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New report brings pre-2020 actions into sharp focus

April 7, 2015 Comments off

New report brings pre-2020 actions into sharp focus
Source: World Wildlife Fund

As UN climate negotiators in Geneva today focus on emissions reductions in the pre-2020 period, a new WWF report outlines the immediate mitigation measures that can be taken in 10 countries.

The WWF report, Crossing the Divide: How to Close the Emissions Abyss, shows how key countries can begin work now to close the ‘gigatonne gap’.

Tasneem Essop, WWF’s head of delegation to the UN climate negotiations says there are plenty of ways governments around the world can limit their pre-2020 emissions. “These range from scrapping coal-fired power stations and increasing renewables to improving energy efficiency, strengthening emissions targets and addressing deforestation.”

The urgency to act is highlighted by the scientific evidence outlined in the latest IPCC report that made it clear that emissions have to peak within the pre-2020 period and sharply decline after that.

The WWF report aims to keep focus on the critical period leading to when a new climate agreement would take hold in 2020.

Hidden Benefits of Electric Vehicles for Addressing Climate Change

April 4, 2015 Comments off

Hidden Benefits of Electric Vehicles for Addressing Climate Change
Source: Scientific Reports

There is an increasingly hot debate on whether the replacement of conventional vehicles (CVs) by electric vehicles (EVs) should be delayed or accelerated since EVs require higher cost and cause more pollution than CVs in the manufacturing process. Here we reveal two hidden benefits of EVs for addressing climate change to support the imperative acceleration of replacing CVs with EVs. As EVs emit much less heat than CVs within the same mileage, the replacement can mitigate urban heat island effect (UHIE) to reduce the energy consumption of air conditioners, benefitting local and global climates. To demonstrate these effects brought by the replacement of CVs by EVs, we take Beijing, China, as an example. EVs emit only 19.8% of the total heat emitted by CVs per mile. The replacement of CVs by EVs in 2012 could have mitigated the summer heat island intensity (HII) by about 0.94°C, reduced the amount of electricity consumed daily by air conditioners in buildings by 14.44 million kilowatt-hours (kWh), and reduced daily CO2 emissions by 10,686 tonnes.

Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability (2015)

March 30, 2015 Comments off

Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability (2015)
Source: National Research Council

By 2050 the world’s population is projected to grow by one-third, reaching between 9 and 10 billion. With globalization and expected growth in global affluence, a substantial increase in per capita meat, dairy, and fish consumption is also anticipated. The demand for calories from animal products will nearly double, highlighting the critical importance of the world’s animal agriculture system. Meeting the nutritional needs of this population and its demand for animal products will require a significant investment of resources as well as policy changes that are supportive of agricultural production. Ensuring sustainable agricultural growth will be essential to addressing this global challenge to food security.

Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability identifies areas of research and development, technology, and resource needs for research in the field of animal agriculture, both nationally and internationally. This report assesses the global demand for products of animal origin in 2050 within the framework of ensuring global food security; evaluates how climate change and natural resource constraints may impact the ability to meet future global demand for animal products in sustainable production systems; and identifies factors that may impact the ability of the United States to meet demand for animal products, including the need for trained human capital, product safety and quality, and effective communication and adoption of new knowledge, information, and technologies.

The agricultural sector worldwide faces numerous daunting challenges that will require innovations, new technologies, and new ways of approaching agriculture if the food, feed, and fiber needs of the global population are to be met. The recommendations of Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability will inform a new roadmap for animal science research to meet the challenges of sustainable animal production in the 21st century.

Developing Robust Strategies for Climate Change and Other Risks: A Water Utility Framework

March 30, 2015 Comments off

Developing Robust Strategies for Climate Change and Other Risks: A Water Utility Framework
Source: RAND Corporation

RAND researchers and collaborators present a comprehensive approach for water utilities to assess climate risks to their systems and evaluate adaptation strategies. The approach, based on Robust Decision Making, is demonstrated through pilot studies with two water utilities: Colorado Springs Utilities and New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

Solar panels reduce both global warming and urban heat island

March 24, 2015 Comments off

Solar panels reduce both global warming and urban heat island
Source: Frontiers in Environmental Science

