A NASA Scientist Explains Why The Weather is Becoming More Extreme

Across China and Western Europe in July, the amount of rain that might typically fall over several months to a year came down within a matter of days, triggering floods that swept entire homes off their foundations. In June, the usually mild regions of Southwest Canada and the US’s Pacific Northwest saw temperatures that rivaled highs in California’s Death Valley desert. The severe heat was enough to buckle roads and melt power cables.

Yesterday, a landmark United Nations report helped put those kinds of extreme events into context. By burning fossil fuels and releasing planet-heating greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, humans are fueling more dangerous weather. Researchers have been able to connect the dots between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change for decades.

But the new report showcases a big leap forward in climate science: being able to tie the climate crisis directly to extreme weather events like the June heatwave, which would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change according to recent studies.

The Verge spoke with Alex Ruane, one of the authors of the new report and a research physical scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He walks us through the phenomena that’s supercharging extreme weather events. And he explains why scientists have gotten so much better at seeing the “human footprint” in each weather disaster.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

The new United Nations report ties many changes in extreme weather to a more intense water cycle. What is the water cycle and how does it affect the weather?

The water cycle is basically the way that we track moisture moving through the climate system. So it includes everything from the oceans to the atmosphere, the clouds, ice, rivers, lakes, the groundwater, and the way that those things move and transfer moisture and water from place to place.

So when we’re talking about the intensification of the water cycle, we’re basically saying things are moving faster. Air is pulling the moisture out of the oceans and out of the land faster. It’s moving more moisture from place to place on the planet. And when it rains, it can come down hard.

The fundamental difference is that there is more energy in the system. There’s more heat. And as the temperature goes up, there is an overall increase in the amount of moisture that the air is trying to hold. So that means when a storm happens, there’s more moisture in the air to tap into for a big, heavy downpour.

It also means that when air moves over a region, it has the potential to suck more moisture out of the ground more rapidly. So the same phenomenon is leading both to more intensive rainfalls and floods and precipitation, and also to more stark drought conditions when they do occur.

How are people affected by those changes?

So, I personally live in New York City. We are affected by the water cycle, for example, when there’s a heavy downpour it can flood subway stations. It can lead to surface flooding in rivers and streets that can affect transportation.

Other parts of the world have different engagements with the water cycle. They may be concerned about the snow fall or river floods that affect broad areas. And then of course huge parts of the world are concerned about drought. When we look at something like drought, it doesn’t just affect agriculture. It also affects ecosystems and urban parks. It affects water resources and infrastructure like power plants and roads and buildings.

So in all of these climate factors, we see that more than one sector is affected by these changes. We also see that if you take any specific thing that we care about, like agricultural fields, they are affected by more than just one type of climate change.

A specific set of climate conditions can lead to two extremes at the same time. So for example, heat and drought often go together because as conditions become drier, all of that sunshine, all of that energy, all of that heat goes into warming the air. That is a reinforcing cycle that can make hot and dry conditions even more extreme.

The big picture, as we’re seeing it, is that climate change is affecting all of the regions on Earth, with multiple types of climate changes already observed. And as the climate changes further, these shifts become more pronounced and widespread.

I’ve read that “weather whiplash” is becoming more common because of climate change — what is “weather whiplash”?

This idea that you can go from extreme to extreme very rapidly is giving society this sensation of a whiplash. This is part of the idea of an intensified water cycle. The water is moving faster, so when a wet condition comes it can be extremely wet. And then behind it could be a dry condition that can quickly get extremely dry.

That type of shift from wet to dry conditions is something that we explore and understand in our climate models, but the lived experience of it can be quite jarring — and not just uncomfortable, but a direct challenge for ecosystems and other things that we care about in society. They really are connected in many cases to the same types of phenomenon, and this new report connects the dots between this phenomenon and our human footprint.

How do scientists study how climate change affects extreme weather events?

There have been big steps forward in the methodologies and the scientific rigor of detection and attribution studies, which is another way of saying: understanding the human influence on these events.

The basic idea behind the extreme event attribution is that we need to compare the likelihood that an event would have happened without human influences against the likelihood of that event happening, given that we have influenced the climate.

We are able to use observational records and our models to look at what conditions were like before there was strong human influence. We look at what we call a preindustrial condition, before the Industrial Revolution and land use changes led to greenhouse gas emissions and other climate changes.

If we can understand how likely events would have been before we had our climate influences, and then compare it against the likelihoods today with those climate change influences factored in, that allows us to identify the increased chance of those events because of our influence. It allows us to attribute a human component of those extreme events.

How have researchers gotten so much better at attributing extreme weather events to climate change?

This is a really exciting, cutting-edge field right now. Methodological advances and several groups that have really taken this on as a major focus of their efforts have, in many ways, increased our ability and the speed at which we can make these types of connections. So that’s a big advantage.

Every year, the computational power is stronger in terms of what our models can do. We also use remote sensing to have a better set of observations in parts of the world where we don’t have weather stations. And we have models that are designed to integrate multiple types of observations into the same kind of physically coherent system, so that we can understand and fill in the gaps between those observations.

The other thing, of course, is when you look at any single attribution study, you get a piece of the picture. But what the new report does is bring them all into one place and assesses them together, and draw out larger messages. When you look at them all together, it is a much stronger and more compelling case than any one single event. And this is what the scientific community is showing us, that these things are part of a larger pattern of change that we have influenced.

What should we expect in the future when it comes to extreme weather? And what might we need to do to adapt?

First of all, it’s not like drought is a new phenomenon. There are parts of the world that are dealing with these conditions every day of the year. What we’re seeing, however, is that the overall set of expected conditions is moving into uncharted territory.

I want to emphasize it’s not just the record levels that we care about. We also care about the frequency by which these extremes occur, how long they last, the seasonal timing of when things like the last frost occurs, and also the spatial extent of extreme events — so where are conditions going to happen in the future that are outside of the observed experience of the last several generations.

It is a set of challenges that we have to face in terms of how do we adapt or manage the risk of these changes. Also, how do we prepare knowing that they may come in combination or in overlapping ways, with more than one extreme event happening at the same time, or in the same season in a sequence, or potentially hitting different parts of the same market or commodities trade exchange or something like that.

We are facing a situation where we have more information about these regional risks, but also know that every increment of climate change that occurs makes these changes more prominent. That sounds scary, but it also gives us agency.

It gives us the ability to reduce these changes if we reduce emissions, and if we can eventually limit them to something like net zero — no total carbon emissions into the climate system. And in that sense, I still remain optimistic despite all this information that you’re seeing in the report about the changes that could come. The bottom line is we have the potential to reduce those changes, if we can get emissions under control.

Source: A NASA scientist explains why the weather is becoming more extreme – The Verge

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Climate Crisis: Scientists Spot Warning Signs of Gulf Stream Collapse

Climate scientists have detected warning signs of the collapse of the Gulf Stream, one of the planet’s main potential tipping points.

The research found “an almost complete loss of stability over the last century” of the currents that researchers call the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). The currents are already at their slowest point in at least 1,600 years, but the new analysis shows they may be nearing a shutdown.

Such an event would have catastrophic consequences around the world, severely disrupting the rains that billions of people depend on for food in India, South America and West Africa; increasing storms and lowering temperatures in Europe; and pushing up the sea level off eastern North America. It would also further endanger the Amazon rainforest and Antarctic ice sheets.

