Letting our representatives know that we expect their
support to stop climate change!

Food and Water Watch

SEnRG President Nancy Vann at center of banner on the left

 


 

There’s an old Chinese saying: “It’s later than you think”
Seems to apply to climate as well as individuals

.
A study published in December in Palaeoworld, a scientific journal about pre-historic eras, discusses a global warming event at the end of the Permian period and the plausible methane (natural gas) process that could accelerate our own rush to extinctions

 

Methan Bubbles

.
Public Abstract:
The cause for the end Permian mass extinction, the greatest challenge life on Earth faced in its geologic history, is still hotly debated by scientists. The most significant marker of this event is the negative δ13C shift and rebound recorded in marine carbonates with a duration ranging from 2000 to 19 000 years depending on localities and sedimentation rates. Leading causes for the event are Siberian trap volcanism and the emission of greenhouse gases with consequent global warming. Measurements of gases vaulted in calcite of end Permian brachiopods and whole rock document significant differences in normal atmospheric equilibrium concentration in gases between modern and end Permian seawaters. The gas composition of the end Permian brachiopod-inclusions reflects dramatically higher seawater carbon dioxide and methane contents leading up to the biotic event. Initial global warming of 8–11 °C sourced by isotopically light carbon dioxide from volcanic emissions triggered the release of isotopically lighter methane from permafrost and shelf sediment methane hydrates. Consequently, the huge quantities of methane emitted into the atmosphere and the oceans accelerated global warming and marked the negative δ13C spike observed in marine carbonates, documenting the onset of the mass extinction period. The rapidity of the methane hydrate emission lasting from several years to thousands of years was tempered by the equally rapid oxidation of the atmospheric and oceanic methane that gradually reduced its warming potential but not before global warming had reached levels lethal to most life on land and in the oceans. Based on measurements of gases trapped in biogenic and abiogenic calcite, the release of methane (of ∼3–14% of total C stored) from permafrost and shelf sediment methane hydrate is deemed the ultimate source and cause for the dramatic life-changing global warming (GMAT > 34 °C) and oceanic negative-carbon isotope excursion observed at the end Permian. Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic, but the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic. The end Permian holds an important lesson for humanity regarding the issue it faces today with greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and climate change.

 


FlowerAccording to National Geographic: “About 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period,
something killed some 90 percent of the planet’s species. Less than 5 percent of the animal species in the seas survived. On land less than a third of the large animal species made it. Nearly all the trees died.”
.

 

You can read more about the Permian Extinction here.
You can read discussions of the “methane climate bomb” phenomenon here and here and here

 

 


 

SEnRG Treasurer Lisa Antonelli at Women’s March in NYC

Lisa at Womens March

Meanwhile Courtney Williams, SEnRG VP, Marches in DC

Courtney at Womens March DC 2

It’s all connected!

 


.
And Another Problem with the Greenhouse Gas Methane
.

Study: Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

.
Researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund have concluded in a recent study that natural gas power plants release 21–120 times more methane than earlier estimates.
.
Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that for oil refineries, emission rates were 11–90 times more than initial estimates. Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner and more climate-friendly alternative to burning coal, is obtained in the U.S. mostly via the controversial horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).
.
The scientists measured air emissions at three natural gas-fired power plants and three refineries in Utah, Indiana, and Illinois using Purdue’s flying chemistry lab, the Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (ALAR). They compared their results to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.
.
“Power plants currently use more than one third of natural gas consumed in the U.S. and the volume used is expected to increase as market forces drive the replacement of coal with cheaper natural gas,” the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said in a press release. The nonprofit commissioned and funded the study with a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
.
“But if natural gas is going to deliver on its promise, methane emissions due to leaks, venting, and flaring need to be kept to a minimum.”
.
Methane Leaks Major Source of Emissions
Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but hangs around the atmosphere for a shorter time, with a global warming effect 84–87 times that of CO2 over a 20-year period, according to the EPA.
.
“[Methane is] a better fuel all around as long as you don’t spill it,” Paul Shepson, an atmospheric chemistry professor at Purdue, said in a press release. “But it doesn’t take much methane leakage to ruin your whole day if you care about climate change.”

.

The researchers were careful to differentiate between emissions related to natural gas combustion versus leakage, with the latter found to be the primary source of methane emissions in this small, preliminary study. Previous estimates of methane emissions were reported to the EPA from the facilities themselves and were restricted to what came out of the smokestack, which means they excluded leaks from equipment such as steam turbines and compressors.
.
The study was done as part of EDF‘s ongoing series of studies measuring methane emissions and leakage throughout the U.S. natural gas supply chain. EDF said in its press release that the Purdue scientists plan to follow up with research at additional oil refineries and power plants. Purdue stated in a press release that support for the research also came from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
.
Natural gas recently eclipsed coal as a power source feeding the U.S. electric grid, according to data published by the U.S.Energy Information Administration (EIA).
.
“For decades, coal has been the dominant energy source for generating electricity in the United States. EIA‘s Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) is now forecasting that 2016 will be the first year that natural gas-fired generation exceeds coal generation in the United States on an annual basis,” explained the EIA in March 2016. “Natural gas generation first surpassed coal generation on a monthly basis in April 2015, and the generation shares for coal and natural gas were nearly identical in 2015, each providing about one-third of all electricity generation.”
.
Trump Administration Dismantling Methane Regulations
.
The Purdue-EDF research results were published the same week President Donald Trump proposed massive cuts to the EPA, which would include a 23 percent cut to the enforcement division tasked with overseeing emissions at gas-fired power plants and oil refineries. The Trump administration has also announced its intentions to halt former President Barack Obama’s proposed methane emissions rule for gas situated on U.S. public lands and has already reversed the Obama EPA‘s information request for methane emissions data from U.S. domestic oil and gas producers.
.
As DeSmog previously reported, Carl Icahn, the business tycoon who interviewed and vetted current EPA Administrator Scott Pruittowns petrochemical refineries with a documented history of exceeding allowable emissions rates set by the EPA. In addition to being a major donor to Trump’s campaign, Icahn also serves as an adviser on regulatory issues to the Trump White House, a position set to benefit his extensive business holdings and raising concerns about conflicts of interest.
.
SEnRG Note: Wealthy hedge fund manager and corporate raider Carl] Icahn has, however, dismissed these concerns, telling Bloomberg Businessweek, “It may sound corny to you, but I think doing certain things helps the country a lot. And yeah, it helps me. I’m not apologizing for that.”
.
See article in DeSmogBlog at: https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/03/20/natural-gas-power-plants-fracking-methane
.

