50 Ways 100% Clean Energy Won In 2017
By Jodie Van Horn
We'd never argue that 2017 was a great year, but some really great things did happen!
Here are 50 ways (yes, 50!) that clean energy kept winning in 2017 despite Trump's attempts to roll back the country's progress.
1. The Republican Mayor Championing 100% Renewable Energy in Louisiana
Republican Mayor Greg Lemons made his small town of Abita Springs the first municipality in Louisiana to commit to 100% clean energy. Mayor Lemons said his 100% renewable energy vision for Abita Springs, which has a population of 2,900, aligns with the conservative values of his community—and it has made him a trailblazer across Louisiana.
2. Madison and Abita Springs Committed to 100% Clean Energy on the Same Day!
On March 21, Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana became the 24th and 25th cities in the country to commit to 100% clean energy. Last year, more than 70% of voters in Madison cast ballots supporting Hillary Clinton, while in St. Tammany Parish, where Abita Springs is located, more than 70% of voters supported Donald Trump. They agree on one thing, at least—the need for 100% clean energy.
3. Solar Created Even More Jobs Across America
A new report released this year by The Solar Foundation showed that in 2016, the number of solar jobs increased in 44 of the 50 states, and more than 260,000 Americans now work in solar. In several major metro areas, the solar workforce grew by 50% or more. The New York Times ran a major piece in April, which pretty much sums it up: Today's Energy Jobs Are in Solar, Not Coal.
4. Chicago Committed to Power All Municipal Buildings with 100% Renewable Energy by 2025
In April, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that by 2025, all 900-plus buildings operated by the city, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Park District, Chicago Housing Authority and City Colleges will be powered entirely by renewable sources. In 2016, those buildings used nearly 1.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity—equal to the energy needed to power about 295,000 homes.
5. U.S. Mayors Announced New National Drive for 100% Clean Energy
Mayors from across the U.S. teamed up with the Ready for 100 campaign to announce Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, a new effort to engage and recruit mayors to endorse a goal of transitioning to 100% renewable energy in cities across the country.
6. 100% Clean Energy at the People's Climate March
A contingent of 100% clean energy activists representing communities from coast to coast joined hundreds of thousands of people marching in the People's Climate March in Washington, DC on April 29.
7. Atlanta Committed to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
Atlanta became the largest city in the South to commit to running entirely on clean energy. The city then took it to the people to learn through a series of #CommunityConversations why Atlanta is #ReadyFor100. Atlantans are helping shape the plan, set to be released next year—and they've even got some superhero support.
8. More Companies Bought Into 100% Clean Energy
Around the world, a record number of big corporations, ranging from Anheuser-Busch to Kellogg, committed to going all-in on 100% clean energy. Collectively, their energy footprint is greater than all energy consumed in the state of New York. Corporate demand for renewable energy is helping drive a shift away from fossil fuels and bringing more renewable energy online. Google declared it now buys enough wind to cover 100% of its energy use.
9. Even Puppies Love 100% Clean Energy
And what's more uplifting than puppies?
10. Entire Town of Hanover Voted Unanimously for 100%
At a town meeting on May 9, residents of Hanover, New Hampshire voted to get off of all fossil fuels by 2050. This is the first community in the country to adopt a goal of 100% clean, renewable energy voted on and approved by the residents of the community.
11. Clean Energy Spiked In California and Texas
In California and Texas this year, clean energy like wind and solar set new records for energy generation. On May 13, renewable energy supplied 67% of all power in California. And wind broke records across the country, especially in Texas where 54% of grid electricity came from wind at one point on Oct. 27, breaking a previous 50% record set on March 23.
12. A Movement of Mayors Across Florida
Florida mayors are leading the way towards 100% clean, renewable energy. More than 40 mayors from across Florida have joined Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, the most of any state in the country. Although the Sunshine State gets less than half a percent of its power from the sun, Floridians beat back previous utility-backed efforts to limit solar energy in the state. Now clean energy advocates and dozens of mayors say they deserve better.