The complexity of the AMOC system and uncertainty over levels of future global heating make it impossible to forecast the date of any collapse for now. It could be within a decade or two, or several centuries away. But the colossal impact it would have means it must never be allowed to happen, the scientists said.

“The signs of destabilisation being visible already is something that I wouldn’t have expected and that I find scary,” said Niklas Boers, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who did the research. “It’s something you just can’t [allow to] happen.”

It is not known what level of CO2 would trigger an AMOC collapse, he said. “So the only thing to do is keep emissions as low as possible. The likelihood of this extremely high-impact event happening increases with every gram of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere”.

Scientists are increasingly concerned about tipping points – large, fast and irreversible changes to the climate. Boers and his colleagues reported in May that a significant part of the Greenland ice sheet is on the brink, threatening a big rise in global sea level. Others have shown recently that the Amazon rainforest is now emitting more CO2 than it absorbs, and that the 2020 Siberian heatwave led to worrying releases of methane.

The world may already have crossed a series of tipping points, according to a 2019 analysis, resulting in “an existential threat to civilization”. A major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due on Monday, is expected to set out the worsening state of the climate crisis.

Boer’s research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is titled “Observation-based early-warning signals for a collapse of the AMOC”. Ice-core and other data from the last 100,000 years show the AMOC has two states: a fast, strong one, as seen over recent millennia, and a slow, weak one. The data shows rising temperatures can make the AMOC switch abruptly between states over one to five decades.

The AMOC is driven by dense, salty seawater sinking into the Arctic ocean, but the melting of freshwater from Greenland’s ice sheet is slowing the process down earlier than climate models suggested.

Boers used the analogy of a chair to explain how changes in ocean temperature and salinity can reveal the AMOC’s instability. Pushing a chair alters its position, but does not affect its stability if all four legs remain on the floor. Tilting the chair changes both its position and stability.

Eight independently measured datasets of temperature and salinity going back as far as 150 years enabled Boers to show that global heating is indeed increasing the instability of the currents, not just changing their flow pattern.

The analysis concluded: “This decline [of the AMOC in recent decades] may be associated with an almost complete loss of stability over the course of the last century, and the AMOC could be close to a critical transition to its weak circulation mode.”

Levke Caesar, at Maynooth University in Ireland, who was not involved in the research, said: “The study method cannot give us an exact timing of a possible collapse, but the analysis presents evidence that the AMOC has already lost stability, which I take as a warning that we might be closer to an AMOC tipping than we think.”

David Thornalley, at University College London in the UK, whose work showed the AMOC is at its weakest point in 1,600 years, said: “These signs of decreasing stability are concerning. But we still don’t know if a collapse will occur, or how close we might be to it.”

By: Environment editor

Source: Climate crisis: Scientists spot warning signs of Gulf Stream collapse | Climate change | The Guardian

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More Contents:

Bitcoin Could Churn Out 130 Million Tons Of Carbon, Undermining Climate Action. Here’s One Way To Tackle That

A Bitcoin mining manager checks equipment at a Chinese bitcoin mine in Sichuan.

The power demands and carbon emissions of bitcoin mining could undermine global efforts to combat climate change if stringent regulations are not placed upon the industry, a Chinese study has found. By 2024, mining of the cryptocurrency in China alone could use as much power as the entire nation of Italy uses in a year, with greenhouse gas emissions equalling those of the Czech Republic.

But rather than recommending increased taxation on bitcoin mining to curb emissions, or simply an outright ban on the practice, the paper, published today in the journal Nature, suggests that miners should be encouraged to shift their operations to regions that provide abundant low-carbon electricity.

The research is significant because China carries out at least 65% of the world’s bitcoin operations. Shouyang Wang, one of the report’s authors and chair professor at the Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, told Forbes.com: “While everyone has focused on bitcoin’s great profitability, we want people to become more aware of its potential issues and start thinking about these questions: is this industry actually worth the associated environmental impact, and how can we make profitable bitcoin mining operation more sustainable in the future?”

Using simulation-based models, the researchers found that, short of any policy interventions, bitcoin mining in China will peak in 2024 consuming 296.59 terawatt hours of electricity—as much as a medium sized country—and generate 130.50 million metric tons of carbon emissions. The authors further note that this consumption and the resulting emissions could derail China’s efforts to decarbonize its own energy system.

“It is important to note that the adoption of this disruptive and promising technique without [taking into account] environmental concerns may pose a barrier to the worldwide effort on GHG emissions management in the near future,” Wang said, adding that the research team was “surprised by the energy consumption and carbon emission assessment results of bitcoin blockchain operation in China.”

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Feb.09 — Tesla’s $1.5 billion bitcoin purchase this week sent the cryptocurrency soaring to a record. Nic Carter, founding partner at Castle Island Ventures, speaks with Bloomberg’s Caroline Hyde, Romaine Bostick and Joe Weisenthal on “What’d You Miss?” about mining bitcoins and its effect on the environment.
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But the solution to the challenge, the authors argue, is “moving away from the current punitive carbon tax policy to a site regulation policy”—in essence, ensuring that mining operations move to areas that guarantee high rates of renewable electricity. Under such a policy, they found, only 20% of bitcoin miners remained in coal-intensive energy regions, resulting in lower carbon emissions per dollar earned, compared to a higher taxation scenario. Under the site regulation model, the researchers found bitcoin operations generated 100.61 million metric tons at peak, as opposed to 105.19 million tons under an additional taxation scenario.

Wang said government regulation of the industry was needed, but that bitcoin miners would likely be amenable to his team’s proposed solution.

“Site regulation should be carried out by the government, placing limitations on bitcoin mining in certain regions that use coal-based heavy energy,” Wang explained. “That being said, we think that there are enough benefits to this policy which will incentivize the miners to move their operation willingly. For example, since energy prices in clean-energy regions of China are lower than that in heavy-energy regions, the miners can effectively lower their individual energy consumption cost, which would increase their profitability.”

That isn’t to say, however, that regulation is the only method by which China should be reducing the emissions impact from bitcoin mining.

“The government should also focus on upgrading the power generation facilities in clean-energy regions to ensure a consistent energy generation,” Wang said. “That way, the miners would definitely have more incentives to move voluntarily.”

Crunching The Numbers

Bitcoin operates by using blockchain technology—publicly recorded peer-to-peer transfers on encrypted computer networks—which eliminates the need for centralized authorities or banks. Bitcoin miners use arrays of processors to determine results to algorithmic puzzles that verify transactions that are added to the blockchain, for which they are in turn rewarded in bitcoins. With the value of a single bitcoin having risen from $1 in April 2011 to around $60,000 in April 2021, and with yesterday’s news that the value of the cryptocurrency market has exceeded $2 trillion for the first time, the financial incentives to mine bitcoin are obvious.

But there is a finite supply of bitcoins: they are limited to 21 million in total. To control the currency’s circulation, the supply of new bitcoins is halved every four years, which also halves the miners’ rewards. This has helped ignite fierce competition, attracting an increasing number of bitcoin miners to get into the race, utilizing ever more powerful processing arrays requiring more electricity.

This, the authors say, means that after 2024, bitcoin mining—at least in China—will no longer be cost-effective; the costs of mining the currency will begin to outweigh the rewards.

