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When it Comes to Pesticides and Kids, The EPA Looks the Other Way

HOMESTEAD, FL – SEPTEMBER 09: Stephen Jenner, from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, sprays an insecticide under an avocado tree where some Oriental fruit flies were found on September 9, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. The discovery of the flies has forced the state to quarantine about 85 square miles of farmland in Southern Miami-Dade county until they have been eradicated. The flies have the potential to damage Florida’s $120 billion agriculture industry. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It’s easy to lose count of all of the pesticides that are sprayed on crops in the U.S., and well-nigh impossible to know all of the names (dichloropropene and pyraclostrobin and spinetoram and on and on). But it’s not hard to guess who gets hit hardest by all of these chemicals: kids, whose brain, nervous and hormonal systems are still developing at the time of exposure. What’s more, a new pesticide introduced today will have fewer years to build up in the tissues of, say, a 50-year old, compared to a child who will accumulate a lifetime load of the stuff.

That’s the biggest reason that, in 1996, Congress passed and  Bill Clinton signed the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). The legislation represented one of the most effective crackdowns on pesticides in the food supply to date, requiring the Environmental Protection Agency not simply to establish a safe threshold of exposure for the population as a whole, but to limit permissible levels much further—10-fold further in fact—to ensure that children are protected too. The legislation benefits everyone of course: Ten times less pyraclostrobin on your apple is a good thing no matter how old you are, but it’s children who are the most important beneficiaries.

But a law is only as good as its enforcement and a new study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, —a nonprofit advocacy organization—and published in the journal Environmental Health found that when it comes to the FQPA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is laying down on the job. The group surveyed 47 non-organophosphate pesticides—a category that tends to persist in soils—and found that the 10-fold safety standard was being applied only to five of them.

“The FQPA was a revolution in how we think about pesticides’ effects on children,” said Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook in a statement accompanying the release of the study, “but it does no good if the EPA doesn’t use it.”

In response to the study’s release, an EPA spokesperson told TIME: “EPA takes our commitment to protect public health, including our most vulnerable populations, and following the law seriously. EPA uses the default 10X safety factor unless a wealth of high-quality, peer-reviewed data has shown an alternative safety factor can provide an equal amount of protection.”

The study, which stands by the the ten-fold standard as the true gold standard, looked back at FQPA enforcement from as early as 2011, during the Obama administration—generally seen as an environmentally friendly presidency—and saw the same spotty pesticide enforcement even then. But the Obama White House did take some proactive steps, seeking to extend the 10-fold standard to organophosphate pesticides as well, which break down relatively quickly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but while they are around can be even more toxic than other varieties of pesticides, affecting the nervous system in much the way sarin and other nerve gasses do.

Under the Trump Administration, however, the Obama ruling was reversed for the most widely used organophosphate, known as chlorpyrifos. Nonetheless, Corteva Agriscience, the nation’s largest manufacturer of the chemical, under pressure from multiple states that are banning its use, announced on Feb. 6 that it would voluntarily agree to stop producing it.

It’s a manifestly good thing that in that one case, market forces were sufficient to stop a bad chemical from getting into the food supply. But it’s a manifestly bad thing that in a far larger share of cases, apparently the health of America’s children does not have the same power in Washington.

“With the FQPA legislation, Congress clearly gave the EPA the power to protect children’s health from pesticides,” says Olga Naidenko, vice president of science investigations at the Environmental Working Group, and lead author of the paper. “The EPA should be able to fully use this authority without waiting for additional instructions, if the EPA leadership decides to do so.”

By Jeffrey Kluger February 12, 2020

Source: When it Comes to Pesticides and Kids, The EPA Looks the Other Way

View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/do-we-reall… Annually, we shower over 5 billion pounds of pesticides across the Earth to control insects, unwanted weeds, funguses, rodents, and bacteria that may threaten our food supply. But is it worth it, knowing what we do about the associated environmental and public health risks? Fernan Pérez-Gálvez weighs the pros and cons of pesticides. Lesson by Fernan Pérez-Gálvez, animation by Mighty Oak.

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Jeff Bezos Commits to Spending $10 Billion to Fight Climate Change

(NEW YORK) — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Monday that he plans to spend $10 billion of his own fortune to help fight climate change.

Bezos, the world’s richest man, said in an Instagram post that he’ll start giving grants this summer to scientists, activists and nonprofits working to protect the earth. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change,” Bezos said in the post.

Amazon, the company Bezos runs, has an enormous carbon footprint. Last year, Amazon officials said the company would work to have 100% of its energy use come from solar panels and other renewable energy by 2030.

The online retailer relies on fossil fuels to power planes, trucks and vans in order to ship billions of items all around the world. Amazon workers in its Seattle headquarters have been vocal in criticizing some of the company’s practices, pushing it to do more to combat climate change.

Bezos said in the post Monday that he will call his new initiative the Bezos Earth Fund. An Amazon spokesman confirmed that Bezos will be using his own money for the fund.