.

 


.

This 2013 article from The Guardian was published even before the latest permafrost thawing:

Seven facts you need to know about the Arctic methane timebomb

Dismissals of catastrophic methane danger ignore robust science in favor of outdated mythology of climate safety

Debate over the plausibility of a catastrophic release of methane in coming decades due to thawing Arctic permafrost has escalated after a new Nature paper warned that exactly this scenario could trigger costs equivalent to the annual GDP of the global economy.

None of the scientists rejecting the plausibility of the scenario are experts in the Arctic, specifically the East Siberia Arctic Shelf (ESAS). In contrast, an emerging consensus among ESAS specialists based on continuing fieldwork is highlighting a real danger of unprecedented quantities of methane venting due to thawing permafrost. So who’s right? What are these Arctic specialists saying? Are their claims of a potentially catastrophic methane release plausible at all?

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The 50 Gigatonne decadal methane pulse scenario was posited by four Arctic specialists, and is considered plausible by Met Office scientists

The scenario was first postulated in 2008 by Dr Natalie Shakhova of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dr Igor Semiletov from the Pacific Oceanological Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and two other Russian experts.

The total quantity of carbon in the ESAS is “not less than 1,400 Gt” – So the 50 Gt scenario used by the new Nature paper does not postulate the total release of the ESAS methane hydrate reservoir, but only a tiny fraction of it.

2. Arctic methane hydrates are becoming increasingly unstable in the context of anthropogenic climate change and it’s impact on diminishing sea ice

The instability of Arctic methane hydrates in relation to sea ice retreat – not predicted by conventional models – has been increasingly recognised by experts.

3. Multiple scientific reviews, including one by over 20 Arctic specialists, confirm decadal catastrophic Arctic methane release is plausible

A 2010 scientific analysis led by the UK’s Met Office in Review of Geophysics found: “The time scales for destabilization of marine hydrates are not well understood and are likely to be very long for hydrates found in deep sediments but much shorter for hydrates below shallow waters, such as in the Arctic Ocean

4. Current Arctic methane levels are unprecedented

A 2011 Nature paper found that ten times more carbon than thought is escaping via thawing coastal permafrost at the ESAS.

5. The tipping point for continuous Siberian permafrost thaw could be as low as 1.5C

New research led by Prof Antony Vaks published this year in Science analysing a 500,000 year history of Siberian permafrost found that “global climates only slightly warmer than today are sufficient to thaw significant regions of permafrost.”

6. Arctic conditions during the Eemian interglacial lasting from 130,000 to 115,000 years ago are a terrible analogy for today’s Arctic

Two recent studies challenge the relevance of Arctic conditions in the Eemian interglacial. Arctic temperatures were cooler than previously thought and the Greenland ice sheets experienced only modest melting in the Eemian. Both studies suggest that the Arctic sea ice simply had not retreated enough to expose permafrost.

7. Paleoclimate records will not necessarily capture a large, abrupt methane pulse

Prof Beckwith also poured (ice cold) water on the claim that we know an abrupt methane release cannot occur, because it has never occurred before . . . “Because of that 50 year bubble closure time, the large pulse of methane that was burped out of the marine sediments and terrestrial permafrost would be long gone and not result in a detectable signal in the ice core record. Just because the record does not capture it does not mean that it was not produced.”

So what?
All this proves that the $60 trillion price-tag for Arctic warming estimated by the latest Nature commentary should be taken seriously, prompting further urgent research and action on mitigation – rather than denounced on the basis of outdated, ostrich-like objections based on literature unacquainted with the ESAS.

The above are selected excerpts. To read the full 2013 Guardian article with links to additional studies see:



EPA to FERC: ‘We really need to talk’

Published: Monday, October 24, 2016

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking a headquarters-level discussion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to promote deeper, more comprehensive climate reviews of proposed natural gas pipelines.

 

“We as an agency think they need to take a more comprehensive approach to analyzing greenhouse gas emissions for natural gas projects,” said Ken Westlake, who heads the National Environmental Policy Act section for EPA’s Region 5 Office in Chicago.

 

“There have been a number of new pipelines or extended pipelines proposed to cross the country this year, and this particular letter represents us saying to FERC, ‘We really need to talk comprehensively about FERC’s approach to greenhouse gas analysis in their NEPA documents.'”

 

So far, it’s radio silence.

 

“We have not received any reply from FERC,” Westlake said in an interview.

 

The meeting request was spurred by EPA last week accusing FERC of ignoring its request for a deeper look at downstream greenhouse gas emissions from the $1.4 billion Leach Xpress natural gas pipeline, which TransCanada hopes to build in the heart of the Marcellus and Utica shale plays.

 

Westlake today said EPA’s push goes far beyond Leach Xpress.

 

“It’s not just for this project,” he said. “It’s a policy conversation we need to have with FERC about their approach to greenhouse gas emissions across future” environmental impact statements.

 

FERC declined to comment.

 

EPA officials last week said they want a “definitive resolution” through a sit-down meeting and expressed concern about FERC’s approach in light of the White House issuing a guidance that advises all agencies to quantify projected emissions for energy projects whenever the necessary tools, methodologies and data inputs were available.

 

As the lead agency on NEPA reviews for gas pipelines, compressor stations and export terminals, FERC takes comments from advisory agencies like EPA.

 

Westlake noted that EPA’s comments are advisory only and the agency cannot compel FERC to hold a headquarters-level gathering to discuss policy.

 

“We try to choose our words carefully and promote ongoing relationships,” he said. “Ultimately, we cannot compel them to have a meeting. We think we’ve made it clear such a policy discussion would be beneficial, and we’ll continue to make that point until we see progress.”

 

EPA, he added, is looking for more consistency in pipeline reviews and for a life-cycle analysis of emissions to be standard practice for FERC on gas pipelines. He noted the White House Council on Environmental Quality guidance clearly advises agencies across the board on how they ought to approach the issue of climate change and said EPA is encouraging other agencies to take an approach that follows the CEQ guidance.

 

EPA officials said they want to meet before FERC makes a decision on the Leach Xpress, partly to make sure the agency digs deep into downstream emissions from other projects under NEPA going forward.

 

Some analysts question whether FERC would grant EPA’s wish.

 

ClearView Energy Partners LLC analyst Christi Tezak told clients in a note last week that EPA’s request is “highly unusual” and that it’s not clear whether it would affect the proposed Leach Xpress. The project’s approval could come late this year.

 

Although FERC has expanded the scope of its environmental reviews for gas projects under NEPA over the past year, EPA has repeatedly found the reviews wanting, Tezak wrote.