“We have predicted through our model that bitcoin mining operations in China would start to decrease in 2025,” Wang said. “Due to over-competitive and the reward-halving mechanism of bitcoin, many miners would leave China and move their operations elsewhere in hope to improve their profitability. The decrease in mining activities would lower the associated carbon emissions generated in China.”

So, in at least one sense, bitcoin is self-regulating. Or as Wang puts it, “this is the industry’s natural built-in way of phasing itself out.”

Silver Linings?

It has until recently proved difficult to determine the total emissions impact of bitcoin mining. Industry advocates have long claimed that miners tend to rely on low-carbon energy due to its relatively low cost, but those claims have been disputed.

Now, using more advanced modeling techniques, Chinese researchers have been able to more accurately estimate the energy uses of specific industry operations. According to the China Emissions Accounts and Datasets platform (CEAD), for example, bitcoin mining accounts for more than 5.4% of emissions from electricity generation in China.

In response, various policy solutions have been suggested, including heavier taxation of bitcoin mining operations. The new research suggests site regulation could be the preferable option.

But did Wang think this could result in too many miners moving into areas with abundant renewables, gobbling up energy supply?

“There would be an influx of bitcoin miners into clean-energy regions,” he said. “However, we don’t think that this increase in bitcoin mining operations would place burdens on the local energy grid. The energy-generation infrastructures in the clean-energy regions of China are still being improved and developed … we think that increases in energy generation capacity would outpace the increase in bitcoin mining operations in these regions, which would reduce the potential burdens.”

Even so, with a forecast of 100 million tons of carbon emissions at the industry’s peak, would it not simply be better, in environmental terms, to ban the practice outright?

Screenshot_2021-01-27-www-bevtraders-com-1-1-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-2-1

“We think that simply banning bitcoin mining altogether is not ideal,” Wang said. “Even if bitcoin mining is completely banned, its increasing profitability would drive miners to continue their activities through other measures, such as stealing electricity. That is why we are suggesting a push for moving the miners to clean renewable energy regions would be more ideal.”

Asked whether future cryptocurrency operations could potentially result in the same or similar energy demands as bitcoin, Wang offered a note of optimism.

“Cryptocurrency communities have become increasingly aware of the carbon emissions generated through mining activities,” he said. “As a result … we think the development of these new consensus algorithms would improve the energy efficiency of cryptocurrency mining activities, which would be beneficial for China’s sustainability efforts.”

Follow me on Twitter.

I spent much of the past 20 years as a journalist in Asia. Now based in Europe, my key interests are in decarbonization and the circular economy.

Source: Bitcoin Could Churn Out 130 Million Tons Of Carbon, Undermining Climate Action. Here’s One Way To Tackle That

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3
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0
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We Can’t Fight Climate Change Without Valuing Nature

new study in Nature Sustainability incorporates the damages that climate change does to healthy ecosystems into standard climate-economics models. The key finding in the study by Bernardo Bastien-Olvera and Frances Moore from the University of California at Davis: The models have been underestimating the cost of climate damages to society by a factor of more than five.

Their study concludes that the most cost-effective emissions pathway results in just 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) additional global warming by 2100, consistent with the “aspirational” objective of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Models that combine climate science and economics, called “integrated assessment models” (IAMs), are critical tools in developing and implementing climate policies and regulations. In 2010, an Obama administration governmental interagency working group used IAMs to establish the social cost of carbon – the first federal estimates of climate damage costs caused by carbon pollution. That number guides federal agencies required to consider the costs and benefits of proposed regulations.

Economic models of climate have long been criticized by those convinced they underestimate the costs of climate damages, in some cases to a degree that climate scientists consider absurd.

Given the importance of the social cost of carbon to federal rulemaking, some critics have complained that the Trump EPA used what they see as creative accounting to slash the government’s estimate of the number. In one of his inauguration day Executive Orders, President Biden established a new Interagency Working Group to re-evaluate the social cost of all greenhouse gases.

IAMs often have long been criticized by those convinced they underestimate the costs of climate damages, in some cases to a degree that climate scientists consider absurd.

Perhaps the most prominent IAM is the Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy (DICE) model, for which its creator, William Nordhaus, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Judging by DICE, the economically optimal carbon emissions pathway – that is, the pathway considered most cost-effective – would lead to a warming increase of more than 3°C (5.4°F) from pre-industrial temperatures by 2100 (under a 3% discount rate). IPCC has reported that reaching this level of further warming could likely result in severe consequences, including substantial species extinctions and very high risks of food supply instabilities.

In their Nature Sustainability study, the UC Davis researchers find that when natural capital is incorporated into the models, the emissions pathway that yields the best outcome for the global economy is more consistent with the dangerous risks posed by continued global warming described in the published climate science literature.

Accounting for climate change degrading of natural capital

Natural capital includes elements of nature that produce value to people either directly or indirectly. “DICE models economic production as a function of generic capital and labor,” Moore explained via email. “If instead you think natural capital plays some distinct role in economic production, and that climate change will disproportionately affect natural capital, then the economic implications are much larger than if you just roll everything together and allow damage to affect output.”

Bastien-Olvera offered an analogy to explain the incorporation of natural capital into the models: “The standard approach looks at how climate change is damaging ‘the fruit of the tree’ (market goods); we are looking at how climate change is damaging the ‘tree’ itself (natural capital).”

In an adaptation of DICE they call “GreenDICE,” the authors incorporated climate impacts on natural capital via three pathways:

The first pathway accounts for the direct influence of natural capital on market goods. Some industries like timber, agriculture, and fisheries are heavily dependent on natural capital, but all goods produced in the economy rely on these natural resources to some degree.

According to GreenDICE, this pathway alone more than doubles the model’s central estimate of the social cost of carbon in 2020 from $28 per ton in the standard DICE model to $72 per ton, and the new economically optimal pathway would have society limit global warming to 2.2°C (4°F) above pre-industrial temperatures by 2100.

The second pathway incorporates ecosystem services that don’t directly feed into market goods. Examples are the flood protection provided by a healthy mangrove forest, or the recreational benefits provided by natural places.

In the study, this second pathway nearly doubles the social cost of carbon once again, to $133 per ton in 2020, and it lowers the most cost-effective pathway to 1.8°C (3.2°F) by 2100.

Finally, the third pathway includes non-use values, which incorporate the value people place on species or natural places, regardless of any good they produce. The most difficult to quantify, this pathway could be measured, for instance, by asking people how much they would be willing to pay to save one of these species from extinction.

In GreenDICE, non-use values increase the social cost of carbon to $160 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2020 (rising to about $300 in 2050 and $670 per ton in 2100) and limit global warming to about 1.5°C (2.8°F) by 2100 in the new economically optimal emissions pathway.

(Note for economics wonks – the model runs used a 1.5% pure rate of time preference.)

Climate economics findings increasingly reinforce Paris targets

It may come as no surprise that destabilizing Earth’s climate would be a costly proposition, but key IAMs have suggested otherwise. Based on the new Nature Sustainability study, the models have been missing the substantial value of natural capital associated with healthy ecosystems that are being degraded by climate change.

Columbia University economist Noah Kaufman, not involved in the study, noted via email that as long as federal agencies use the social cost of carbon in IAMs for rulemaking cost-benefit analyses, efforts like GreenDICE are important to improving those estimates. According to Kaufman, many papers (including one he authored a decade ago) have tried to improve IAMs by following a similar recipe: “start with DICE => find an important problem => improve the methodology => produce a (usually much higher) social cost of carbon.”