Despite being among the richest people in the world, Bezos only recently became active in donating money to causes as other billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have done. In 2018, Bezos started another fund, committing $2 billion of his own money to open preschools in low-income neighborhoods and give money to nonprofits that help homeless families.

Bezos, who founded Amazon 25 years ago, has a stake in the company that is worth more than $100 billion.

By JOSEPH PISANI / AP February 17, 2020

Source: Jeff Bezos Commits to Spending $10 Billion to Fight Climate Change

The Amazon founder and CEO has been in the news for his recent divorce settlement, his latest real estate purchase, and the carbon emissions impact his company has on the environment.

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

With Second Warmest November, 2019 is Likely to Be Second Warmest Year Ever Recorded

 

Greta Thunberg might have been been named TIME’s Person of the Year for drawing global attention to climate change, but the climate continues to speak for itself. Last month was the second-hottest November in recorded history, and 2019 is likely to be the second warmest year ever.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that last month was 1.66 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, making it the second hottest November since record-keeping began 140 years ago.

And there’s more bad news: 2019 through November has been the second-hottest year on record, and the season (September through November) has been the second-hottest in recorded history. Both the season and the year to date were 1.69 degrees Fahrenheit above average, coming in just behind 2016 and 2015, respectively, and the average sea surface temperature was the second-warmest for the year to date.

Scientists say that record temperatures are yet another sign that the climate is changing, but they’re even more troubling when you look at other recent records. For instance, the five hottest Novembers have all taken place since 2013. In some regions, this was the hottest November in history; Africa, South America and the Hawaiian Islands all experienced their hottest Novembers on record.

Ahira Sanchez-Lugo, a NOAA climatologist, said that there is an 85% chance that 2019 will be the second-warmest year on record. This year was warm, in part because there was an El Niño climate phenomenon, which causes temperatures to rise. However, Sanchez-Lugo says that climate change makes this effect even more extreme.

She explained that while rising temperatures due to climate change are like riding an escalator — slowly but steadily increasing — an El Niño is “as if you’re jumping on the escalator.”

Sanchez-Lugo says that these reports are like a health assessment for the Earth, and that there are some warning signs. “We’re seeing that the Earth has a temperature, but not only that, we see that there are symptoms,” says Sanchez-Lugo.

High temperatures can also cause a domino effect on the environment. For instance, sea ice coverage reached near-record lows in the Arctic and Antarctic this November. Without sea ice covering its surface, the ocean absorbs solar radiation and becomes warmer, and some research suggests that receding sea ice can also lead to higher snowfall, says Sanchez-Lugo.

Many record temperatures were set in 2019. This November follows the second-highest October on record, and the month before that tied the warmest September on record. And during July — the hottest month ever recorded globally — regions from the United States to Europe were plagued by oppressive heatwaves.

By Tara Law

Source: With Second Warmest November, 2019 is Likely to Be Second Warmest Year Ever Recorded

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Scientists are warning that a likely El Niño event coupled with climate change could make 2019 the hottest year on record. Samantha Stevenson, a climate scientist and co-author of a study on the impact of El Niño, joined CBSN to discuss the effects of warming temperatures. Subscribe to the CBS News Channel HERE: http://youtube.com/cbsnews Watch CBSN live HERE: http://cbsn.ws/1PlLpZ7 Follow CBS News on Instagram HERE: https://www.instagram.com/cbsnews/ Like CBS News on Facebook HERE: http://facebook.com/cbsnews Follow CBS News on Twitter HERE: http://twitter.com/cbsnews Get the latest news and best in original reporting from CBS News delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to newsletters HERE: http://cbsn.ws/1RqHw7T Get your news on the go! Download CBS News mobile apps HERE: http://cbsn.ws/1Xb1WC8 Get new episodes of shows you love across devices the next day, stream CBSN and local news live, and watch full seasons of CBS fan favorites like Star Trek Discovery anytime, anywhere with CBS All Access. Try it free! http://bit.ly/1OQA29B — CBSN is the first digital streaming news network that will allow Internet-connected consumers to watch live, anchored news coverage on their connected TV and other devices. At launch, the network is available 24/7 and makes all of the resources of CBS News available directly on digital platforms with live, anchored coverage 15 hours each weekday. CBSN. Always On.

In 2020 Climate Science Needs To Hit The Reset Button, Part One

In a remarkable essay last week titled, “We’re Getting a Clearer Picture of the Climate Future — and It’s Not as Bad as It Once Looked,” David Wallace-Wells of New York Magazine wrote, “the climate news might be better than you thought. It’s certainly better than I’ve thought.” The essay was remarkable because Wells, a self-described “alarmist,” is also the author of The Uninhabitable Earth, which describes an apocalyptic vision of the future, dominated by “elements of climate chaos.”

According to Wallace-Wells, his new-found optimism was the result of learning that much discussion of climate change is based on extreme but implausible scenarios of the future where the world burns massive amounts of coal. The implausibility of such scenarios is underscored by more recent assessments of global energy system trajectories of the International Energy Agency and United Nations, which suggest that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels will be relatively flat over the next several decades, even before aggressive climate policies are implemented.