 

“In some respects, we think the EPA’s recommendations appear to reflect a concerted effort to change how the FERC manages the mechanics of the certificate process under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), not just NEPA reviews,” she wrote. “At this juncture, we’re not sure such efforts will succeed.”

 

Tezak also noted some inconsistencies, pointing to FERC analyzing emissions from gas use for some projects but not others. That, she said, could leave developers open to delays or even legal challenges.

 

FERC, for example, didn’t quantify downstream indirect greenhouse gas emissions from the Leach Xpress pipeline but did analyze those emissions in an environmental impact statement for the Mountain Valley pipeline, which would stretch 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia.

 

“The variation between FERC’s indirect GHG emissions analyses,” Tezak wrote, “could leave some projects more vulnerable to challenge in court than others.”

 

 


.

 

One of Our Tools to Fight Climate Change:

.

.

Peekskill City Council Unanimously supported this initiative! Will your town or city do the same?
.

For more info see: 

Solarize Peekskill

 

Hudson Sunset

 

 


.

Other Allies Fighting Against Climate Change: Our Children’s Trust

 

 

 


.

Break Free!

SEnRG was happy to be able to support our allies at 350.org in their global call to ‘Break Free’ from all fossil fuels:

 

 

 


New Josh Fox Film!

 

How To Let Go of the World – and
Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change

 

SEnRG sponsored the premier of How To Let Go of the World -and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change at the IFC Center in New York City. SEnRG President Nancy Vann, actor and activist James Cromwell, and filmmaker Josh Fox held a discussion of the fossil fuel projects here in New York that are endangering our people and our climate.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Chemistry

Our leaders thought fracking would save our climate. They were wrong. Very wrong.

By Bill McKibben

MARCH 23, 2016

 

Global warming is, in the end, not about the noisy political battles here on the planet’s surface. It actually happens in constant, silent interactions in the atmosphere, where the molecular structure of certain gases traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. If you get the chemistry wrong, it doesn’t matter how many landmark climate agreements you sign or how many speeches you give. And it appears the United States may have gotten the chemistry wrong. Really wrong.

 

There’s one greenhouse gas everyone knows about: carbon dioxide, which is what you get when you burn fossil fuels. We talk about a “price on carbon” or argue about a carbon tax; our leaders boast about modest “carbon reductions.” But in the last few weeks, CO2’s nasty little brother has gotten some serious press. Meet methane, otherwise known as CH4.

 

Fracking Well Sunset

A fracking well in the Eagle Ford Shale region, near Karnes City, Texas. (AP Photo / Aaron M. Sprecher)

 

In February, Harvard researchers published an explosive paper in Geophysical Research Letters. Using satellite data and ground observations, they concluded that the nation as a whole is leaking methane in massive quantities. Between 2002 and 2014, the data showed that US methane emissions increased by more than 30 percent, accounting for 30 to 60 percent of an enormous spike in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere.

 

To the extent our leaders have cared about climate change, they’ve fixed on CO2. Partly as a result, coal-fired power plants have begun to close across the country. They’ve been replaced mostly with ones that burn natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane. Because burning natural gas releases significantly less carbon dioxide than burning coal, CO2 emissions have begun to trend slowly downward, allowing politicians to take a bow. But this new Harvard data, which comes on the heels of other aerial surveys showing big methane leakage, suggests that our new natural-gas infrastructure has been bleeding methane into the atmosphere in record quantities. And molecule for molecule, this unburned methane is much, much more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

 

The EPA insisted this wasn’t happening, that methane was on the decline just like CO2. But it turns out, as some scientists have been insisting for years, the EPA was wrong. Really wrong. This error is the rough equivalent of the New York Stock Exchange announcing tomorrow that the Dow Jones isn’t really at 17,000: Its computer program has been making a mistake, and your index fund actually stands at 11,000.

 

These leaks are big enough to wipe out a large share of the gains from the Obama administration’s work on climate change—all those closed coal mines and fuel-efficient cars. In fact, it’s even possible that America’s contribution to global warming increased during the Obama years. The methane story is utterly at odds with what we’ve been telling ourselves, not to mention what we’ve been telling the rest of the planet. It undercuts the promises we made at the climate talks in Paris. It’s a disaster—and one that seems set to spread.

 

The Obama administration, to its credit, seems to be waking up to the problem. Over the winter, the EPA began to revise its methane calculations, and in early March, the United States reached an agreement with Canada to begin the arduous task of stanching some of the leaks from all that new gas infrastructure. But none of this gets to the core problem, which is the rapid spread of fracking. Carbon dioxide is driving the great warming of the planet, but CO2 isn’t doing it alone. It’s time to take methane seriously.

 

HERE’S WHAT A MAN WHO STUDIED EVERY SUICIDE ATTACK IN THE WORLD SAYS ABOUT ISIS’ MOTIVES

GLOBAL WARMING’S TERRIFYING NEW CHEMISTRY

HOW DO YOU DECIDE TO HAVE A BABY WHEN CLIMATE CHANGE IS REMAKING LIFE ON EARTH?

* * *

 

To understand how we got here, it’s necessary to remember what a savior fracked natural gas looked like to many people, environmentalists included. As George W. Bush took hold of power in Washington, coal was ascendant, here and around the globe. Cheap and plentiful, it was most visibly underwriting the stunning growth of the economy in China, where, by some estimates, a new coal-fired power plant was opening every week. The coal boom didn’t just mean smoggy skies over Beijing; it meant the planet’s invisible cloud of carbon dioxide was growing faster than ever, and with it the certainty of dramatic global warming.

 

So lots of people thought it was great news when natural-gas wildcatters began rapidly expanding fracking in the last decade. Fracking involves exploding the sub-surface geology so that gas can leak out through newly opened pores; its refinement brought online new shale deposits across the continent—most notably the Marcellus Shale, stretching from West Virginia up into Pennsylvania and New York. The quantities of gas that geologists said might be available were so vast that they were measured in trillions of cubic feet and in centuries of supply.

 

The apparently happy fact was that when you burn natural gas, it releases half as much carbon dioxide as coal. A power plant that burned natural gas would therefore, or so the reasoning went, be half as bad for global warming as a power plant that burned coal. Natural gas was also cheap—so, from a politician’s point of view, fracking was a win-win situation. You could appease the environmentalists with their incessant yammering about climate change without having to run up the cost of electricity. It would be painless environmentalism, the equivalent of losing weight by cutting your hair.

 

It’s possible that America’s contribution to global warming increased during the Obama years.

