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Published: Thu, 25 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 25 May 2017 09:00:09 -0400


Earth's Forest Area 9 Percent Greater Than Thought

Fri, 12 May 2017 12:40:00 -0400

(image) Forests in drylands are much more extensive than previously reported and cover a total area similar to that of tropical rainforests or boreal forests, according to a new study published in Science. Researchers discovered these hidden forests by scrutinizing high resolution satellite images covering more than 200,000 half-hectare-sized plots. The survey used ultra–high-resolution Google Earth images with each pixel representing a patch of ground less than a meter wide.

"We show that in 2015, 1327 million hectares of drylands had more than 10% tree-cover, and 1079 million hectares comprised forest," report the researchers. "Our estimate is 40 to 47% higher than previous estimates, corresponding to 467 million hectares of forest that have never been reported before. This increases current estimates of global forest cover by at least 9%."

To the extent that greater forest area helps mitigate environmental problems—soil erosion, declines in biodiversity, water retention issues—this adds to the good news that global deforestation rates are slowing. As the Food and Agricultural Organization reported two years ago: Over the past 25 years forest area has changed from 4.1 billion ha to just under 4 billion ha, a decrease of 3.1 percent. the rate of global forest area change has slowed by more than 50 percent between 1990 and 2015.

If Jesse Ausubel, head of the Human Environment Program at Rockefeller University, is right, humanity is on the cusp of peak farmland with the result that global forest cover could well expand by nearly 400 million hectares by 2060, an area nearly double the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River.

Should President Trump Keep His Promise to Cancel the Paris Agreement on Climate Change?

Thu, 04 May 2017 15:45:00 -0400

Presidential candidate Donald Trump promised to "cancel" the Paris Agreement on climate change during the campaign last year. Last week, during a rally to celebrate his first 100 days in office at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Trump declared that a "big decision" would be forthcoming in the next two weeks on the Paris Agreement. A big fight has apparently broken out among Trump administration denizens over the question of leaving or staying in the accord. The Clexiters include strategic nationalist Steve Bannon and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and the stayers are First Daughter Ivanka Trump and Secretary of State of Rex Tillerson. During his confirmation hearing, Tillerson told lawmakers, "It's important that the U.S. maintains its seat at the table about how to address the threat of climate change, which does require a global response. No one country is going to solve this on its own." The opponents and proponents are focusing on a narrow and a broader issue. The narrow issue involves determining whether or not the agreement allows signatories to lower their nationally determined contributions, that is, the commitments that each country has made under the agreement with respect to their future emissions of greenhouse gases. Under the Paris Agreement, the Obama administration committed to reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below their 2005 levels in 2025. At issue is the Article 4.11, which states that a nation "may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition." Ambition means doing more to mitigate climate change. Does this mean that a country's commitments can only be ratcheted upwards and never reduced? In the New York Times, legal analyst Christopher Horner of the free-market think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute, asserted, "Despite the mad rush to insist that plain language means either the opposite of what it says, or else nothing at all, under any canon of construction, Article 4 does not permit revisions downward." It's a ratchet. Contrariwise, Todd Stern who was the Obama administration's chief climate negotiator claimed that the flexibility to reduce targets was written into the agreement by careful design. "It wasn't like, 'Boy, nobody thought of that,'" he said to the Times. The plain language of the agreement does imply an upward ratchet, but since there are no explicit enforcement mechanisms in the accord, nothing would happen to a country that formally lowered its ambition, or even just ignored its nationanlly determined contribution commitments. The Bottom-Up Structure of the Paris Agreement The Paris Agreement might be thought of as a non-zero-sum bottom-up exercise. Countries are not being told what to do, but each one gets to propose for itself what it plans to do about man-made global warming. In addition, thousands of states, provinces, regions, cities, and businesses have piled on to make voluntary pledges to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. (This is not to say their electorates agree with the decisions being made by their governors and mayors.) This pledging process avoids the divisive zero-sum gaming that characterized previous climate negotiations. Both the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the successor agreement that was supposed to be approved at the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 were conceived as top-down legally binding regulatory systems. Both failed spectacularly. In any case, would nothing happen really happen if Trump were to submit lower U.S. greenhouse gas reduction commitments under the agreement? Opponents worry that the Paris Agreement would be interpreted as having the force of law by U.S. courts. This brings us the broader issue: Is the Paris Agreement a treaty? The United States Senate approved the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by a rare division vote with two-thirds concurring on October 7, 1993 and President Bill Clinton ratified the treaty by signing it on October 13, 1993. By agreeing to that treaty the United State[...]