Scenarios of the future have long sat at the center of discussions of climate science, impacts and adaptation and mitigation policies. Scenario planning has a long history and can be traced to the RAND Corporation during World War 2 and, later (ironically enough) Shell, a fossil fuel company. Scenarios are not intended to be forecasts of the future, but rather to serve as an alternative to forecasting. Scenarios provide a description of possible futures contingent upon various factors, only some of which might be under the control of decision makers.

The climate community got off track by forgetting the distinction between using scenarios as an exploratory tool for developing and evaluating policy options, and using scenarios as forecasts of where the world is headed. The scenario (or more precisely, the set of scenarios) that the climate community settled on as a baseline future for projecting future climate impacts and evaluating policy options biases how we think about climate impacts and policy responses. The point is not that climate analysts should have chosen a more realistic future as a baseline expectation, but rather, they should never have chosen a particular subset of futures for such a baseline.

The desire to predict the future is perfectly understandable. In climate science, scenarios were transformed from alternative visions of possible futures to a subset of predicted futures through the invention of a concept called “business as usual.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explains that “business as usual” is “synonymous” with concepts such as “baseline scenario” or “reference scenario” or “no-policy scenario.” The IPCC used of the concept of “business as usual” (and equivalencies) in the 1990s, and then explicitly rejected it in the 2000s. It has returned with a vengeance in the 2010s. A reset is needed for the 2020s.

According to the IPCC, a “baseline” scenario refers to “the state against which change is measured” and for climate impacts and policy, is “based on the assumption that no mitigation policies or measures will be implemented beyond those that are already in force and/or are legislated or planned to be adopted.” The use of such a baseline is far more important for research on climate impacts and policy than it is for most research on the physical science of climate, as the latter need not necessarily be tied to socio-economic scenarios.

The IPCC warns, quite appropriately, “Baseline scenarios are not intended to be predictions of the future, but rather counterfactual constructions that can serve to highlight the level of emissions that would occur without further policy effort.

Typically, baseline scenarios are then compared to mitigation scenarios that are constructed to meet different goals for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, atmosphereic (sic) concentrations, or temperature change.” Cost-benefit and effectiveness analyses in particular lend themselves to using a fixed baseline against which to evaluate an alternative, creating an incentive for the misuse of scenarios as predictions.

The IPCC warns against treating scenarios as predictions because they reach far into the future – for instance to 2100 and even beyond, and “the idea of business-as-usual in century-long socioeconomic projections is hard to fathom.” Humility in socio-economic prediction is also warranted because our collective track record in anticipating the future, especially when it comes to energy, is really quite poor.

It may seem confusing for the IPCC to recommend the use of baseline scenarios as a reference point for evaluating counterfactual futures and its parallel warning not to use reference scenarios as forecasts. The way for analysts to reconcile these two perspectives is to consider in research a very wide range of counterfactual futures as baselines.

The instant an analyst decides that one particular scenario or a subset of scenarios is more likely than others, and then designates that subset of possible futures as a baseline or “business as usual,” then that analyst has started crossing the bridge to predicting the future. When a single scenario is chosen as a baseline, that bridge has been crossed.

There is of course generally nothing wrong with predicting the future as a basis for decision making. Indeed, a decision is a form of prediction about the future. However, in some contexts we may wish to rely more on decision making that is robust to ignorance and uncertainties (and thus less on forecasts), that might lead to desired outcomes across all scenarios of the future. For instance, if you build a house high on a bluff above a floodplain, you need not worry about flood predictions. In other settings, we may wish to optimize decisions based on a specific forecast of the future, such as evacuation before an advancing storm.

Climate science – and by that I mean broadly research on physical science, impacts, economics as well as policy-related research into adaptation and mitigation —- went off track when large parts of the community and leading assessment bodies like the IPCC decided to anoint a subset of futures (and one in particular) as the baseline against which impacts and policy would be evaluated.

This is best illustrated by a detailed example.

The U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA) is a periodic report on climate science and policy required in law.  The most recent report was published in two parts in 2017 and 2018. Those reports were centered on anointing a specific scenario of the future as “business as usual” (despite the NCA warning against doing exactly that). That scenario has a technical name, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5.

In his climate epiphany, David Wallace-Wells warned, “anyone, including me, who has built their understanding on what level of warming is likely this century on that RCP8.5 scenario should probably revise that understanding in a less alarmist direction.” The climate science community, broadly conceived, is among those needing to revise their understandings.

To illustrate how the USNCA came to be centered on RCP8.5, let’s take a quick deep dive into how the report was created. It’s use of scenarios was grounded in research done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and specifically a project called Climate Change Impacts and Risk Analysis. That project is described in two reports.

The first report, in 2015, explained that its methodology was based on two scenarios, a “business as usual” or “reference” scenario that projected where the world was heading in the absence of climate policies and a “mitigation” scenario representing a future with emissions reductions. In that report EPA created its own scenarios (with its BAU scenario equated to an equivalent RCP8.6 scenario). The report explained that the benefits of mitigation policy were defined by the difference between the BAU scenario and the mitigation scenario.