 

And it appeared even better than that. If you were President Obama and had inherited a dead-in-the-water economy, the fracking boom offered one of the few economic bright spots. Not only did it employ lots of people, but cheap natural gas had also begun to alter the country’s economic equation: Manufacturing jobs were actually returning from overseas, attracted by newly abundant energy. In his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama declared that new natural-gas supplies would not only last the nation a century, but would create 600,000 new jobs by decade’s end. In his 2014 address, he announced that “businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in factories that use natural gas,” and pledged to “cut red tape” to get it all done. In fact, the natural-gas revolution has been a constant theme of his energy policy, the tool that made his restrictions on coal palatable. And Obama was never shy about taking credit for at least part of the boom. Public research dollars, he said in 2012, “helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock—reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.”

 

Obama had plenty of help selling natural gas—from the fossil-fuel industry, but also from environmentalists, at least for a while. Robert Kennedy Jr., who had enormous credibility as the founder of the Waterkeeper Alliance and a staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote a paean in 2009 to the “revolution…over the past two years [that] has left America awash in natural gas and has made it possible to eliminate most of our dependence on deadly, destructive coal practically overnight.” Meanwhile, the longtime executive director of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, had not only taken $25 million from one of the nation’s biggest frackers, Chesapeake Energy, to fund his organization, but was also making appearances with the company’s CEO to tout the advantages of gas, “an excellent example of a fuel that can be produced in quite a clean way, and shouldn’t be wasted.” (That CEO, Aubrey McClendon, apparently killed himself earlier this month, crashing his car into a bridge embankment days after being indicted for bid-rigging.) Exxon was in apparent agreement as well: It purchased XTO Energy, becoming the biggest fracker in the world overnight and allowing the company to make the claim that it was helping to drive emissions down.

 

For a brief shining moment, you couldn’t have asked for more. As Obama told a joint session of Congress, “The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy.”

 

* * *

Unless, of course, you happened to live in the fracking zone, where nightmares were starting to unfold. In recent decades, most American oil and gas exploration had been concentrated in the western United States, often far from population centers. When there were problems, politicians and media in these states paid little attention.

 

The Marcellus Shale, though, underlies densely populated eastern states. It wasn’t long before stories about the pollution of farm fields and contamination of drinking water from fracking chemicals began to make their way into the national media. In the Delaware Valley, after a fracking company tried to lease his family’s farm, a young filmmaker named Josh Fox produced one of the classic environmental documentaries of all time, Gasland, which became instantly famous for its shot of a man lighting on fire the methane flowing from his water faucet.

 

This reporting helped galvanize a movement—at first town by town, then state by state, and soon across whole regions. The activism was most feverish in New York, where residents could look across the Pennsylvania line and see the ecological havoc that fracking caused. Scores of groups kept up unrelenting pressure that eventually convinced Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban it. Long before that happened, the big environmental groups recanted much of their own support for fracking: The Sierra Club’s new executive director, Michael Brune, not only turned down $30 million in potential donations from fracking companies but came out swinging against the practice. “The club needs to…advocate more fiercely to use as little gas as possible,” he said. “We’re not going to mute our voice on this.” As for Robert Kennnedy Jr., by 2013 he was calling natural gas a “catastrophe.”

 

In the end, one of the most important outcomes of the antifracking movement may have been that it attracted the attention of a couple of Cornell scientists. Living on the northern edge of the Marcellus Shale, Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea got interested in the outcry. While everyone else was focused on essentially local issues—would fracking chemicals get in the water supply?—they decided to look more closely at a question that had never gotten much attention: How much methane was invisibly being leaked by these fracking operations?

 

Natural gas was also cheap—so, from a politician’s point of view, fracking was a win-win situation.

 

Because here’s the unhappy fact about methane: Though it produces only half as much carbon as coal when you burn it, if you don’t—if it escapes into the air before it can be captured in a pipeline, or anywhere else along its route to a power plant or your stove—then it traps heat in the atmosphere much more efficiently than CO2. Howarth and Ingraffea began producing a series of papers claiming that if even a small percentage of the methane leaked—maybe as little as 3 percent—then fracked gas would do more climate damage than coal. And their preliminary data showed that leak rates could be at least that high: that somewhere between 3.6 and 7.9 percent of methane gas from shale-drilling operations actually escapes into the atmosphere.

 

To say that no one in power wanted to hear this would be an understatement. The two scientists were roundly attacked by the industry; one trade group called their study the “Ivory Tower’s latest fact-free assault on shale gas exploration.” Most of the energy establishment joined in. An MIT team, for instance, had just finished an industry-funded report that found “the environmental impacts of shale development are challenging but manageable”; one of its lead authors, the ur-establishment energy expert Henry Jacoby, described the Cornell research as “very weak.” One of its other authors, Ernest Moniz, would soon become the US secretary of energy; in his nomination hearings in 2013, he lauded the “stunning increase” in natural gas as a “revolution” and pledged to increase its use domestically.

 

The trouble for the fracking establishment was that new research kept backing up Howarth and Ingraffea. In January 2013, for instance, aerial overflights of fracking basins in Utah found leak rates as high as 9 percent. “We were expecting to see high methane levels, but I don’t think anybody really comprehended the true magnitude of what we would see,” said the study’s director. But such work was always piecemeal, one area at a time, while other studies—often conducted with industry-supplied data—came up with lower numbers.

 

* * *

 

That’s why last month’s Harvard study came as such a shock. It used satellite data from across the country over a span of more than a decade to demonstrate that US methane emissions had spiked 30 percent since 2002. The EPA had been insisting throughout that period that methane emissions were actually falling, but it was clearly wrong—on a massive scale. In fact, emissions “are substantially higher than we’ve understood,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted in early March. The Harvard study wasn’t designed to show why US methane emissions were growing—in other parts of the world, as new research makes clear, cattle and wetlands seem to be causing emissions to accelerate. But the spike that the satellites recorded coincided almost perfectly with the era when fracking went big-time.

 

To make matters worse, during the same decade, experts had become steadily more worried about the effects of methane in any quantity on the atmosphere. Everyone agrees that, molecule for molecule, methane traps far more heat than CO2—but exactly how much wasn’t clear. One reason the EPA estimates of America’s greenhouse-gas emissions showed such improvement was because the agency, following standard procedures, was assigning a low value to methane and measuring its impact over a 100-year period. But a methane molecule lasts only a couple of decades in the air, compared with centuries for CO2. That’s good news, in that methane’s effects are transient—and very bad news because that transient but intense effect happens right now, when we’re breaking the back of the planet’s climate. The EPA’s old chemistry and 100-year time frame assigned methane a heating value of 28 to 36 times that of carbon dioxide; a more accurate figure, says Howarth, is between 86 and 105 times the potency of CO2 over the next decade or two.

