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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why Greenland is likely to melt much more quickly

Scientists who have examined the role of the bedrock on which the Greenland ice sheet rests think it shows the huge island is more vulnerable than realised to global warming

by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, October 1, 2014

LONDON - Climate scientists have thought a little more deeply about the state of the Greenland ice sheet and their conclusions are ominous.

They think that the northern hemisphere’s largest assembly of ice and compacted snow is more vulnerable to climate change than anybody had previously thought.

Marion Bougamont of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, UK, and colleagues report in Nature Communications that they factored in not just a mathematical model of the melting ice from Greenland, but also the role of the soft, yielding and absorbent mud and rock beneath.

The Greenland ice sheet is the planet’s second largest body of terrestrial ice. It covers 1.7 million square kilometres and if it were all to melt, the world’s sea levels would rise by more than seven metres.

Right now, about 200 gigatonnes of Greenland ice a year turn to water and run into the sea. This alone raises sea levels at the rate of 0.6 millimetres a year. In fact the increase in sea levels from all causes – glacier retreat worldwide, ice cap melting and ocean thermal expansion -  is now 3 mm a year.

Researchers have repeatedly found evidence of an acceleration of melting, in some cases by looking at what is happening within the ice or on the surface, or by taking a new look at satellite data.

Less stable

But the latest calculation goes even deeper: into the mud below the ice. According to the new model, and to evidence from surveys, melting will be complicated by the conditions deep under the ice.

The ice sheets are moving, naturally and at different speeds, causing the ice to shear or flow, and the assumption has always been that the ice is flowing over hard and impermeable rock. A closer look suggests a different process.

Lakes of summer meltwater tend to form on the ice sheet surface: if the ice below fractures, these lakes can drain in a matter of hours. The meltwater flows down within the ice, and into the sediment below it.

“The soft sediment gets weaker as it tries to soak up more water, making it less resistant, so that the ice above moves faster. The Greenland ice sheet is not nearly as stable as we think,” said Poul Christofferson, a co-author.

And Dr Bougamont said: “There are two sources of net ice loss: melting on the surface and increased flow of the ice itself, and there is a connection between these mechanisms that isn’t taken into account by standard ice sheet models.”

Rapid change

At present, the annual flow of ice meltwater is more or less stable. In warmer years, the ice sheet becomes more vulnerable because more meltwater gets to the muddy absorbent bedrock. Because there is a limit to how much the sediment below can hold, the ice sheet becomes more vulnerable during extreme events such as heat waves.

And, of course, if under such a scenario it is vulnerable, it continues to become more vulnerable as average temperatures rise and extreme events become more frequent, and more extreme. And a closer look at recent geological history shows just how fast change can happen.

In a separate study in Nature Communications, Katharine Grant of the Australian National University and colleagues report that they examined evidence of the melting process at the close of each of the last five ice ages.

They looked at data from wind-blown dust in sediment cores from the Red Sea, and matched these with records from Chinese stalagmites to confirm a picture of pronounced climate change at the end of each ice age, and calculated that sea levels rose at the rate of 5.5 metres per century.

These however were exceptional events, and there were more than 100 smaller sea level events in between the big five.

“Time periods with less than twice the modern global ice volume show almost no indications of sea level rise faster than about 2 metres per century,” said Dr Grant. “Those with close to the modern amount of ice on Earth show rates of up to one to 1.5 metres per century.” 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

rjs: climate news roundup

[Dear Readers, You may have noticed that I have not been posting as much lately. This is due to the fact that I know have a full-time job.  Internet buddy, rjs, has kindly taken up the slack, this week.]

This is a one-time-only mailing in deference to those in the group who traveled to New York for the People's Climate March.

California Or Ethiopia? "Families Dream Every Night About Water" -- It's worst and getting worst-er. Hundreds of domestic wells in California's drought-parched Central Valley farming region have run dry, according to AP, leaving many residents to rely on donated bottles of drinking water to get by. With government set to regulate deeper drilling, hope is plunging that a solution to California's drought will come anytime soon as groundwater levels plunge. The stories of struggle are simply stunning, especially given they are coming from America with Governor Brown signing an executive order that provides money to buy drinking water for residents statewide whose wells have dried up. "We need water like we need air," exclaimed one charity leader trying to raise money for water tanks, "Families every night dream about water," said another. And ripped from the famine-headlines of East Africa, "every day [Californians] thinking about how they're going to deal with water."

Wholesale Water Supplier To Half California’s Population Quickly Running Through Supplies As Drought Drags On — The giant wholesaler that provides drinking water for half the California population has run through two-thirds of its stored supplies as the state contends with a punishing drought.That’s according to Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.Without plentiful rain and snow in coming months, Kightlinger said in a speech in Los Angeles Monday that the water agency could consider cutbacks to its regional distributors next year. If such limits are approved, that could lead to rationing or cuts for households in portions of Southern California. At the current rate, billions of gallons in remaining agency reserves could be drained in about 18 months. Gov. Jerry Brown is urging residents to voluntarily reduce water use.