In its subsequent report in 2017, EPA decided to replace its scenarios with several of the RCP scenarios used by the IPCC. In that report it dropped the phrase “business as usual” and adopted RCP8.5 as its “baseline” scenario fulfilling that role. It adopted another scenario, RCP4.5 as representing a world with mitigation policy. The USNA relied heavily on the results of this research, along with other work using RCP8.5 as a “baseline.”

The USNCA defined the difference in impacts between the two RCP scenarios as representing the benefits to the United States of mitigation policy: “Comparing outcomes under RCP8.5 with those of RCP4.5 (and RCP2.6 in some cases) not only captures a range of uncertainties and plausible futures but also provides information about the potential benefits of mitigation.” But such a comparison was warned against by the creators of the RCP scenarios: “RCP8.5 cannot be used as a no-climate-policy reference scenario for the other RCPs.” Yet, there it was at the center of the most authoritative climate science report in the United States.

Reports are written by committees, and elsewhere the US NCA warned that RCP8.5 “is not intended to serve as an upper limit on possible emissions nor as a BAU or reference scenario for the other three scenarios.” But that warning was not heeded at all. RCP8.5 is used as a reference scenario throughout the report and is mentioned more than 470 times, representing about 56% of all references to RCP scenarios.

It was the USNCA misuse of RCP8.5 that appeared on a page one New York Times story that warned, “A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.”

It is not just the USNCA that has centered its work on RCP8.5 as a reference scenario to evaluate climate impacts and policy, the 2019 IPCC report on oceans and ice also adopted RCP8.5 as a reference scenario to compare with RCP2.6 as a mitigation scenario: “Under unmitigated emissions (RCP8.5), coastal societies, especially poorer, rural and small islands societies, will struggle to maintain their livelihoods and settlements during the 21st century.” That report referenced RCP8.5 more than 580 times representing more than 56% of all scenario references in the report.

Across the IPCC 5th assessment report, published in 2013 and 2014, RCP8.5 comprised 34% of scenario references. Dependence on RCP8.5 has increased in the reports of IPCC. And as an indication of where research may be heading, in the abstracts talks given at the 2019 meeting of the American Geophysical Union earlier this month, of those that mentioned RCP scenarios, 58% mentioned RCP 8.5, with RCP4.5 coming in second at 32%. If these abstracts indicate the substance of future scientific publications, then get ready for an avalanche of RCP8.5 studies.

The climate science community, despite often warning itself to the contrary, has gotten off track when it comes to the use of scenarios in impact and policy research. There can be little doubt that major assessments and a significant portion of the underlying literature has slipped into misusing scenarios as predictions of the future.

Why this has happened will no doubt be the subject of future research, but for the immediate future, the most important need will be for the climate science community to hit the reset button and get back on track. Climate change is too important to do otherwise.

Part two will discuss what this reset might look like.

Follow me on Twitter @RogerPielkeJr

I have been on the faculty of the University of Colorado since 2001, where I teach and write on a diverse range of policy and governance issues related to science, innovation, sports. I have degrees in mathematics, public policy and political science. My books include The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics published by Cambridge University Press (2007), The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell you About Global Warming (2010, Basic Books) and The Edge: The War Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports (Roaring Forties Press, 2016). My most recent book is The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change (2nd edition, 2018, Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes).

Source: In 2020 Climate Science Needs To Hit The Reset Button, Part One

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Stella Wiedemeyer has channelled her mounting frustration surrounding the lack of action from the powers that be in relation to the climate crisis into organising School Strike 4 Climate actions in Melbourne. Through her grassroots engagement, she was selected to join federal political candidates at panel discussions including by Oxfam and is delighted to bring a youthful perspective to an at times demoralising issue. She is working currently to inspire environmental awareness through her personal actions, school community and new found platform within the youth climate justice movement. “I’m looking forward to challenging people to consider their position in our climate and recognise what obligations and privileges we have to create long-lasting, systemic change.” Stella Wiedemeyer is a current year 11 student who has channelled her mounting frustration surrounding the lack of action from the powers that be in relation to the climate crisis into organising School Strike 4 Climate actions in Melbourne. Through her grassroots engagement, she was selected to join federal political candidates at panel discussions including by Oxfam and is delighted to bring a youthful perspective to an at times demoralising issue. She is working currently to inspire environmental awareness through her personal actions, school community and new found platform within the youth climate justice movement. “I’m looking forward to challenging people to consider their position in our climate and recognise what obligations and privileges we have to create long-lasting, systemic change.” This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Climate Change Models Were Right About Global Warming 30 years Ago

Emissions from a coal fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia. New research shows even the earliest climate models were broadly correct in predicting the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and warming. Ashley Cooper/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty

Even 30 years ago, climate change models were doing a reasonably good job at predicting future global warming, a study has found. Previously, climate change deniers had used model inconsistencies to raise doubts about the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. Scientists say their research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, “should help resolve public confusion around the performance of past climate modeling efforts.”