 

If you combine Howarth’s estimates of leakage rates and the new standard values for the heat-trapping potential of methane, then the picture of America’s total greenhouse-gas emissions over the last 15 years looks very different: Instead of peaking in 2007 and then trending downward, as the EPA has maintained, our combined emissions of methane and carbon dioxide have gone steadily and sharply up during the Obama years, Howarth says. We closed coal plants and opened methane leaks, and the result is that things have gotten worse.

 

Since Howarth is an outspoken opponent of fracking, I ran the Harvard data past an impeccably moderate referee, the venerable climate-policy wonk Dan Lashof. A UC Berkeley PhD who has been in the inner circles of climate policy almost since it began, Lashof has helped write reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and craft the Obama administration’s plan to cut coal-plant pollution. The longtime head of the Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, he is now the chief operations officer of billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate America.

 

We closed coal plants and opened methane leaks, and the result is that things have gotten worse.

 

“The Harvard paper is important,” Lashof said. “It’s the most convincing new data I have seen showing that the EPA’s estimates of the methane-leak rate are much too low. I think this paper shows that US greenhouse-gas emissions may have gone up over the last decade if you focus on the combined short-term-warming impact.”

 

Under the worst-case scenario—one that assumes that methane is extremely potent and extremely fast-acting—the United States has actually slightly increased its greenhouse-gas emissions from 2005 to 2015. That’s the chart below: the blue line shows what we’ve been telling ourselves and the world about our emissions—that they are falling. The red line, the worst-case calculation from the new numbers, shows just the opposite.

 

Lashof argues for a more moderate reading of the numbers (calculating methane’s impact over 50 years, for instance). But even this estimate—one that attributes less of the methane release to fracking—wipes out as much as three-fifths of the greenhouse-gas reductions that the United States has been claiming. This more modest reassessment is the yellow line in the chart below; it shows the country reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions, but by nowhere near as much as we had thought.

 

Worst-Case-Senario-chart_img

 

 

The lines are doubtless not as smooth as the charts imply, and other studies will provide more detail and perhaps shift the calculations. But any reading of the new data offers a very different version of our recent history. Among other things, either case undercuts the statistics that America used to negotiate the Paris climate accord. It’s more upsetting than the discovery last year that China had underestimated its coal use, because China now appears to be cutting back aggressively on coal. If the Harvard data hold up and we keep on fracking, it will be nearly impossible for the United States to meet its promised goal of a 26 to 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2025.

 

Modest-Estimate-Chart_img

 

* * *

 

One obvious conclusion from the new data is that we need to move very aggressively to plug as many methane leaks as possible. “The biggest unfinished business for the Obama administration is to establish tight rules on methane emissions from existing [wells and drill sites],” Lashof says. That’s the work that Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to tackle at their conclave in March—although given the time it takes for the EPA to draft new rules, it will likely be long after Obama’s departure before anything happens, and the fossil-fuel industry has vowed to fight new regulations.

 

Also, containing the leaks is easier said than done: After all, methane is a gas, meaning that it’s hard to prevent it from escaping. Since methane is invisible and odorless (utilities inject a separate chemical to add a distinctive smell), you need special sensors to even measure leaks. Catastrophic blowouts like the recent one at Porter Ranch in California pour a lot of methane into the air, but even these accidents are small compared to the total seeping out from the millions of pipes, welds, joints, and valves across the country—especially the ones connected with fracking operations, which involve exploding rock to make large, leaky pores. A Canadian government team examined the whole process a couple of years ago and came up with despairing conclusions. Consider the cement seals around drill pipes, says Harvard’s Naomi Oreskes, who was a member of the team: “It sounds like it ought to be simple to make a cement seal, but the phrase we finally fixed on is ‘an unresolved engineering challenge.’ The technical problem is that when you pour cement into a well and it solidifies, it shrinks. You can get gaps in the cement. All wells leak.”

 

With that in mind, the other conclusion from the new data is even more obvious: We need to stop the fracking industry in its tracks, here and abroad. Even with optimistic numbers for all the plausible leaks fixed, Howarth says, methane emissions will keep rising if we keep fracking.

 

“It ought to be simple to make a cement seal, but the phrase we finally fixed on is ‘an unresolved engineering challenge.’” 

 

And if we didn’t frack, what would we do instead? Ten years ago, the realistic choice was between natural gas and coal. But that choice is no longer germane: Over the same 10 years, the price of a solar panel has dropped at least 80 percent. New inventions have come online, such as air-source heat pumps, which use the latent heat in the air to warm and cool houses, and electric storage batteries. We’ve reached the point where Denmark can generate 42 percent of its power from the wind, and where Bangladesh is planning to solarize every village in the country within the next five years. We’ve reached the point, that is, where the idea of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to a renewable future is a marketing slogan, not a realistic claim (even if that’s precisely the phrase that Hillary Clinton used to defend fracking in a debate earlier this month).

 

One of the nastiest side effects of the fracking boom, in fact, is that the expansion of natural gas has undercut the market for renewables, keeping us from putting up windmills and solar panels at the necessary pace. Joe Romm, a climate analyst at the Center for American Progress, has been tracking the various economic studies more closely than anyone else. Even if you could cut the methane-leakage rates to zero, Romm says, fracked gas (which, remember, still produces 50 percent of the CO2 level emitted by coal when you burn it) would do little to cut the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions because it would displace so much truly clean power. A Stanford forum in 2014 assembled more than a dozen expert teams, and their models showed what a drag on a sustainable future cheap, abundant gas would be. “Cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by burning natural gas is like dieting by eating reduced-fat cookies,” the principal investigator of the Stanford forum explained. “If you really want to lose weight, you probably need to avoid cookies altogether.”

 

Of course, if you’re a cookie company, that’s not what you want to hear. And the Exxons have a little more political juice than the Keeblers. To give just one tiny example, during his first term, Obama’s then–deputy assistant for energy and climate change, Heather Zichal, headed up an interagency working group to promote the development of domestic natural gas. The working group had been formed after pressure from the American Petroleum Institute, the chief fossil-fuel lobbying group, and Zichal, in a talk to an API gathering, said: “It’s hard to overstate how natural gas—and our ability to access more of it than ever—has become a game changer, and that’s why it’s been a fixture of the president’s ‘All of the Above’ energy strategy.” Zichal left her White House job in 2013; one year later, she took a new post on the board of Cheniere Energy, a leading exporter of fracked gas. In the $180,000-a-year job, she joined former CIA head John Deutch, who once led an Energy Department review of fracking safety during the Obama years, and Vicky Bailey, a commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under Bill Clinton. That’s how it works.

