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The Biden administration will pay farmers more money not to farm

The goal is to add 4 million acres of farmland to the Conservation Reserve Program, which takes land out of production to blunt agriculture’s environmental impact.

The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it would expand a program that pays farmers to leave land fallow, part of a broader, government-wide effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. The new initiative will incentivize farmers to take land out of production by raising rental rates and incentive payments.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was created in 1985 to incentivize landowners to leave some of their marginal land unplanted, a plan meant to protect the environment by reducing agricultural runoff into streams and rivers, preserving wildlife habitats, and preventing erosion. Today, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) “rents” about 21 million acres of farmland from landowners, typically for 10 years at a time—a tiny fraction of the total land farmed nationwide. In recent years, the number of acres enrolled in CRP has fallen, possibly because USDA’s rental payments have not been competitive with the open market, Chuck Abbott reported for FERN News.

The new announcement is a bid to incentivize farmers to enroll 4 million more acres of land in the program to total 25 million acres, the current program limit. “Sometimes the best solutions are right in front of you,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a press release.

“A huge amount of money was essentially paid and then lost when those acres go back into farming.”

All told, the increased rental rates and expanded incentive payments—which pay farmers extra for growing buffer strips and promoting wildlife habitats—will increase CRP spending by about 18 percent, totaling $300 million or more in annual spending.

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

Energy demand rises, challenging climate goals

Energy demand rises, challenging climate goals

Rebound to push oil appetite above pre-pandemic levels, Moody’s says

oil pump
iStockphoto.com / baona

Despite new government commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel demand is set to surpass pre-pandemic levels, says Moody’s Investors Service.

In a new report, the rating agency said it expects demand for energy to continue its recovery in 2022, with strong consumer appetite for gasoline and resurgent international travel driving an increase in demand for oil that is predicted to exceed its pre-pandemic mark.

This resurgence in fossil fuel demand is running up against efforts to combat climate change by curbing emissions, the report noted.

“New COP-26 commitments provide momentum for accelerated decarbonization, but increased demand for oil and natural gas poses a stubborn impediment to progress,” it said.

In turn, this could could drive greater policy action, the report suggested, as increased emissions due to rising oil consumption “will likely lead to added investor pressure for oil companies to transition their businesses, and to inspire more policy initiatives to cut oil and gas demand.”

Moody’s said that the oil and gas industry’s efforts to combat emissions will include switching to renewable energy, along with “a new focus on developing technologies to generate low-carbon energy sources.”

“Companies are exploring technologies to generate less carbon-intensive fossil fuel, and technologies that offset [emissions],” it said. “But the commercial viability of even the most promising low-carbon technologies appears uncertain without regulatory support or subsidies.”

In the meantime, the strong demand for energy and uncertainty about the prospect of expanding supply will keep prices high, Moody’s said.

It expects oil prices to remain at the high end of its medium-term range of US$50-US$70/barrel, and that natural gas prices will stay high too, “as the global industry resolves significant ongoing dislocations.”

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

Leaked documents reveal the fossil fuel and meat producing countries lobbying against climate action

Leaked documents reveal the fossil fuel and meat producing countries lobbying against climate action

Files show how Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia and OPEC have pressed to water down a key UN scientific report. 

The revelations – which show how this small clutch of nations is attempting to water-down the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) major upcoming assessment of the world’s options for limiting global warming – come just days before the start of crucial international climate negotiations in Glasgow.

They come from a leak of tens of thousands of comments by governments, corporations, academics and others on the draft report of the IPCC’s ‘Working Group III’ – an international team of experts that is assessing humanity’s remaining options for curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or removing them from the atmosphere.

The documents passed to Unearthed show how fossil fuel producers including Australia, Saudi Arabia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), are lobbying the IPCC – the world’s leading authority on climate change – to remove or weaken a key conclusion that the world needs to rapidly phase out fossil fuels.

In one comment seen by Unearthed, a senior Australian government official rejected the largely uncontroversial conclusion that one of the most important steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was to phase out coal-fired power stations.

Phrases like ‘the need for urgent and accelerated mitigation actions at all scales’ should be eliminated

Meanwhile, Brazil and Argentina, two of the world’s biggest producers of beef and animal feed, have been pressing to delete messages about the climate benefits of promoting ‘plant-based’ diets and of curbing meat and dairy consumption.