The team, from the University of California, Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NASA, found that 14 of 17 climate models produced between 1970 and 2007 were broadly correct in their predictions.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, global temperatures have risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius since the start of the industrial revolution—a trend driven by human activity and specifically, by greenhouse gases emissions. The same report revealed that the global average temperature between 2015 and 2019 was 0.2 degrees Celsius higher than between 2011 and 2015.

Predicting what will happen in the future is tricky because there are many unknowns to factor in—and several directions we as a global society might chose to take. To be accurate, models not only rely on solid physics, but on precise forecasting when it comes to levels of future emissions.

That is where James Hansen’s 1988 models for NASA went wrong. The forecasts were inaccurate because his predictions on future emissions did not account for the Montreal Protocol, which came into effect a year later. This meant his predictions for future warming were also wrong.

The Montreal Protocol banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which were potent greenhouse gases that were depleting the ozone layer.

“If you account for these and look at the relationship in his model between temperature and radiative forcing, which is CO2 and other greenhouse gases, he gets it pretty much dead on,” Hausfather said. “So the physics of his model was right. The relationship between how much CO2 there is in the atmosphere and how much warming you get, was right. He just got the future emissions wrong.”

He added: “Physics we can understand, it is a deterministic system; future emissions depend on human systems, which are not necessarily deterministic.”

This is why many climate models often offer low emission and high emission scenarios.

For the study, Hausfather and colleagues took two things into consideration when calculating the accuracy of the older models—how did they predict future temperatures, and how did they predict the link between temperature and changes in levels of greenhouse gases.

The researchers say that there were some that projected too little warming and others that projected too much warming. However, most were generally correct when it came to predicting global warming, particularly when differences in emission projections were accounted for.

“We find no evidence that the climate models evaluated in this paper have systematically overestimated or underestimated warming over their projection period,” the team wrote.

“The projection skill of the 1970s models is particularly impressive given the limited observational evidence of warming at the time, as the world was thought to have been cooling for the past few decades.”

Hausfather added: “The real message is that the warming we have experienced is pretty much exactly what climate models predicted it would be as much as 30 years ago. This really gives us more confidence that today’s models are getting things largely right as well.”

By

Source: Climate Change Models Were Right About Global Warming 30 years Ago—Including That of NASA Scientist James Hansen

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Global warming turns 120 next year… sort of. Next year will be the 120th anniversary of the first time we figured out that human activity could be causing climate change. Since then, the science has gotten firmer and the politics have gotten murkier, but the outlook for the future remains uncertain. This is the history of manmade global warming in three minutes. (Corrects number of hottest years in history since 1998.) (Video by: Alan Jeffries, Christian Capestany, Eric Roston) –Subscribe to Bloomberg on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/Bloomberg Bloomberg Television offers extensive coverage and analysis of international business news and stories of global importance. It is available in more than 310 million households worldwide and reaches the most affluent and influential viewers in terms of household income, asset value and education levels. With production hubs in London, New York and Hong Kong, the network provides 24-hour continuous coverage of the people, companies and ideas that move the markets.

It’s a Moment of Reckoning For How We Use the Planet to Halt Climate Change, Warns U.N. Report  

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Aerial view of the Transamazonica Road (BR-230) near Medicilandia, Para State, Brazil on March 13, 2019. – According to the NGO Imazon, deforestation in the Amazonia increased in a 54% in January, 2019 -the first month of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s term- compared to the same month of 2018. MAURO PIMENTEL—AFP/Getty Images

The human relationship with the land we live on has evolved over the hundreds of thousands of years humans have roamed the planet, but no period has seen as dramatic change as the last century when humans used land in new ways to extract wealth and build a modern economy.

Now, a landmark new U.N. report warns, humans face a moment of reckoning on how we use the planet’s land: human practices like deforestation threaten to undermine the role nature has played soaking up carbon dioxide emissions for more than a century. At the same time, climate change could threaten our ability to use the land, risking food security and vulnerable communities at risk of extreme weather.

“As we’ve continued to pour more and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the Earth’s system has responded and it’s continued to absorb more and more,” says Louis Verchot, a lead study author and scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. But “this additional gift from nature is limited. It’s not going to continue forever.”

Today, emissions from land use — think of practices like agriculture and logging — cause nearly a quarter of human induced greenhouse emissions, according to the report, authored by scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N. climate science body.

Still, land elsewhere on the planet has balanced the effects of those emissions. In recent years, forests, wetlands and other land systems have soaked up 11.2 gigatonnes more carbon dioxide than they have emitted on an annual basis. That’s a greater quantity of carbon dioxide than released by the world’s coal-fired power plants in a given year. But a slew of human practices including deforestation, soil degradation and the destruction of land-based ecosystems threaten to halt that trend, potentially driving land to release more carbon dioxide than it absorbs.

Climate advocates billed the report as a wakeup call. Much of the attention around addressing climate change has focused on shifting the global energy system, but to keep warming at bay will require nature-based solutions that consider how humans use land, climate scientists say.