The production of solar energy in cities is clearly a way to diminish our dependency to fossil fuels, and is a good way to mitigate global warming by lowering the emission of greenhouse gases. However, what are the impacts of solar panels locally? To evaluate their influence on urban weather, it is necessary to parameterize their effects within the surface schemes that are coupled to atmospheric models. The present paper presents a way to implement solar panels in the Town Energy Balance scheme, taking account of the energy production (for thermal and photovoltaic panels), the impact on the building below and feedback toward the urban micro-climate through radiative and convective fluxes. A scenario of large but realistic deployment of solar panels on the Paris metropolitan area is then simulated. It is shown that solar panels, by shading the roofs, slightly increases the need for domestic heating (3%). In summer, however, the solar panels reduce the energy needed for air-conditioning (by 12%) and also the Urban Heat Island (UHI): 0.2 K by day and up to 0.3 K at night. These impacts are larger than those found in previous works, because of the use of thermal panels (that are more efficient than photovoltaic panels) and the geographical position of Paris, which is relatively far from the sea. This means that it is not influenced by sea breezes, and hence that its UHI is stronger than for a coastal city of the same size. But this also means that local adaptation strategies aiming to decrease the UHI will have more potent effects. In summary, the deployment of solar panels is good both globally, to produce renewable energy (and hence to limit the warming of the climate) and locally, to decrease the UHI, especially in summer, when it can constitute a health threat.

Highways in the Coastal Environment: Assessing Extreme Events

March 15, 2015 Comments off

Highways in the Coastal Environment: Assessing Extreme Events (PDF)
Source: Federal Highway Administration

The US transportation system is vulnerable to coastal extreme event storms today and this vulnerability will increase with climate change. Hurricane Sandy caused over $10 billion in damage to coastal roads, rails, tunnels, and other transportation facilities in New York and New Jersey (Blake et al. 2013, NOAA 2013). Hurricanes Ivan (2004), Katrina (2005), Ike (2008), and other storms have also caused billions in damage to coastal roads and bridges throughout the Gulf Coast. Portions of California State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, have been relocated away from the ocean in response to bluff erosion threatening the highway. Costs of lost business when critical transportation services are interrupted after coastal storms have also been significant.

This vulnerability will increase as sea levels rise. Many projections of future sea levels suggest accelerated rise rates resulting from global climate change. Higher sea levels will combine with future extreme events to increase the vulnerability of coastal highways, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure. Thus, damage from coastal hazards such as hurricanes, high waves, tsunamis, and extreme tides will increase in cost, frequency, and magnitude. It is estimated that over 60,000 roadway miles in the US are exposed to coastal storm surge (FHWA 2008). The degree to which that exposure, and resulting vulnerability, will increase as a result of climate change is currently unknown.

The transportation authorization act, MAP-21 – the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, lists “protection against extreme events” as an eligible project purpose for federal funding of construction, replacement, rehabilitation, or preservation of bridges (P.L. 112-141: Section 119 (d) (2) (B)). The FHWA guidance memo entitled “Eligibility of Activities to Adapt to Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events under the Federal-Aid and Federal Lands Highway Program” (FHWA 2012a), provides more specific information on the use of federal highway program funds in the planning, design and construction of highways to adapt to extreme events considering climate change. This memo stressed that “consideration of extreme events, their impacts on highways and transportation systems, and development of adaptation strategies should be grounded in the best available scientific approaches.” Adaptation activities need to be based on the current understanding of weather patterns affecting the location of a project or region, as well as projected changes in climate.

Thus, there is a need for technical guidance in assessing the exposure and vulnerability of highway infrastructure in the coastal environment that will be impacted by extreme events including considerations of the effects of climate change. This publication is intended to be technical guidance grounded in the “best available scientific approaches” to vulnerability and risk assessment and climate change.

The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief: Experimental Evidence

March 12, 2015 Comments off

The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief: Experimental Evidence
Source: PLoS ONE

There is currently widespread public misunderstanding about the degree of scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, both in the US as well as internationally. Moreover, previous research has identified important associations between public perceptions of the scientific consensus, belief in climate change and support for climate policy. This paper extends this line of research by advancing and providing experimental evidence for a “gateway belief model” (GBM). Using national data (N = 1104) from a consensus-message experiment, we find that increasing public perceptions of the scientific consensus is significantly and causally associated with an increase in the belief that climate change is happening, human-caused and a worrisome threat. In turn, changes in these key beliefs are predictive of increased support for public action. In short, we find that perceived scientific agreement is an important gateway belief, ultimately influencing public responses to climate change.

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