For example, several other papers published in recent years, including one authored by Moore, have suggested that, because they neglect ways that climate change will slow economic growth, IAMs may also be significantly underestimating climate damage costs. Poorer countries – often located in already-hot climates near the equator, with economies relying most heavily on natural capital, and lacking resources to adapt to climate change – are the most vulnerable to its damages, despite their being the least responsible for the carbon pollution causing the climate crisis.

Another recent study in Nature Climate Change updated the climate science and economics assumptions in DICE and similarly concluded that the most cost-effective emissions pathway would limit global warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100, without even including the value of natural capital. Asked about that paper, Bastien-Olvera noted, “In my view, the fact that these two studies get to similar policy conclusions using two very different approaches definitely indicates the urgency of cutting emissions.”

Recent economics and climate science research findings consistently support more aggressive carbon emissions efforts consistent with the Paris climate targets.

Wesleyan University economist Gary Yohe, also not involved in the study, agreed that the new Nature Sustainability study “supports growing calls for aggressive near-term mitigation.” Yohe said the paper “provides added support to the notion that climate risks to natural capital are important considerations, especially in calibrating the climate risk impacts of all sorts of regulations like CAFE standards.”

But Yohe said he believes that considering the risks to unique and threatened systems at higher temperatures makes a more persuasive case for climate policy than just attempting to assess their economic impacts. In a recent Nature Climate Change paper, Kaufman and colleagues similarly suggested that policymakers should select a net-zero emissions target informed by the best available science and economics, and then use models to set a carbon price that would achieve those goals. Their study estimated that to reach net-zero carbon pollution by 2050, the U.S. should set a carbon price of about $50 per ton in 2025, rising to $100 per ton by 2030.

However climate damages are evaluated, whether through a more complete economic accounting of adverse impacts or via risk-based assessments of physical threats to ecological and human systems, recent economics and climate science research findings consistently support more aggressive carbon emissions efforts consistent with the Paris climate targets.

Dana Nuccitelli

By

Source: We Can’t Fight Climate Change Without Valuing Nature – The Good Men Project

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The climate crisis is pushing the planet’s tropical regions towards the limits of human livability, with rising heat and humidity threatening to plunge much of the world’s population into potentially lethal conditions, new research has found.

Should governments fail to curb global heating to 1.5C above the pre-industrial era, areas in the tropical band that stretches either side of the equator risk changing into a new environment that will hit “the limit of human adaptation”, the study warns.

Humans’ ability to regulate their body heat is dependent upon the temperature and humidity of the surrounding air. We have a core body temperature that stays relatively stable at 37C (98.6F), while our skin is cooler to allow heat to flow away from the inner body. But should the wet-bulb temperature – a measure of air temperature and humidity – pass 35C, high skin temperature means the body is unable to cool itself, with potentially deadly consequences.

“If it is too humid our bodies can’t cool off by evaporating sweat – this is why humidity is important when we consider livability in a hot place,” said Yi Zhang, a Princeton University researcher who led the new study, published in Nature Geoscience. “High body core temperatures are dangerous or even lethal.”

The research team looked at various historical data and simulations to determine how wet-bulb temperature extremes will change as the planet continues to heat up, discovering that these extremes in the tropics increase at around the same rate as the tropical mean temperature.

This means that the world’s temperature increase will need to be limited to 1.5C to avoid risking areas of the tropics exceeding 35C in wet-bulb temperature, which is so-called because it is measured by a thermometer that has its bulb wrapped in a wet cloth, helping mimic the ability of humans to cool their skin by evaporating sweat.

Dangerous conditions in the tropics will unfold even before the 1.5C threshold, however, with the paper warning that 1C of extreme wet-bulb temperature increase “could have adverse health impact equivalent to that of several degrees of temperature increase”. The world has already warmed by around 1.1C on average due to human activity and although governments vowed in the Paris climate agreement to hold temperatures to 1.5C, scientists have warned this limit could be breached within a decade.

This has potentially dire implications for a huge swathe of humanity. Around 40% of the world’s population currently lives in tropical countries, with this proportion set to expand to half of the global population by 2050 due to the large proportion of young people in region. The Princeton research was centered on latitudes found between 20 degrees north, a line that cuts through Mexico, Libya and India, to 20 degrees south, which goes through Brazil, Madagascar and the northern reaches of Australia.

Mojtaba Sadegh, an expert in climate risks at Boise State University, said the study does “a great job” of analyzing how rising temperatures “can render portions of the tropics uninhabitable in the absence of considerable infrastructure investments.”

“If this limit is breached, infrastructure like cool-air shelters are absolutely necessary for human survival,” said Sadegh, who was not involved in the research. “Given that much of the impacted area consists of low-income countries, providing the required infrastructure will be challenging.”

“Theoretically no human can tolerate a wet bulb temperature of above 35C, no matter how much water they have to drink,” he added.

The study is just the latest scientific warning over severe dangers posed by heat. Extreme heatwaves could push parts of the Middle East beyond human endurance, scientists have found, with rising temperatures also posing enormous risks for parts of China and India.

The global number of potentially fatal humidity and heat events doubled between 1979 and 2017, research has determined, with the coming decades set to see as many as 3 billion people pushed beyond the historical range of temperature that humans have survived and prospered in over the past 6,000 years.

By:

Source: Global heating pushes tropical regions towards limits of human livability | Climate change | The Guardian

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How To Solve Climate Change: Bill Gates Wants You To Know Two Numbers

Bill Gates Climate

Bill Gates wants you to know two numbers: 51 billion and zero. The former is the number of tons of greenhouse gases typically added to the atmosphere each year as a result of human activities. The latter is the number of tons we need to get to by 2050 in order to avert a climate crisis.

Gates has a plan for how to go from 51 billion to zero, and he’s happy to say it doesn’t come with a price tag in the trillions of dollars. As you might expect from a guy who made his fortune in technology, the billionaire’s suggested solution is tied in large part to innovation.

He spells out his plan in a new book, How To Avoid A Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have And The Breakthroughs We Need, to be released on February 16. Ahead of the book launch, Gates talked to Forbes about why he wrote the book. He also shared details the book doesn’t get into, including how much he’s invested in zero-carbon companies, which ones he’s most excited about, including a new kind of nuclear power plant, and what he’s likely to invest in next. 

Goal number one of the book, says Gates, is to clearly lay out which sectors of the economy are producing the 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases the world typically adds to the atmosphere each year. “The actual numeric framework, which is the most basic thing for any problem you want to tackle…that’s really been missing,” Gates says in a video interview from a conference room in his offices in Seattle. (See table for the percentage breakdown.)  The goal we as a planet need to aim for: zero emissions by 2050. Gates is optimistic that as hard as it sounds, we can get there.


How It Adds Up Globally: 51 Billion Tons

Emissions dropped about 5% in 2020 due to the pandemic, Gates estimates. But in a normal year the world adds 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, Gates writes in his book.

                            

Gates admits, both in his book and when we spoke, that he is an imperfect messenger on climate change. “The very idea that one person is saying they know what we should do —appropriately, there is some pushback,” he says. In his book, he writes, “The world is not exactly lacking in rich men with big ideas about what other people should do, or who think technology can fix any problem.” He admits to owning big houses and flying in private jets, though he tells me that he buys carbon offsets for $400 a ton for the private jet flights he takes. “I can’t deny being a rich guy with an opinion. I do believe, though, that it is an informed opinion, and I am always trying to learn more,” he writes.

