We Are Tearing the Web of Life

In just a few decades, we are likely to see many fewer species on the planet than we see today. That is the grim message in a May 7, 2019, report from the United Nations on the status of species in this era of rapid climate change and human interventions in the environment. There now are as many as 1 million species threatened with extinction -- an unprecedented and accelerating die-off that cannot be prevented without transformative changes in our treatment of nature. The warnings come from the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.  Its report is the product of 145 expert authors from 50 nations along with contributions from another 310 contributing authors. It is based on a review of 15,000 science and government sources. The human interventions include a tenfold increase in plastic pollution over the last 20 years; 400 million tons of heavy metals, toxic sludges and fertilizer pouring into global waters annually; a doubling of greenhouse gas pollution since 1980; the loss of 85% of the world's wetlands during the industrial era;

The State of Antarctic Ice

Antarctica has lost 4.76 trillion metric tons of ice in the last four decades, according to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The process is expected to accelerate, causing more rapid sea level rise. But that's not the only consequence. The melting will dramatically affect the web of life in that region, as shown in the amazing new Netflix series "Our Planet".

WMO’s New State of Climate Impact Report

The physical signs and socio-economic impacts of climate change are accelerating as record greenhouse gas concentrations drive global temperatures towards increasingly dangerous levels, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018, its 25th anniversary edition, highlights record sea level rise, as well as exceptionally high land and ocean temperatures over the past four years. This warming trend has lasted since the start of this century and is expected to continue. “The data released in this report give cause for great concern. The past four years were the warmest on record, with the global average surface temperature in 2018 approximately 1°C above the pre-industrial baseline,” notes UN Secretary General António Guterres. “These data confirm the urgency of climate action. This was also emphasized by the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C. The IPCC found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require rapid and far reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities and

The United States’ Carbon Footprint

The latest EPA data show that in 2016,  transportation  in  California,  Texas  and Florida  was  the  source  of  more  carbon  dioxide  pollution than  transportation  in  rest  of  the  United  States.  California,  Texas  and  Louisiana  led  country  in  emissions  from  industry.  Wyoming had  the  most  emissions  on  a  per  capita   basis.  (Double click to enlarge the chart. Source: Politico)

A Focused Green New Deal

By William S. Becker If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brings the Green New Deal to a vote in the Senate this week as he intends, the result will be political theater. It won’t be more than that. Why? Because in its present form, the Green New Deal is a vision articulated in a nonbinding resolution, and the opposition of the Republican-controlled Senate is preordained. Here is what we’re likely to witness: McConnell and his Republican colleagues will try to brand the entire Democratic Party as a big-government socialist cabal. Democrats, who actually represent 50 shades of opinion on the proposals in the Green New Deal, may ask why so many Republicans are still ignoring climate change when half the states with the most weather disasters are “red”. If Senate Democrats have done their homework, they might ask McConnell how denying climate change is good for his constituents in Kentucky. The state ranks 12th the nation for its number of natural disasters. It has averaged more than one disaster declaration a year for the last 66 years. Yet it ranks 48th

23 Charts: Challenges Ahead for a Green New Deal

The Green New Deal proposal in Congress has caused a great deal of buzz, some of it enthusiastic, some of it skeptical and some of it negative. But we should be asking this: If not the Green New Deal, or something like it, then what are our options? There should be no debate about the fact that the United States and the rest of the world must act boldly and quickly to pull back from far more disastrous impacts of climate change than we are experiencing today. This post offers a set of slides that show some of the good news and the bad news about our response to climate change so far. Many of the illustrations come from Statista, a service that analyzes data from more than 22,500 sources to spot trends on a wide variety of topics including energy and climate. Others come from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communications, PoliticoPro and other data organizations. What we see is this: Although climate change must be addressed by every nation, the United States is in the driver's seat

Is 100% Renewable Energy “Impractical”?

Editor's Note: In this blog, Dr. Charles Kutscher, a member of PCAP's National Advisory Committee, rebuts the argument that 100% renewable energy is not practical. Dr. Kutscher  is a Fellow and Senior Research Associate of the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute, a joint institute between the University of Colorado-Boulder and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). He served as the Director of the Buildings and Thermal Sciences Center at NREL from 2013 until his retirement in 2018. By Charles F. Kutscher Wind and solar energy are now very low in cost and have comprised more than half of new U.S. electric capacity additions for four of the last five years. Not surprisingly, they have become a target for those who want to continue our reliance on conventional energy sources. A case in point is a recent article, What It Costs To Go 100 Percent Renewable, by Philip Rossetti of the American Action Forum, which opposes the Green New Deal and argues that 100% renewable energy is impractical. I see several issues with Mr. Rossetti’s analysis, and to address them we

On the Path to “Hothouse Earth”

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Aug. 14, 2018 Excerpts from "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene" Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Katherine Richardson, Timothy M. Lenton, Carl Folke, Diana Liverman, Colin P. Summerhayes, Anthony D. Barnosky, Sarah E. Cornell, Michel Crucifix, Jonathan F. Donges, Ingo Fetzer, Steven J. Lade, Marten Scheffer, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber PNAS August 14, 2018 115 (33) 8252-8259; published ahead of print August 6, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1810141115 Edited by William C. Clark, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and approved July 6, 2018 (received for review June 19, 2018) Abstract We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene. We examine the evidence that such a threshold might exist and where it might be. If the threshold is crossed, the

The Danger of a “Hothouse Earth”

Self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth past the threshold of climate stabilization and into an ongoing path to a "Hothouse Earth", even if emissions were reduced. That is the conclusion of an international group of 16 scientists published Aug. 6, 2018, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. "Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene," the authors report. "We examine the evidence that such a threshold might exist and where it might be. "If the threshold is crossed, the resulting trajectory would likely cause serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies. Collective human action is required to steer the Earth System away from a potential threshold and stabilize it in a habitable interglacial-like state. Such action entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values." See the complete study

Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets

In order to keep global warming below 2oC, two-thirds of the world's proved fossil energy reserves will have to remain unburned. Nevertheless, oil, gas and coal companies are continuing to invest in exploration and are underestimating the risk of large stranded investments. In this seminal study, Carbon Tracker describes the "carbon bubble" and what it means for shareholders in fossil energy companies. Read more

October 10th, 2016|Science and Analysis|