Climate Computer Models Right After All: What Global Warming Hiatus?

Wed, 03 May 2017 16:50:00 -0400

"We are now much more confident than ever that human influence is dominant in long-term warming," declares a team of climate researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology led by Iselin Medhaug. Why? Because, among other things, they claim to have reconciled the differences between the computer model projections and observational temperature records. The article, "Reconciling controversies about the 'global warming hiatus'" appears today in Nature. First they note that there are definitional problems in the scientific literature. The global warming hiatus can describe the period between 1998 and 2015 in which there was (1) no discernible increase in global average temperature, (2) a dramatic slow-down in the increase warming from the prior late 20th century trend, and (3) a slower increase than projected by climate computer models. They also explore the proposed causes for the hiatus including external drivers such as solar variability and aerosols from volcanic eruptions; the possibility of a lower equilibrium climate sensitivity in response to added carbon dioxide; and internal variability, especially periodic long-term shifts in regional ocean temperatures. Another important concern is how the observational temperature records are measured and adjusted over time. For example, the U.K.'s Met Office's HadCRUT4 surface temperature data set was adjusted to take into account that the Met Office's previous datasets had used sea surface temperatures rather than air temperature measurements over the oceans. Overall, this adjustment resulted in higher global mean surface air temperatures. They also took note of the fact that the observational temperature records have poor coverage in remote areas like the poles, central Asia, and central Africa. Interestingly, the researchers used observational surface temperature datasets in their analysis, ignoring the satellite and weather balloon temperature datasets. Medhaug and his colleagues adjusted the computer climate model runs by taking into account factors like changes like variations in solar radiation. In addtion, they applied results from computer models that best mimicked the observed internal variability of ocean temperature changes to estimate their effects on global air temperature to update the overall projected model trends. They do reanalysis of the HadCRUT4 dataset using model outputs to estimate temperatures in regions that are not adequately covered by observations. This produces a new dataset with higher global average temperatures. They then compare the results of 84 simulations from 36 different climate models with the orginal HadCRUT4 and their adjusted HadCRUT4 data. Once the researcher make all of these adjustments they find that there is ... ... excellent agreement between models and observations (Fig. 5, dark blue versus dark orange lines). Most discrepancies between models and observations can therefore be explained by the state of the natural variability, incomplete or biased forcings, and observational limitations; a complete explanation requires a combination of all of these (Fig. 5). When the effects of short-term temperature variations such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), of volcanic aerosols and of solar variability are removed, the anthropogenically forced global warming signal has not decreased substantially. This supports the current scientific understanding that long-term global warming is extremely likely to be of anthropogenic origin. One point that the Swiss researchers stress is that climate models cannot and should not be expected to make projections encompassing relatively short periods such as a decade. Consequently, they argue that when climate variability from whatever source slows (or presumably) speeds up the rate of increasing temperatures due to man-made global warming that does not invalidate model projections of where average temperatures will be by the end of this century. These researchers do acknowledge that the apparent hiatus spurred a lot of us[...]

