Hurricanes Are Sweeping The Atlantic. What’s The Role Of Climate Change?



In this GOES-16 geocolor satellite image taken Thursday, the eye of Hurricane Irma (left) is just north of the island of Hispaniola, with Hurricane Jose (right) in the Atlantic Ocean.
NOAA/AP

 

Hurricane Irma is hovering somewhere between being the most- and second-most powerful hurricane recorded in the Atlantic. It follows Harvey, which dumped trillions of gallons of water on South Texas. And now, Hurricane Jose is falling into step behind Irma, and gathering strength.

Is this what climate change scientists predicted?

In a word, yes. Climate scientists such as Michael Mann at Penn State says, “The science is now fairly clear that climate change will make stronger storms stronger.” Or wetter.

Scientists are quick to point out that Harvey and Irma would have been big storms before the atmosphere and oceans started warming dramatically about 75 years ago. But now storms are apt to grow bigger. That’s because the oceans and atmosphere are, on average, warmer now than they used to be. And heat is the fuel that takes garden-variety storms and supercharges them.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that the Atlantic hurricane season this year would be big. It said the most likely scenario would be five to nine hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes, which is above the long-term average.

Some of its reasoning is based on climate change. The eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean is the fuel tank of hurricanes, if you will, and big parts of the sea surface have been between 0.5 and 1 degree Celsius warmer than average this summer. Now, the Atlantic goes through normal cycles of warming and cooling that have nothing to do with climate change, such as in response to the El Nino and La Nina weather cycles. But this year neither cycle is active.

And whether or not Irma was emboldened by climate change, what’s more telling are hurricane trends. Big hurricanes in the Pacific as well as the Atlantic appear to be happening more often and are packing more punch than normal.


This composite image shows Hurricane Irma’s path as it moved into the warm waters of the western Atlantic. Sea surface temperatures are high this year.
NASA/NOAA

Climate scientist Kevin Trenberth from the National Center for Atmospheric Research explains: “Previous very active (hurricane) years were 2005 and 2010,” he says, and along with 2017, they experienced warm Atlantic Ocean temperatures. “So this sets the stage. So the overall trend is global warming from human activities.”

It’s worth noting that there are other things that made Irma big that have no clear association with climate change. Vertical wind shear in the hurricane “nursery” region of the Atlantic are weak this year. Strong wind shear at the right altitude can in essence “behead” a hurricane as it forms, so Irma has free rein to build. There’s also a long-term cycle in the Atlantic — the Atlantic Multi-Decadel Oscillation — that affects hurricane-forming conditions. Since 1995, the AMO is in the “on” position for good hurricane conditions, and in fact the period since then has been quite active for storms and hurricanes.

So, as with Harvey, these superstorms have always happened due to natural causes, but the underlying conditions in the oceans and atmosphere have primed the pump. You don’t need much effort now to turn a trickle into a gusher.

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BREAKING: Tar Sands Pipeline Shut Down


activists-tar-sands

By Afrin Sopariwala, Tim DeChristopher’s Website – 12 October 16

Source: Reader Supported News

This morning, by 7:30 PST, 5 activists have successfully shut down 5 pipelines across the United States deliverying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada in support of the call for International Days of Prayer and Action for Standing Rock. Activists employed manual safety valves, calling on President Obama to use emergency powers to keep the pipelines closed and mobilize for the extraordinary shift away from fossil fuels now required to avert catastrophe.

192 nations have agreed that average global temperature should not increase 1.5C° above baseline in order to avert climate change cataclysm. This objective cannot be met, and any hope of keeping temperature below even 2.0°C depends on a total ban on new fossil fuel extractions and an immediate end to oil sands and coal use. In the absence of any political leadership or legal mechanisms for accomplishing this, these individuals feel duty bound to halt the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels by personal direct action.

Ken Ward, 59, of Corbette OR said, “There is no plan of action, policy or strategy being advanced now by any political leader or environmental organization playing by the rules that does anything but acquiesce to ruin. Our only hope is to step outside polite conversation and put our bodies in the way. We must shut it down, starting with the most immediate threats — oil sands fuels and coal.”

Emily Johnston, 50, of Seattle WA said, “For years we’ve tried the legal, incremental, reasonable methods, and they haven’t been enough; without a radical shift in our relationship to Earth, all that we love will disappear. My fear of that possibility is far greater than my fear of jail. My love for the beauties of this world is far greater than my love of an easy life.”

Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, WA said “Like mothers everywhere, I act from a deep love that extends to all children and young people, and all living beings on this planet. I have signed hundreds of petitions, testified at dozens of hearings, met with most of my political representatives at every level, to very little avail. I have come to believe that our current economic and political system is a death sentence to life on earth, and that I must do everything in my power to replace these systems with cooperative, just, equitable and love-centered ways of living together. This is my act of love.”

Michael Foster, 52 of Seattle WA said, “I am here to generate action that wakes people up to the reality of what we are doing to life as we know it. All of our climate victories are meaningless if we don’t stop extracting oil, coal and gas now.”

Leonard Higgins, 64, of Eugene, OR said, “Because of the climate change emergency, because governments and corporations have for decades increased fossil fuel extraction and carbon emissions when instead we must dramatically reduce carbon emissions; I am committed to the moral necessity of participating in nonviolent direct action to protect life.”

WHERE. Enbridge line 4 and 67, Leonard, MN; TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, Walhalla, ND; Spectra Energy’s Express pipeline, Coal Banks Landing, MT; Kinder-Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline, Anacortes, WA.

WHO. Climate Direct Action is Emily Johnson, 50 and Michael Foster, 52, of Seattle, WA, Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, WA, Ken Ward, 59, of Corbett, OR, and Leonard Higgins, 64, of Eugene, Oregon, with the support of Climate Disobedience Action Fund.

Wasted Food’s Heavy Burden On Climate


food-waster

April 12, 2016, by Tim Radford
Source: Climate News Network

As obesity levels soar, cutting the vast amount of food we waste could have a major impact on reducing the effects of climate change, as well as alleviating world hunger.

LONDON, 12 April, 2016 − By mid-century, an estimated one-tenth of all greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture could be traced back to food waste, according to new research.

Human use and misuse of land accounts for up to a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and farming directly contributes at least 10%, and perhaps twice as much. Yet roughly one-third of all food produced never makes it to the plate.

“Reducing food waste can contribute to fighting hunger, but to some extent also prevent climate impacts like more intense weather extremes and sea-level rise,” says lead author Ceren Hic, a scientific assistant at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

Her PIK colleague, Prajal Pradhan, a researcher in climate impacts and vulnerabilities, adds: “At the same time, agriculture is a major driver of climate change, accounting for more than 20% of overall global greenhouse-gas emissions in 2010. Avoiding food loss and waste would therefore avoid unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate climate change.”

Weight increases

The news comes little more than a week after researchers at Imperial College London calculated that obesity levels among men have tripled, and among women, worldwide, have doubled to a new total of 640 million. More ominously, the average weight of humans has been increasing by 1.5 kilograms a decade since 1975. That means that humankind is growing not just in numbers, but in mass.

The two Imperial scientists and colleagues report in the journal Environmental Science and Technology that they analysed body type, food needs, food availability, economic development and greenhouse emissions for the past and the future, under a number of possible scenarios.

“It is quite astounding that up to 14% of overall agricultural emissions in 2050 could easily
be avoided by better management
of food utilisation and distribution”

This kind of thinking ahead is not new, nor confined to any one country. Researchers worldwide have been thinking about the links between food security and climate, and the consequence of global dietary change on emissions has been a consistent calculation in the analysis of climate change. So much food is wasted that researchers have identified it as a potential energy source.

What the Potsdam scientists found was that although global average food demand per person remained almost constant, food availability had increased rapidly in the last 50 years. And, Dr Pradhan says, this availability kept in step with development, which in turn suggested that rich countries consumed more food than was healthy, or simply wasted it.

Right now, humans discard 1.3 billion tonnes of food every year. In turn, that suggests that greenhouse gas emissions linked to food waste could soar from 500 million tonnes now to somewhere between 1.95 and 2.5 billion tonnes by 2050.

Agricultural emissions

Lifestyle changes and population growth – ever more people with seemingly ever larger appetites – could push emissions from agriculture alone to 18 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050.

“Thus, emissions related to discarded food are just the tip of the iceberg,” Dr Pradhan says. “However, it is quite astounding that up to 14% of overall agricultural emissions in 2050 could easily be avoided by better management of food utilisation and distribution. Changing individual behaviour could be one key towards mitigating the climate crisis.”