13. Pueblo, Colorado Committed to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
The city of Pueblo, Colorado committed to running entirely on renewable energy by 2035. City council is now exploring options for how they can cut ties with an uncooperative utility, protect low income rate payers, and move to 100% clean energy for all.
14. A Mother's Clean Energy Vision for Her City
On Mother's Day, Mayor Heidi Harmon of San Luis Obispo, California, who is also a proud mom of two, shared her vision for 100% clean energy in her community. Citing the safety and health threats that climate change and pollution will pose to children, Mayor Harmon sees a solution: transitioning San Luis Obispo to run on 100% clean energy.
15. Oregonians Committed to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
On the same day that Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commission voted to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Thanks to organizations like Verde and Opal, these commitments also represent a strong commitment to racial and economic justice and will ensure that communities of color and low income communities define, lead, and share the economic, social, and environmental benefits of a renewable energy transition.
16. Energy Experts Agreed: 100% Renewable Energy is Possible
In a global survey, more than 70% of the world's energy experts agreed that powering the globe with 100% renewable resources is achievable.
17. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to Trump: the Steel City Will Move to 100% Clean Energy
Just hours after Donald Trump claimed to represent the voters of Pittsburgh in his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, Mayor Bill Peduto announced his support for a goal of powering Pittsburgh entirely with clean and renewable energy by 2035.
18. Edmonds and Whatcom County Were the First Washington Commitments to 100% Clean Energy
In June, the city of Edmonds became the first community in the state of Washington to commit to 100% clean, renewable energy. Edmonds set the goal of achieving a 100% transition by 2025 shortly after the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in June. Whatcom County became the sixth county in the country to move towards 100% renewable energy.
19. Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina Is a Clean Energy Champ
Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Steve Benjamin, Co-Chair of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, is #ReadyFor100. Mayor Benjamin's leadership paved the way for Columbia to commit to 100% clean, renewable energy in June. As a local and national leader, Mayor Benjamin is sharing his vision far and wide.
20. Wind is Winning Across America
Wind power reached new heights in 2017! Earlier this year, American Electric Power announced that it would make a $4.5 billion investment in the nation's largest wind energy project, and local advocates like Nancy Moran spoke out in support. The wind farm will provide power in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, and is expected to save customers $7 billion over the next 25 years. In Texas, wind power became a bigger source of electricity than coal.
21. U.S. Conference of Mayors Approved Historic 100% Clean Energy Resolution, Proving That Mayors Are #ReadyFor100
The 85th U.S. Conference of Mayors approved a resolution establishing support from the nation's biggest cities for an equitable and just transition to 100% clean energy by 2035. Clean energy activists celebrated the mayors' vote by taking part in an aerial art action on the beach. Is your mayor signed onto Mayors for 100% Clean Energy?
22. One of the Country's Biggest Bus Fleets Will Be 100% Electric by 2030
This summer, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), voted to transition its fleet of more than 2,200 buses to zero emission electric buses by 2030. Transitioning to all electric buses will help improve air quality, fight climate change, enhance social equity and improve rider experience. Additionally, with policies that encourage local manufacturing, the transition can create good local jobs in disadvantaged communities. Congratulations to the Sierra Club's My Generation campaign and local partners in Los Angeles who worked hard to achieve this major victory.
23. Orlando's 100% Clean Energy Commitment is Already Having an Impact
In August Orlando became the largest city in Florida to commit to 100% renewable energy. The city plans to stop using fossil fuels by 2050. Orlando's commitment to clean energy is already having an impact: Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer indicated that the city's 100% renewable energy goal is a key factor in determining who will become the next CEO of their city-owned utility.
24. The Path to 100% Clean Energy Is Saving Hawai'i Money
The Hawai'i House of Representatives found this year that Hawai'i residents have already saved over a quarter of a billion dollars as a result of the state's progress toward achieving its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045. The state called on other states and the federal government to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, citing that it makes economic sense today. Hawai'i has a detailed plan to hit its goal five years ahead of schedule.