The report — at more than 1,300 pages in length — lays out a number of opportunties to use land to reverse the trend. And many of the solutions are already at hand, if governments have the wherewithal to implement them. “We don’t have to wait for some sort of new technological innovation,” says study author Pamela McElwee, an associate professor of human ecology at Rutgers University. “But what some of these solutions do require is attention, financial support, enabling environments.”

Significantly reducing deforestation while increasing the rates of restoring forests ranks among the most urgent solutions in order to retain any hope of keeping temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels by the end of the century. Reducing deforestation alone can stop annual emissions equivalent to twice those of India’s, scientists found.

The report also highlights how emissions from agriculture contribute significantly to climate change, and the opportunity to address it by rethinking diets. As global demand for food has grown, food producers have converted forests into agricultural land, leading to a release of carbon dioxide stored in trees. At the same time, more than a quarter of food goes to waste, according to the report.

With those trends in mind, scientists say a shift away from eating meat toward plant-based diets could yield big dividends in the fight against climate change. Reduced meat consumption means lower emissions from livestock and the fertilizer needed to sustain them but also provides an opportunity to reforest land that farmers would have otherwise used for grazing. Rethinking the human diet across the globe could drive emissions reductions of up to 8 gigatonnes annually, according to the report, greater than an entire year of emissions in the U.S.

But, while these changes are technically feasible, there are a number of barriers to adoption. To achieve the greatest emissions reductions by shifting diets would require most of the world to go vegan, for instance, requiring a fight against entrenched agricultural interests and cultural preferences.

And despite year’s of research underscoring the threat of deforestation the practice has worsened in some of the most critical areas. In recent years, deforestation has accelerated in the Amazon rain forest in both Brazil and Colombia, with a recent report from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research showing that the practice had increased 40% in the previous two months compared with the same period the year prior.

The new IPCC report comes less than a year after the body’s 2018 report on the dire effects of 1.5°C of warming, which warned that climate change will bring catastrophic levels at even that level of warming. In its wake, students walked out of school across the globe, some governments committed to reducing their emissions and activists in the U.S rallied for a Green New Deal, all citing the report’s impact.

Much like last year’s, the new IPCC report highlights a number of shocking risks. The surface temperature on land has already warmed more than 1.5°C since the beginning of the industrial era, and continued warming threatens to cause a slew of extreme weather events while threatening food security and other essentials required for human life. Whether this report can inspire a similar wave of action remains to be seen.

By Justin Worland

Source: It’s a Moment of Reckoning For How We Use the Planet to Halt Climate Change, Warns U.N. Report  

Climate Change & Overfishing Are Increasing Toxic Mercury Levels In Fish Study Says

Mercury levels in the seafood supply are on the rise, and climate change and overfishing are partially to blame, according to a new study. Scientists said mercury levels in the oceans have fallen since the late 1990s, but levels in popular fish such as tuna, salmon and swordfish are on the rise.

According to a new study by Harvard University researchers in the journal Nature, some fish are adapting to overfishing of small herring and sardines by changing their diets to consume species with higher mercury levels.

Based on 30 years of data, methylmercury concentrations in Atlantic cod increased by up to 23% between the 1970s and the 2000s. It links the increase to a diet change necessitated by overfishing.

But overfishing isn’t the only contributor to higher mercury levels in fish. Climate change — and the rising ocean temperatures that come with it — means fish are more active and need more food to survive. Consuming more prey means consuming more mercury.

But overfishing isn’t the only contributor to higher mercury levels in fish. Climate change — and the rising ocean temperatures that come with it — means fish are more active and need more food to survive. Consuming more prey means consuming more mercury.

The study also found that mercury levels in Atlantic bluefin tuna have increased by an estimated 56% due to seawater temperature rise since 1969.

Climate change “is not just about what the weather is like in 10 years,” said lead researcher Amina Schartup. “It’s also about what’s on your plate in the next five.”

Scientists said human exposure to methylmercury — the compound created when mercury enters the ocean — is especially risky for pregnant women, as it has been linked to long-term neurological disorders when fetuses are exposed in the womb. It is considered a major public health concern by the World Health Organization.

“It’s not that everyone should be terrified after reading our paper and stop eating seafood, which is a very healthy, nutritious food,” senior author Elsie Sunderland told Reuters. “We wanted to show people that climate change can have a direct impact on what you’re eating today, that these things can affect your health … not just things like severe weather and flooding and sea level rise.”

Since the late 1990s, mercury concentrations have declined overall following increased regulations and decreased coal-burning power plants. In 2017, a global treaty was introduced to reduce mercury emissions.

But mercury levels in fish have not fallen as expected. The treaty failed to account for overfishing’s massive effects on marine ecosystems or climate change’s impact on the diets of fish. So, much of our current seafood supply actually contains more mercury than before.

The study also found that mercury levels in Atlantic bluefin tuna have increased by an estimated 56% due to seawater temperature rise since 1969.Climate change “is not just about what the weather is like in 10 years,” said lead researcher Amina Schartup. “It’s also about what’s on your plate in the next five.”