As traditionally once-frugal communities develop, so the problems multiply.

Jürgen Kropp, a co-author of the report and head of climate change and development research at PIK, says: “As many emerging economies like China or India are projected to rapidly increase their food waste as a consequence of changing lifestyle, increasing welfare and dietary habits towards a larger share of animal-based products, this could over proportionally increase greenhouse gas emissions associated with food waste − at the same time undermining efforts for an ambitious climate protection.” – Climate News Network

More States Are Investigating Whether Exxon Misled the Public About Climate Change


coal-fired_power_station_at_dusk

By Reuters and Fortune – 31 March 16
Source: Reader Supported News

 

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an inquiry in November.

 

The top attorneys from Massachusetts and the U.S. Virgin Islands said on Tuesday they will investigate whether Exxon Mobil Corp misled investors and the public about the risks of climate change.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker announced their probes at a news conference in New York, flanked by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and top attorneys from other states.

They said their probes into Exxon will be similar to ones launched by New York and California.

Healey said fossil fuel companies that have deceived investors about the risks climate change poses to the planet and to their bottom lines “must be held accountable.”

Walker said he wants to ensure there is transparency so consumers can make informed choices about what they purchase.

“If Exxon Mobil has tried to cloud their judgment, we are determined to hold the company accountable,” he said.

Exxon believes the probes by state attorneys general are “politically motivated,” said Suzanne McCarron, the company’s vice president for public and government affairs.

“We are actively assessing all legal options,” she said.

A total of 17 U.S. attorneys general are cooperating on probes into whether fossil fuel companies have misled investors on climate change risks. The officials will also collaborate on other climate-related initiatives.

In November, Schneiderman subpoenaed Exxon to demand extensive financial records and emails in connection with its climate change disclosures. California Attorney General Kamala Harris followed suit in January.

A coalition of more than 20 states has filed an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, a rule to crack down on carbon emissions that has been challenged by industry and 25 states in a federal appeals court.

The probes of Exxon were triggered by investigative reports last year by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times that showed the company’s in-house scientists had flagged concerns about climate change decades ago, which the company ignored or contradicted.

Investors also have started to target Exxon over the climate issue. Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled that Exxon must include a climate change resolution on its annual shareholder proxy.

The Rockefeller Family Fund said last week it will divest from fossil fuels as quickly as possible and “eliminate holdings” of Exxon.

Shares of Exxon closed up 31 cents, or 0.37 percent, at $84.53 on Tuesday.

Gore, an active climate policy advocate, joined the attorneys general at the announcement, calling it a “turning point” in a broader effort to hold fossil fuel companies accountable. He said efforts by fossil fuel companies to downplay climate change were akin to the way the tobacco industry promoted smoking for years in spite of health warnings.

The Massachusetts and Virgin Islands attorneys general did not elaborate on what legal tools will guide their investigations. Legal experts have said options include consumer protection laws and “blue sky” securities laws.

The New York probe hinges on the state’s Martin Act, an anti-fraud law, as well as consumer protection statutes.

Some experts have said the issues involved could potentially trigger federal racketeering and organized crime (RICO) laws the Justice Department used in its landmark case against Big Tobacco.

But there’s skepticism as to whether Exxon’s actions and statements can be construed as criminal and beyond the protections of the First Amendment. Schneiderman said Tuesday, “The First Amendment, ladies and gentlemen, does not give you the right to commit fraud.”

Exxon‘s unusually long and pointed statement criticizing the probes said the company recognized the risks posed by climate change. It said any assumption it withheld information on the topic is “preposterous” and based on a “false premise that Exxon Mobil reached definitive conclusions about anthropogenic climate change before the world’s experts and before the science itself had matured, and then withheld it from the broader scientific community.”

In her emailed statement to Reuters, McCarron noted that Exxon scientists had participated with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

She also said the probes by the state attorneys general would “have a chilling effect on private sector research.”

Remembering Exxon Valdez: Obama Should Cancel Leases in Gulf and Arctic


exoon spill clean

By Margie Alt and Cindy Shogan, EcoWatch -24 March 16
Source: Reader Supported News

Today marks the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez catastrophe—the 11-million-gallon oil spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound that remains one of the largest human-caused environmental disasters in U.S. history.