Gates presciently warned in a 2015 talk about the dangers of a global pandemic and what we’d need to do to prepare for it. Similarly, this is not his first public prescription for the climate. In 2010 he gave a TED talk calling for the need to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050. He’s continued to consult experts in the field and delve into the latest in climate science and policy. In 2015 he got involved in the Paris Climate Summit, calling France’s then president, Francois Hollande, and encouraging him to get countries to agree to raise their R&D budgets for clean tech innovation. Twenty countries signed on. Says Gates, “Although we did not see all those countries double their R&D budgets, we did see some increase. That’s sort of when the field started to focus on can we get this innovation to take place.”

To help put a framework around progress and the cost of new carbon-free innovations, Gates and his team came up with a term called “Green Premium” and introduced it in his blog, Gates Notes, in September last year. As he explains it, the Green Premium spells out the difference in cost between a product or process that doesn’t emit carbon with one that does. Green Premiums have fallen in the passenger car sector to the point where more people are buying electric cars (though Gates points out that just 2% of global auto sales are electric vehicles). In the industrial sector, however, Green Premiums are much higher. Says Gates, “The hardest problems to solve are in areas like steel and concrete and even transportation things like aviation fuel.” The problems he’s referring to: coming up with processes to make these products that don’t emit greenhouse gases. The research is in its early stages, and that’s where government R&D can play a role, Gates suggests.

What’s It All Going To Cost? 

In December, Gates suggested in his blog that the U.S. create a National Institutes of Energy Innovation to help the country take the lead in climate change innovation. The idea is to model it after the National Institutes of Health, the backbone of U.S. medical research, which has an annual budget of about $37 billion. Gates says current U.S. government R&D spending on energy innovation is about $7 billion annually; that would need to be quintupled to match government spending on the NIH.

Another suggestion from Gates: shift the tax credits now available for solar and wind to more nascent areas like offshore wind, energy storage and new types of steel. “If you do that, and maybe double or triple the amount you spend on those tax benefits, then I do think that will be just a monumental contribution from the Biden administration,” he explains.

Whatever tech innovation comes out of the U.S. or elsewhere has to be affordable enough for countries like India to adopt it, Gates points out. Right now, the U.S. accounts for 14% of the world’s emissions. If just the U.S. gets to zero carbon emissions, we won’t be solving the problem globally.

Where Gates Is Investing

Gates, whose $124 billion fortune stems from an estimated 1% stake in Microsoft and a variety of other investments, says in the book he’s put “more than $1 billion” into companies working toward zero emissions. How much more? Altogether, he tells Forbes it’s about $2 billion. He describes himself as perhaps the biggest funder of direct air capture technologies—methods to capture carbon from the air. Two of the more well-known companies he’s been an investor in are producing plant-based meats: Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Some of his investing he categorizes as philanthropic, like the money he’s put toward an open source climate model that aims to show how electricity generation will work in long periods of tough weather when wind and solar would be shut down.

His biggest bet has been on TerraPower, a nuclear power company with a reactor that uses depleted uranium as its fuel. Gates founded the company with a few others more than a decade ago. In 2017, TerraPower formed a joint venture with a Chinese company and was planning to produce its first reactor in China. That deal was scuttled by the U.S. government, which in late 2019 blocked U.S. cooperation with China on civilian nuclear power. Now the plan is to build a demonstration plant somewhere in the U.S. In October the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $80 million to TerraPower toward construction of the plant; the agreement is that half of the funding will come from the private sector. Gates says, “That’s coming largely from me.”

His hope is that the demonstration plant will be built within five to seven years. “If things go well, that means that maybe in 10 years, commercial plant builders would take that design and build it ideally in the hundreds—which is what you need to have an impact on climate change.”

Gates has also invested in zero-carbon companies through Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a group he assembled that launched in December 2016. “It was a lot easier to raise the money than I expected,” he says. “I made about 22 calls and got about 20 yeses for the first billion.” Investors include billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Vinod Khosla, John Arnold and John Doerr; Gates says he’s the largest investor. So far Breakthrough Energy Ventures has invested in 40 companies; One, QuantumScape, which is developing lithium metal batteries for electric vehicles and has no revenues yet, went public through a SPAC last November. Though many of the companies are still early stage, Gates describes some as “really wild,” including QuidNet, which is working to store electricity by pumping water into pressured underground wells; when energy is needed, the water is released and goes through a turbine, creating electricity.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures raised another $1 billion fund in January, with most of the same initial investors and some newcomers. (Gates didn’t disclose names.) He says he’s the largest investor in the latest fund, too. The new fund will look to invest in more of the industrial processes like low-carbon cement and steel production as well as technologies to capture carbon from the air, Gates says.

Over the next five years, Gates says “I’ll put in at least $2 billion” toward zero-carbon technologies. But while a total of $4 billion is a lot of money, for someone worth more than $120 billion, it’s a small sliver of his overall investments. Says Gates, “It’s more limited by what is out there that can have a high impact.”

genesis-3-1

One of Gates’ other investments that’s been in the news recently seems to fly in the face of his zero-carbon focus. In early February, Gates’ investment arm, Cascade, partnered with Blackstone Group and private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners in a $4.7 billion deal to buy Signature Aviation, the world’s largest operator of private jet bases. Private jet travel has been booming during the pandemic, but such travel emits a heck of a lot of greenhouse gases. How does he square the deal with the premise of his book? A spokesperson for Gates did not reply to the question.

Will Gates’ book influence policy makers and move the needle toward innovation in zero-carbon technologies? It helps that combating climate change is already one of the Biden administration’s top four priorities. Given that the book is addressing weighty material, it’s relatively easy to read, sprinkled with Gates’ personal observations  and even a photo of him with his son Rory on a visit to a geothermal power plant in Iceland. (Gates says he and Rory liked to visit power plants for fun.) He mentions that he drives an electric car the Porsche Taycan Turbo, which he describes to Forbes as “ridiculously nice and ridiculously expensive” — that sells for $150,000 or more. (He’s such a fan that he got one of the first demo models, he adds.)

If nothing else, Gates wants to get people talking. “My hope is that we can shift the conversation by sharing the facts with the people in our lives— our family members, friends, and leaders. And not just the facts that tell us why we need to act, but also those that show us the actions that will do the most good,” he writes.