Scientists said human exposure to methylmercury — the compound created when mercury enters the ocean — is especially risky for pregnant women, as it has been linked to long-term neurological disorders when fetuses are exposed in the womb. It is considered a major public health concern by the World Health Organization.

“It’s not that everyone should be terrified after reading our paper and stop eating seafood, which is a very healthy, nutritious food,” senior author Elsie Sunderland told Reuters. “We wanted to show people that climate change can have a direct impact on what you’re eating today, that these things can affect your health … not just things like severe weather and flooding and sea level rise.”

Since the late 1990s, mercury concentrations have declined overall following increased regulations and decreased coal-burning power plants. In 2017, a global treaty was introduced to reduce mercury emissions.

But mercury levels in fish have not fallen as expected. The treaty failed to account for overfishing’s massive effects on marine ecosystems or climate change’s impact on the diets of fish. So, much of our current seafood supply actually contains more mercury than before.

According to a recent report by Australian climate experts, the world’s oceans will likely lose about one-sixth of its fish and other marine life by the end of the century if climate change continues on its current path. If the world’s greenhouse gas emissions stay at the present rate, that means a 17% loss of biomass — the total weight of all marine animal life — by the year 2100. But if the world reduces carbon pollution, losses can be limited to only about 5%, the study said.

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But our regulations against mercury pollution could be weakening under the Trump administration. In December, the Environmental Protection Agency targeted an Obama-era regulation credited with helping dramatically reduce toxic mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.

In the U.S. coal power plants are the largest single manmade source of mercury pollutants. As coal combustion emits mercury into the atmosphere, the ocean absorbs it, converting it into methylmercury. The EPA proposal argued that savings for companies were greater than any increased perils to safety or the environment.

The carbon we release into the atmosphere has a direct correlation to the toxins that end up in our food supply.

Methylmercury levels increase when an animal eats its prey — accumulating in larger doses as it goes through the food chain. So when a human consumes tuna, for example, it is also consuming all of the mercury consumed by its prey, all the way down the food chain.

According to the study, about 80% of exposure to Methylmercury in the U.S. comes from seafood, and 40% from tuna alone. Scientists said stronger regulations are needed for greenhouse gases and mercury emissions in order to keep our fish supply healthy and thriving.

By Sophie Lewis

Source: Climate change and overfishing are increasing toxic mercury levels in fish, study says

 

 

How Eating Less Meat Could Help Protect the Planet From Climate Change

A view of herd of cows grazing in the valley of Campo Imperatore. Abruzzo. Italy. Europe. (Photo by: Daniele Orsi/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

By dramatically changing the food we eat as well as the way it is grown and produced, humans can help stop the devastating impacts of climate change according to the latest report by the United Nations body on climate science.

More than 100 scientists from 52 countries put together the report, which was published by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It takes a look at how land-use practices have impacted the planet and finds that deforestation, agriculture and other human activities threaten the world’s ability to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees celsius, the goal of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

However, the report is not all bad news and finds that if more of the world’s population shifts toward plant-based diets and reduces their meat consumption, it could significantly boost the planet’s ability to fight climate change.

“Some dietary choices require more land and water, and cause more emissions of heat-trapping gases than others,” Debra Roberts, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II, said in a statement on Thursday.

The IPCC report says that if people eat more plant-based foods and sustainably produced foods from animals, that will “present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health.”

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Much of the world already eats very little meat, notes Timothy Searchinger, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute. Only about 25% of the world, mostly wealthy countries such as the United States, eat lots of meat, he says. But as countries with historically low meat consumption get wealthier, they will eat more meat and put even more strain on the environment — unless something changes.

“The big beef eaters need to eat less,” Searchinger says.

Meat such as beef and lamb is particularly inefficient to produce, because livestock need lots of space to graze, and that land is often space that used to be covered with forests. Lowering the amount of meat people eat would also decrease emissions from livestock and the amount of fertilizer raising them requires.

Adopting these kinds of changes for people around the world could free up several million square kilometers of land and reduce carbon emissions by up to 8 gigatonnes annually by 2050, according to the report. Food waste is also a major issue, with more than one quarter of food going to waste right now.

Not only do humans need to reduce the amount of land used to produce meat, but they also need to use that land more efficiently. Sustainable farming practices are necessary to ensure that land remains usable as the planet heats up.

This is particularly important because the report raises serious concerns about how climate change will harm food security. Parts of Africa, high mountain regions of Asia and South America are already experiencing these issues, according to the report.

“Food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines — especially in the tropics — increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions,” said Priyadarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

The countries that are likely to be most severely impacted by climate change are often low-income places that have not been the leading contributors to global warming, researchers said. Farmers in these places will have to adapt to more intense weather patterns, droughts and floods, as well as their land decreasing in yield.

Searchinger says this will require global help, from agronomic improvements to economic investments in communities experiencing food insecurity.

“We also need social security systems for these farmers. We have social security systems so relatively few people starve here,” he said. “There, if you’re a poor small farmer, you starve and have to sell off all your equipment, and then you’re stuck.”