Twenty-seven years later, in some ways, not much has changed. The devastation from the spill lingers. Crude oil remains beneath beaches. The orca whale population continues to struggle. Crab and shrimp populations have yet to fully recover.

The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the largest catastrophe in U.S. history. Shell’s Kulluk drill rig running aground on New Year’s Eve 2012 offered a new, horrific reminder of the risk of offering up one of the world’s most remote and diverse marine environments to oil and gas development.

And last week, the Obama administration issued its latest plan for more drilling and inevitable spilling. The proposal includes 10 new lease areas for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and three in Alaskan waters – two of which are located in the Arctic Ocean.

But many changes over the last three decades also point to a clean energy future. In fact, the scientific, economic and political momentum to stop new drilling proposals and wean ourselves off fossil fuels altogether is increasingly on our side.

Nearly 200 nations have agreed to a goal of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees, a benchmark scientists say we can only meet if we keep the vast majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground. There’s no better place to start than with the fragile Arctic, and with a just transition off fossil fuels that begins with no new drilling in the Gulf.

Time and again, the Obama administration has also proved itself willing to listen to the call of opposition to ocean drilling.

Last year the administration canceled existing drilling leases in the Arctic Ocean, following the actions of “kayaktivists” who sought to block Shell’s icebreaker headed north from Portland, Oregon.

Earlier this month President Obama announced a wide-ranging joint climate agreement with Canada, pledging to take into account climate science and emergency response plans when determining future oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean.

Last week, the Department of the Interior withdrew the southern Atlantic Ocean from its leasing proposal after an outcry from citizens, businesses and local governments up and down the coast.

Just yesterday, in the face of spirited protests at the symbolically-charged Superdome in New Orleans, the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management even temporarily shut down their auction of drilling leases in the Gulf.

Of course, Exxon and its ilk are pushing for the ways of the past. A year ago, in public comments submitted to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Exxon’s Vice President urged the administration to maintain all its proposed leasing areas, and even add the entire eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is currently protected by moratorium. The oil company also lamented at that time that certain areas of Alaska had been removed from consideration.

Today, help us ride the wave of change and push past Exxon and other polluters. Remember the Exxon Valdez disaster by urging the Obama administration to drop its proposals for new drilling in the Arctic and the Gulf.

Oil Companies Want to Get in on the Action in Cuba


Platform

By Katie Herzog, Grist -23 March 16

It’s a new day for Cuba and the U.S.

A little more than a year after relations between the two nations officially started to thaw, President Obama on Sunday became the first U.S. president to visit the island nation since Calvin Coolidge. During a two-and-a-half-day visit, Obama is meeting with Cuban President Raúl Castro to discuss lifting the 1962 embargo as well as economic opportunities and human rights abuses, according to the White House. He’ll also attend a baseball game.

Obama isn’t the only one interested in Cuba. Big Business, including the oil industry, is eyeing the island nation as well. One hundred and twenty business leaders converged upon the country to discuss offshore oil development last October. While American companies are still barred from owning oil assets in Cuba, U.S. firms can be involved in drilling and safety operations. Cuba might welcome that, as Bloomberg Government reports:

Cheap oil has forced Venezuela to scale back its support for Cuba, and that’s prodding the officially Communist nation to open up to foreign investment and build on its rapprochement with the U.S., according to a Moody’s report in December. And opening up may mean boosting the 50,000 barrels a day of oil now produced there. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that 4.6 billion barrels of crude oil are lurking in the North Cuba Basin, with most of it within 50 miles of Cuba’s coast; that’s one-fifth of what USGS estimated to exist in the Arctic seas off Alaska. But this oil — if it’s really there — wouldn’t need to be produced in some of the world’s harshest conditions, and would be just a short barge voyage away from U.S. Gulf-area refineries.

Of course, the prospect of more offshore development in Cuban waters isn’t exactly comforting to environmentalists. Drilling could happen as close as 50 miles off the coast of Florida, so a big oil spill there could certainly reach American shores. Plus there’s the whole climate change thing to worry about. Cuba, a low-lying island, is especially vulnerable to sea-level rise.

An official White House fact sheet about Obama’s trip to Cuba mentions climate change and the two countries’ intentions to work together on fighting and adapting to it — and makes no mention of oil or gas. “The United States and Cuba recognize the threats posed by climate change to both our countries,” it reads, “including worsening impacts such as continued sea-level rise, the alarming acidification of our oceans, and the striking incidence of extreme weather events. Cooperative action to address this challenge is more critical than ever.”