Climate Change, Scientism, and the Politics of Certitude

Mon, 01 May 2017 12:30:00 -0400

The balance of the scientific evidence supports the claim that man-made climate change is happening. That being said, there are many uncertainties with regard to how fast the climate might warm over the course of this century, how much it might warm, how fast sea level will rise, and so forth. Climate scientists try to get a handle on the trajectory of climate change using computer climate models. When compared to observational temperature trends, the models' outputs have been somewhat less than robust. University of Alabama at Huntsville climatologist John Christy, who is a long-time skeptic of projections of future catastrophic warming, finds that computer model temperature increases average about 3 times greater than the actual temperature trends. A January 2017 paper in the Journal of Climate by researchers who unquestionably represent mainstream climate science corrected for satellite data trends and the inclusion of stratospheric cooling and also found that the models are warming 1.7 times faster than the observational temperatures. In his column "Climate of Complete Certainty," New York Times opinion writer Bret Stephens sought to account for the skepticism of high percentage of Americans toward the dire warnings from environmentalists about impending catastrophic climate change. Stephens accepts that man-made warming is real; however, he observes that much else is still a matter of probabilities. From his column: That's especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future. To say this isn't to deny science. It's to acknowledge it honestly.... Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong. Demanding abrupt and expensive changes in public policy raises fair questions about ideological intentions. Censoriously asserting one's moral superiority and treating skeptics as imbeciles and deplorables wins few converts. None of this is to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences. But ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism. They know—as all environmentalists should—that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power. As it happens, hundreds of thousands of climate activists this past weekend participated in the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C., along with subsidiary marches in 300 other cities. It is evident that many progressive marchers would eschew Stephens' warning against marrying uncertain science to political power and are entirely certain that climate change requires the complete transformation of the U.S. economy and society along more communitarian lines. It is not too much to say that environmentalists' apocalyptic climate rhetoric helped elect our current president. The New York Post is reporting the nasty progressive backlash against Stephens who aim to get him fired from the Times. For more background on the human wreckage of scientific errors made by political environmentalists see my book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the 21st Century. I also reprise failed predictions of impending environmental catastrophe from the first Earth Day in 1970.[...]

Peoples Climate March This Saturday: New at Reason

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 13:30:00 -0400

(image) Tomorrow around 100,000 Americans are expected to join the Peoples Climate March, which plans to stream from the Capitol up Pennsylvania Avenue while demanding jobs, justice, and—oh, yes—action on climate change. The plan is to "literally" surround the White House, then stage a 100-second sit-in, symbolizing the first 100 days of Donald Trump's administration. (Perhaps President Trump will hear the protests tomorrow afternoon, but he plans to hold a rally in Pennsylvania that evening.) It's another example of social justice movements hijacking the problem of climate change and using it as a pretext for attacking our system of market-tested betterment and innovation.

Earth Day Dopes

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 00:15:00 -0400

Expect more craziness this weekend. Earth Day is Saturday. This year's theme: Government must "do more" about climate change because "consequences of inaction are too high to risk." They make it sound so simple: 1) Man causes global warming. 2) Warming is obviously harmful. 3) Government can stop it. Each claim is dubious or wrong. This weekend at a movie, I was surprised to be assaulted again by former Vice President Al Gore. In a preview, a puffy-looking Gore suddenly appeared, attacking Donald Trump and mocking critics of his previous movie, An Inconvenient Truth, the deceitful documentary that spreads fear in classrooms today. Yes, teachers play it in class. Now Gore claims "the most criticized" part of the film was his assertion that the 9/11 memorial site would flood. Then, during Hurricane Sandy, it did But Gore creatively misremembers his own movie. He had claimed the World Trade Center would flood because of a permanent 20-foot sea-level rise. Actual scientists called that nonsense. It would take hundreds of years for such a thing to possibly happen. But since the area flooded, briefly, Gore spins that as confirmation of his exaggerations. This preview was the first I learned that theaters will soon show a sequel to Gore's film. Google tells us that An Inconvenient Sequel got a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival. Trendy Hollywood is so dumb. At least critics who've watched it gave it poor reviews. Let's go back to points 1, 2 and 3: 1) Man's greenhouse gases contribute to warming, but scientists don't agree on how much. Of 117 climate models from the 1990s, 114 overpredicted warming. 2) Warming is harmful. Maybe. But so far it's been good: Over the last century, climates warmed, but climate-related deaths dropped. Since 1933, they fell by 98 percent. Life expectancy doubled. Much of that is thanks to prosperity created by free markets. But some is due to warming. Cold kills more people than heat. Carbon dioxide is also good for crop growth. Even The New York Times admits, "Plants have been growing at a rate far faster than at any other time in the last 54,000 years." But what if Al Gore is right? Maybe our greenhouse gases will eventually cause Greenland's icecaps to melt and flood our cities. Shouldn't government act now? No. 3) Nothing we do today will stop global warming. The Obama regulations that Trump recently repealed, horrifying the Earth Day crowd, had a goal that amounted to a mere one percent reduction in global carbon dioxide. And that was just the goal. Of course, some think any cut is better than nothing. But cuts are costly. They kill jobs, opportunity. All to accomplish... nothing the Earth will notice. If warming does become a problem, we're better off if our economy is very strong when the science tells us clearly that action will make a difference. We should be especially wary of expensive government projects given how often alarmists were wrong in the past. As Cato's Pat Michaels says, "I've lived through eight environmental apocalypses... overpopulation... resource depletion... Silent Spring... global cooling... acid rain... the ozone hole... global warming... the next one is going to be ocean acidification." In the '70s, environmentalist Paul Ehrlich won fame with his book The Population Bomb. Ehrlich predicted: "I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000." Oops. Ehrlich now admits: "When you predict the future, you get things wrong." But he says there's a grain of truth in his prediction, because: "If you look closely at England, what can I tell you? They're having all kinds of problems." Give me a break. Saturday's Earth Day nonsense will include a "March for Science." The media will hype it, claiming Trump's proposed budget will poison the Earth. It won't. The alarmists claim they're marching for "science," but they're really marching for a left-wing religion. Instead of celebrating Earth Day Saturday, I'll celebra[...]