A bigger measure of his success will be whether the Biden administration adopts any of his policy proposals. Says Gates, “I do think that with those increases [in spending], we’ll be doing exactly what we need to do, not just for us, but for the entire world.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a San Francisco-based Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on the world’s richest people. I oversee the massive reporting effort that goes into Forbes’ annual World’s Billionaires list and The Forbes 400 Richest Americans list. The former gets me to use my rusty Spanish and Portuguese. In 2014, I won an Overseas Press Club award for an article I wrote about Saudi Arabian billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal; I also won a Gerald Loeb Award with co-author Rafael Marques de Morais for an article we wrote about Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angola’s former president. Over more than two decades, reporting for Forbes has taken me to 17 countries on four continents, from the streets of Manila to palaces in Saudi Arabia and Mexico’s presidential residence. Follow me on Twitter @KerryDolan My email: kdolan[at]forbes[dot] com Tips and story ideas welcome

Source: How To Solve Climate Change: Bill Gates Wants You To Know Two Numbers

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Bill Gates outlines his vision for a global green revolution. He tells Zanny Minton Beddoes, our editor-in-chief, how renewable energy is merely the first step in combatting climate change. 00:00 – How to fund a green economy 00:38 – Lessons from the pandemic 01:52 – Behaviour change v innovation in technology 03:36 – Most promising renewable technologies 04:31 – Private sector investment in green technology 06:30 – How essential are carbon prices? 07:50 – Net-zero emissions targets for businesses 09:39 – America’s role in climate-change action 12:40 – What are the odds for success of green innovation? Sign up to The Economist’s fortnightly climate-change newsletter: https://econ.st/3midEwG Find our most recent climate-change coverage: https://econ.st/37epi7u The World In 2021: the world could turn a corner on climate change: https://econ.st/37hdgKp
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Improving living biomass C-stock loss estimates by combining optical satellite, airborne laser scanning, and NFI data
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David Guthrie: The future of farming: Investing in technology to achieve sustainability | Vancouver Sun
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The Arctic Is Burning Like Never Before & That’s Bad News For Climate Change

Wildfires blazed along the Arctic Circle this summer, incinerating tundra, blanketing Siberian cities in smoke and capping the second extraordinary fire season in a row. By the time the fire season waned at the end of last month, the blazes had emitted a record 244 megatonnes of carbon dioxide — that’s 35% more than last year, which also set records. One culprit, scientists say, could be peatlands that are burning as the top of the world melts.

Peatlands are carbon-rich soils that accumulate as waterlogged plants slowly decay, sometimes over thousands of years. They are the most carbon-dense ecosystems on Earth; a typical northern peatland packs in roughly ten times as much carbon as a boreal forest. When peat burns, it releases its ancient carbon to the atmosphere, adding to the heat-trapping gases that cause climate change.Dramatic sea-ice melt caps tough Arctic summer

Nearly half the world’s peatland-stored carbon lies between 60 and 70 degrees north, along the Arctic Circle. The problem with this is that historically frozen carbon-rich soils are expected to thaw as the planet warms, making them even more vulnerable to wildfires and more likely to release large amounts of carbon. It’s a feedback loop: as peatlands release more carbon, global warming increases, which thaws more peat and causes more wildfires (see ‘Peatlands burning’). A study published last month1 shows that northern peatlands could eventually shift from being a net sink for carbon to a net source of carbon, further accelerating climate change.

The unprecedented Arctic wildfires of 2019 and 2020 show that transformational shifts are already under way, says Thomas Smith, an environmental geographer at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “Alarming is the right term.”

Zombie fires

The fire season in the Arctic kicked off unusually early this year: as early as May, there were fires blazing north of the tree line in Siberia, which normally wouldn’t happen until around July. One reason is that temperatures in winter and spring were warmer than usual, priming the landscape to burn. It’s also possible that peat fires had been smouldering beneath the ice and snow all winter and then emerged, zombie-like, in the spring as the snow melted. Scientists have shown that this kind of low-temperature, flameless combustion can burn in peat and other organic matter, such as coal, for months or even years.

Because of the early start, individual Arctic wildfires have been burning for longer than usual, and “they’re starting much farther north than they used to — in landscapes that we thought were fire-resistant rather than fire-prone”, says Jessica McCarty, a geographer at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Sources: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts; Hugelius, G. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 117, 20438–20446 (2020)

Researchers are now assessing just how bad this Arctic fire season was. The Russian Wildfires Remote Monitoring System catalogued 18,591 separate fires in Russia’s two easternmost districts, with a total of nearly 14 million hectares burnt, says Evgeny Shvetsov, a fire specialist at the Sukachev Institute of Forest, which is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Krasnoyarsk. Most of the burning happened in permafrost zones, where the ground is normally frozen year-round.

To estimate the record carbon dioxide emissions, scientists with the European Commission’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service used satellites to study the wildfires’ locations and intensity, and then calculated how much fuel each had probably burnt. Yet even that is likely to be an underestimate, says Mark Parrington, an atmospheric scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK, who was involved in the analysis. Fires that burn in peatland can be too low-intensity for satellite sensors to capture.

The problem with peat

How much this year’s Arctic fires will affect global climate over the long term depends on what they burnt. That’s because peatlands, unlike boreal forest, do not regrow quickly after a fire, so the carbon released is permanently lost to the atmosphere.

Smith has calculated that about half of the Arctic wildfires in May and June were on peatlands — and that in many cases, the fires went on for days, suggesting that they were fuelled by thick layers of peat or other soil rich in organic matter.How peat could protect the planet

And the August study1 found that there are nearly four million square kilometres of peatlands in northern latitudes. More of that than previously thought is frozen and shallow — and therefore vulnerable to thawing and drying out, says Gustaf Hugelius, a permafrost scientist at Stockholm University who led the investigation. He and his colleagues also found that although peatlands have been helping to cool the climate for thousands of years, by storing carbon as they accumulate, they will probably become a net source of carbon being released into the atmosphere — which could happen by the end of the century.

Fire risk in Siberia is predicted to increase as the climate warms2, but by many measures, the shift has already arrived, says Amber Soja, an environmental scientist who studies Arctic fires at the US National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Virginia. “What you would expect is already happening,” she says. “And in some cases faster than we would have expected.”

By: Alexandra Witze

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Here at the bottom of the world, a place all but free of human settlement, humanity is scrambling one of the ocean’s richest wildernesses. Fossil-fuel burning thousands of miles away is heating up the western peninsula faster than almost anywhere else. (Only the Arctic compares.) Hear National Geographic photographer Cristina Mittermeier share her love and fears for this beautiful place. ➡

Subscribe: http://bit.ly/NatGeoSubscribe#NationalGeographic#Antarctica#ClimateChange​ About National Geographic: National Geographic is the world’s premium destination for science, exploration, and adventure. Through their world-class scientists, photographers, journalists, and filmmakers, Nat Geo gets you closer to the stories that matter and past the edge of what’s possible.

Get More National Geographic: Official Site: http://bit.ly/NatGeoOfficialSite​ Facebook: http://bit.ly/FBNatGeo​ Twitter: http://bit.ly/NatGeoTwitter​ Instagram: http://bit.ly/NatGeoInsta​ Read the full article “The Big Meltdown” featured in National Geographic magazine’s November issue. https://on.natgeo.com/2J7VGvS​ See Antarctica Like Never Before | National Geographic https://youtu.be/Q_mCHs79B6c​ National Geographic https://www.youtube.com/natgeo

Scientists In Antarctica Didn’t Find A ‘Parallel Universe.’ Here’s What They Did Find

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The idea of a parallel Universe that runs alongside our own sure is alluring. What is a parallel Universe? It’s a place of alternate realities, where different choices are made and different outcomes persist. It’s part of the “multiverse” where an infinite number of parallel Universes exist in infinite space-time. That’s the theory.

Or is it just some strange ice formations?

A cacophony of articles on the possibility of the discovery of a parallel Universe were published last month in the wake of a New Scientist article that contained some “out there” claims about some scientific research in Antarctica.

Now a new research paper provides a much more down-to-earth explanation for the two recent strange events that occurred in Antarctica—it was compacted snow and, possibly, underground lakes, that caused some unexpected radio pulses to be misinterpreted.