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

The Necessary Climate Solution No-one is Talking About

The Necessary Climate Solution No-one is Talking About

For all the talk of renewable energy, electric vehicles and plant-based diets, there’s a gaping hole in the way we’re trying to solve accelerating climate change.

We will not stay below 2°C of warming while pursuing economic growth – yet barely anyone talks about it.

Since the end of World War II Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has been the metric of human prosperity in Western nations – the idea being that if the productivity of the economy increases so will the wellbeing of the people within that economy. And for a while that was the case – but since the 1970’s increases in GDP have, on average, failed to translate into increases in wellbeing and happiness.

It is not surprising. Research has shown that once a certain GDP threshold, or level of wellbeing, has been met people gain little from consuming more ‘stuff’ – a necessary requirement for continuous GDP growth.

Robert F Kennedy eloquently summed up the inadequacy of GDP as a metric of wellbeing at a speech he gave in 1968:

[t]he gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

What’s more, GDP has never been, and can’t be, decoupled from material footprint, including energy[i]. This means we cannot roll out renewable energy fast enough to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement – to keep warming below 2°C – if we continue growing our economy.

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

Global Warming Could Stop Relatively Quickly If Emissions Go to Zero, Research Suggests

A firefighter keeps watch as flames advance along the Western Divide Highway during the SQF Complex Fire on Sept. 14, 2020, near Camp Nelson, California.  (David McNew/Getty Images)

Parts of the world economy may have been on pause during 2020, dampening greenhouse gas emissions for a while. But that didn’t slow the overall buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which reached its highest level in millions of years.

If anything, research during the year showed global warming is accelerating. Symptoms of the fever include off-the-charts heat waves on land and in the oceans, and a hyperactive and destructive Atlantic hurricane season.

And through November, the last year was on pace to end up as either the hottest, or second-hottest on record for the planet, almost 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial times, inching closer to the 1.5 degree limit set by the Paris climate agreement.

Here are five aspects of climate change that were new and unexpected in 2020:

Making it Stop

Some scientists are punctuating their alarming warnings with hopeful messages because they know that the worst possible outcome is avoidable.

Recent research shows that stopping greenhouse gas emissions will break the vicious cycle of warming temperatures, melting ice, wildfires and rising sea levels faster than expected just a few years ago.

There is less warming in the pipeline than we thought, said Imperial College (London) climate scientist Joeri Rogelj, a lead author of the next major climate assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“It is our best understanding that, if we bring down CO2 to net zero, the warming will level off. The climate will stabilize within a decade or two,” he said. “There will be very little to no additional warming. Our best estimate is zero.”

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

 

Bigger cuts for Manchester – in its annual greenhouse gas emissions

Bigger cuts for Manchester – in its annual greenhouse gas emissions

Manchester now needs to make bigger cuts to its annual greenhouse gas emissions: A commentary on Manchester Climate Change Agency’s Annual Report

A brief Annual Report for 2020 has been issued by Manchester Climate Change Agency. It is not a long report so we encourage you to read it. However, we make the following comments.

A little background

The report is from the Manchester Climate Change Partnership. This is the arms length agency set up, but woefully under-resourced, by Manchester City Council. In principle that distance does give some scope for taking an independent line from the council, but the Partnership also has to keep the council “on-side”. For that reason independent critical voices are vital.

The introduction to the report refers to a letter the Partnership sent to the council. It makes the point that the Covid-19 pandemic gives us the

“… opportunity to reimagine the world we live in; the opportunity for citizens’ quality of life, health and wellbeing to become the overriding aim of politicians, business and community leaders; the opportunity to fundamentally reshape the global economy so it acts in the interests of people, planet and profits, and; the opportunity to ensure we can get on track to meet the 1.5-2°C aim of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.”

We agree. However, the council’s failure to seize the opportunity to put into place emergency and experimental mobility lanes for cyclists and other non-motorised road users, except within the city centre, would seem to indicate a reluctance to really seize the opportunity referred to. We will return to consider why actions are not meeting the scale of the climate challenge below.

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

In “Historic” Ruling, Dutch Supreme Court Says Government Must Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 25%

In “Historic” Ruling, Dutch Supreme Court Says Government Must Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 25%

In a move that has “put the rest of the world on notice,” the Dutch Supreme Court has upheld a landmark climate change ruling that requires the Dutch government to accelerate cuts of carbon emissions. 