25. Faith Leaders Asked Boise's Mayor to Endorse a 100% Clean Energy Future
Boise Faith Leaders representing 20 different faith communities delivered a letter to Mayor Dave Bieter to urge him to support a goal to make Boise the first city in Idaho to commit to 100% clean energy. The Idaho chapter of the Sierra Club has been building grassroots support and asking Mayor Dave Bieter to commit to a 100% clean energy goal.
26. In the Coal-Dependent State of Utah, 100% Is Trending
In a state that still gets nearly 70% of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, municipalities have begun to say "no more." This year, Summit County and Moab, Utah committed to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. Salt Lake City, which is also in the 100% club, released Climate Positive 2040, a plan to achieve its goal to run on clean energy by 2032, reduce carbon pollution, and take the lead on climate action.
27. 100% Clean Energy Unleashed in Capitals
U.S. lawmakers introduced bills in both the Senate and House of Representatives this year that would move the entire country to 100% renewable energy. Senators Jeff Merkley and Bernie Sanders announced their landmark "100x50" act with community leaders in April. And clean energy supporters from California to Massachusetts have been pushing state lawmakers adopt 100% renewable energy, but many of these efforts are still in progress.
28. 150 Mayors for 100% Clean Energy
The Sierra Club's Mayors for 100% Clean Energy initiative reached a major milestone: 150 mayors from across the country signed onto the campaign and pledged to power their communities with 100% clean, renewable energy. Civic leaders from across the country are stepping up to make it known that they care about the health of their residents and the strength of their local economy by advocating for 100% clean, renewable energy.
29. Local Clean Energy Advocates Rallied for Community Choice
In support of a clean energy future for California, community members rallied in September to protect Community Choice energy programs, like Alameda County's East Bay Community Energy. Community Choice gives cities and counties the chance to take control of their electric power supply and offer renewable energy to residents and businesses.
30. North Carolina Counties Went All-In On Renewable Energy
While cities across the country continue to commit to 100% clean energy, some North Carolina communities are going even bigger. Orange County and Buncombe County, North Carolina this year became some of the first counties in the country to commit to 100% clean, renewable energy.
31. Pueblo's Movement for Energy Justice Featured in Sierra Magazine Profile
In a profile published in Sierra, Michael Tannahill's story reveals the connections between economic and environmental justice—and highlights why the community of Pueblo, Colorado is pushing back hard against high utility costs and dirty fuels to get to 100% clean energy.
32. Portland's Commitment to 100% Clean Energy Pushed Portland General Electric (PGE) to Invest in Renewables
PGE acknowledged that Portland and surrounding Multnomah County's 100% renewable energy goals are shaping its future energy investments. After the Oregon Public Utility Commission rejected PGE's proposal to expand a gas-fired power station in August, PGE issued a proposal to develop renewable energy and energy storage.
33. St. Louis Became the Largest Midwest City to Commit to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
On Oct. 27, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the city's commitment to transition to 100% by 2035. St. Louis, a longtime coal capital home to Arch Coal and Peabody Energy, represents the largest city in Missouri and across the Midwest to establish a goal of transitioning entirely to clean, renewable energy. The city will develop a plan by December 2018 to meet the goal and conduct a transparent and inclusive stakeholder process. This includes community members and representatives from organizations representing labor, faith, social justice, environmental justice, frontline communities and those most impacted by our current energy systems, among others.
34. In Cleveland, the Community Wants Clean Energy for Everyone
Through a series of Community Dialogues in Cleveland, Ohio, Ready for 100 organizer Jocelyn Travis has been helping residents of "the Rock and Roll Capital of the World" envision a 100% clean energy transition in their city. The Dialogues have helped Cleveland's diverse communities connect with each other, learn about clean energy solutions, and build a movement for a healthy and just clean energy transition.
35. Community Choice Can Help San Diego Reach Its 100% Clean Energy Goal
A City of San Diego study released this year determined that Community Choice Energy can help San Diego achieve its goal of 100% clean energy at a cost competitive rate with the local utility. San Diego is the largest city in the country to have adopted a legally binding 100% renewable energy goal, which the city plans to achieve by 2035. San Diego's Republican Mayor, Kevin Faulconer, is a co-chair of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy.