* * *

There was one oddly reassuring number in the Harvard satellite data: The massive new surge of methane from the United States constituted somewhere between 30 and 60 percent of the global growth in methane emissions this past decade. In other words, the relatively small percentage of the planet’s surface known as the United States accounts for much (if not most) of the spike in atmospheric methane around the world. Another way of saying this is: We were the first to figure out how to frack. In this new century, we’re leading the world into the natural-gas age, just as we poured far more carbon into the 20th-century atmosphere than any other nation. So, thank God, now that we know there’s a problem, we could warn the rest of the planet before it goes down the same path.

 

Except we’ve been doing exactly the opposite. We’ve become the planet’s salesman for natural gas—and a key player in this scheme could become the next president of the United States. When Hillary Clinton took over the State Department, she set up a special arm, the Bureau of Energy Resources, after close consultation with oil and gas executives. This bureau, with 63 employees, was soon helping sponsor conferences around the world. And much more: Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show that the secretary of state was essentially acting as a broker for the shale-gas industry, twisting the arms of world leaders to make sure US firms got to frack at will.

 

To take just one example, an article in Mother Jones based on the WikiLeaks cables reveals what happened when fracking came to Bulgaria. In 2011, the country signed a $68 million deal with Chevron, granting the company millions of acres in shale-gas concessions. The Bulgarian public wasn’t happy: Tens of thousands were in the streets of Sofia with banners reading Stop Fracking With Our Water. But when Clinton came for a state visit in 2012, she sided with Chevron (one of whose executives had bundled large sums for her presidential campaign in 2008). In fact, the leaked cables show that the main topic of her meetings with Bulgaria’s leaders was fracking. Clinton offered to fly in the “best specialists on these new technologies to present the benefits to the Bulgarian people,” and she dispatched her Eurasian energy envoy, Richard Morningstar, to lobby hard against a fracking ban in neighboring Romania. Eventually, they won those battles—and today, the State Department provides “assistance” with fracking to dozens of countries around the world, from Cambodia to Papua New Guinea.

 

So if the United States has had a terrible time tracking down and fixing its methane leaks, ask yourself how it’s going to go in Bulgaria. If Canada finds that sealing leaks is an “unresolved engineering challenge,” ask yourself how Cambodia’s going to make out. If the State Department has its way, then in a few years Harvard’s satellites will be measuring gushers of methane from every direction.

* * *

Of course, we can—and perhaps we should— forgive all that past. The information about methane is relatively new; when Obama and Clinton and Zichal started backing fracking, they didn’t really know. They could have turned around much earlier, like Kennedy or the Sierra Club. But what they do now will be decisive.

 

There are a few promising signs. Clinton has at least tempered her enthusiasm for fracking some in recent debates, listing a series of preconditions she’d insist on before new projects were approved; Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has called for a moratorium on new fracking. But Clinton continues to conflate and confuse the chemistry: Natural gas, she said in a recent position paper, has helped US carbon emissions “reach their lowest level in 20 years.” It appears that many in power would like to carry on the fracking revolution, albeit a tad more carefully.

 

Indeed, just last month, Cheniere Energy shipped the first load of American gas overseas from its new export terminal at Sabine Pass in Louisiana. As the ship sailed, Cheniere’s vice president of marketing, Meg Gentle, told industry and government officials that natural gas should be rebranded as renewable energy. “I’d challenge everyone here to reframe the debate and make sure natural gas is part of the category of clean energy, not a fossil-fuel category, which is viewed as dirty and not part of the solution,” she said. A few days later, Exxon’s PR chief, writing in the Los Angeles Times, boasted that the company had been “instrumental in America’s shale gas revolution,” and that as a result, “America’s greenhouse gas emissions have declined to levels not seen since the 1990s.”

 

The new data prove them entirely wrong. The global-warming fight can’t just be about carbon dioxide any longer. Those local environmentalists, from New York State to Tasmania, who have managed to enforce fracking bans are doing as much for the climate as they are for their own clean water. That’s because fossil fuels are the problem in global warming—and fossil fuels don’t come in good and bad flavors. Coal and oil and natural gas have to be left in the ground. All of them.

 

 

BILL MCKIBBEN Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books, most recently The Bill McKibben Reader, an essay collection. A scholar in residence at Middlebury College, he is co-founder of 350.org, the largest global grassroots organizing campaign on climate change.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

What does climate change really affect?

 

 

 

What lies ahead?

 

 

 


 

Lamont Doherty Header

 

Climate Change Isn’t Just a 21st Century Problem

February 8, 2016

A new study analyzes the human influence on the climate, ice loss and global sea level rise over the next 10,000 years using four scenarios. From Clark, et al. 2016

A new study analyzes the human influence on the climate, ice loss and global sea level rise over the next 10,000 years using four scenarios. From Clark, et al. 2016

Humans have been burning fossil fuels for only about 150 years, yet that has started a cascade of profound changes that at their current pace will still be felt 10,000 years from now, a new study shows.

Coastal areas, in particular, will experience the long-term effects as rising seas slowly redraw the world map as we know it and continue to rise long after emissions are brought down. Even in a scenario in which global temperatures warm to only about 2° Celsius above pre-industrial times, the analysis shows that several of the world’s coastal megacities will eventually be submerged.

That long-term view is important. Policymakers today often discuss climate impacts only through the end of this century. The study provides a new perspective for considering the compounding effects of today’s carbon emissions and what their impact will mean for future generations. It also feeds into international discussions underway this year on whether humans have pushed the planet into a new geologic epoch that many are calling the Anthropocene.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that humans have become a geological force of nature,” said Anders Levermann, a co-author of the study and a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “The emission of greenhouse gases is already changing our climate. If continued, sea level will continue to rise and consume the coastlines and our cultural heritage there for centuries to come.”

In the new study, Levermann and his co-authors analyzed the long-term impact that continuing to burn fossil fuels will have over the next 10,000 years. They created four scenarios and gave the world a carbon budget for each—a total amount of carbon that could be released into the atmosphere from coal, oil and gas and other sources, with those emissions declining to zero over the next 300 years.