Zero Percent Water - Before we get to what this drought means — the anger and paranoia, the heartbreak and bitterness — it’s important to remember the Central Valley isn’t just any valley. It’s one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Our country’s breadbasket. Our primary source for tomatoes, almonds, grapes, cotton, and dozens of other products. I’m scheduled to see all of it, on what I’m told will be a “tour of destruction.” I expect the farmers I meet on this trip to be blighted and sorrowful, a bunch of Tom Joads just trying to make ends meet. But these guys are irreverent and cocksure. Tired, maybe. Clearly they listen to a lot of talk radio. I also expect ceaseless talk of the weather. Having grown up in farm country, I know every farmer looks helplessly to the sky hoping the weather gods will be kind. Even in the best of years, the weather is a weight. But in this current catastrophic cycle — three years of near-record rainfall deficits putting most of California at least one full year of normal rainfall behind recovery, some areas closer to two years, all while record breaking heat has currently left 58% of the state in “exceptional drought” conditions — I’m thinking I’ll hear nothing short of the lament of the forsaken. Instead, a man named Jeff Yarbro hammers on about who they see as enemy #1: environmentalists. As Yarbro has it, these particular environmentalists have fought to make sure whatever precious water is released from the state’s reservoirs goes first to facilitating salmon runs. The problem is that most of this water heads out into the ocean with no attempt to reuse it. “They want this valley all jackrabbits and sage brush,” he says, meaning the environmentalists. “They don’t believe we should be here. They’d like to turn the valley like it was a hundred years ago. And for us to go elsewhere.”

No rain for decades: Stand by for the ‘megadroughts,’ scientists warn - Climate change is set to unleash a series of decades-long “megadroughts” this century, according to research to be published this week.  Experts warn the droughts could be even more severe than the prolonged water shortage currently afflicting California, where residents have resorted to stealing from fire hydrants amid mass crop failures and regular wildfires. Megadroughts – which are generally defined as lasting 35 years or more – will become considerably more frequent as global warming increases temperatures and reduces rainfall in regions already susceptible, warns Cornell University’s Dr Toby Ault, the author of the new report. Megadroughts are also likely to be hotter and last longer than in the past, he claimed. His peer-reviewed research – to be published in the American Meterological Society’s Journal of Climate – is the first to scientifically establish that climate change exacerbates the threat.

“We can now explicitly add megadroughts to the list of risks that are being intensified by climate change. Without climate change there would be a 5-15% risk of a megadrought in the south-west of the US this century. With it, the probability jumps to between 20 and 50%, with the southernmost part of the country particularly at risk,” Dr Ault told The Independent. The threat megadroughts pose is so great they could decimate the world’s economy and food supply, inflicting a humanitarian crisis, experts warned. “Global warming will make droughts evermore severe and devastating in the future. The south-west of the US, southern Europe, much of Africa, India, Australia and much of Central and South America could all have a drought that lasts decades...”

2014 on Track to be Hottest Year on Record -- Just days after NASA data showed that August 2014 was the warmest August on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed the ranking and raised the ante: There’s a good chance 2014 could become the warmest year on record.  “If we continue a consistent departure from average for the rest of 2014, we will edge out 2010 as the warmest year on record,” said Jake Crouch, a climatologist with NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, during a press briefing Thursday.  Specifically, if each of the remaining months of the year ranks among the top five warmest, 2014 will take the top spot, he said. For the year-to-date, the globe has measured 1.22 °F above the 20th century average of 57.3 °F, which makes January-August 2014 the third warmest such period since records began in 1880. The record-hot August marks the 38th consecutive August and the 354th consecutive month with a global average temperature above the 20th century average, according to the NCDC.

Today, 310,000 people took to the streets of New York City to call for climate action - Today, 310,000 [400,000] people took to the streets of New York City to call for climate action -- the largest climate march in history. And we were joined by hundreds of thousands of others around the world at over 2,646 events in 156 countries. And on Tuesday, the world’s politicians will gather in New York to talk about climate action -- 125 heads of state in total. They’ll be gathering with the knowledge that more people than ever are demanding action, not just words, and that their political future is on the line -- as well as the future of the planet. We will bring that message to the top leadership of the UN inside Tuesday’s summit, with a hand-delivered message to top UN climate negotiators. If you stand with the hundreds of thousands of people who marched today around the world, tell world leaders that you mean business: act.350.org/letter/ready-for-action/

Photos: 400,000 Protesters March To Prevent Annihilation By Global Warming - Socialists, grandmothers, Baptists, babies, domestic workers, veterans, anarchists, and Leonardo Di Caprio all rallied to save the human species from itself during the People's Climate March on Sunday, in what one of the organizers called "the largest political gathering about anything in America in at least a decade." The "final" head count from the march's officials stood at 400,000, though there is no magic number that triggers the world leaders meeting to discuss climate change at the UN on Tuesday to actually do something about it. For Emma Suzuki-Jones and Holly Fuchigami, two college students who had recently moved to the city from Hawaii, New York's biggest demonstration since the 2004 RNC protests was also their first.   Suzuki-Jones said that she was most concerned about rising sea levels. "It's just weird to think that a lot of places in Hawaii are going to be underwater in 50 years." We didn't have the heart to point out that her adopted home would be underwater too.