36. 100% Clean Energy Won Big on Election Day
37. U.S. Climate Leadership is All About Local
During the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, U.S. cities and mayors joined other local leaders to stand behind the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Mayors affirmed #WeAreStillIn by doubling down on local support for bold climate action. The aggregate climate actions of We Are Still In signatories and other non-federal U.S. actors are being quantified through America's Pledge, an initiative spearheaded by UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg and California Gov. Jerry Brown.
38. The Sierras Went All-In On Renewable Energy
South Lake Tahoe, Nevada City and Truckee, California all committed to 100% clean, renewable energy this year, leading the way for other communities across the Sierras. Mountain towns in the West have been leading a move to clean energy to save their snow and the tourist industry.
39. Ready for 100 Released 2nd Annual Case Studies Report
The Ready for 100 campaign released a new report in English and Spanish highlighting 10 cities across the U.S. that have committed to 100% renewable energy and the steps they are taking to get there. Featured cities span from coast to coast, and include tiny towns and large metropolises. This is the second case studies report issued by Ready for 100, following a 2016 release.
40. What Do an Eagle Scout, a Colonel, and a Utility Company Have in Common?
They all support 100% renewable energy! Community members packed a town hall in Breckenridge, Colorado, in support of the town adopting a goal to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035. Testimony included fifth-grade Boy Scout Eli Larson, who stated, "If this global warming keeps up, we might not even have a winter." And a U.S. Colonel testified that there was a mandate from the community to go renewable. Six Colorado cities in total have committed to 100%, including Nederland and Lafayette this year. An Xcel Energy spokesperson acknowledged that the utility would do everything it can to help cities achieve their goals.
41. Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is #ReadyFor100
Since Salt Lake City committed to 100% renewable energy last year, Mayor Jackie Biskupski has been on a mission to get other mayors on board. A co-chair of Mayors for 100% Clean Energy, Mayor Biskupski has rallied support for 100% everywhere from Twitter to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
42. Two Massachusetts Cities Committed to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
Cambridge and Amherst, Massachusetts passed resolutions in 2017 committing to 100% clean, renewable energy. As the first municipalities to do so in Massachusetts, the cities are leading the way in the Bay State.
43. Ameren Missouri Proposed Wind to Help Meet St. Louis's 100% Clean Energy Goal
Ameren Missouri, the utility serving St. Louis, acted right away on the city's 100% clean energy commitment, which passed in October. The utility has invested $1 billion in wind projects and now wants to create a Renewable Choice Program for customers that would give cities and companies the option to buy wind energy.
44. TOAD the Wet Sprocket Took Ready for 100 on Tour
TOAD the Wet Sprocket went on tour with a cause this summer. Promoting the Ready for 100 campaign at tour stops across the country, the alternative rock band encouraged fans to join the campaign and support 100% renewable energy!
45. Coastal California Cities Embraced 100%
This year, the cities of Santa Barbara, Monterey, Solana Beach, Chula Vista and Goleta, California all made commitments to transitioning to 100% clean, renewable energy. To date, 14 cities across California have committed to running entirely to clean energy.
46. Scotland Will Reach 100% Renewable Energy By 2020
The Scottish government confirmed the country is on track to get all of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Scotland hit its 2020 emission targets five years early and has gone from delivering 10% to 60% of its electricity consumption from renewable sources over the past 15 years. For the first six months of 2017, wind power provided enough electricity to meet 118% of Scotland's national demand.
47. Greater Philadelphia Is Sparking a Movement for 100% Clean Energy in Pennsylvania
Three Philadelphia-area communities committed to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. West Chester, Phoenixville Borough and Downingtown in Chester County all set goals to move entirely to renewable energy, setting the bar for Philly and other Pennsylvania cities to follow. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney pledged support for the goal through Mayors for 100% Clean Energy this year, a great first step.
48. Hawai'ian Mayors Committed to 100% Renewably Powered Ground Transportation by 2045
In December, mayors from the City and County of Honolulu, Maui County, Hawai'i County and Kaua'i County committed to transforming Hawai'i's transportation to 100% renewable fuel sources by 2045. The proclamations build off of Hawai'i's goal to transition away from fossil fuels in the electricity sector by the same date.
