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Last time CO2 levels were this high, sea levels were 60 feet higher and Antarctica had trees

Last time CO2 levels were this high, sea levels were 60 feet higher and Antarctica had trees

Study finds the Earth’s climate is highly sensitive to “relatively small variations in atmospheric CO2.”

The last time carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were as high as they are today, sea levels were 60 feet higher and it was so warm that trees grew in Antarctica.

Current CO2 levels of 410 parts per million (ppm) were last seen on Earth three million years ago, according to the most detailed reconstruction of the Earth’s climate by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and published in Science Advances.

Their in-depth analysis of plant fossils and sediments reveal that such CO2 levels were last seen in the late Pliocene Epoch, a time when there were no ice sheets covering either Greenland or West Antarctica, and much of the East Antarctic ice sheet was gone. Temperatures were up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer globally, at least double that at the poles, and sea levels were some 20 meters (65 feet) higher.

“This is an amazing discovery,” Jane Francis, director of the British Antarctic Survey, told The UK Guardian. “They found fossil leaves of southern beech. I call them the last forests of Antarctica.”   

While the discovery is remarkable, it’s implications are dire. “Twenty metres of sea level rise would have a major impact on our all our coastal cities,” Francis warned.

The good news is that the Earth does not warm instantly, and mile-thick ice sheets melt even more slowly. So the temperature rise will take several decades, and tens of feet of sea level rise will take hundreds and hundreds of years. That means the choices we make now can affect the rate of rise and determine whether we blow past 65 feet of sea level rise to beyond 200 feet.

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It’s cheaper to replace most coal plants with renewables than keep them open, per report

It’s cheaper to replace most coal plants with renewables than keep them open, per report

New research finds that replacing 74 percent of coal plants with renewables would immediately reduce costs.

It would be more expensive to keep the majority of U.S. coal plants open than to replace them with new wind and solar power alternatives, according to new findings published Monday.

Authored by the environmental firm Energy Innovation in partnership with the grid analysis company Vibrant Clean Energy, the research finds that replacing 74 percent of coal plants nationally with wind and solar power would immediately reduce power costs, with wind power in particular at times cutting the cost almost in half. By 2025, the analysis indicates, around 86 percent of coal plants could similarly be at risk of cheaper replacement by renewables.

“We’ve been closely following the cost of wind and solar in the U.S. and globally, and the costs have come down so far that we’re now seeing unprecedented low [costs] for wind and solar,” said Mike O’Boyle, Energy Innovation’s electricity policy director, on a call with reporters.

That trend has opened up an opportunity for a dramatic shift, the groups argue, one that could see coal largely replaced in many areas by energy sources that are better for both human health and the environment.   

President Donald Trump has worked hard to save U.S. coal, going so far as to advocate for a financial bailout to rescue the dying industry. But data largely suggests that coal’s economic value will continue to plummet, a downturn that comes as wind and solar power are becoming increasingly cheaper and more viable options.

“America has officially entered the ‘coal cost crossover’ – where existing coal is increasingly more expensive than cleaner alternatives,” the report argues.

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Here is what experts say about Putin’s threat to aim missiles at US

Here is what experts say about Putin’s threat to aim missiles at US

His fiery speech was more about creating headlines in Russia, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no reason to worry.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy types of weapons which can be used not only in respect of those territories from which the direct threat to us originates, but also in respect of those territories where the centers of decision-making are located,” said Putin, in his annual address.

While U.S. missiles already target Russia (whose weapons, in turn, target the United States), placing missiles closer, in Europe, would allow them to reach their targets in 10 – 12 minutes, a shorter strike time Putin noted as a threat.

But aside from sounding like an extended Moscow remix of “Fire & Fury” (President Trump’s own threat against North Korea), Putin’s speech didn’t actually signify a dangerous shift in U.S.-Russia relations, according to experts.

The speech, said Yuval Weber, an associate professor at Daniel Morgan Graduate School and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, is one of a trio of major set-piece addresses by the Russian president, which included a call-in show and a Q&A with reporters “that are both very theatrical, and akin to a ‘State of the Union’ address.”

Weber said it’s important to note the domestic content of the speech. Putin’s approval ratings are dropping in the country, which has also seen “limited positive economic news.”

President Putin, he said, “needed something to create headlines and especially headlines focused on his comparative advantage, or core strength, security.”

Although Russia has been violating the the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and also wanted out, the United States’ withdrawal provided the perfect “ex post justification because they get to claim that they follow the rules while their opponents are dangerous and erratic,” said Weber, answering questions via e-mail.

