according to a new UC Irvine study.

That area grew hotter by 3 degrees over the study period, 1984 to 2017, with vegetation decreasing an average of about 1% a year in the desert portions of the study area. While fluctuations in rainfall accounted for some of the year-to-year variation, the broader trend resulted overall decrease of 35% of vegetation in desert ecosystems and a 13% decline in the adjacent mountains.

The findings, based on 34 years of NASA satellite images of 5,000 square miles of desert, add to a small but growing body of evidence that manmade climate change is reducing the amount of vegetation in drylands — primarily desert areas — worldwide, with trickle-down effects on animals and, in some cases, humans. About 41% of the Earth’s land mass is drylands, according to the UCI report.

Global Warming

Massive oil pipeline is threatened by thawing permafrost

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline, one of the world’s largest oil pipelines, could be in danger.

Thawing permafrost threatens to undermine the supports holding up an elevated section of the pipeline, jeopardizing its structural integrity and raising the potential of an oil spill in a delicate and remote landscape.

The slope of permafrost where an 810-foot section of the pipeline is secured has started to shift as it thaws, causing several of the braces holding up the pipeline to twist and bend.

Global Warming

Huge Methane Plume over China

A massive plume of methane, the potent greenhouse gas that’s a key contributor to global warming, has been identified in China’s biggest coal production region.

The release in northeast Shanxi province is one of the largest that geoanalytics company Kayrros SAS has so far attributed to the global coal sector and likely emanated from multiple mining operations.

Details captured in European Space Agency satellite data show the plume about 90 kilometers (56 miles) east of Shanxi’s capital Taiyuan, in Yangquan City. The area has 34 coals mines, according to the Shanxi Energy Bureau.

The emissions rate needed to produce the plume observed in the June 18 satellite image would be several hundred metric tons an hour. For comparison, a 200-ton per hour release would have roughly an equivalent climate warming in the first two decades as 800,000 cars driving at 60 miles an hour.