"7.1 Billion Demonstrate In Favor Of Global Warming" -  -- In an overwhelming show of support for dangerously escalating temperatures, 7.1 billion people from nearly every nation on earth staged massive demonstrations yesterday in favor of global warming. “Whether they were sitting in their living rooms, watching football at a bar, or just driving somewhere, a sizable portion of the world let its support for climate change be heard loud and clear,” said environmental policy expert Janet Purvis, adding that the protest that began in the morning never lost steam at any point throughout the day. “This should serve as a wake-up call to officials around the world that the factors contributing to global warming are real, important, and must be protected at any cost.” At press time, the 7.1 billion protesters were reportedly making plans to stage similar rallies every day for the foreseeable future. [The Onion]

#OccupyAndOrFloodWallStreetForClimateChange Takes On NYSE TV Studio - Live Feed -- It has been several years since the disjointed, confused, and extremely disorganized Occupy Wall Street movement made any headlines. Alas, in the interim, the career prospects of those who comprise its up prime age demographic have gone nowhere but down while inversely impacting the nominal free time of said cohort, which is why we were somewhat surprised it took as long as it did for the same individuals, best known for camping out in Zucotti Park (until it started snowing of course), to stage a daring comeback. Which they did today, following a weekend in which New York City was overrun with "The People's Climate March", protesting against climate change by... leaving behind them tons of non-biodegradable garbage. It is this same group that has once again made its way all the way down into the Financial district, and specifically in front of the TV studio formerly known as the NYSE.

‘Flood Wall Street’ Protesters Say Root Cause Of Climate Change Is Unchecked Capitalism  — On Monday, a day after nearly 400,000 marchers gathered for the largest climate march in history, activists and protesters turned their attention to the many links between capitalism and climate change by flooding Wall Street with supporters.By early afternoon Monday, several thousand people were gathered just down the street from Wall Street around the iconic Charging Bull statue. They waved flags, chanted, and sat down on the street to draw attention to what they consider to be the primary cause of climate change.  The scene was far more tense than that of the previous day; two people were reportedly arrested for trying to cross a police barricade and several journalists and activists reported on Twitter that the NYPD used pepper spray on protesters rushing a barricade.  “We talk a lot about climate change and the root problems of climate change, but not many people are willing to say that the root problem of climate change is capitalism,” Sam Neubauer, 19, who came to the protest from Minnesota, told ThinkProgress. “Large corporations profit from capitalism by extracting oil and burning that oil and we need to call that out explicitly.”

102 Arrested at Flood Wall Street -- Shortly after the New York Stock Exchange 4 p.m. closing bell and hours after the protest began, New York City police arrested 102 people who were part of the Flood Wall Street protest yesterday, including several individuals in wheelchairs and one dressed as a polar bear.  A day after the historic People’s Climate March in New York City, which attracted around 400,000 people, thousands of environmental activists dressed in blue flooded into the lower Manhattan Financial District. It started with speakers like Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges and Rebecca Solnit as demonstrators assembled in Battery Park for the march and nonviolent sit-in which began around Noon. The demonstration and sit-in were peaceful and festive, although they clogged the streets, blocking normal traffic flow through the district and police presence was heavy throughout the day.

Rockefellers join anti-fossil fuel drive - FT.com: A grass-roots movement against fossil fuels has secured its highest profile convert, as the family foundation built on the riches of John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil announced plans to cuts its oil and coal investments. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund joins some 800 institutions and individuals, responsible for $50bn of investment, that have pledged to sell some or all of their fossil fuel holdings. The effort to make oil, gas and coal investments as unpopular as tobacco stocks or investments in apartheid-era South Africa gathered momentum in advance of Tuesday’s New York climate summit organised by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general. “Stay away from this fossil fuel-based investment. Do much more on renewable energy,” Mr Ban told business and government leaders on Monday. The Rockefeller fund said it would sell its investments in the coal and Canadian oil sands industries and review its remaining fossil fuel holdings for possible sale in one or two years Stephen Heintz, the fund’s president, suggested that the oilman who founded Standard Oil in 1870 would approve and would be “leading the charge” into renewable energy if he were alive today. “He was an innovative, forward-looking businessman,” Mr Heintz said. “He would recognise that clean energy technology is the business of the future.”

Only $1 Trillion: Annual Investment Goal Puts Climate Solutions Within Reach -- A two-year-old number is changing the way governments, companies and investors approach the fight against climate change: $1 trillion. That is roughly the amount of additional investment needed worldwide each year for the next 36 years to stave off the worst effects of global warming and keep the Earth habitable, according to the International Energy Agency. The Paris-based organization of 29 developed countries calculated the cost in 2012 and raised its estimates this year. Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit investor group that advocates environmental sustainability, framed it as the "Clean Trillion" in an investment campaign that has become a rallying cry. While $1 trillion sounds like a lot, knowing the figure is good news, according to climate activists, investment experts and United Nations organizers of the next round of global climate talks. Worldwide, almost $4 trillion a year will need to be invested over that time anyway in electric grids, power plants and energy efficiency, the IEA says. In a global economy of $75 trillion, $1 trillion works out to 1.3% of the world's annual output of goods and services, or about $140 a person. The calculation also focuses the discussion on investment—suggesting the potential for returns and profits—rather than on costs for disaster response and losses to rising oceans.

Obama Urged to Plug Methane Leaks to Meet Climate Goal - Environmental groups are asking the Obama administration to beef up its climate plan by targeting methane leaks in the web of valves, pipes and pumps drillers use to produce and deliver natural gas. While companies have a vested interest in keeping methane bottled up on its way to customers, some gas inevitably seeps out. That’s worrisome because methane -- the primary component of gas -- is 25 times more potent than carbon at trapping heat. The administration has embraced gas as a cleaner alternative to coal because it produces about half the carbon dioxide when burned to generate electricity. Conrad Schneider, advocacy director for the Clean Air Task Force, a Boston-based environmental group, said the U.S. won’t meet its own climate commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 without targeting methane. “It’s a very potent global warming pollutant,” he said. Regulating methane “could be the great capstone to their climate efforts,” Schneider said in an interview.