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Scientists find that we are living through a record-setting ‘period of significant warmth’

Scientists find that we are living through a record-setting ‘period of significant warmth’

We just lived through the 4 hottest years on record, says scientific nonprofit first funded by billionaire polluter Charles Koch.

In 2018, a remarkable 29 countries plus Antarctica set individual records for the hottest year ever. Meanwhile, no country saw a record cold year.

That’s the finding of the Berkeley Earth scientific team, which points out that 2015 through 2018 were the four hottest years since records began in 1850 — “a period of significant warmth well above all previous years since 1850. This reflects the long-term trend towards global warming.”

Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit research organization, provides independent analysis of global temperature records, but its findings of record global warming are especially noteworthy because the group was originally founded with $150,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Billionaire Charles Koch is a long-time funder of climate science denial.

In fact, Berkeley Earth’s founder and scientific director, physicist Richard Muller, was a long-time climate skeptic who became a “converted skeptic” in 2012 after his team independently reviewed more than 150 years of data.

The team, however, no longer receives Koch funding. 

For its latest findings, the team analyzed “19 million monthly-average temperature observations from 46,000 weather stations” on land since 1850, including 205,000 monthly averages in 2018 alone. They combined that with ocean-based data, some “374 million measurements collected by ships and buoys, including 19 million observations obtained in 2018.”Advertisement

Berkeley Earth had been planning to announce its findings on January 17 with NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But the partial government shutdown — which lasted 35 days — thwarted that plan, so last Thursday the Berkeley team went forward on their own.

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

Climate change is making winter colder in the Northeast

Climate change is making winter colder in the Northeast

Rising temperatures are weakening the jet stream, allowing frigid Arctic air to reach further south.

Early this week, record cold blasted the Northeast, as Boston, Massachusetts saw a high of 10°F, and nearby Worcester saw the temperature top out at just 1°F. Meteorologists say this is just the beginning of a lengthy stretch of freezing weather.

Paradoxically, frosty winter temperatures in some areas have been linked to rising temperatures around the globe. Climate change is distorting weather systems, yielding colder winter weather in parts of the world, including much of the United States. One reason for this phenomenon is a weakening of the polar jet stream, the air current circling the Arctic.

The jet stream is the result of the difference in temperature between colder northern latitudes and temperate southern latitudes. Warm air from the equator is colliding with cold air from the Arctic, and a ribbon of powerful winds runs the length of the collision. Ushered along by the rotation of the Earth, this air current is moving west to east at speeds upwards of 200 miles per hour.

The jet stream is strongest in the winter months when the temperature difference between north and south is greatest. Cold air is denser than warm air, so when the difference in temperature is greater, the difference in density is also greater, and the barrier between cold air and warm air is firmer. Think of cold air and warm air like vinegar and oil, which are kept distinct by their different densities.

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The most dangerous climate feedback loop is speeding up

The most dangerous climate feedback loop is speeding up

In Siberia, the carbon-rich permafrost warmed by 1.6°F in just the last decade.

The carbon-rich permafrost warmed “in all permafrost zones on Earth” from 2007 to 2016, according to a new study.

Most ominously, Siberian permafrost at depths of up to 30 feet warmed a remarkable 1.6°F (0.9°C) in those 10 years, the researchers found. The permafrost, or tundra, is soil that stays below freezing (32°F) for at least two years.

Permafrost warming can “amplify global climate change, because when frozen sediments thaw it unlocks soil organic carbon,” warns the study, which was released Wednesday by the journal Nature Communications.

The thawing releases not only carbon dioxide but also methane (CH4) — a far more potent greenhouse gas — thereby further warming the planet. And as the planet continues to warm, more permafrost will melt, releasing even more greenhouse gases in a continuous feedback loop.

Thawing permafrost is an especially dangerous amplifying feedback loop because the global permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the atmospheredoes today .

Normally, plants capture CO2 from the air during photosynthesis and slowly release that carbon back into the atmosphere after they die. But the Arctic permafrost acts like a very large carbon freezer — and the decomposition rate is very low. Or, rather, it was.

Humanity is leaving the freezer door wide open. As a result, the tundra is being transformed from a long-term carbon locker to a short-term carbon un-locker.

2017 study found the Alaskan tundra is warming so quickly it had become a net emitter of CO2 ahead of schedule. That study was the first to report a major portion of the Arctic had already become a net source of heat-trapping emissions.

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Florence is not the ‘new normal’. We’ve destroyed normal forever.

Florence is not the ‘new normal’. We’ve destroyed normal forever.

If each new decade brings its own unique, ever-worsening climate disasters, there won’t be any new norms for a long, long time.