It was called an “immense victory for climate justice,” according to AP

The Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings that the severity of the climate change crisis demanded greenhouse gas reductions of at least 25% by 2020, according to the Guardian. This is higher than the 17% drop in emissions that was planned by Mark Rutte’s liberal administration. 

The ruling was greeted with cheers in the courtroom an will act as a tailwind for similar cases worldwide. Similar cases are being planned in places like Norway, New Zealand, Uganda and the UK. 

Marjan Minnesma of the Dutch Urgenda Foundation said: “I am extremely happy that the highest court in the Netherlands has confirmed that climate change is a real, severe problem and that government should do what they themselves have declared for more than 10 years is necessary, namely between 25% and 40% reduction of CO2.”

Jesse Klaver, the leader of the Dutch Greens, said of the original ruling that it was “historic news” and said  “Governments can no longer make promises they don’t fulfil. Countries have an obligation to protect their citizens against climate change. That makes this trial relevant for all other countries.”

To comply with the ruling, one new coal plan would have to be shut down. The state had argued that the judges were “sidelining democracy” by trying to force the policy change. 

But Judge Tan de Sonnaville was unconvinced, ruling: “Climate change is a grave danger. Any postponement of emissions reductions exacerbates the risks of climate change. The Dutch government cannot hide behind other countries’ emissions. It has an independent duty to reduce emissions from its own territory.”

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

Economists: Greta Thunberg’s Ideal World Would Result In A “Human Tragedy Of Disastrous Proportions”

Economists: Greta Thunberg’s Ideal World Would Result In A “Human Tragedy Of Disastrous Proportions”

Whether you were inspired by Greta Thunberg’s tearful UN speech…

…. or merely thought it was the year’s greatest meme, in which an indoctrinated, emotionally frail child is being preyed upon by adults with a far bigger and more lucrative agenda, you probably do not realize how much your everyday life could change if the world were to follow the advice of climate activists to attain Thunberg’s ecological utopia.

To provide some perspective on that question, several economists spoke to RT to share their thoughts out how the proposed changes could affect the global economy and the daily lives of people around the world.

Fossil fuels

The first thing that comes to mind to stop reported global warming is to impose a carbon tax and divest from the fossil fuel industry, as this sector is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. However, “a carbon tax and/or forced divestiture from fossil fuels would ultimately make the kind of cheap, varied and efficient transportation that people around the world are accustomed to extremely expensive and more limited,” warns Peter C. Earle, an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research.

Apart from public transport, cars could also become less accessible to most individuals. So if you drive to work without a second thought, the carbon tax could suddenly double or triple the cost of your daily trip, leaving tens of millions of people cut off from their livelihoods, according to the analyst.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions can have much more serious economic implications, Dr Pierre Noël, Senior Fellow in Economic and Energy Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), told RT.

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

Have we got a deal for you!

Have we got a deal for you! 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has offered an interesting  deal for Canadians. In return for agreeing to the construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMEX) pipeline, his government has offered to invest all the profits from the operation of the pipeline into clean energy projects. Is this a deal we should accept?

Even acknowledging the pipeline’s significant negative impacts on indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and marine ecosystems (including adverse effects to the Southern resident killer whale–an endangered species), the Canadian National Energy Board (NEB) after its last review concluded once again that the TMEX is ‘in the public interest’. So if the new pipeline is in the public interest and we get lots of money invested in renewable energy isn’t this a win-win situation?

Not so fast..

The review conducted by the NEB does not take into account the additional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would be generated by the ramped-up production from the oil sands deposits enabled by the increased capacity provided by the new pipeline. In the NEB’s opinion: “it did not consider that there  was a necessary connection between the Project and upstream production or downstream use.”

This is an extraordinary and astonishing statement. The additional pipeline capacity will result in a significant rise in oil sands production and increase west coast tanker traffic from 5 to 34 vessels a month. How are these direct effects not considered to be a “connection” to the Project?

The TMEX pipeline will substantially increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the Liberal government has declared a climate emergency and is nowhere near on track to meeting its emission targets under the 2015 Paris Agreement.   