49. It's Not 100% If It's Not Equitable and Just
This year California adopted legislation requiring all communities in the state to integrate environmental justice policies, objectives, and goals into their General Plans. In October the California Environmental Justice Alliance released a toolkit to help cities integrate these changes. NAACP also released a national toolkit on Just Energy Policies & Practices, a resource for energy justice advocates. And Island Press published a new book titled Energy Democracy, Advancing Equity in Clean Energy Solutions, a collection of essays from leaders across the U.S. who are winning local campaigns that demonstrate what an alternative, democratized energy future can look like. #powertothepeople.
50. More Than 50 (Yes, 50!) Cities Committed to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
The Ready for 100 campaign hit a milestone when Truckee, California became the 50th city in the U.S. to make a 100% commitment. The Town Council adopted a resolution to move entirely to clean electricity town-wide by 2030, as well as all energy sources by 2050. See a complete list of all cities, counties, and states committed to 100% clean energy here. Ready for your community to be next?
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Independence Day weekend is a busy time for coastal communities as people flock to the beaches to soak up the sun during the summer holiday. This year is different. Some of the country's most popular beach destinations in Florida and California have decided to close their beaches to stop the surge in coronavirus cases.
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For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That's because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans.
What Is PTSD?<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/veterans-refugees-and-victims-of-war-crimes-are-all-vulnerable-to-ptsd-130144" target="_blank">PTSD</a> can occur when someone is exposed to extreme exposure traumatic experience. Typically, the trauma involves a threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Along with war veterans, it happens to refugees; to victims of gun violence, rape and other physical assaults; and to survivors of car accidents and natural disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes.</p><p>PTSD can also happen by witnessing trauma or its aftermath, often the case with <a href="https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd" target="_blank">first responders</a> and <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-many-faces-anxiety-and-trauma/202006/invisible-wounds-the-frontline-heroes" target="_blank">front-line workers</a>.</p><p>All this adds up to tens of millions of Americans. Up to 30% of combat veterans and first responders, and 8% of civilians, <a href="https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/epidemiology.asp" target="_blank">fulfill the diagnostic criteria for PTSD</a>. And that criteria is not easily met: symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive trauma memories, difficulty sleeping, avoidance of reminders of trauma, negative emotions, and what we call "hyperarousal symptoms."</p>
Fireworks Can Trigger Flashbacks<p>Hyperarousal, a core component of PTSD, occurs when a person is hyper-alert to any sign of threat – constantly on edge, easily startled and continuously screening the environment.</p><p>Imagine, for instance, stepping down the stairs in the dark after hearing a noise; you're worried an intruder might be downstairs. Then a totally unpredictable loud sound explodes right outside your window.</p><p>For people with PTSD, that sound – reminiscent of gunfire, a thunderstorm or a car crash – <a href="https://theconversation.com/veterans-refugees-and-victims-of-war-crimes-are-all-vulnerable-to-ptsd-130144" target="_blank">can cause</a> a panic attack or trigger flashbacks, a sensory experience that makes it seem as if the old trauma is happening here and now. Flashbacks can be so severe that combat veterans may suddenly drop to the ground, the same way they would when an explosion took place in combat. Later, the experience can trigger nightmares, insomnia or worsening of other PTSD symptoms.</p><p>Those of us who set off fireworks need to ask ourselves: Are those few minutes of fun worth the hours, days, or weeks of torment that will begin for some of our friends and neighbors – including many who put their lives on the line to protect us?</p>
Who Else Is Affected?<p>Millions of others, though not diagnosed with PTSD, may similarly be affected by fireworks. <a href="https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics" target="_blank">One in five Americans</a> have an anxiety disorder, many with symptoms of hyperarousal. Also impacted are those with autism or developmental disabilities; they find it difficult to cope with the noise, or just the drastic change from life routines. Then there are people who have to work, holiday or not: nurses, physicians and first responders, who have to be up at 4 a.m. for a 30-hour shift.</p><h3>How to Reduce the Negative Impact</h3><p>There are ways to reduce how fireworks affect others:</p><ul><li>For those with PTSD, the unexpected nature of fireworks is probably the worst part. So at least make it as predictable as possible. Do it in designated areas during designated times. Don't explode one, for instance, two hours after the designated time window. And avoid setting them off <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/04/fireworks-ptsd-fourth-of-july-veterans-shooting-survivors" target="_blank">on the 3rd</a>. People are less prepared then.</li><li>If you're aware that a veteran or trauma survivor lives in the neighborhood, move the noise as far as possible from their home and give them prior warning. Consider putting a sign in your front yard noting the time you'll set the fireworks.</li><li>Remember, it doesn't have to be super loud to make it fun. Consider using <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/504964-its-time-for-silent-fireworks" target="_blank">silent fireworks</a>. And you don't have to be the one who lights the fireworks. Simply enjoy watching while your city or township does it safely.</li></ul>
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Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.