Warmer Temperatures: More Climate Satisfaction in U.S.

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 13:30:00 -0400

Generally speaking, Americans would be satisfied if the average temperature where they live was a tad higher. Or at least that's what the sociologist Jonathan Kelley concludes in a recent study published in Social Indicators Research. Another study, however, suggests that folks in countries that are already hot will not be so happy. Kelley, who is based at the University of Nevada, notes that the Paris climate agreement describes a global warming of two degrees Celsius—3.6 degrees Fahrenheit—above pre-industrial levels as "dangerous." Many Americans, he notes, currently live in regions that are at least that much warmer than other parts of the country. (The temperatures over the contiguous 48 states range from 15 degrees Fahrenheit in Minnesota winters to 81 degrees during Florida's torrid summers.) So he combines National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration temperature data with survey data to probe how much a two-degree increase would bother Americans. The survey in question asked a national survey of more than 2,000 Americans to rate how satisfied they were with their summer and winter weather on a scale of 0 to 100. A 25-year old woman in Wisconsin, for example, rated winter in the Badger State at 0 points and summer at 90. Across the nation as a whole, Americans gave their summer weather an average rating of 67 and their winter weather 61. Each extra degree Fahrenheit reduced their satisfaction with summer by -0.82 points, and every higher degree Fahrenheit increased their satisfaction with winter by +1.03 points. Northerners' feelings about their winters were somewhat negative, with more than 10 percent rating them at 0 points; 30 percent of Southerners scored their winter weather at 100 points. "Such warming will greatly increase Americans' satisfaction with winter weather, especially in the north, and somewhat decrease satisfaction with summer weather in both north and south," reports Kelley. "On balance the nation benefits slightly." Using NOAA data, Kelley calculates that a 4-degree-Fahrenheit temperature increase would be the equivalent for a typical American of moving about 180 miles south. To experience an average of 4 degrees Fahrenheit warming, a Virginian like me would head for North Carolina. (My wife spent her childhood in North Carolina; it's not so bad.) As it happens, those of us who reside in the Old Dominion rate their summer and winter weather at 61 and 62 points, respectively; those smug North Carolinians correspondingly give theirs 72 and 70 points. Kelley reports that over the year as a whole, residents in warmer states are generally happier with their weather. Next Kelley compares the weather satisfaction scores of states in comparable temperature bands. For example, the average yearly temperature of states like Minnesota, Maine, North Dakota, and Montana hovers around 44 degrees Fahrenheit; in Michigan, New York, Colorado, and Oregon, it's 48. Parsing the weather preferences in the survey, he finds that southerners' rising dissatisfaction with their climate-change-induced higher summertime temperatures is more than counterbalanced by the increased happiness of northerners with their warmer winters. A four-degree increase in both summer and winter temperatures produces an almost two-point increase in year-round happiness with the weather. More surprisingly, an eight-degree increase in heat yields a two-point increase in weather satisfaction. Kelley then turns to life-satisfaction surveys to try to figure out what monetary value Americans would put on improved weather. Through a complicated process, he calculates that a one-point increase in weather satisfaction is equivalent to about a $3,000 annual increase in income. "By our (admittedly rough) estimates for 'dangerous' warming's effect over the year as a whole, combining its gains for winter and losses for summer and aggregating over the US as a whole, the $3000 gain from a[...]