The results reveal the powerful, long-term impact that human choices made today have when they contribute to already high carbon concentrations in the atmosphere and oceans:

  • In the atmosphere, 20-50 percent of airborne carbon emissions from human activities over the next 100 years will still be present 1,000 years from now.
  • 60-70 percent of the change in ocean surface temperatures—an important driver of extreme weather and droughts—will still be evident in 10,000 years.
  • Sea level will slowly rise, and will remain at or near its peak for at least 10,000 years, long after emissions have declined.

The climate changes already underway are happening at rates not seen before. Warming that ended the last ice age proceeded over nearly 8,000 years. Today, we are on pace for a similar temperature rise over the span of a few centuries.

“This long-term view shows that the next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far,” the authors write.

How Much Carbon?

So far in our history, humans have burned through around 570 petagrams of carbon (PgC), equivalent to 570 billion metric tons, the study notes.

Of the four scenarios in the study, the one with the smallest impact would contribute 1,280 PgC between the years 2000 and 2300. The result would push temperatures more than 2° C above pre-industrial times—a level of warming that world leaders have agreed not to exceed but that our current trajectory would surpass. Under the most destructive scenario, the world would burn through 5,120 PgC and warm by 7.5° C.

The scientists analyzed the impact of the four scenarios using carbon cycle, climate, and land-ice models. All four, they found, produced a climate state not previously experienced by human civilization.

Sea Level Rise

Even in the scenario with the least impact, several megacities will largely become submerged over time. From Clark, et al. 2016

Even in the scenario with the least impact, several megacities would become largely submerged over time. From Clark, et al. 2016

Sea level rise is slow and varies location to location, but all four scenarios suggest widespread damage to coastal cities.

Even in the scenario with the smallest impact, several megacities—including Shanghai and New York—would be almost completely submerged over time. In 122 countries, at least 10 percent of their current population-weighted area would eventually be under water; in 25 countries, that rises to 50 percent.

With current annual emissions rates at about 10 PgC per year, we would reach that scenario in about 120 years. Sea levels would take longer to rise, but the effects would be locked in unless the resulting emissions can eventually be removed from the atmosphere.

“If we want to keep cities like New York, Tokyo, Calcutta and London, we cannot burn all the coal that we have found, we need to leave a significant portion of it in the ground,” Levermann said. “Cleaner energy sources exist, and they need to be used intensively if we want to pass on Miami and New York to future generations.”

The scientists also explored each major source of sea level rise and how it would respond in each scenario.

Looking at the scenario with the smallest impact, the scientists found that thermal expansion of the oceans would drive sea level rise first, pushing average global sea level up as much as 1.1 meters over 2,300 years, then slowly falling. As warmer ocean water breaks up the ice shelves holding back Antarctica’s glaciers, the ice released into the ocean would raise sea level as much as 24 meters over time. The Greenland ice sheet would partially melt, contributing up to 4 meters more over 10,000 years.

Under the rest of the scenarios, the Greenland ice sheet melts completely, leaving the island ice-free and causing about 7 meters of sea level rise. Under the most destructive scenario, that would happen within 2,500 years, and ice loss from Antarctica would contribute as much as 45 meters more over 10,000 years.

“It takes sea level rise a very long time to react—on the order of centuries,” said Peter Clark, the study’s lead author and a climate scientist at Oregon State University. “It’s like heating a pot of water on the stove; it doesn’t boil for quite a while after the heat is turned on—but then it will continue to boil as long as the heat persists. Once carbon is in the atmosphere, it will stay there for tens or hundreds of thousands of years, and the warming, as well as the higher seas, will remain.”

The scenarios provide a broad view of the future if current trends continue. Many questions remain that will matter to global adaptation efforts, Levermann noted. The big one is the rate at which Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice, which determines how quickly sea level will rise. It’s a question scientists at Lamont are working on.

The paper appears in the journal Nature Climate Change. Levermann was joined by 21 co-authors from across Europe, the United States and Canada.

Media Inquiries:
Stacy Morford
smorford@ldeo.columbia.edu
845-365-8151

 

 


 

 

Peekskill to Paris!

 

Some scenes from the “Peekskill to Paris” rally at Riverfront Green. A cold rainy day – but with bright warm spirits:

 

 

Click here for: Fios1 Coverage of Peekskill to Paris Rally

 

 


 

ABOUT THE PARIS CLIMATE TALKS

 

The 21st “Conference of the Parties” (COP21) involves delegates from 192 countries who will attempt to work together to fashion a new international agreement on climate change. This will be the 21st COP since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, acknowledging the existence of anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change a major threat to a sustainable planet.

The Kyoto Protocol, which commits industrialized countries to internationally binding emission reduction targets, was the first climate treaty to emerge from this process. It was passed at COP3 in December 1997 at Kyoto, Japan and came into force in February 2005 when a sufficient number of developed countries signed the agreement; the United States did not, hampering negotiations for the next decade.

A successor agreement, involving all countries and with stronger provisions, is long overdue. A growing number of governments, NGOs and climate activists are committed to making COP21 the occasion for this to happen.

 

 


 

Exxon Knew!!

 

Oil giant Exxon Mobil was subpoenaed by New York’s attorney general Eric Schneiderman in an investigation of whether the company has intentionally downplayed the risks of climate change. Kenneth Cohen is vice president of Public & Government Affairs for the Exxon Mobil Corporation. They are interviewed by Judy Woodruff of PBS in the video below.

 

November 11, 2015


 

Columbia University Journalism School’s Responds to Exxon Attacks:

 

   . . . .  I have concluded that your allegations are unsupported by the evidence. More than that, I have been troubled to discover that you have made serious allegations of professional misconduct in your letter against members of the project team even though you or your Media Relations colleagues possess email records showing that your allegations are false.  . . .

 

For the full letter, click here

 

 


 

And a little music for our still-skeptical friends . . .

 

 

LYRICS:

Hello skeptics not our friends,
We’ve come to share with you again
Data proving that the Earth’s warming
Is a phenomenon that we’re causing
Because the carbon that we burn with such little care
Has warmed the air
Among the sound of skeptics

It’s not as if this is unknown,
The trends consistently have shown
That global sea levels are rising,
But our governments are left compromising
And the public misinformed by your false logic and cherry picks,
Still hear the sound of skeptics

In the AR5 we saw
Projections that left us in awe
Droughts and floods without warning,
Less Arctic sea ice forming
And the cure? We have to cut our emissions bare
But still you dare
Create the sound of skeptics

What else will we need to show
Before you’ll agree it’s time we go
Build infrastructure that’s sustainable,
An RCP that is attainable?
But propaganda that you spread for the average joe
Just steals the show
And promotes the sound of skeptics.

 


 

 

Obama Rejects Keystone Pipeline!

