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Who are the Big Ten in the carbon pollution business?

October 9, 2014 Comments off

Who are the Big Ten in the carbon pollution business?
Source: Environment & Energy Publishing

What ties America’s second-biggest energy company, ConocoPhillips Co., to a small Houston-based shale driller, Halcón Resources Corp.? They had some of the worst carbon pollution rates among their peers in 2012.

Oil and gas operations have come under scrutiny for their climate impacts primarily because they leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The fossil fuel sector is the second-biggest emitter of the gas, which is 86 times as bad as carbon dioxide for the climate on a 20-year time scale. Where carbon dioxide works over centuries to wreak climate havoc, methane is its speedier cousin, working much more rapidly before decaying into less virulent gases. For climate change, both gases matter.

Halcón, whose name means “hawk” in Spanish, is a company founded by Floyd Wilson, a wildcatter who sold his Petrohawk Energy Corp. (the first company to drill in the Eagle Ford Shale in 2008) to BHP Billiton Ltd. for an astounding $15.1 billion in 2011. Halcón, which owned $5 billion in assets in 2012, emitted 6.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents of methane per million cubic feet (mtCO2e/MMcf) of energy produced at the wells it operated. It was the dirtiest producer among the nation’s top 40 energy companies in 2012.

In comparison, Houston-based ConocoPhillips is a multinational energy company with operations around the world, and it owned $117 billion in assets in 2012. The company emitted at about half of Halcón’s rate, but its presence in the top 10 is remarkable given that comparable multinational companies like Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. were cleaner.

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Encroaching Tides; Tidal flooding, driven by sea level rise, will dramatically increase in U.S. East and Gulf Coast communities over the next 30 years

October 9, 2014 Comments off

Encroaching Tides; Tidal flooding, driven by sea level rise, will dramatically increase in U.S. East and Gulf Coast communities over the next 30 years
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

Today scores of coastal communities are seeing more frequent flooding during high tides. As sea level rises higher over the next 15 to 30 years, tidal flooding is expected to occur more often, cause more disruption, and even render some areas unusable — all within the time frame of a typical home mortgage.

An analysis of 52 tide gauges in communities stretching from Portland, Maine to Freeport, Texas shows that most of these communities will experience a steep increase in the number and severity of tidal flooding events over the coming decades, with significant implications for property, infrastructure, and daily life in affected areas.

Given the substantial and nearly ubiquitous rise in the frequency of floods at these 52 locations, many other communities along the East and Gulf Coasts will need to brace for similar changes.

CRS — Clean Coal Loan Guarantees and Tax Incentives: Issues in Brief (August 19, 2014)

October 3, 2014 Comments off

Clean Coal Loan Guarantees and Tax Incentives: Issues in Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Coal represents a major energy resource for the United States. Coal-fired power plants provided approximately 37% of U.S. generated electricity (about 1.5 billion megawatt-hours) in 2012, while consuming over 800 million tons of coal. Power plants that use coal are also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, contributing approximately 28% of total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2012.

As part of federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, loan guarantees and tax incentives have been made available to support private sector investment in “clean coal.” Both loan guarantees and tax incentives were included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05, P.L. 109-58). Mitigating CO2 emissions has also become the primary focus of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) efforts within the clean coal research and development program (now Coal R&D) within its Office of Fossil Energy. At issue for Congress is the extent to which the private sector has used the financial incentive tools available, and whether they are the right tools for promoting the development of technology to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power plants.

Climate Summit 2014: Warm-Up for 2015, CRS Insights (September 24, 2014)

October 2, 2014 Comments off

Climate Summit 2014: Warm-Up for 2015, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

On September 23, 125 heads of state and governments, as well as business, religious, community, and civil society leaders, gathered in New York City for Climate Summit 2014. The Summit was hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and branded as an event “to galvanize and catalyze climate action.” While it may have accomplished little in its quest for deeper government commitments than already pledged, it provided a platform for private and nonprofit organizations to announce a wide variety of actions, including pledges of U.S. $200 billion to finance climate-related actions, mostly from investors and other private entities, and that may move markets and secure future greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. The European Union pledged U.S. $18 billion of the total.