For U.S. 'Dangerous' Climate Change Is Like Moving 180 Miles South: New at Reason

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 13:30:00 -0400

(image) Generally speaking, Americans would be satisfied if the average temperature where they live was a tad higher. Or at least that's what University of Nevada sociologist Jonathan Kelley concludes in a recent study published in Social Indicators Research.

The study is based on the results of a national survey of more than 2,000 Americans who were asked to rate how satisfied they were with their summer and winter weather on a scale of 0 to 100. A 25-year old woman in Wisconsin, for example, rated winter in the Badger State at 0 points and summer at 90. Across the nation as a whole, Americans gave their summer weather an average rating of 67 and their winter weather 61. Each extra degree Fahrenheit reduced their satisfaction with summer by -0.82 points, and every higher degree Fahrenheit increased their satisfaction with winter by +1.03 points.

Kelley calculates that a 4-degree-Fahrenheit temperature increase would be the equivalent for a typical American of moving about 180 miles south. To experience an average of 4 degrees Fahrenheit warming, a Virginian like me would head for North Carolina. "Few Americans would find moving from one state to a 'dangerously' warmer state further south at all daunting," notes Kelley.

On the other hand, additional projected warming won't be so nice for people who already live in hotter countries.

Donald Trump's Climate Change Executive Order Will Make Energy Cheaper

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 14:55:00 -0400

President Donald Trump issued a new executive order today that aims to roll back Obama administration energy policies that sought to address the problem of man-made climate change. The Obama administration's climate strategy stood on three pillars: Tightening corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE) for vehicles; the Clean Power Plan designed to cut by 2030 carbon dioxide emissions from electric power generation plants by 30 percent below their 2005 levels; and a moratorium on federal coal leasing. These measures were adopted to meet President Obama's commitment to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The CAFE standards are now being reassesed. In February, the chief executives of 18 auto companies sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking that it review the Obama administration's stringent CAFE standards. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt subsequently announced that his agency will conduct such a review decide by April 2018 if the standards should be loosened. The transportation sector is responsible for 26 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to about 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2014. That's down from the 1.85 gigatons pre-global financial crisis peak of vehicle emissions in 2005. Electric power generation is responsible for about 30 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. In 2014, burning coal for electric power generation emitted 1.57 gigatons of carbon dioxide. That is down significantly from peak emissions of nearly 2 gigatons in 2007. In 2014 emissions from natural gas burnt for electric power generation amounted to 0.44 gigatons. Basically, burning natural gas to generate electricity produces about half of the carbon dioxide that burning coal does. Since the carbon dioxide emissions from coal are so much greater than those from alternative fuels, the Clean Power Plan's carbon dioxide reduction goals would essentially force electricity generators to close down many of their coal-fired plants. President Trump hopes that unraveling the Clean Power Plan will bring back lost coal-mining jobs. "A lot of people are going to be put back to work, a lot of coal miners are going back to work," President Trump told a rally in Louisville, Kentucky last week. "The miners are coming back." That is unlikely for two reasons: automation and cheap fracked natural gas. U.S. coal production has dropped from 1.1 billion tons in 2011 to 0.9 billion tons in 2015. If 2016 fourth quarter coal production remained steady at the 2015 level, that would still mean that overall production will have fallen by nearly a third to 0.74 billion tons in 2016. Coal production in the Appalachian region in 2015 was 44 percent lower than it was in 2000. Power companies have been steadily switching from coal to natural gas as the fracking boom boosted production from 19 trillion cubic feet in 2005 to 28 trillion cubic feet in 2016. Last year, burning natural gas generated 33 percent of America's electricity compared to 32 percent from coal. The upshot is that lower demand for coal means fewer jobs. In 2011, 89,500 people worked as coal miners. That has dropped 50,000 now. In addition, higher productivity means lower demand for workers. Due to automation miner productivity soared rising from 1.93 tons per miner hour in 1980 to 6.28 tons per miner hour in 2015. Rolling back the Clean Power Plan means going through a long regulatory review process that will be opposed at every turn by environmental activist groups. Assuming that it is eventually revoked, what would that mean for future U.S. carbon dioxide emissions? Without the Clean Power Plan, the Energy Information Administration projects that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions would remain essentially flat up to 2040. President Trump also li[...]