Hurricane Florence floods a local business on September 16 in Wilmington, NC. CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

You’ve probably seen the term “new normal” used to describe how human caused climate change has forever changed the kind of weather we can expect.

It’s a catchy, alliterative phrase used in connection with Hurricane Florence by the National Geographic and Washington Post — and to describe climate impacts more generally by The New York Times and many others.

But the problem is that the phrase is counter to both the latest climate science and the “normal” connotation of the word “normal” which means “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.”

If each decade brings its own unique, ever worsening disasters — and if this never-stabilizing condition continues for a century (and, more likely, many centuries) — then there are no norms, no standards, no regular pattern or points of reference.

Because things will keep changing with rising temperatures, with extremes becoming more extreme, there is no point at which one can plausibly say “This is the new normal, and this is what it is going to be like from now on.”

So, the “new normal” catchphrase is utterly misleading to the general reader and should not be used.

A quick look at the science yields further insight into why this term can be so misleading.

First, in recent years, research has made it increasingly clear that — after an 11,000 year period of relative stability — the climate has become destabilized by human emissions of carbon pollution, putting us on a path towards steadily rising temperatures throughout the century.

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Psychologists explain our climate change anxiety

Psychologists explain our climate change anxiety

“You cannot have a healthy society that is scared.”

A member of the United States Coast Guard is seen reflected in the window of a house as he wades through flood waters for a wellness check on citizens who choose to stay in their home in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence on Sunday, Sept 16, 2018 in Lumberton, NC. (Credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“Climate change is here; it’s happening,” seems to be the overwhelming sentiment after a summer of heatwaves and historic wildfires that now has, with barely a breath in between, slipped into an early fall marked by severe storms and deadly floods.

Hurricane Florence continues to devastate mid-Atlantic states while Typhoon Mangkhut takes a severe toll on China and the Philippines and has, for now, been named the world’s strongest storm this year. But before the wind and water there was the heat and fire.

Severe wildfires broke out around the world this summer, from the U.S. and Canada to Sweden and Greece. The heatwaves in Europe caused a glacier to melt and a river to evaporate, while wildfires in the western U.S. made the air hazardous to breathe.

For many people watching these events unfold, it’s scary to say the least. The fear, anxiety, and trauma is far more severe for those living through it. A recent survey of students in Puerto Rico, for instance, found that more than 7 percent of those polled showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder following Hurricane Maria. More than 8 percent had symptoms of depression — twice as high as children in non-disaster settings, the researchers said.

But despite a growing awareness, the connection between climate change and mental health is only just starting to be explored.

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ThinkProgress Censored By Facebook After Cheerleading Facebook Censorship

ThinkProgress Censored By Facebook After Cheerleading Facebook Censorship

In an article last month titled “Facebook announces that fake accounts are now coming not just from Russia”, fauxgressive establishment apologia firm ThinkProgress falsely reported that I have been writing for an outlet that is alleged to be part of an Iranian propaganda campaign. I repeatedlybrought this false claim to the attention of Casey Michel, the article’s author, telling him that ten seconds of research or any attempt to contact me would have shown him that the articles published by the outlet in question were just reblogs of earlier publications from my platform, but Michel ignored the many notifications he received from myself and my Twitter followers and went on merrily interacting with other posters. As of this writing, the article remains uncorrected.

In the article, Michel documented Facebook’s heroic efforts to shut down alleged Iranian propaganda outlets, ominously warning his readers that “Russia is by no means the only foreign adversary exploiting social media’s inherent openness.” In other articles for ThinkProgress, Michel is repeatedlyseen wagging his finger at Facebook and Twitter for not doing more to censor “Russian propaganda”, and in a July article titled “Facebook says both sides share fake news, defends Infowars’ presence on its platform — Mark Zuckerberg has an interesting way of prioritizing ‘high quality news’” another ThinkProgress author criticized Facebook for not censoring Alex Jones. Jones was censored by Facebook the following month.

So I think it’s understandable that those of us who have been warning of the dangers of internet censorship find it a bit funny to see ThinkProgress now complaining that it has been censored by Facebook.

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Colorado’s oil and gas industry goes after reporters and signature gatherers in new fracking fight

Colorado’s oil and gas industry goes after reporters and signature gatherers in new fracking fight

With large oil and gas reserves, Colorado often is at the center of the nation’s fossil fuel wars.

An oil derrick sits inside a housing development  in Dacono, Colorado. CREDIT: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

As Colorado gears up for another fight over oil and gas drilling near homes and schools, this time the fossil fuel industry is reportedly doing whatever it takes to win.