The IPCC report offers some ideas about how to mitigate the impact that agriculture has on climate change and how to help vulnerable areas keep producing food. But one of its most important features is serving as a call to action, experts said.

“I’m thrilled to see the IPCC making some bold statements on the need to focus on land, food and agriculture,” Ruth Richardson, executive director of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, told TIME. “It’s so important because food and agriculture systems are a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions, so they’re a part of the problem and yet they’re also a critical part of the solution.”

There are plenty of obstacles to adopting the report’s suggestions around food. Not every country is going to stop eating meat, of course, but Searchinger of the World Resources Institute points to the rise in popularity of meatless products such as the Impossible Burger as a promising sign. He hopes that when the public and politicians see reports like this one they remember that food and agriculture are key factors in the fight against climate change.

“When people think about solving climate change and what governments can do, they have to think about agriculture,” he said.

By Abigail Abrams

Source: How Eating Less Meat Could Help Protect the Planet From Climate Change

This May Be The Single Biggest Business Opportunity In Human History

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Dr. Jonathan Foley, 50, executive director for Project Drawdown, joined me for a discussion about climate change (watch in the video player below). His statement, “This may be the single biggest business opportunity in human history,” sounds like hyperbole but there may be no one better qualified to make that statement correctly.

With a PhD in atmospheric sciences from the University of Wisconsin and having spent three decades doing and managing research into climate change, he is certainly qualified on the science. His case that the business opportunity is there hinges on this key premise:

We literally have to reinvent our energy systems, our food systems, our manufacturing, our cities. Everything! You can look at that is like, ‘Crap, that’s a really big problem.’ I think we have to look at as “Wow, what a great opportunity!” especially if we do it right. We can improve lives. We can reduce inequity. We could solve some of our other social ills if we do it wisely. And we could build a better world for future generations and for ourselves.

If we’re going to have to reinvent so much of our modern world, the investment opportunity does begin to be interesting. Clearly, the need for investment capital is there. What about getting a return on that capital?

Project Drawdown, initially led by Paul Hawken, created a list of 100 climate solutions and published it in the New York Times bestseller Drawdown. The team, now led by Foley, is in the process of updating the list and hopes to have that done before the end of the year.

Here’s what the list indicates about financial returns, according to Foley. “There are dozens and dozens of solutions. If we add them all together, they’re more than enough to stop climate change if we really deployed them at scale. And the preliminary kind of financial analysis is for every dollar we spend doing this we return three to four more back to the economy. That’s not even counting, avoiding the damages of really bad climate change in the future, which it could be untold trillions and trillions of dollars and literally hundreds of millions of lives affected.”

He says we must look past the familiar solar and wind renewables that dominate the discussion about climate change solutions—not that they don’t work—simply because we need more than that.

Foley highlights five areas that make up 90% of climate change drivers:

  1. Electricity
  2. Food, land use and forestry
  3. Industry
  4. Buildings
  5. Transportation

In each of these areas there are opportunities for investors, businesses and entrepreneurs. Trillions will be spent and invested to reinvent the global economy to operate more sustainably.

The carbon impact of buildings is a mystery to some who are new to the climate conversation. Concrete is the biggest culprit, according to Foley. “If cement we’re a country, by the way, it would be the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world after China and the United States.”

Concrete doesn’t just require vast amounts of energy to produce, it also emits carbon throughout its life cycle. Entrepreneurs and investors, including Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are working on new chemical approaches to cement that will require less carbon or that may even be capable of absorbing it.

Electric cars represent a huge opportunity as well. Over the next decade, if Foley’s belief is correct, much of the fleet of vehicles on the road today will be replaced by all-electric ones. “Two years ago Bloomberg News folks projected that battery powered cars, electric cars would be cheaper than gas car cars as soon as 2027; they just had to revise that the other day and say, nope, that’s gonna happen in 2022, because batteries are getting cheaper.”

Overall, Foley is remarkably optimistic about the future precisely because of market forces. “That’s what I love about these tech disruptions, that solar and wind now are cheaper than coal. You don’t need Washington to tell us don’t burn coal. No one is going to burn coal anymore; the market won. Electric cars: the market will win again.”

“Project Drawdown was a dramatic breakthrough – extending our perspective beyond energy production and consumption to the underlying drivers of energy use. It opens up a whole range of new options to address climate change and puts those in context with all the traditional solutions,” says Bob Perkowitz, president of ecoAmerica.

Only time will tell whether climate change represents the “single biggest business opportunity in history” but Foley makes a good case—and he’s a good one to make it.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Deeply optimistic, I’m an author, educator and speaker; I call myself a champion of social good. Through my work, I hope to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems–poverty, disease and climate change. My books—read over 1 million times—on using money for good, personal finance, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility draw on my experience as an investment banker, CFO, treasurer and mortgage broker. I have delivered a keynote speech at the United Nations and spoken in countries from Brazil to Russia and across the US. Previously, I worked on the U.S. Senate Banking Committee staff and earned an MBA at Cornell. Follow me on Twitter @devindthorpe. Reach me at forbes@devinthorpe.com.

 

 

 

 

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