Biggest Cause of Cancer? Just Plain Old Bad Luck

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 16:20:00 -0400

(image) A new article in Science is reporting that most cancers in people are the result random copying errors that occur when cells in the body divide. Applying some sophisticated mathematics to the question of how the mutations that lead to cancers are produced, Johns Hopkins University cancer researchers Cristian Tomasetti and Bert Vogelstein, sought to figure out what causes 32 different types of cancers. The press release accompanying the report notes that when the two researchers looked "across all 32 cancer types studied, the researchers estimate that 66 percent of cancer mutations result from copying errors, 29 percent can be attributed to lifestyle or environmental factors, and the remaining 5 percent are inherited."

Additionally, they calculated how big a role random errors played for various types of cancers. For example, when critical mutations in pancreatic cancers are added together, 77 percent of them are due to random DNA copying errors, 18 percent to environmental factors, such as smoking, and the remaining 5 percent to heredity. For prostate, brain or bone cancers, more than 95 percent of the mutations that lead to malignancy are due to random copying errors. However, environment does play a big role in lung cancer in which 65 percent of all the mutations are mostly due to smoking, and 35 percent are due to DNA copying errors. Inherited factors are not known to play a role in lung cancers.

The risk of cancer goes up with age. People over age 65 account for 60 percent of newly diagnosed malignancies and 70 percent of all cancer deaths. Why? Because their bodies have experienced many more cell divisions and thus have had greater chances for the sort of random genetic errors that lead to cancer to occur.

Given that Americans face a lifetime risk of around 40 percent of suffering from cancer, what can be done? The researchers note: "Early detection and intervention can prevent many cancer deaths. Detecting cancers earlier, while they are still curable, can save lives regardless of what caused the mutation. We believe that more research to find better ways to detect cancers earlier is urgently needed."

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Fall 3 Percent

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 10:00:00 -0400

(image) The International Energy Agency is reporting data showing that economic growth is being increasingly decoupled from carbon dioxide emissions. Basically, human beings are using less carbon dioxide intensive fuels to produce more goods and services. The IEA attributes the relatively steep drop in U.S. emissions largely to the ongoing switch by electric generating companies from coal to cheap natural gas produced using fracking from shale deposits. Renewals also contributed a bit to the decline. From the IEA:

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were flat for a third straight year in 2016 even as the global economy grew, according to the International Energy Agency, signaling a continuing decoupling of emissions and economic activity. This was the result of growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.

Global emissions from the energy sector stood at 32.1 gigatonnes last year, the same as the previous two years, while the global economy grew 3.1%, according to estimates from the IEA. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in the United States and China, the world's two-largest energy users and emitters, and were stable in Europe, offsetting increases in most of the rest of the world.

The biggest drop came from the United States, where carbon dioxide emissions fell 3%, or 160 million tonnes, while the economy grew by 1.6%. The decline was driven by a surge in shale gas supplies and more attractive renewable power that displaced coal. Emissions in the United States last year were at their lowest level since 1992, a period during which the economy grew by 80%.

"These three years of flat emissions in a growing global economy signal an emerging trend and that is certainly a cause for optimism, even if it is too soon to say that global emissions have definitely peaked," said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director. "They are also a sign that market dynamics and technological improvements matter. This is especially true in the United States, where abundant shale gas supplies have become a cheap power source."