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

Managing without Growth. Slower by Design, not Disaster

Managing without Growth. Slower by Design, not Disaster

Book cover

It took homo sapiens some 200,000 years to reach the first billion by about 1800. In just the 10 years separating the first and second edition of Managing without Growth: Slower by Design, not Disaster, the human population increased by the same amount putting increased pressure on an already crowded planet. In the past decade the global use of resources spiked upwards, greenhouse gas emissions continued to increase, income and wealth inequality rose to the highest levels in half a century, the global financial system almost crashed, and mammal, bird and insect populations declined markedly because of increased deforestation and industrialized agriculture. So, while material living standards of the poorest rose, mostly in China, which is something to celebrate, there are many reasons to be deeply concerned about what lies ahead. Humanity’s grossly unequal ecological footprints greatly exceed the Earth’s regenerative biocapacity and it is doubtful whether the planet can support the continued economic growth to which virtually all of the world’s governments are committed.  Can we do better?

The opening chapters of this updated, revised, and expanded second edition Managing without Growth tell how the recent idea of economic growth emerged from the idea of progress, itself only a few hundred years old. There are many reasons for questioning growth as a key economic policy objective supported in the book based on extensive data as well as on conceptual and methodological considerations.  Critical attention is given to the commodification of nature through monetization. ‘Natural’ capital captures the spirit of the times, but it can hardly be said to capture the spirit of nature.

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

The Biodiesel Disaster: Why bad Ideas are Always so Successful?

The Biodiesel Disaster: Why bad Ideas are Always so Successful?

This is a modified version of an article that was published on “Il Fatto Quotidiano” in Italian on Jan 31, 2019

Behind the simian mask, there is yours truly, Ugo Bardi, sitting at his desk.  The sign is in Italian, but you can understand that it is against biodiesel and in favor of Orangutans. 
Sometimes it happens that you are asked a question that forces you to reflect. So, a few days ago, I was at a public meeting on energy and climate and I was telling about the work we do at the university and with the Club of Rome. In the debate, someone asked me: “But, professor, from all these models of the world you make, after all, what did you learne?”.

Some questions are not easy when the topic is complex and you have to summarize the answer in a few sentences. And you have to come up with something right away! But I think I could put together a good answer when I said, “The main thing we’ve learned is that the models work well. Even the famous model of ‘The Limits to Growth’ that the Club of Rome had proposed in 1972 still describes reasonably correctly the state of the world today. But this has a consequence: the system is predictable because it tends to move in a certain direction. And this means that changing things is very difficult “.

The problem of the difficulty of changing things, even when it would be necessary, came back to me by later on, when reading a recent report on biodiesel. This stuff is really terrible: it causes deforestation and destruction of the fertile soil. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, it is much worse than traditional diesel fuel.

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

CO2 on Track for Largest Rise in 62 Years

CO2 on Track for Largest Rise in 62 Years

Around the world, atypical climate change grows increasingly threatening to all life on the planet, principally because of excessive CO2 emissions. Paradoxically, this is happening on the heels of the Paris 2015 climate accord among nations of the world.

But, didn’t almost all of the countries of the world pledge to cut back greenhouse gas emissions?

Oh yes, they did, but CO2 emissions set new records year after year after year. Ever since Paris 2015 nothing positive has happened to halt global warming, almost nothing!

Granted, it’s true that renewable installations, especially in China, are hot items but so is fossil fuel usage, which had its largest increase in seven years in 2018. Ya gotta wonder: Where’s Waldo/Paris2015?

By all appearances, pledges to reduce greenhouse gases at Paris 2015 are fatigued because the climate system is staggering and sending early warning signs of rapid deterioration of key ecosystems that support life, which, in large measure, is caused by ever-increasing bursts of CO2 emissions.

On January 25, 2019, the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK issued a dismal CO2 forecast: “Faster CO2 Rise Expected in 2019.”

“During 2019, Met Office climate scientists expect to see one of the largest rises in atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration in 62 years.”

As of today, 4 years since Paris 2015, CO2 is supposed to be plateauing or leveling, flattish, not roaring ahead in a 62-year ascendency to new record highs as it continues to ratchet up. Something’s horribly amiss about the pledges by countries to reduce CO2 emissions in order to minimize the risks of climate change/global warming. Those pledges are going backwards, falling into a deep black abyss.