Addressing this challenge may be critical, as both Washington and Havana are aware, but as oil companies show an increased interest in Cuba’s oil reserves, we may, once again, see the triumph of profit over progress. It’s happened everywhere else. Why not Cuba as well?

More Than Half a Million Could Die as Climate Change Impacts Diet – Report


Women selling vegetables at market in Guatemala. Fewer fruit and vegetables will be available as a result of climatic changes, the research found. Photograph: Alamy

Women selling vegetables at market in Guatemala. Fewer fruit and vegetables will be available as a result of climatic changes, the research found. Photograph: Alamy

Source: The Guardian

New research shows global warming’s effect on the quality of food available could kill more than 500,000 people a year around the world by 2050

Climate change could kill more than 500,000 people a year globally by 2050 by making their diets less healthy, according to new research published in the Lancet.

The research is the first to assess how the impacts of global warming could affect the quality of the diets available to people and found fewer fruit and vegetables would be available as a result of climatic changes. These are vital in curbing heart disease, strokes and diet-related cancers, leading the study to conclude that the health risks of climate change are far greater than thought.

Climate change is already judged by doctors as the greatest threat to health in the 21st century, due to floods, droughts and increased infectious diseases, with the potential to roll back 50 years of progress.

Peter Scarborough, at the University of Oxford and part of the new research, said these direct impacts would affect tens of thousands of people at particular times: “But everyone in the world eats, so small changes in diet can quickly add up” to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

“The health burden related to climate change is much bigger than we thought,” Scarborough said. But cutting carbon emissions and improving education and the availability of fruit and vegetables would reduce the number of deaths, he said.

“The Lancet [study] digs deeper, and reports the most advanced projections so far of the effects of climate change on food and health,” according to professors Alistair Woodward at the University of Auckland and John Porter at the University of Copenhagen in a commentary on the work.

They say that given the uncertainties involved in the complex analysis, it is understandable to limit projections to the next 35 years. But they warn that the worst-case impacts beyond 2050 could be even greater.

As an example, they cite work indicating that failure of the rice crop in southern China due to heatwaves could change from a one-in-a-100-year event to a one-in-four-year event in 2100. “A worst-case analysis is not unusual in risk assessments in other areas [such as national security] when the stakes are high,” they note.

The new research involved linking a series of computer models, which covered crop production, economic development, trade and climate change, to consider a range of scenarios. The current trend in global nutrition is for fewer people to die from inadequate diets each year, due to increasing crop yields and poverty reduction.

But a continued rapid rise in carbon emissions would cut heavily into that positive trend. Severe climate change would cause changes in food availability, leading to 529,000 more people dying in 2050 than would have without warming, the research found. Even with very ambitious climate action, including sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, there would be 154,000 extra deaths in 2050.

The research found that severe climate change would cut the fruit and vegetable available to people in 2050 by 4%, the calories available by 3% and the red and processed meat by 0.7%. By far the biggest cause of deaths was the reduction in fruit and vegetables, particularly in rich countries.

The reduction in calories resulted in more people dying from lack of food, especially in India and China. However, almost exactly the same number of deaths were prevented elsewhere by reductions in obesity. The cut in red meat eating prevented 29,000 deaths.

Nearly all nations are projected to suffer an increase in deaths due to the diet changes caused by climate change. But a few, in central America and southern Africa, could see a reduction in deaths as the reductions in obesity outweigh other factors.

Scarborough accepted there are significant uncertainties in the projections and the study says the projected deaths in 2050 ranges between 314,000 and 736,000. But he said it is the best estimate so far and clearly shows that action to tackle climate change would have large-scale health benefits.

Prof Andy Challinor, at the University of Leeds and not involved in the new work, said: “This is a valiant attempt to quantify the effects of climate change on the future of food production. It’s very difficult to estimate exactly what those impacts will be [but] what we can say for certain is that the pressures on agricultural production will certainly be greater because of climate change.”

“Year-to-year variability of food production will become greater, which will make global food markets more unpredictable,” Challinor said. “And extreme climatic events will become more common, such as the wheat harvest failure in Russia in 2010 which affected UK food prices. The effects of such events on global food availability and prices will be felt in the UK and around the world.”

The research was funded by the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food.