First, let’s examine the event that caused the “panic” about a parallel Universe in the first place. In both 2016 and 2018, high-energy neutrinos appeared to come up out of the Earth of their own accord and head skyward.

The ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) experiment used radio antenna on high altitude balloons above the South Pole to search for the radio pulses of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays and neutrinos coming from space.

High-energy neutrinos are minute particles able to pass through virtually everything—including our planet. Some of them are created by exploding stars and gamma ray bursts. The scientists in Antarctica discovered radio pulses that indicated high-energy neutrinos coming upward out of the ground, which led to various different explanations, including that the pulses were:

  • neutrinos that passed through the Earth’s core and then came out of the ground.
  • a “fourth neutrino” known as the sterile neutrino—which would be a completely new discovery.
  • the result of “dark matter.”
  • an unknown frontier of particle physics and astrophysics.

The out-there parallel Universe theory comes from the absence of a good explanation. That’s partly because a check on ANITA’s results were carried out by the IceCube neutrino detector in Antarctica; it found nothing.

Cue the possibility of a parallel Universe because maybe, just maybe, something “exotic” is going on. Since the high-energy neutrinos were detected coming “up” from the Earth instead of “down” from space they may be traveling back in time and, therefore, could from a—you guessed it—parallel Universe. The Big Bang occurred, it formed two Universes; one that flows forward, the other in reverse.

A theory with zero evidence.

The new paper—published today in the journal Annals of Glaciology—thinks that the pulses were:

  • reflections off strange ice formations

Specifically, unflipped reflections of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays that arrive from space, miss the top layer of ice, then enter the ground to strike deep, compacted snow.

In short, the culprit could be firn under the surface of the ice. “Firn is something between snow and glacial ice,” said lead author Ian Shoemaker, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and the Center for Neutrino Physics, both part of the Virginia Tech College of Science. “It’s compacted snow that’s not quite dense enough to be ice.” Classified as crystalline or granular snow, it’s often found on the upper part of a glacier.

“When cosmic rays, or neutrinos, go through ice at very high energies, they scatter on materials inside the ice, on protons and electrons, and they can make a burst of radio, a big nice radio signal that scientists can see,” said Shoemaker. Cosmic rays are high-energy protons and atomic nuclei that move through space at nearly the speed of light. “The problem is that these signals have the radio pulse characteristic of a neutrino, but appear to be traversing vastly more than is possible given known physics.”

“Our idea is that part of the radio pulse from a cosmic ray can get deep into the ice before reflecting, so you can have the reflection without the phase flip. Without flipping the wave, in that case, it really looks like a neutrino.”

Ordinary neutrinos just don’t do that, but cosmic rays at these energies are common.

However, it’s not quite as simple as all that. “You can have density inversions, with ranges where you go from high density back to low density, and those crucial sorts of interfaces where this reflection can happen and could explain these events,” said Shoemaker.

That doesn’t mean that the scientists in Antarctica found nothing of interest. “Whatever ANITA has found, it is very interesting, but it may not be a Nobel Prize-winning particle physics discovery,” said Shoemaker, who thinks the scientists may nevertheless have found something interesting about glaciology. “It could be that ANITA discovered some unusual small glacial lakes,” he added.

It’s not known how many deep underground lakes there are under Antarctica; if, it turn out, there are lots, this discovery would be a big win for scientists.

So Shoemaker is proposing that instead of looking for high-energy neutrinos, his team will purposefully blast radio signals into the areas where the anomalies occurred to look for lakes.

It’s a plan that itself seems to have come straight from a parallel Universe, but that’s science for you.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I’m an experienced science, technology and travel journalist interested in space exploration, moon-gazing, exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, astro-travel, wildlife conservation and nature. I’m the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and the author of “A Stargazing Program for Beginners: A Pocket Field Guide” (Springer, 2015), as well as many eclipse-chasing guides.

Source: http://www.forbes.com

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Deloitte BrandVoice: Reducing Environmental Impact Is Now A Business Imperative

Nearly every day, another research finding, news story or environmental-related disaster piles more evidence on the reality that our planet is in crisis. Climate-driven drought is making dangerous wildfires more common, wreaking havoc on farmers around the world, and threatening hundreds of species with extinction.

Experts have warned that lack of action could result in alarming hunger levels around the world, mass migration challenges, the collapse of global financial markets and other social and economic disasters. Against this backdrop, business leaders are reexamining their organizations’ purposes and priorities.

In August 2019, the Business Roundtable, a group that includes CEOs from leading U.S. companies, committed to modernizing the purpose of a corporation. Challenging the age-old rule that a business exists to maximize profits for owners or shareholders, the executives agreed that companies must also protect the environment “by embracing sustainable practices” and consider stakeholders like customers, suppliers and broader society. That sentiment was echoed in “The Universal Purpose of a Company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” published by the World Economic Forum in December 2019.

Deloitte Global’s third-annual Readiness Report, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: At the Intersection of Readiness and Responsibility,” shows that not only is the environment on executives’ minds, but also that climate change and environmental sustainability have become integral to how they’re managing their businesses. Surveying more than 2,000 global executives, Deloitte Global found that almost 90 percent agreed to some degree that the impacts of climate change will negatively affect their organizations. Nearly six in 10 claimed to have internal sustainability initiatives in place, from reducing travel to eliminating plastics, and more.

“With an increasing number of catastrophic, climate-related events affecting populations and geographies, we’re seeing business leaders increasing their focus and attention on climate and environmental sustainability,” said Deloitte Global board chair Sharon Thorne. “Executives are beginning to acknowledge the business imperative of climate change. And they are beginning to act as they feel mounting pressure from stakeholders and threats to their own businesses.”

Millennials Demand Action

Executives also understand that today’s consumers—especially millennials and Gen Zs—are looking for more than transactional relationships with companies. Whether they’re buying candy bars or jeans, consumers increasingly demand that businesses do their part to reduce their environmental impact. According to the 2019 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey, more than one in four millennials and Gen Zs believe businesses should try to help mitigate the effects of human-caused climate change and protect and improve the environment. Yet only 12 percent believe corporations are working to address things like climate change.

Students have taken to the streets and staged strikes for climate action, and pressure groups and scientists are advocating for mass civil disobedience to force politicians to prioritize climate change. But other actions are more widespread and far less overt. For instance, the survey showed large numbers of young consumers have started or stopped relationships with businesses based on their perceptions of companies’ commitments to society and the planet. Almost 40 percent of those asked said they would stop buying from a company whose products or services negatively impact the environment. Companies that fail to respond to these feelings and motivations will eventually feel the impact on their bottom lines.

“Young people care intensely about the world they’re inheriting and are motivated to stand up for the causes in which they believe,” wrote Deloitte Global chief people and purpose officer Michele Parmelee. “Their passion is obvious and their resolve is strong. But they’d be the first to tell you that they need help to create change. That’s where business can make a difference.”

Business Is Starting To Respond

Research indicates that consumer demand is, indeed, pushing businesses to alter their operations. In another Deloitte Insights survey, for instance, nearly two-thirds of companies said their customers have been demanding they switch to renewable sources of electricity. Nearly half said they’re working on doing just that.