 

Says we need to keep it in the ground:

 

 

 


 

 

Rethinking my opinions on monarchy . . .

 

For Britain’s Prince Charles’s views about fossil fuels and climate change, click here

Prince Charles

 


 

Animated map shows what the US would look like if all the Earth’s ice melted

Watch it here

 

 


 

 

Exxon’s climate lie: ‘No corporation has ever done anything this big or bad’

 

I’m well aware that with Paris looming it’s time to be hopeful, and I’m willing to try. Even amid the record heat and flooding of the present, there are good signs for the future in the rising climate movement and the falling cost of solar.

But before we get to past and present there’s some past to be reckoned with, and before we get to hope there’s some deep, blood-red anger.

In the last three weeks, two separate teams of journalists — the Pulitzer-prize winning reporters at the website Inside Climate News and another crew composed of Los Angeles Times veterans and up-and-comers at the Columbia Journalism School — have begun publishing the results of a pair of independent investigations into ExxonMobil.

Though they draw on completely different archives, leaked documents, and interviews with ex-employees, they reach the same damning conclusion: Exxon knew all that there was to know about climate change decades ago, and instead of alerting the rest of us denied the science and obstructed the politics of global warming.

To be specific:

  • By 1978 Exxon’s senior scientists were telling top management that climate change was real, caused by man, and would raise global temperatures by 2-3C this century, which was pretty much spot-on.
  • By the early 1980s they’d validated these findings with shipborne measurements of CO2 (they outfitted a giant tanker with carbon sensors for a research voyage) and with computer models that showed precisely what was coming. As the head of one key lab at Exxon Research wrote to his superiors, there was “unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the earth’s climate, including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere”.
  • And by the early 1990s their researchers studying the possibility for new exploration in the Arctic were well aware that human-induced climate change was melting the poles. Indeed, they used that knowledge to plan their strategy, reporting that soon the Beaufort Sea would be ice-free as much as five months a year instead of the historic two. Greenhouse gases are rising “due to the burning of fossil fuels,” a key Exxon researcher told an audience of engineers at a conference in 1991. “Nobody disputes this fact.”

But of course Exxon did dispute that fact. Not inside the company, where they used their knowledge to buy oil leases in the areas they knew would melt, but outside, where they used their political and financial might to make sure no one took climate change seriously.

They helped organise campaigns designed to instil doubt, borrowing tactics and personnel from the tobacco industry’s similar fight. They funded “institutes” devoted to outright climate denial. And at the highest levels they did all they could to spread their lies.

To understand the treachery – the sheer, profound, and I think unparalleled evil – of Exxon, one must remember the timing. Global warming became a public topic in 1988, thanks to Nasa scientist James Hansen – it’s taken a quarter-century and counting for the world to take effective action. If at any point in that journey Exxon – largest oil company on Earth, most profitable enterprise in human history – had said: “Our own research shows that these scientists are right and that we are in a dangerous place,” the faux debate would effectively have ended. That’s all it would have taken; stripped of the cover provided by doubt, humanity would have gotten to work.

Instead, knowingly, they helped organise the most consequential lie in human history, and kept that lie going past the point where we can protect the poles, prevent the acidification of the oceans, or slow sea level rise enough to save the most vulnerable regions and cultures. Businesses misbehave all the time, but VW is the flea to Exxon’s elephant. No corporation has ever done anything this big and this bad.

I’m aware that anger at this point does little good. I’m aware that all clever people will say “of course they did” or “we all use fossil fuels”, as if either claim is meaningful. I’m aware that nothing much will happen to Exxon – I doubt they’ll be tried in court, or their executives sent to jail.

But nonetheless it seems crucial simply to say, for the record, the truth: this company had the singular capacity to change the course of world history for the better and instead it changed that course for the infinitely worse. In its greed Exxon helped — more than any other institution — to kill our planet.

 

 


From the Washington Post:

Reasons why NASA is studying sea level rise

NASA is undertaking an “intensive research effort” into the problem of rising seas brought on by global warming, the agency announced Wednesday. And it will include satellite mounted tools so accurate that “if they were mounted on a commercial jetliner, flying at 40,000 feet, they could detect the bump caused by a dime lying flat on the ground,” as agency earth science director Mike Freilich put it Wednesday.

The agency says that we’ve seen 3 inches of global sea level increase since the year 1992 — with large regional variation — and a further rise of three feet has likely been “locked in” by warming that has already occurred.

The agency Wednesday released a new data visualization showing ice mass loss from Greenland since the year 2004 totaling 2,500 gigatons. (A gigaton is a billion metric tons.) Indeed, NASA says Greenland has lost an average of 303 gigatons yearly for the past decade. Since it takes 360 gigatons to raise sea level by a millimeter, that would suggest Greenland has done this about eight times over just in the last 10 years or so.

 

This NASA animation shows Greenland’s ice mass
loss from January 2004 to June 2014. (NASA)

 

To determine what’s happening here, a new NASA program called Oceans Melting Greenland — yes, OMG — will be examining the coastal interface between sea and glacier and also mapping the complex topography beneath the ice, which has major implications for how fast it can slide into the seas.

Another new agency visualization released Wednesday illustrates the variation in sea level rise around the world.

 

For the full article, go to:  NASA on Climate Change

 

 


 

 

Naomi Klein in Cambridge on “This Changes Everything”

 

 


 

 

Why Is the GOP the Only Elected Political Party in the World That Denies Climate Change?

 

A recent study has found evidence that the American Republican Party is unique in the world for its denial of climate change science. No other major political party is able to so staunchly refuse to acknowledge scientific consensus and remain in any form of authority.

 

As Jonathan Chait from New York Magazine explains:

“Of all the major conservative parties in the democratic world, the Republican Party stands alone in its denial of the legitimacy of climate science. Indeed, the Republican Party stands alone in its conviction that no national or international response to climate change is needed. To the extent that the party is divided on the issue, the gap separates candidates who openly dismiss climate science as a hoax, and those who, shying away from the political risks of blatant ignorance, instead couch their stance in the alleged impossibility of international action.”

 

paper published recently by Sondre Båtstrand found that around the world, opposition to legislation to combat growing carbon emissions “is only the case with the U.S. Republican Party, and hence not representative of conservatives parties as a party family.”

 

What makes the American Republican Party different than other conservative parties? Chait argues that it is their unwillingness to compromise and it seems that he is right. Unlike other conservative parties, America’s GOP is dedicated to opposing their political counterpart by every possible means.

 

For more on this, read the article from New York Magazine titled: “Why Are Republicans the Only Climate-Science-Denying Party in the World?”