The Benefits of Easing Climate Change - On Tuesday, more than 100 world leaders gathered at the United Nations to open a climate summit meeting that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hopes will provide momentum to a new round of negotiations toward a global environmental agreement to be signed in Paris next year. You’re forgiven if you hold your applause. World leaders have been trying without success to cut such a deal for almost two decades, crashing time and again into the fear that slowing the emissions of carbon that are inexorably changing the climate carries an economic cost that few are willing to bear.This time, though, advocates come armed with a trump card: All things considered, the cost of curbing carbon emissions may be considerably cheaper than earlier estimates had suggested. For all the fears that climate change mitigation would put the brakes on growth, it might actually enhance it.   Whether this can tip the balance toward the global grand bargain that has eluded world leaders so many times depends on a couple of things. The first is to what extent it is true. The second is whether this is, in fact, the issue that matters most to the people making the decisions. The most recent salvo came in “The New Climate Economy,” a report issued last week by an international commission appointed by a handful of rich and poor countries to take a new look at the economics of climate change. “There is now huge scope for action which can both enhance growth and reduce climate risk,” it reads. Efficient investments could deliver at least half of the emission cuts needed by 2030 to keep global temperatures in check. And they could do so while delivering extra economic gains on the side.

Is stopping climate change a free lunch? - We’re again seeing the return of magical thinking in the economics profession and elsewhere.  Limiting climate change is indeed worth doing, but it is not close to a free lunch.  Eduardo Porter makes the relevant point quite nicely“If the Chinese and the Indians found it much more economically efficient to build out solar, nuclear and wind, why are they still building all these coal plants?” asked Ted Nordhaus, chairman of the Breakthrough Institute, a think tank focused on [obfuscation] development and the environment. China’s CO2 emissions increased 4.2 percent last year, according to the Global Carbon Project, helping drive a global increase of 2.3 percent. China now accounts for 28 percent of the world’s total emissions, more than the United States and the European Union combined.“I don’t think the Chinese and the Indians are stupid,” Mr. Nordhaus told me. “They are looking at their indigenous energy resources and energy demand and making fairly reasonable decisions.” For them, combating climate change does not look at all like a free lunch. Note that doing something about air pollution and doing something about carbon emissions are two distinct issues.  America did a great deal to clean up its air, for instance when it comes to the dangerous Total Particulate Matter, but has done much less to lower its carbon emissions.  It is no accident that the former is a national public good, the latter is mainly a global public good.  China, India, and other developing nations may well go a similar route and simply keep emitting carbon at high and perhaps even growing rates.   If you lump everything together into a general “the benefits of getting rid of air pollution,” you will be missing that nations can and probably will make targeted clean-up attempts that leave carbon emissions largely intact.

Climate Realities -  ON Tuesday, world leaders will converge at United Nations headquarters in New York for a summit meeting on the climate that will set the stage for global negotiations next year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the threat of global climate change. The summit is titled “Catalyzing Action,” a decidedly hopeful characterization.I wish I were so hopeful. It is true that, in theory, we can avoid the worst consequences of climate change with an intensive global effort over the next several decades. But given real-world economic and, in particular, political realities, that seems unlikely. There are emerging hints of a positive path ahead, but first let’s look at the sobering reality.  The world is now on track to more than double current greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere by the end of the century. This would push up average global temperatures by three to eight degrees Celsius and could mean the disappearance of glaciers, droughts in the mid-to-low latitudes, decreased crop productivity, increased sea levels and flooding, vanishing islands and coastal wetlands, greater storm frequency and intensity, the risk of species extinction and a significant spread of infectious disease. The United Nations has set a goal of keeping global temperatures from rising by no more than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. (The average global temperature has increased by about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880, with two-thirds of the warming occurring since 1975.) Meeting this goal would require a worldwide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 40 to 70 percent by midcentury, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That’s an immense challenge. The reality is that 300 years of economic growth in the industrialized countries have been fueled by the combustion of fossil fuels — coal, petroleum and natural gas. We still depend on these. And the large emerging economies of China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and South Africa are rapidly putting in place new infrastructure that is also dependent on burning fossil fuels.

U.N. Climate Summit: Staged Parade or Reality Show? - - The much-ballyhooed one-day Climate Summit next week is being hyped as one of the major political-environmental events at the United Nations this year.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged over 120 of the world’s political and business leaders, who are expected to participate in the talk-fest, to announce significant and substantial initiatives, including funding commitments, “to help move the world towards a path that will limit global warming.”  And, according to the United Nations, the summit will mark the first time in five years that world leaders will gather to discuss what is described as an ecological disaster: climate change. The United Nations says the negative impact of global warming includes a rise in sea levels, extreme weather patterns, ocean acidification, melting of glaciers, extinction of biodiversity species and threats to world food security. But what really can one expect from a one-day event lasting probably over 12 hours of talk time, come Sep. 23? “A one-day event was never going to solve everything about climate change, but it could have been a turning point by demonstrating renewed political will to act,” Timothy Gore, head of policy, advocacy and research for the GROW Campaign at Oxfam International, told IPS. Some political leaders, he pointed out, will still use the opportunity to do that, “but too many look set to stay out of the limelight or steer clear of the kind of really transformational new commitments needed.”