A Century of Ocean Warming on Florida Keys Coral Reefs: Historic In Situ Observations

October 1, 2014 Comments off

A Century of Ocean Warming on Florida Keys Coral Reefs: Historic In Situ Observations
Source: Estuaries and Coasts

There is strong evidence that global climate change over the last several decades has caused shifts in species distributions, species extinctions, and alterations in the functioning of ecosystems. However, because of high variability on short (i.e., diurnal, seasonal, and annual) timescales as well as the recency of a comprehensive instrumental record, it is difficult to detect or provide evidence for long-term, site-specific trends in ocean temperature. Here we analyze five in situ datasets from Florida Keys coral reef habitats, including historic measurements taken by lighthouse keepers, to provide three independent lines of evidence supporting approximately 0.8 °C of warming in sea surface temperature (SST) over the last century. Results indicate that the warming observed in the records between 1878 and 2012 can be fully accounted for by the warming observed in recent decades (from 1975 to 2007), documented using in situ thermographs on a mid-shore patch reef. The magnitude of warming revealed here is similar to that found in other SST datasets from the region and to that observed in global mean surface temperature. The geologic context and significance of recent ocean warming to coral growth and population dynamics are discussed, as is the future prognosis for the Florida reef tract.

Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health

September 30, 2014 Comments off

Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health
Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

Importance
Health is inextricably linked to climate change. It is important for clinicians to understand this relationship in order to discuss associated health risks with their patients and to inform public policy.

Objectives
To provide new US-based temperature projections from downscaled climate modeling and to review recent studies on health risks related to climate change and the cobenefits of efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Data Sources, Study Selection, and Data Synthesis
We searched PubMed from 2009 to 2014 for articles related to climate change and health, focused on governmental reports, predictive models, and empirical epidemiological studies. Of the more than 250 abstracts reviewed, 56 articles were selected. In addition, we analyzed climate data averaged over 13 climate models and based future projections on downscaled probability distributions of the daily maximum temperature for 2046-2065. We also compared maximum daily 8-hour average with air temperature data taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climate Data Center.

Results
By 2050, many US cities may experience more frequent extreme heat days. For example, New York and Milwaukee may have 3 times their current average number of days hotter than 32°C (90°F). The adverse health aspects related to climate change may include heat-related disorders, such as heat stress and economic consequences of reduced work capacity; and respiratory disorders, including those exacerbated by fine particulate pollutants, such as asthma and allergic disorders; infectious diseases, including vectorborne diseases and water-borne diseases, such as childhood gastrointestinal diseases; food insecurity, including reduced crop yields and an increase in plant diseases; and mental health disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder and depression, that are associated with natural disasters. Substantial health and economic cobenefits could be associated with reductions in fossil fuel combustion. For example, the cost of greenhouse gas emission policies may yield net economic benefit, with health benefits from air quality improvements potentially offsetting the cost of US carbon policies.

Conclusions and Relevance
Evidence over the past 20 years indicates that climate change can be associated with adverse health outcomes. Health care professionals have an important role in understanding and communicating the related potential health concerns and the cobenefits from reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts (2014)

September 29, 2014 Comments off

Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts (2014)
Source: National Research Council

Hurricane- and coastal-storm-related losses have increased substantially during the past century, largely due to increases in population and development in the most susceptible coastal areas. Climate change poses additional threats to coastal communities from sea level rise and possible increases in strength of the largest hurricanes. Several large cities in the United States have extensive assets at risk to coastal storms, along with countless smaller cities and developed areas. The devastation from Superstorm Sandy has heightened the nation’s awareness of these vulnerabilities. What can we do to better prepare for and respond to the increasing risks of loss?

Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts reviews the coastal risk-reduction strategies and levels of protection that have been used along the United States East and Gulf Coasts to reduce the impacts of coastal flooding associated with storm surges. This report evaluates their effectiveness in terms of economic return, protection of life safety, and minimization of environmental effects. According to this report, the vast majority of the funding for coastal risk-related issues is provided only after a disaster occurs. This report calls for the development of a national vision for coastal risk management that includes a long-term view, regional solutions, and recognition of the full array of economic, social, environmental, and life-safety benefits that come from risk reduction efforts. To support this vision, Reducing Coastal Risk states that a national coastal risk assessment is needed to identify those areas with the greatest risks that are high priorities for risk reduction efforts. The report discusses the implications of expanding the extent and levels of coastal storm surge protection in terms of operation and maintenance costs and the availability of resources.

Reducing Coastal Risk recommends that benefit-cost analysis, constrained by acceptable risk criteria and other important environmental and social factors, be used as a framework for evaluating national investments in coastal risk reduction. The recommendations of this report will assist engineers, planners and policy makers at national, regional, state, and local levels to move from a nation that is primarily reactive to coastal disasters to one that invests wisely in coastal risk reduction and builds resilience among coastal communities.

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