In the latest flare-up, the oil and gas industry used a website to single out individual journalists for criticism. At the same time, pro-industry protesters were reportedly shadowing canvassers who were gathering signatures to get a measure — Initiative 97 — on the November ballot that would increase the distance between drilling sites and homes.

Colorado Rising, the anti-fracking group behind the ballot initiative, issued a statement last week claiming “harassers were paid to intimidate petition circulators and discourage voters from signing” the petition to get the initiative on the ballot.

Anne Lee Foster, a Colorado Rising volunteer, told Colorado Public Radio that an anonymous employee at Anadarko Petroleum shared an internal document that appeared to ask employees to report when they see Initiative 97 canvassers. The letter includes an email address and a text message hotline, Foster said.

Anadarko had not returned a request for comment from ThinkProgress at the time this article was published.

With huge reserves of oil and gas and an active environmental and clean energy movement, the state often finds itself at the center of the nation’s fossil fuel wars. Oil and gas companies have increasingly been moving into suburban and urban areas of Colorado in search of new drilling opportunities; at the same time, suburban sprawl is colliding with oil and gas fields as housing developers build new communities north of Denver.

The U.S. just suffered the hottest May-June-July on record

The U.S. just suffered the hottest May-June-July on record

Death Valley had the hottest average monthly temperature for any recording station in the world, 108.1 degrees F.

The continental US just suffered the hottest May-June-Jully on record. CREDIT: NOAA

If you found yourself thinking it was scorching hot in recent weeks, well, you were right.

For the three-month period of May to July, the entire contiguous United States (CONUS) “ranked hottest on record,” as the National Weather Service in Los Angeles, California tweeted out Wednesday, adding that “records go back to 1895.”

No need to adjust your screen. The entire CONUS ranked hottest on record for the 3-month period May-June-July at 70.9 degrees F. Records go back to 1895.

That map comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report, “Assessing the U.S. Climate in July 2018,” released last week.

But NOAA didn’t mention the May-June-July heat record in its report, and that left it to the NWS in Los Angeles to point out the sea of red across the contiguous U.S.

NOAA did point out that in California in particular, “July was off the charts: The state saw its hottest July and hottest month on record with an average temperature of 79.7 degrees F.”

No wonder the state has been ravaged by deadly, record-smashing wildfires this summer.

“At 108.1 degrees F,” NOAA noted, “Death Valley, California, had the hottest average monthly temperature for any recording station in the world.”

As the National Park Service points out, “If that doesn’t sound hot to you, realize that is the average temperature for the month, including overnight lows.”

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

New study on the collapse of Mayan civilization should be climate wake-up call

New study on the collapse of Mayan civilization should be climate wake-up call

Under Trump’s policies, the megadrought that devastated the Mayans will become the new normal.

Mayan civilization ruins, Quintana Roo, Mexico, February 2016. CREDIT: DeAgostini/Getty Images

A new study finds that it was a severe and long-lasting megadrought that destroyed the great Mayan civilization a thousand years ago.

But the research has ominous relevance for us today since America’s top scientists have warned us that President Trump’s climate policies will make such civilization destroying megadroughts commonplace in the coming decades.

The Mayans had one of the world’s first written languages, used advanced mathematics, measured timed with an accurate calendar, produced durable rubber three millennia ago, and figured out “how to grow corn, beans, squash and cassava in sometimes-inhospitable places.”

Yet after reaching its height in its “Classic” period (250 AD – 800 AD), the Mayan empire collapsed over the next two hundred years. While many theories have been offered — including environmental degradation, war, and drought — researchers from Cambridge’s Godwin Laboratory for Palaeoclimate Research have shown that the collapse “correlated with an extended period of extreme drought.”

In a recent study published in the journal Science, “Quantification of drought during the collapse of the classic Maya civilization,” the researchers calculated for the first time just how bad the drought was.

From 800 to 1000 AD, they found, “Annual rainfall must have fallen by around 50% on average and by up to 70% during peak drought conditions.” In addition, “relative humidity dropped by 2% to 7%” compared to today.

“The role of climate change in the collapse of Classic Maya civilization is somewhat controversial, partly because previous records are limited to qualitative reconstructions, for example whether conditions were wetter or drier,” explained lead author Nick Evans.

“Our study represents a substantial advance as it provides statistically robust estimates of rainfall and humidity levels during the Maya downfall.”

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Dangerous climate tipping point is ‘about a century ahead of schedule’ warns scientist

Dangerous climate tipping point is ‘about a century ahead of schedule’ warns scientist

A slowing Gulf Stream system means catastrophic East Coast flooding will get much worse.