Despite Rising Voice of Climate Movement, Global Leaders Dither - The largest ever gathering for climate action took place in New York on Sept. 21, just two days ahead of a major negotiations on a climate treaty between global leaders at the United Nations.  The “People’s Climate March” attracted an estimated 400,000 people and the message to the political class was clear: stop dithering – it’s time for meaningful action to reduce global carbon emissions. Despite the impassioned plea, most protestors are placing little faith in the UN process, as each summit seemingly ends in vague commitments and empty promises to slow the burning of fossil fuels. The 2014 meeting is intended to lay the major groundwork for an ultimate agreement in Paris next year, but few analysts are expecting a breakthrough. As the traditional UN pathway to agreement has proven intractable and largely ineffective, the climate movement has grown louder and more aggressive. Voices within the environmental movement that eschew incremental progress and partnerships with corporations have risen to the forefront. They criticize centrist environmental groups for selling out and helping big polluters “greenwash” their operations.

U.N. climate summit is high-profile, but some of world’s most important leaders will skip it -  This week, the United Nations will host a huge and well-publicized one-day summit on climate change.  It comes just days after thousands of people in New York and around the world took to the streets, demanding more political action to help fight global warming. The climate summit's organizer, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, took part in the New York march, and for Tuesday's event, he is promising to bring together some of the most powerful people in the world with a common purpose. "I have invited leaders from government, business, finance and civil society to present their vision, make bold announcements and forge new partnerships that will support the transformative change the world needs," wrote in a blog post on the summit for the Huffington Post. It's certainly true that the climate summit has an impressive guest list: More than 120 world leaders are heading to the United Nations in New York for the event, including President Obama and many big names from the private sphere. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio will give one of the opening speeches. But as impressive as that guest list is, what's more interesting is who is missing. Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are skipping the event. In empirical terms, it's hard to think of two more important leaders in the world right now: Together they lead more than 2.5 billion people, more than a third of the world's population. And the two countries are not only the first and second most populous countries on Earth; research shows they also were the first- and third-biggest producers of carbon dioxide emissions (the United States holds the No. 2 spot). That figure can only partly be explained away by their huge populations: One study showed that per capita emissions from China recently surpassed that of the European Union, and India is predicted to follow suit in five years.Xi and Modi are not the only notable world leaders missing the summit. Russia is the 10th-most-populous country in the world and the fourth-largest producers of carbon dioxide emissions, yet President Vladimir Putin won't be in attendance.

At U.N., Obama Calls Climate Change a ‘Global Threat’ - In a forceful appeal for international cooperation on limiting carbon pollution, President Barack Obama warned starkly on Tuesday that the globe's climate is changing faster than efforts to address it. "Nobody gets a pass," he declared. "We have to raise our collective ambition."  Speaking at a United Nations summit, Obama said the United States is doing its part and that it will meet its goal to cut carbon pollution 17% from 2005 levels by 2020. He also announced modest new U.S. commitments to address climate change overseas. The summit aims to galvanize support for a global climate treaty to be finalized next year. But Obama's strongest comments came as he sought to unify the international conclave behind actions to reduce global warming."The alarm bells keep ringing, our citizens keep marching," he said. "We can't pretend we can't hear them. We need to answer the call. We need to cut carbon emission in our countries to prevent worse effects, adapt and work together as global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late." He said the U.S. and China as the largest polluters have a responsibility to lead. But, Obama added, "No nation can meet this global threat alone."

US will not commit to climate change aid for poor nations at UN summit -- Barack Obama will not be pledging any cash to a near-empty fund for poor countries at a United Nations summit on climate change next week, the UN special climate change envoy said on Friday. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has challenged the 125 world leaders attending the 23 September summit to make “bold pledges” to the fund, intended to help poor countries cope with climate change. The UN has been pressing rich countries to come up with pledges of between $10bn and $15bn. “We are putting a lot of pressure for them to do it at the summit on the 23rd,” the UN envoy and former Irish president, Mary Robinson, told the Guardian on the sidelines of a US Agency for International Development meeting. But she added: “I know the United States is not going to commit because I’ve asked.”

We Need A Global Carbon Tax -- Despite my suspicions of the neoliberal tenor of the organizers and my post-Occupy reservations about marches without explicit political demands, I’m going to the People’s Climate March this morning. But if we were mobilizing around just one demand today, we could do worse than a global carbon tax, with revenues redistributed directly back to people through a global universal basic income. The policy is both politically infeasible and economically inferior to more complex and radical policy packages. But it is so blunt, and so revealing of the twin issues of inequality and climate change, that it is still a “useful utopia.” One of the many things I admire about Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that it examines capital and inequality through an international lens. His proposed solution is thus global in scope — the institutions and political alliances needed to make any progress must to operate at the same level as (or higher than) other global regulatory, diplomatic, and public goods arrangements. Wealth inequality across the global population is a problem just as inequality between current and future generations is a problem, one that must be addressed at a transnational level.  I want to make the connection between some of Piketty’s arguments about climate policy and environmental economics concrete, just as people like Naomi Klein and Christian Parenti have linked climate issues to redistribution and inequality.

