'Last Chance': Warming Could Be Limited to 1.5°C With Immediate Phaseout of Fossil Fuel Infrastructure, Researchers Say
It is still possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications found, as long as we act immediately to phase out fossil fuels.
The study used a climate model to determine what would happen if, beginning at the end of 2018, all existing fossil fuel infrastructure—from industrial equipment to cars to planes to ships to power plants—was replaced with renewable alternatives at the end of its design lifetime. The researchers found there would be a 64 percent chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, in line with the most ambitious goal of the Paris agreement.
"It's good news from a geophysical point of view," lead study author and University of Leeds researcher Dr. Chris Smith told The Guardian. "But on the other side of the coin, the [immediate fossil fuel phaseout] is really at the limit of what we could we possibly do. We are basically saying we can't build anything now that emits fossil fuels."
Immediate fossil fuel phase out could beat climate change: study Scientists say research shows that societal choic… https://t.co/61tcvwWDb1— Damian Carrington (@Damian Carrington)1547568313.0
To get their results, the researchers made the following assumptions about what a fast, medium and slow phaseout beginning at the end of 2018 would mean:
- Power plants and industrial infrastructure like cement kilns would end their lifespans within 30, 40 or 50 years.
- Planes and ships would end their lifespans within 21, 26 or 31 years.
- Cars would end their lifespan within 12.7, 15.6 or 18 years.
- Meat consumption would also quickly decline.
- Tipping points such as the release of methane from permafrost would not be reached.
If, alternatively, policy makers wait until 2030 to begin phasing out fossil fuel infrastructure, warming has only a 33 percent chance of stopping at 1.5 degrees Celsius, The Guardian reported.
Smith and the other scientists who worked on the paper acknowledged to The Guardian that the targets they set in the paper were ambitious, but it was important to show that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees was still possible. A major report released in October 2018 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees compared to two could save hundreds of millions of people from climate related poverty and preserve 29 to 9 percent of coral reefs, among other benefits.
"Our research found that the current amount of fossil fuel infrastructure in the global economy does not yet commit us to exceeding the 1.5°C temperature rise limit put forward by the Paris Agreement," Smith said in a University of Leeds press release. "We may have missed starting the phase out by the end of 2018, but we are still within the margin of achieving the scenario the model put forward."
Fellow scientists applauded the implicit call to action.
"Whether it's drilling a new gas well, keeping an old coal power station open, or even buying a diesel car, the choices we make today will largely determine the climate pathways of tomorrow," University of Edinburgh chair in carbon management and education professor Dave Reay told The Guardian. "The message of this new study is loud and clear: act now or see the last chance for a safer climate future ebb away."
Paris Climate Goals Can Be Reached Without Carbon Capture Tech, Landmark Study Finds https://t.co/MaHQC674td @UCSUSA @NRDC @ClimateReality— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1528227621.0
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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