In 2016, renewables supplied more than half the global electricity demand growth, with hydro accounting for half of that share. The overall increase in the world's nuclear net capacity last year was the highest since 1993, with new reactors coming online in China, the United States, South Korea, India, Russia and Pakistan. Coal demand fell worldwide but the drop was particularly sharp in the United States, where demand was down 11% in 2016. For the first time, electricity generation from natural gas was higher than from coal last year in the United States.


In addition, China's emissions fell by one percent, suggesting that its use of coal to generate electricity may be close to peaking. This is good news for those who think that man-made global warming could become a signifcant problem later in this century. In any case, whatever else the Trump administration may say, domestic coal use ain't never coming back.

Warmest February in Contiguous U.S. in 39-Year Satellite Record: Global Temperature Trend Update

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 09:45:00 -0500

(image) The 2015-16 El Niño Pacific Ocean warming event has faded into history, but the globe still saw its fourth warmest February in the satellite global temperature record, including the warmest February in that time for the contiguous 48 U.S. states, notes Dr. John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. How hot was it? The average temperature over the U.S. was +2.1 Celsius (about 3.78 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than seasonal norms in February 2017. The next warmest Februarys in the lower 48 states occurred in 1991 (+1.69 C), 2003 (+1.58 C), 2001 (+1.32 C), and 1998 (+1.12 C).

Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.12 C per decade

February temperatures (preliminary)

Global composite temp.: +0.35 C (about 0.63 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.

Northern Hemisphere: +0.54 C (about 0.97 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.

Southern Hemisphere: +0.15 C (about 0.27 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.

Tropics: +0.05 C (about 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for February.


Go here to view the monthly satellite temperature data since 1978.

Less Cropland and More Meat Eating in U.S.

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 12:35:00 -0500

(image) Meat consumption in the U.S. has grown substantially since 1969, but the amount of land devoted to growing the crops to feed cows, pigs, and chickens has dropped by nearly a third. In 1969, the average American consumed about 82, 54, and 47 pounds of beef, pork, and poultry respectively for a total of 183 pounds of meat annually. By 2016, per capita consumption of meat had risen to 213 pounds, consisting 55, 50, and 108 pounds of beef, pork, and poultry respectively. Collectively Americans ate about 15 million tons of meat in 1969 and 24 million tons in 2014. Despite the per capita increase in meat consumption along with the growth of population from 202 million to 324 million, farmers are using less cropland to grow feed for meat animals, according to Rockefeller University analysts Jesse Ausubel and Iddo Wernick in their new article, "The Shrinking Footprint of American Meat."

Ausubel and Wernick calculate that these shifts in consumption and improvements in agricultural efficiency has actually reduced the area of cropland devoted to producing animal feed since 1969 by around 9 million acres. That's an area equivalent in size to the state of Maryland. Between 1969 and 2010, they report:

Population and GDP per capita grew at annual rates averaging about positive 1% and 1.7% respectively over this period. In contrast, the same interval saw negative annual changes in the amount of meat Americans ate per dollar, the amount of grain needed to produce a unit of meat, and the amount of land needed to grow that grain. On average, between 1969 and 2010, the amount of US cropland used to grow meat fell almost 0.8% per year.


The shift in taste away from red meat toward poultry helped. By one estimate, it takes about 2.5 pounds of grain to grow one pound of chicken; 3.5 pounds for a pound of pork; and 6 pounds of feed to produce a pound of beef. Increased agricultural efficiency played a significant role too. For example, corn yields in 1969 averaged 86 bushels per acre; last year corn yields per acre averaged 171 bushels.

Protester Trash and Debris Threaten Water Contamination at Dakota Access Pipeline

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 16:44:00 -0500

(image) There may be a looming environmental disaster in North Dakota, but the problem isn't the Dakota Access Pipeline. It's the people protesting it.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a statement demanding that the Oceti Sakowin Camp be closed by February 22 over concerns of flooding, many protesters packed up and departed. Left behind was their trash and waste, NBC News reported.