At Summit, China Says It Will Peak Emissions ‘As Early As Possible’ But Bold Pledges Come Later -- As Tuesday’s United Nations summit wrapped up, there were an array of pledges to reduce carbon emissions and help fund green programs, but what did the world’s largest GHG emitter — China — have to say? Already expectations had been lowered due to the fact that President Xi Jinping sent Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli as his special envoy rather than going himself.  Speaking at the summit before Zhang, President Obama specifically said that the United States and China — the world’s two largest economies and largest carbon polluters — bear a “special responsibility to lead,” saying “that’s what big nations have to do.” “Nobody gets a pass,” Obama said. “We will do our part, and we’ll help developing nations do theirs.”  When it was his turn to speak, Zhang told the United Nations gathering that China will “try” to achieve a peak in its carbon emissions “as early as possible.” He did not provide further information on the timeline for that peak. He also pledged to provide $6 million for efforts by the U.N. to promote South-South cooperation on climate change among developing countries.  “As a responsible major developing country, China will make an even greater effort to address climate change and take on international responsibilities that are commensurate with our national conditions,” said Zhang.

China, the Climate and the Fate of the Planet -- The problem for China, in a word, is coal: About 70% of the country's electrical power comes from burning dirty rocks. The Chinese consumed nearly 4 billion tons in 2012, almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Like the oil industry in the U.S., the coal industry has enormous sway in China, making it all the more difficult to kick the habit. But as the rising power of the 21st century, China is under enormous political pressure to behave responsibly, lest it be seen as a pariah like Russia. "The choices that Chinese leaders make in the next decade will be absolutely pivotal to solving the climate crisis," says former Vice President Al Gore. And for China's economic and social stability, the consequences couldn't be higher. "Politically, it's very difficult to be fingered as the one most responsible for a looming catastrophe," Gore continues. Or, as Harvard's Stavins says, "If it's your century, you don't obstruct – you lead." On a more human level, there's also a lot of nervousness about China's notorious difficulty as a negotiating partner. "China has a very top-down culture – you have to speak to people right at the top," one of Kerry's top advisers tells me. "And they are very motivated on climate, due to air-pollution issues. But it's hard to get China to do hard things, in part because, unlike other Asian countries, doing things for the greater good is not a big motivation for them."

India's Push for Renewable Energy: Is It Enough? -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will skip the United Nations climate summit happening in New York City next week just ahead of his first official U.S. visit. But India still faces steadfast international pressure to deliver action on climate change, even as Modi promises to bolster the energy supply in a country where more than 300 million people lack access to electricity. Growing economies like China and India, which are set to contribute more than half of the global increase in carbon emissions in the next 25 years, will play a critical role in any effort to address climate change. Shortly after Modi took office in May, one of his party officials made a sweeping promise: India would develop enough solar power to run at least one light bulb every home by 2019. The goal is part of a larger push to boost renewables in India, where energy demand is projected to double over the next 20 years. But even with a drastic boost of renewable energy, India faces a formidable challenge in weaning itself from coal, which accounts for 59 percent of its electric capacity. That dependence on fossil fuels is why India ranks fourth behind China, the United States, and the European Union in global greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions From India Will Increase, Official Says - In a blow to American hopes of reaching an international deal to fight global warming, India’s new environment minister said Wednesday that his country would not offer a plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions ahead of a climate summit next year in Paris.The minister, Prakash Javadekar, said in an interview that his government’s first priority was to alleviate poverty and improve the nation’s economy, which he said would necessarily involve an increase in emissions through new coal-powered electricity and transportation. He placed responsibility for what scientists call a coming climate crisis on the United States, the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas polluter, and dismissed the idea that India would make cuts to carbon emissions. “What cuts?” Mr. Javadekar said. “That’s for more developed countries. The moral principle of historic responsibility cannot be washed away.” Mr. Javadekar was referring to an argument frequently made by developing economies — that developed economies, chiefly the United States, which spent the last century building their economies while pumping warming emissions into the atmosphere — bear the greatest responsibility for cutting pollution.Mr. Javadekar said that government agencies in New Delhi were preparing plans for India’s domestic actions on climate change, but he said they would lead only to a lower rate of increase in carbon emissions. It would be at least 30 years, he said, before India would likely see a downturn. “India’s first task is eradication of poverty,” Mr. Javadekar said, speaking in a New York hotel suite a day after a United Nations climate summit. “Twenty percent of our population doesn’t have access to electricity, and that’s our top priority. We will grow faster, and our emissions will rise.”

Seeking an easy win on carbon emissions? Cut global trade --The Obama administration has proposed several ad hoc multi-country economic agreements, and in doing so has abandoned de facto the World Trade Organization (WTO) as insufficiently malleable to its interests. The two most important of these are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the more recent Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Even as the latter was being negotiated by US and EU officials, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that the increase in greenhouse gases is more rapid than expected. The organisation’s secretary-general warned that humankind is “running out of time” to reverse rising levels of carbon dioxide that drive climate change.These two items, agreements to increase world trade and rapidly rising greenhouse gases, call for a bit of “linked up thinking.” Trade itself is the problem.The US trade and investment initiatives have come under considerable attack for handing too much power over public services to private corporations, for reducing employment rights and for harming national sovereignty. Whatever the validity of these objections, there is a more fundamental problem. The purpose of the TPP and the TTIP is to increase the volume of trade among countries, and that is inherently bad for humankind because of its environmental effects. The charts below show why. The two countries with the most exports in 2012 are the US and China, with Germany and Japan considerably further back (both the US and China over US$2 trillion, Germany at just over 1.5). By no accident, China and the United States are at the top of the pollution list, with Japan fifth and Germany sixth. 