Executives interviewed for Deloitte Global’s Readiness Report shared some of the actions their organizations are taking. Adobe, for example, has set a goal to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. It is expanding its global headquarters in San Jose, and the new building will be all-electric, meaning it can be powered by clean, renewable energy. Likewise, at the Kawasaki Smart Community Center, Toshiba Group’s business base, Toshiba has installed 35,000 sensors to control lighting, air conditioning and elevator operations based on the movement of people, helping Toshiba reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent.

More and more, the pursuit of similar actions to reduce environmental impact and benefit society will be necessary for businesses to survive, let alone thrive. Consumers are demanding that the companies they patronize do more to be good corporate citizens. They’re speaking with their voices and their wallets, and they’re not inclined to take “no” for an answer.

Fortunately, profit incentives—as well as executives’ increasing fears about climate change’s potential negative effect on business operations—are giving companies plenty of reasons to join with citizens and act on climate change.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. Deloitte provides audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax and related services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries. Deloitte serves four out of five Fortune Global 500® companies through a globally connected network of member firms in more than 150 countries bringing world-class capabilities, insights, and high-quality service to address clients’ most complex business challenges.

Source: Deloitte BrandVoice: Reducing Environmental Impact Is Now A Business Imperative

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A Group of Big Businesses is Backing a Carbon Tax. Could It Be a Solution to Climate Change?

The long list of big companies backing a carbon tax as a solution to climate change grew this week with financial giant J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. endorsing a legislative plan billed as a centrist approach to reducing emissions.

The announcement comes as the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), the organization behind the proposal, which was first released in 2017, redoubles efforts to promote the plan before an expected introduction in Congress as the conversation around various climate solutions heats up in Washington.

The CLC announced new backers—including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres—and released internal poll numbers showing bipartisan voter support for the plan. Supporters now include a broad coalition of companies, from oil giants like ExxonMobil to tech behemoths like Microsoft, major environmental groups like Conservation International, and a range of economists and political leaders.

“The markets can and will do much to address climate change,” David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, a founding member of the CLC, told TIME in an emailed statement. “But given the magnitude and urgency of this challenge, governments must put a price on the cost of carbon.”

The thinking behind the plan is straight forward. Economists have long argued that a carbon tax, which makes companies pay for what they pollute and gives them an incentive to stem carbon emissions, is the most efficient way to reduce such emissions. But carbon tax proposals have been met with opposition in the past from across the political spectrum, including from some Democrats, in large part because they increase energy costs. The CLC proposal would give the money collected by the tax back to taxpayers in the form of a quarterly dividend, an effort to make it more politically palatable.

On Feb. 13, the CLC provided additional details about the plan, including introducing a new mechanism that would rapidly increase the price on carbon if targets are not met. Backers say the plan will cut U.S. emissions in half by 2035. “We think it has a compelling economic logic,” says Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve and a backer of the plan, in an interview.

But despite the growing coalition, actually passing the plan remains a challenging uphill battle. While more and more Republicans have stopped denying the science of climate change, many continue to insist that they would never support anything resembling a carbon tax. Meanwhile, many leading Democrats, including presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have downplayed the role a carbon tax might play in future climate legislation. Many Democrats argue that the time has passed for such a market-driven approach to climate change, arguing that they are too little, too late and that a corporate-backed plan shouldn’t be trusted.

Still, big corporations increasingly see a carbon tax—especially a proposal like the CLC plan—as the simplest solution to a thorny problem. With clear science, activists in the streets and voters experiencing extreme weather events in their own backyards, business leaders see new climate rules as all but an inevitability, if not at the U.S. federal level then in states or other countries where they have operations.

The CLC proposal offers a business-friendly approach: nixing many existing climate regulations, a “border carbon adjustment” that would create a fee on imports from countries without a carbon price, and a dividend system that pays out the revenue collected by the carbon tax back to taxpayers. “If we do one without the other,” says Shailesh Jejurikar, CEO of Procter & Gamble’s Fabric & Home Care division, “it doesn’t work.”

Still, even as more than a dozen Fortune 500 firms support the legislation, many other businesses and influential business groups continue to either oppose a carbon tax or haven’t taken a position at all. That’s particularly true of the fossil fuel industry’s trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute, which officially has no position. Even though major oil companies like ExxonMobil and Shell have joined the CLC initiative, independent oil companies, oil refiners and other related companies remain largely opposed.

One of the biggest challenges to this measure—or any carbon tax for that matter—is the growing interest in other approaches to climate legislation. Republicans this week pushed legislation to plant trees and expand tax incentives for capturing carbon, measures that wouldn’t match the scale of the challenge but allow Republicans to offer a different message on the issue.

Earlier this month, Representative David McKinley, a Republican from West Virginia, and Kurt Schrader, an Oregon Democrat, called for legislation that would lead to an 80% reduction in emissions from the power sector by 2050 using a combination of regulation and funding for innovation and infrastructure. And more than 30 Democratic senators introduced a bill to require the Environmental Protection Agency to come up with a plan for the U.S. to eliminate its carbon footprint by 2050. “This is the quickest way we can jumpstart government-wide climate action,” Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, who introduced the legislation, said on the Senate floor.

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None of these measures are likely to become law anytime soon, and any legislative approach to addressing climate change will involve intense debate on Capitol Hill.

Even some backers of the carefully crafted CLC plan acknowledge it’s not likely to pass in its current form. “Inevitably, Congress will have some of its own ideas in terms of the implementation,” Moniz, who endorsed the CLC proposal this week, tells TIME.“ “I would welcome seeing that negotiation start in earnest.” Indeed, even having a discussion in Congress indicates a new climate for climate in Washington.

By Justin Worland February 13, 2020

Source: A Group of Big Businesses is Backing a Carbon Tax. Could It Be a Solution to Climate Change?

A revenue neutral carbon tax would automatically encourage consumers and producers to shift toward energy sources that emit less carbon. Carbon taxes are economically efficient because they make people pay for the costs they create. And a revenue neutral carbon tax would keep the government from using new revenue to subsidize other programs. For more information, visit the PolicyEd page here: https://www.policyed.org/intellection…. Additional resources: Read “Why We Support a Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax” by George P. Shultz, Gary S. Becker, available here: https://hvr.co/2uMzTTl Read why enacting a carbon tax would free up private firms to find the most efficient ways to cut emissions in “A Conservative Answer to Climate Change” by George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, available here: https://on.wsj.com/2loUAhM Read “There Is One Climate Solution That’s Best For The Environment – And For Business” by George P. Shultz and Lawrence H. Summers, available here: https://wapo.st/2JRoLJv Watch as George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, and Henry Paulson discuss “Is There Deal Space for Carbon Pricing In 2017?” Available here: https://hvr.co/2NHPF90 Listen as George Shultz joins The World Today to explain why he supports a carbon tax, available here: https://ab.co/2ObRBYN John Cochrane discusses George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III oped “A Conservative Answer to Climate Change.” Availabler here: https://bit.ly/2LMPdpF Read “Let the Carbon-Dividends Debate Begin” by George P. Shultz and Ted Halstead, available here: https://bit.ly/2O95UNH Visit https://www.policyed.org/ to learn more. – Subscribe to PolicyEd’s YouTube channel: http://bit.ly/PolicyEdSub – Follow PolicyEd on Twitter: http://bit.ly/PolicyEdTwit – Follow PolicyEd on Instagram: http://bit.ly/PolicyEdInsta
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