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

Complacency and the Environmental Catastrophe

Complacency and the Environmental Catastrophe

Ask any reasonably well-informed person what the cause of climate change is and the chances are they will say greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s), but they would only be partially correct. While it is true that man-made GGE’s are clogging Earth’s lower atmosphere, trapping heat and resulting in widespread climate change, the underlying 21st century cause, in contrast to the 19th and early 20th century when information was scarce, is something much more personal and lethal: complacency. Widespread complacency among politicians, big business and to a lesser degree, the general public, is the reason why, despite the various cries for restraint, global GGE’s continue to increase.

Complacency is why air pollution is getting worse in cities and towns across the world, leading to a range of health problems and premature deaths; complacency has caused the destruction of the planet’s rain forests, 85% of which have been lost through human activity, and it’s why the oceans have been poisoned and robbed of fish. Complacency is fueling the greatest extinction of animal and plant species in our history, it’s setting forests alight, filling the oceans and rivers with plastics and other pollutants, and is the reason why the ice mass in the North Pole is melting at unprecedented rates, leading to rising sea levels, flooding and the erosion of land, destroying homes and natural habitats, taking lives, displacing people – potentially millions.

It is complacency, which a wise man once described as the root of all evil, that is causing all of this and more – the ‘I’m all right Jack’ mentality’. And no matter how many reports are published and forecasts made, or how often someone speaks or writes about what is the greatest crisis in human history, few listen, even fewer act and nothing substantive changes, certainly nothing that matches the scale of the catastrophe. Do people even know there is a crisis, really?

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

Here’s the Dire Climate Report the Trump White House Didn’t Want You to See

Here’s the Dire Climate Report the Trump White House Didn’t Want You to See

“The decision to release this damning report when families are beginning to celebrate the holidays and newsrooms are short-staffed is a brazen attempt to bury the truth.”

A house burns during the Woolsey Fire on November 9, 2018 in Malibu, California. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

In a move environmentalists and journalists denounced as a blatant effort to bury facts that conflict with the president’s denialism and pro-fossil fuel agenda, the Trump administration used the Friday after Thanksgiving to quietly release Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), which warned “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization” and concluded that “greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the only factors that can account” for planet-threatening warming.

“Climate change is spawning more extreme weather, causing irreparable harm to communities, costing billions of dollars a year, and leading to countless deaths. We can stop climate destruction, but only if we act quickly to end the use of fossil fuels.”
—Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch

“The decision to release this damning report when families are beginning to celebrate the holidays and newsrooms are short-staffed is a brazen attempt to bury the truth from the public that we must act now to move off fossil fuels and stabilize the climate,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement.

“Releasing this report when no one is looking, tweeting his annual nonsense about global warming and cold weather, and announcing that he’ll use the upcoming U.N. climate meetings as a fossil fuel tradeshow, Trump is doubling down on his climate denial for the holidays—as many families are still reeling from unnatural climate disasters across the country,” Hauter continued. “The science is way past in on climate change… We must prepare for our climate future in spite of Trump.”

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

Fracking in the UK

Fracking in the UK

Burning fossil fuels is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), and, greenhouse gas emissions (water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O)) are the principle cause of man-made climate change. Given this fact, governments throughout the world should be moving away from fossil fuels and investing in, and designing policies that encourage development of, renewable sources of energy. But the British Conservative government, despite public opinion to the contrary, has all but banned the construction of onshore wind turbines and is encouraging fracking in England. The Tories are the only UK political party to offer support for this regressive form of energy production, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens having all promised fracking bans should they gain political office at the next general election.

Hydraulic fracking is the process of releasing gas and oil from shale rock: huge quantities of water, proppant (usually sand) and chemicals are injected at high-pressure into hydrocarbon-bearing rocks, rocks that can be up to a mile down and were once thought to be impermeable. This process of fracturing (or cracking) forces the rocks to crack open, and gas held inside is released and allowed to flow to the surface.

Shale gas is a fossil fuel, and when combusted produces GGE, albeit at around 50% less than coal or oil, but GGE nevertheless. The leading fracking company in Britain is the energy firm Cuadrilla. An organization that according to its website, aims “to be a model company for exploring and developing shale gas in the UK,” they state that they are “acutely aware of the responsibilities this brings, particularly with regard to safety, environmental protection and working with local communities.” Really?

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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