Capitalism vs. The Climate: Stephen Colbert Talks To Naomi Klein - Lobbing her softballs in the form of affable iterations of stock climate denier statements like “I don’t deny climate change, it’s happening I just don’t know if we need to do anything about it,” and “I fly over the country all the time, it’s green out there, there’s lakes, there’s rivers, it’s a beautiful world—it’s all cyclical,” Colbert provided her openings to explain her book’s thesis—that capitalism, with its demands for constant growth to fuel profit, must be scrapped to reverse climate change. “I haven’t finished reading the book,” said Colbert. “I don’t want to know who wins, capitalism or the climate. But I assume it’s capitalism because the book costs $30 and it’s printed on dead trees.”

Radical Ideas for Radical Times - Capitalism is again in the cross hairs of global climate activists. To save the earth, declare young activists, we need earth-shaking change going beyond the narrow constraints of a system that unapologetically prioritizes profits over people. The clock is ticking with scientists warning that substantial changes must be made in this century or our environment will suffer irreparable damage. As a result, more and more people are becoming less and less patient with an unresponsive power structure saturated with dollars. For example, popular author and social activist Naomi Klein, doesn’t mince words in her most recent best seller that unabashedly identifies the problem upfront in her title – Capitalism vs. the Climate. Such a frank discussion of how private ownership of our natural resources poisons the earth below and pollutes the atmosphere above needs to shift to economics as well. In this realm, one of the most renown figures of modern economics, John Maynard Keynes, describes best the pitfalls of our privately-owned economy by colorfully putting it this way: “Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.” To get out from under this wickedness, I argue that we need to go beyond Keynesian reforms that normally propose massive government stimulus creating more jobs. Of course, any and all reforms that offer even temporary relief should be fully supported.

Leonardo DiCaprio: We already knew there is a climate crisis. What most people don’t know is that it could rapidly accelerate because of the thaw and release of methane in the Arctic.- “We already knew there is a climate crisis. What most people don’t know is that it could rapidly accelerate because of the thaw and release of methane in the Arctic. We need immediate action to reverse this trend before it’s too late.” - Leonardo DiCaprio, narrator of Green World Rising, a series of episodes on the state of climate and solutions to the climate crisis.  

Episode 1 - CARBON shows how we can keep carbon in the ground through putting a price on carbon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pP-Twj2lzB8
Episode 2 - LAST HOURS - the real threat of the release of methane from the melting arctic, thus triggering an extreme climate change event.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bRrg96UtMc
Episode 3 - Green World Rising shows our pathway forward through renewable technology that decentralizes the current power grid.
Episode 4 - Restoration discusses how the earth's natural ecosystems deal with climate and how we can work with nature to turn the tide.
http://www.greenworldrising.org/

Some Fracking Idiots Remain Skeptical of Climate Change - A climate-change march that organizers claim was the largest on record is nevertheless unlikely to change the minds of idiots, a survey of America’s idiots reveals. Despite bringing attention to a position that is embraced by more than ninety per cent of the world’s scientists, the People’s Climate March, which took place on Sunday in New York City, left a broad majority of the nation’s idiots unconvinced. “Look, if hundreds of thousands of people want to march about something, it’s a free country,” said Carol Foyler, an idiot from Kenosha, Wisconsin. “But let me ask them something: if the climate is really getting warmer, why was it so cold up here last winter?” Harland Dorrinson, an idiot from Hollywood, Florida, was also unmoved by the message of Sunday’s march. “What these marchers don’t realize is that the planet goes through natural cycles of heating and cooling,” he said. “Blaming people for global warming is like blaming dinosaurs for the ice age.” Skepticism about scientists characterized many of the idiots’ remarks, including those of Tracy Klugian, of Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Those marchers are holding signs that say ‘Scientists this, scientists that,’ ” he said. “Well, how can scientists be sure that the Earth was colder thousands of years ago, when no one had invented a thermometer?” Klugian said he was confident that, despite the impressive numbers for Sunday’s march, idiots would prevail in the ongoing climate-change debate. “At the end of the day, there are more people like us in Congress,” he said.

Memo To Obama: Expanded Natural Gas Use Worsens Climate Change -- A new study confirms that “increased natural gas use for electricity will not substantially reduce US GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, and by delaying deployment of renewable energy technologies, may actually exacerbate the climate change problem in the long term.”  This Environmental Research Letters study should be sobering to fans of expanded gas use who care about global warming — such as the Environmental Defense Fund and President Obama — because it is true even if methane leakage from gas production and delivery could somehow miraculously be reduced to zero. “Natural gas has been presented as a bridge to a low-carbon future, but what we see is that it’s actually a major detour,” explained lead author Christine Shearer in the news release. “We find that the only effective paths to reducing greenhouse gases are a regulatory cap or a carbon tax.”  Although many fracking advocates pretend otherwise, this is not a new finding. Indeed, most claims that shale gas will significantly reduce U.S. carbon emissions in the future are based on little more than hand-waving and wishful thinking, as the literature makes clear. That’s because — even if we ignore methane leaks — those claims assume natural gas is replacing coal only, rather than replacing some combination of coal, renewables, nuclear power, and energy efficiency, which is what is happening in the real world.