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By Jeff Berardelli
For the past year, some of the most up-to-date computer models from the world's top climate modeling groups have been "running hot" – projecting that global warming may be even more extreme than earlier thought. Data from some of the model runs has been confounding scientists because it challenges decades of consistent projections.
International Effort to Evaluate Climate Models<p>For the past 25 years the international community has been evaluating and comparing the world's most sophisticated climate models produced by various teams at universities, research centers, and government agencies. The effort is organized by the World Climate Research Programme under the United Nations World Meteorological Organization.</p><p>Climate models are complicated computer programs composed of millions of lines of code that calculate the physical properties and interactions between the main climate forces like the atmosphere, oceans, and solar input. But models also go a lot further, incorporating other systems like ice sheets, forests, and the biosphere, to name a few. The models are then used to simulate the real-world climate system and project how certain changes, like added pollution or land-use changes, will alter the climate.</p><p>Every few years there is a new comprehensive international evaluation called the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). In the sixth such effort, known as CMIP6 and now under way, experts are reviewing about 100 models.</p><p>Information gleaned from this effort will act as a scientific foundation for the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) next major assessment report, scheduled for release in 2021. The goal of the report – the sixth in 30 years – is to inform the international community about how much the climate has changed, and, importantly, how much change can be expected in coming decades.</p>
A Conundrum Emerges<p>Over the past year, the CMIP6 collection of models being reviewed threw researchers an unexpected curveball: a significant number of the climate model runs showed substantially more global warming than previous model versions had projected. If accurate, the international climate goals would be nearly impossible to achieve, and there would be significantly more extreme impacts worldwide.</p><p>A foundational experiment in every report addresses "sensitivity": If you double levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) that were in the air before the Industrial Revolution, how much warming do the models show? This doubling is not expected for a few more decades, but it is a quick way to communicate the critical role of greenhouse gases in changing the climate.</p><p>The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 35% since the 1800s because of the burning of fossil fuels. As a result, global temperatures have already increased by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit.</p><p>In the first IPCC assessment report, published in 1990, the answer to that question about the impact of doubling carbon dioxide gave a fairly wide range of results – between 2.7-8 degrees F of global warming. Since then, four more assessments issued six to seven years apart reached nearly the exact same conclusion on sensitivity.</p><p>But that sensitivity may, for the first time, change significantly in next year's assessment. Why? Because starting last year, numerous models in the CMIP6 collection displayed even bigger spikes in temperature upon doubling of CO2 concentrations. We're in serious trouble if the climate sensitivity falls in the mid or upper range of the previous assessments. But if the new, higher estimates are correct, the impacts on civilization would be catastrophic.</p>
In the above CarbonBrief interactive visualization, the bars offer a comparison in the range of sensitivity in the CMIP5 models (gray) and CMIP6 models (blue).