Oceti Sakowin Camp sits in a lowland area where the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers converge, making it a prime location for flooding. The record winter snowfall heightens the chances as spring arrives. And with flooding comes the risk of water contamination as trash and human waste could be swept into the nearby rivers.

Federal and local officials estimate there's enough trash and human waste to fill 2,500 pick-up trucks, according to ABC News. Efforts to clean up the area are underway, but time is of the essence as the surrounding snow begins to melt.

"We're really fighting the clock," Morton County Emergency Manager Tom Doering told ABC News on Wednesday. "There's more garbage down there than anybody anticipated."

"There's more than anticipated, and it's under a lot of snow," Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said, per CBS Minnesota. "I wouldn't say it's going to get done in days; it's going to take weeks."

Standing Rock Environmental Protection Agency and Dakota Sanitation are currently working to remove the mountains of trash that have accumulated. Everything from tents to cars have been left behind after protesters received the evacuation notices. Around 300 to 400 people are reportedly still at the campsite, with some aiding in the clean-up effort. Despite the help, the job is only half-finished, according to the Washington Times.

One of the main arguments against constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline in the first place was that it was an environmental risk, since a rupture in the line could contaminate potable water in the area. Now it seems the protesters themselves may end up polluting the rivers, if their debris can't be cleared out in time.

Carbon Dividends: Solve Man-Made Climate Change While Shrinking Government?

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 13:40:00 -0500

The Climate Leadership Council, a group of conservative stalwarts, has just released its carbon dividends proposal as a way to address the man-made climate change problem. They accept that man-made global warming could become a significant problem for humanity later in this century. In order to mitigate that risk, they propose a carbon dividends plan that rests upon four pillars: (1) a gradually increasing carbon tax, (2) carbon dividends for all Americans, (3) border carbon tax adjustments, and (4) the elimination of all current top-down climate change regulations. The CLC folks envision the carbon dividend plan as collecting a carbon tax beginning at about $40 per ton at the wellhead, minehead, or import terminal. The tax would gradually and predictably increase over time enabling innovators, businesses and consumers to take future energy prices into account as they make their plans. The CLC group calculates that the tax would initially garner $200 and $300 billion which they estimate would yield about $2,000 annually in dividends for a family of four. All of the tax proceeds would be distributed on an equal and quarterly basis via dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts. The CLC cites a Treasury Department estimate that the bottom 70 percent of Americans would come out ahead under their proposal. "Carbon dividends would increase the disposable income of the majority of Americans while disproportionately helping those struggling to make ends meet," they calculate. Border adjustments to prevent free-riding would be made to goods imported from countries without comparable carbon taxes and rebates made to American exporters whose goods are subject to comparable foreign carbon taxes. Border adjustment proceeds would be added to the quarterly carbon dividends paid to Americans. The carbon tax and dividend program would entirely replace the EPA's current tangle of intrusive, burdensome, and expensive regulations on carbon emissions. Specifically what regulations would be eliminated? The CLC group argues for getting rid of the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan that would have required electric power generation companies to cut their carbon dioxide emissions an average 30 percent by 2030. Adopting the carbon dividend proposal would also justify eliminating all green energy subsidies and tax preferences and all energy efficiency standards. In addition, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) and state renewable energy portfolio standards could be dumped. As result, the CLC folks argue that their carbon dividend proposal will shrink the overall size of government and steamline the regulatory state. Recognizing the vexed politics concerning climate change, the CLC folks note that all four pillars of their proposal must be adopted. They state: For the elimination of heavy-handed climate regulations to withstand the test of time and not prove highly divisive, they must be replaced by a market-based alternative. Our policy is uniquely suited to building bipartisan and public support for a significant regulatory rollback. It is essential that the one-to-one relationship between carbon tax revenue and dividends be maintained as the plan's longevity, popularity and transparency all hinge on this. Allocating carbon tax proceeds to other purposes would undermine popular support for a gradually rising carbon tax and the broader rationale for far-reaching regulatory reductions. According to The New York Times, CLC member James Baker who served as Reagan's Treasury Secretary is scheduled to discuss the plan today with Vice President Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, the senior adviser to the president, [...]