Taxis sit in a flooded lot after Hurricane Sandy October 30, 2012 in Hoboken, New Jersey. CREDIT: Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images
New research provides strong evidence that one of the long-predicted worst-case impacts of climate change — a severe slow-down of the Gulf Stream system — has already started.
The system, also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), brings warmer water northward while pumping cooler water southward.

“I think we’re close to a tipping point,” climatologist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress in an email. The AMOC slow down “is without precedent” in more than a millennium he said, adding, “It’s happening about a century ahead of schedule relative to what the models predict.”

The impacts of such a slowdown include much faster sea level rise — and much warmer sea surface temperatures — for much of the U.S. East Coast. Both of those effects are already being observed and together they make devastating storm surges of the kind we saw with Superstorm Sandy far more likely.

The findings come in two new studies published this week. One study published in the journal Nature, titled “Observed fingerprint of a weakening Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation,” was led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. It finds that the AMOC has weakened “around 15 per cent” since the mid-twentieth century, bringing it to “a new record low.” 

Another new study in the same issue of Nature “supports this finding and places it in a longer climate history context,” as Potsdam’s Stefan Rahmstorf notes at RealClimate

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Stunning drops in solar, wind costs mean economic case for coal, gas is ‘crumbling’

Stunning drops in solar, wind costs mean economic case for coal, gas is ‘crumbling’

Things are only going to get tougher for gas and coal compared to renewables.

Solar power prices are dropping at record rates. CREDIT: Acera.

Prices for solar, wind, and battery storage are dropping so rapidly that renewables are increasingly squeezing out all forms of fossil fuel power, including natural gas.

The cost of new solar plants dropped 20 percent over the past 12 months, while onshore wind prices dropped 12 percent, according to the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report. Since 2010, the prices for lithium-ion batteries — crucial to energy storage — have plummeted a stunning 79 percent (see chart).

Lithium-ion battery prices have plummeted since 2010 and are projected to keep dropping.

“The economic case for building new coal and gas capacity is crumbling,” as BNEF’s chief of energy economics, Elena Giannakopoulou, told Bloomberg.

At the same time, solar and wind plants — which are increasingly being built with battery storage — are eating into the utilization of existing coal and gas plants, making them far less profitable. For instance, the super-efficient combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants that have been popular in recent decades, were designed to be used at full power between 60 percent and 90 percent of the time.

But their actual utilization rate (also called the “capacity factor”) has been plummeting in recent years, and is now close to a mere 20 percent in countries as diverse as China, Germany, and India (see chart).

Solar and wind are squeezing out coal and gas  worldwide.

Arizona regulators “recently refused to endorse plans by three power companies that included more natural-gas facilities,” the New York Times reportedWednesday. “Commissioners directed them to make greater use of energy storage and plants that produce zero emissions.”

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New study gives 150 million reasons to reduce carbon emissions

New study gives 150 million reasons to reduce carbon emissions

A new study suggests that holding the world to 1.5° Celsius of warming could prevent more than 150 million deaths.

More than 150 million deaths could be prevented by taking rapid climate action. This would be largely through a decrease in air pollution. CREDIT: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Taking serious action on climate change now could mean saving hundreds of millions of lives across the globe, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change on Monday by researchers at Duke University.

The study looked at the human health benefits of holding global climate change to 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) — the aspirational goal set by the Paris climate agreement. It found that taking significant steps to reduce carbon emissions in line with this goal would prevent more than 150 million premature deaths worldwide, largely through a decrease in air pollution.

The study looked at three different scenarios for carbon emissions reductions — one scenario where carbon emissions were reduced rapidly to keep the planet below 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, another where emissions were reduced less rapidly (but still enough to keep warming below 2°C by 2100), and a third where emissions were reduced rapidly enough to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Researchers then compared expected future emissions — and associated air pollution, like particulate matter and ozone — to expected public health impacts over the world.

Specifically, the study looked at how emissions reductions would benefit public health in the world’s largest urban areas. In six cities —  Moscow, Mexico City, Sao Paolo, Los Angeles, Puebla, and New York — between 320,000 and 120,000 premature deaths could be avoided by keeping global warming below 1.5°C.

The Indian cities of Kolkata and Delhi — both of which struggle with air pollutionfrom energy and transportation — would see the greatest benefit, with up to 4.4 million and 4 million projected lives saved, respectively.

In total, 80 cities around the world would see more than 100,000 premature deaths prevented by rapid climate action meant to keep the world below 1.5°C of warming.

…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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