New and Encouraging Evidence Is Emerging<p>At first, scientists were uncertain whether the new model runs were on to something, so the international modeling community dug in to produce multiple studies. The results are not yet conclusive, but a gradual collective sigh of relief seems to be materializing.</p><p>"Evidence is emerging from multiple directions that the models which show the greatest warming in the CMIP6 ensemble are likely too warm," explains Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.</p><p>For example, <a href="https://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2020-23/" target="_blank">a study</a> released April 28 evaluated the past performance of the models making up the CMIP6 ensemble. The team assigned weights to each model based upon historical performance of their warming projections, weighing the poorer performing models less. By doing so, both the mean warming and the range of warming scenarios in the CMIP6 ensemble decreased, meaning the warmest models were the ones with weaker historical performance. This result supports a finding that a subset of the models are too warm.</p><p>That conclusion is supported by another new study evaluating one particular model – the Community Earth System Model (CESM2) – that showed greater warming. Using that model, the researchers simulated the climate in the early Eocene era, about 50 million years ago, when rainforests thrived in the Arctic and Antarctic. The CESM2 simulated a historical climate that seems way too warm compared with what is known about that era from geological data, indicating that the model is likely also too warm in its future projections.</p><p>Two other recent studies of the CMIP6 models being evaluated use clever analysis methods to <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2019-86/&sa=D&ust=1589209938203000&usg=AFQjCNHYwFB-1KqndGfJ4sXdrrm9DpbLaQ" target="_blank">narrow the range</a> of future warming projections and also <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/12/eaaz9549&sa=D&ust=1589209938203000&usg=AFQjCNEhKY1YZ19qgjSZ_hJM14JmzqXOXw" target="_blank">reduce the projected warming</a> of the CMIP6 models by 10 to 15%.</p><p>Through the intensive research spurred by the CMIP6 climate-sensitivity curveball, scientists have been able to turn a confounding challenge into a confidence builder, providing even greater certainty than they had before in both the abilities of the climate science community and in the computer models used. Moreover, the experience has helped unearth uncertainties remaining in the modeling process.</p><p>Experts conclude much of this uncertainty probably lies in the complexity of clouds. "We have been looking as a community at why the models with greater warming are doing what they are doing – and it's tied to cloud feedbacks in the southern mid-latitudes mostly," explains Schmidt.</p><p>In fact, <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/26/eaba1981" target="_blank">a new study</a> addressing the increased sensitivity was published in Science Advances stating, "Cloud feedbacks and cloud-aerosol interactions are the most likely contributors to the high values and increased range of ECS [sensitivity] in CMIP6."</p>
Understanding the Complexity of Clouds<p>It's long been known in climate modeling circles that cloud processes and interactions are a potential weak link for climate modeling. That reality has been brought front and center by the urgent challenges posed during this CMIP6 evaluation period, but the current evaluation of models also provides an opportunity for discovery and improvement.</p><p>Cloud complexity comes from the reality that clouds have a multitude of sizes, altitudes, and textures. Some clouds cool Earth by providing shade, reflecting sunlight back into space. Others act like a blanket, trapping heat and warming the world.</p><p>Given that about <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/icesat_light.html" target="_blank">70% of the globe</a> is covered by clouds at any given time, it's no surprise that they play an integral role in regulating the climate. The challenge is to figure out which types of clouds will increase, which will decrease, and what the net effect will be on cooling or warming as the climate changes.</p><p><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0310-1" target="_blank">One study</a> last year reached an alarming conclusion: Left unchecked, the release of CO2 into the atmosphere may lead to a tipping point where shallow low clouds disappear – leading to runaway, catastrophic warming of nearly 15 degrees F. While scientists see that outcome as only a remote possibility, it drives home the urgent need to better understand clouds.</p><p>"We have a saying at NOAA: It isn't rocket science – it's much, much harder than that," quips Dr. Chris Fairall, ATOMIC's lead investigator. "One of the major problems for modeling is there is not clean separation of scales." The photo below is one that Fairall took from the NOAA P-3 aircraft.</p>
Investigating the Secrets of Clouds<p>To address the urgent question about the dynamics and role of clouds in a warming world, NOAA and European partners launched their ongoing research effort unprecedented in scale. The U.S. contribution, ATOMIC – short for Atlantic Tradewind Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign – is an international science mission that was featured recently on "<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/video/study-aims-to-examine-links-between-climate-change-and-clouds/" target="_blank">CBS This Morning: Saturday</a>."</p>
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