Natural gas won’t save us from global warming, study confirms -  In his January State of the Union address, President Obama said that natural gas could be a low-emission "bridge fuel" that could allow the U.S. to help slow global warming. Demonstrators at Sunday's climate protest in New York apparently didn't get the talking points memo from the White House -- many carried signs calling for an end to fracking. The reality is that shale gas probably won't have much effect on climate change either way, according to a new study published Wednesday. "If you increase the use of gas, that will actually delay the deployment of renewable energy," said Christine Shearer of the University of California, Irvine, one of the authors of the study. Shearer and her colleagues modeled how the consequences for the climate in the next forty years would differ depending on how big the gas boom gets, how quickly solar technology develops, and what policies the federal government adopts to slow global warming. Their forecasts showed that the more natural gas is available, the less the energy sector will rely on renewable resources, and that the supply of natural gas will not have much effect on greenhouse gas emissions. Abundant gas reserves will lower electricity bills and encourage people and businesses to burn more electricity, the authors find. Also, cheap energy from gas will make building new solar panels and wind turbines less attractive to investors. The paper predicts that a larger supply of gas might reduce or add to emissions slightly, depending on how well companies can keep gas from leaking.

Arctic sea ice helps remove CO2 from the atmosphere: Due to global warming, larger and larger areas of sea ice melt in the summer and when sea ice freezes over in the winter it is thinner and more reduced. As the Arctic summers are getting warmer we may see an acceleration of global warming, because reduced sea ice in the Arctic will remove less CO2 from the atmosphere, Danish scientists report. "If our results are representative, then sea ice plays a greater role than expected, and we should take this into account in future global CO2 budgets," says Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard, PhD Fellow, Nordic Center for Earth Evolution, University of Southern Denmark and the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Nuuk. Only recently scientists have realized that sea ice has an impact on the planet's CO2 balance. "We have long known that the Earth's oceans are able to absorb huge amounts of CO2. But we also thought that this did not apply to ocean areas covered by ice, because the ice was considered impenetrable. However, this is not true: New research shows that sea ice in the Arctic draws large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere into the ocean." "The chemical removal of CO2 in sea ice occurs in two phases. First crystals of calcium carbonate are formed in sea ice in winter. During this formation CO2 splits off and is dissolved in a heavy cold brine, which gets squeezed out of the ice and sinks into the deeper parts of the ocean. Calcium carbonate cannot move as freely as CO2 and therefore it stays in the sea ice. In summer, when the sea ice melts, calcium carbonate dissolves, and CO2 is needed for this process. Thus, CO2 gets drawn from the atmosphere into the ocean - and therefore CO2 gets removed from the atmosphere," explains Dorte Haubjerg Søgaard. The biological removal of CO2 is done by algae binding of carbon in organic material.

Record sea ice around Antarctica due to global warming, -- The extent of the sea ice around Antarctica has hit a record high – for the third year running. Counter-intuitively, global warming is responsible.  Since satellite records began in 1979, the winter maximum sea ice cover around Antarctica has been growing at 1.5% per decade. This year has long been on track for a new annual record, with 150 daily records already set. The record was finally broken on 15 September and sea ice extent has increased since, according to data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center analysed by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology in Hobart. More sea ice may seem odd in a warmer world, but new records are expected every few years, says Jan Lieser of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart. That's because the Southern Hemisphere warms more slowly than the north, as it has less landmass, boosting the winds that circle Antarctica and pulling cold air onto the sea ice. The melting of ice on the Antarctic mainland may also be creating more sea ice, by dumping easily frozen fresh water into the ocean, says Nerilie Abram of the Australian National University in Canberra.

Stop Syngenta’s radical new bee-killing pesticide plan

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Dear Tenney,
Save the bees.
The United States has already lost more than half of its managed honeybee colonies – and the problem could soon get much worse.
Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta, which is one of Monsanto’s biggest competitors, just filed paperwork with the EPA requesting permission to increase the amount of the bee-killing pesticide thiamethoxam it uses on alfalfa, corn, barley, and wheat crops by up to 40,000%.1 If approved, this proposal would be absolutely devastating for bees and other pollinators.
The EPA has opened a crucial public comment period to take feedback on Syngenta’s bee-killing proposal – but we only have a few days to flood it with comments and save the bees.
A growing number of scientists place the blame for the rapid collapse of bee populations on neonicotinoid pesticides, including Syngenta’s thiamethoxam, which suppress bees’ immune systems and make them more susceptible deadly viruses and bacterial diseases.
That’s why governments and individuals around the globe are taking action to save bees and other pollinators by restricting or prohibiting the use of neonicotinoids. In Europe, after a major report found that these pesticides posed “high acute risks” to bees, the European Commission enacted a two-year ban in order to conduct further studies.2 And just a few weeks ago, Canadian beekeepers filed a $400 million lawsuit targeting pesticide manufacturers Syngenta and Bayer for their role in contributing to the deaths of honeybees.3
But here in the United States, the EPA plans to continue studying the issue until 2019 before taking action, despite the fact that bee populations continue to collapse.4 Bees can't afford to wait for the EPA to get its act together – and neither can we.
Syngenta’s new proposal to radically increase neonicotinoid pesticide use could be a death sentence for bees – and we need your help to build massive pressure on the EPA to reject it.
Thanks for fighting to save the bees.
Josh Nelson, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
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