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SOTU’s glaring omission

SOTU’s glaring omission

Trump missed two little words

President’s Trump’s State of the Union address on February 5 was a call for bipartisan action. But mostly of the wrong kind. His southern border wall is of course a controversial and expensive proposition, but it was his boast that the USA now exports more energy than any other country in the world that got my attention. Since President Trump mis-remembers, mis-speaks, and exaggerates so frequently, the fact-checkers will be hard at work to verify that claim.  

It may well be true: the quantities of natural gas and tight oil produced by fracking have increased hugely, and while the demand for coal as a fuel for power plants has declined, the export of coal to Asia has picked up the slack, together with exports of liquid natural gas.

Two words that never passed Trump’s lips were ‘climate change’. One might have thought that a review of the state of the union might have dwelled for a moment on the huge wildfires that scorched California last year, and the two devastating hurricanes: Florence and Michael, that caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage during the summer. The Camp fire destroyed the town of Paradise in California; while Hurricane Michael devastated the town of Mexico Beach on the Florida panhandle. 

Trump continues to pretend that climate change is fiction and that global warming can be disproved by the first winter snowstorm. Since the previous week had seen record frigid temperatures occurring across Canada and most of the USA, it was of course predictable that Trump would tweet that the best remedy for the sub-zero conditions was a good old dose of global warming.    

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mercury rising

Mercury rising

Mercury is back in the news. And it’s not good.

A new report just released by IPEN (a global network of public interest NGOs) documents the high levels of this potent neurotoxin found in women surveyed in 21 countries, including many small island states. Almost 75 % of the women surveyed had mercury levels greater than 0.58 ppm in hair samples—a level considered the threshold for potentially harmful effects in women of child-bearing age. The predominant cause of this toxicity is the mercury found in fish—the main source of protein in numerous populations on small islands and isolated coastal communities, particularly in regions close to the Arctic. The consumption of fish and other marine animals is considered to be the main source of methylmercury exposure in most populations worldwide.

But a more dramatic report was actually published a few weeks earlier–and seems to have gone unnoticed by the mainstream media. A comprehensive review of mercury levels in human populations over the period 2000 to 2018, was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in October this year. Led by Dr Niladi Basu at McGill University in Montreal, the team analysed almost 435,000 mercury biomarker measurements from 335,391 individuals across 75 countries.

Within the cross-sectional studies, the researchers identified 71 populations from 18 countries that were specifically studied because of concerns associated with the consumption of fish and other aquatic animals. Exposure to mercury in this group of people was approximately four times higher than in the general background population.

Not surprisingly, populations associated with bodies of water tend to have higher levels of mercury. Inland groups that were linked to rivers and lakes had almost seven times more mercury in their blood than normal levels.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Carbon price wars–BC, Ontario or Quebec?

Carbon price wars–BC, Ontario or Quebec?

The question of how the Canadian provinces should deal with the issue of greenhouse  gas emissions continues to be contentious and occasionally acrimonious.

The new provincial government of Ontario has declared its intention to cancel that province’s cap-and-trade system—referring to it as “a punishing, regressive tax that forces low-and middle-income families to pay more.” A week ago the province of Alberta threatened to pull out of the Federal government’s carbon pricing scheme after progress on building the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline ground to a halt. Progressive Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has vowed to shut down carbon pricing asserting: “Conservatives know that carbon tax isn’t just bad for big business; it’s bad for everyone. And that’s why, come 2019, my first act as prime minister will be to get rid of it once and for all.”[1]

So is it?  Bad for everyone?

There is no question that pricing carbon works. Over 51 countries and subnational jurisdictions are now operating carbon pricing systems, or planning to do so.[2]  A report last year by two of the world’s top  economists was clear: “A well-designed carbon price is an indispensable part of a strategy for reducing emissions in a efficient way.[3]

Earlier this year, Environment and Climate Change Canada published the results of a modeling exercise which showed that a carbon pricing system applied across Canada would reduce greenhouse gas pollution by between 80 and 90 million tonnes by 2022–making a significant contribution to meeting Canada’s Paris Agreement target of a 30% reduction over the period 2005 to 2030. [4]

But some forms of carbon pricing systems seem to work a lot better than others. Can we learn a few lessons and draw some conclusions by looking at the performance of the four Canadian provinces where carbon prices have been introduced: Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia?  Of the four, British Columbia’s revenue-neutral carbon pricing system is widely regarded as a major success.[5]  But the latest data on Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions paint a rather different picture.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Greenhouse Hothouse Firehouse

Greenhouse Hothouse Firehouse

A scientific paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is getting a lot of attention.  Written in the dry style of systems analysis—and throughout the text referring to the planet as the ‘Earth System’, it nevertheless brilliantly manages to present the looming dangers of extreme climate change in a way that has powerfully resonated with many people. People who are worried  about climate change, but aren’t exactly sure what the future holds, how bad it’s going to get, and how to avoid being dragged in that direction. You can access the paper here.

Into the hothouse

‘Hothouse Earth’ is where we are all headed. And those two words, after the record heat waves and raging wildfires we have witnessed this year, conjure up images that most of us can fully comprehend.  We can almost feel the heat.

Not only that, the authors have created a simple graphic which although dimensioned in the metrics of time, space, and temperature, is easily understandable. The Earth is a ball gently rolling down a slope of increasing global temperatures.  Two pathways are available to us.  But only one can be chosen.

The pathway of least resistance is the one we are on now. The one that leads to the hothouse.

The diagram shown below perfectly captures the concept.

 

We know that actions taken so far to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases are hopelessly inadequate. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane—the most damaging of the greenhouse gases that are responsible for global warming—continue to increase every year. There are no signs that the warming trend is slowing.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Antarctic melt accelerates sea level rise

Antarctic melt accelerates sea level rise

While renewable energy is on a roll—setting records in Europe over the last few months[1], and racking up impressive numbers in capacity buildout in 2017 [2], it’s easy to forget what is happening behind the scenes.

Extreme weather gets all the headlines: the wild fires in Canada and Sweden [3], the flooding in Japan, the heatwaves in Canada and the US. But what are called the slow onset climate change events are inexorably moving forward.

Think or swim

Let’s start with sea level. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently published a report called  Underwater, which examined more closely the impact of future sea level rise on coastal cities in the US.  The UCS took as their baseline that global mean sea levels would rise about 2 meters between 2010 and the end of the century—a projection judged as being very likely in several reports published last year.[4]

The UCS report looked at the impact on coastal communities of chronic inundation due to sea level rise—defined as a zone experiencing at least 26 floods a year.  By the end of the century, the UCS analysis shows that as many as 2.4 million of today’s residential properties and about 107,000 commercial properties, worth roughly $1.07 trillion, would be at risk of chronic flooding.[5]

As several million American coastal residents are forced to move inland, coastal property values collapse. The tax base of coastal towns drops catastrophically—resulting in the dramatic reduction in  numerous critical social services and the total impoverishment and eventual abandonment of many coastal communities.

In the US, Florida and New Jersey are most at risk. Over the next 30 years, roughly 64,000 homes in Florida and 62,000 in New Jersey will be at risk of chronic flooding.

These states are just the worst affected, but the whole of the eastern shoreline of the US and the coast of Atlantic Canada are all hugely at risk—particularly the low lying areas of Nova Scotia.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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