Mainstream Media Ignores Connection Between Climate Change and Severe Weather, Again
By Jill Fitzsimmons and Shauna Theel
The Midwest has experienced near record flooding this spring, resulting in four deaths, extensive property damage and disruptions of agriculture and transportation. Evidence suggests that man-made climate change has increased the frequency of heavy downpours and will continue to increase flooding risks. But in their ample coverage of Midwestern flooding, major media outlets rarely mentioned climate change.
Less Than Three Percent Of Midwest Flood Stories Mention Climate Change
ABC, NBC And CNN Entirely Ignore Climate Connection
ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN devoted 74 full segments to flooding in the Midwest, but only one—on CBS Evening News—alluded to the fact that heavy downpours have increased (one percent of coverage). That segment did not explain that scientists have attributed this to climate change, and did not feature any scientists. MSNBC and Fox News were not included in this analysis because transcripts of their daytime coverage are not available in Nexis. [CBS News, 5/2/13]
USA TODAY Only National Print Outlet To Mention Climate Context Of Floods
USA TODAY, which recently launched a year-long series on the impacts of climate change, was the only national print outlet in our study that mentioned climate change in its reporting on Midwestern floods. The Associated Press, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal never mentioned climate change in a total of 35 articles on the floods. The Washington Post did not cover the flooding independently. In total, only three percent of national print coverage mentioned climate change. [USA TODAY, 4/22/13] [Media Matters, 3/1/13]
Local Media Largely Ignore Climate Context Of Floods
Less than four percent of local newspaper articles on flooding in the Midwest mentioned climate change—only four of 107 articles. The Kansas City Star, Des Moines Register, Detroit Free Press, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Indianapolis Star never made that connection. Flooding in the area has nearly surpassed records, leading to four deaths, delays in planting agriculture, disruptions in transportation and potential health impacts. [The Atlantic Wire, 4/25/13] [Union of Concerned Scientists, 4/30/13] [Climate Central, 4/26/13]
No Coverage Of Flooding Contribution To The Gulf "Dead Zone"
Aquatic ecologist Don Scavia told Media Matters in an email that "most media coverage is missing an important aspect of such flooding. These massive spring flooding events push an enormous amount of agricultural pollution down the Mississippi system and into the Gulf of Mexico. That flux will most certainly create a large dead zone."
Scavia added that conservation policies for farmers "may no longer be adequate" as flooding risks increase from climate change. Indeed, our study found that aside from one article in the Des Moines Register, the media overlooked that flooding increases fertilizer runoff from Midwestern farms into the Gulf of Mexico, further contributing to the "dead zone" there. [United Press International, 4/10/13]
Evidence Suggests Climate Change Worsens Flood Risks In Midwest
Warming Leads To More Overall Precipitation
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explained, basic physics indicates that warming leads to more evaporation and thus more precipitation overall:
As average temperatures at the Earth's surface rise (see the U.S. and Global Temperature indicator), more evaporation occurs, which, in turn, increases overall precipitation. Therefore, a warming climate is expected to increase precipitation in many areas. However, just as precipitation patterns vary across the world, so will the effects of climate change. By shifting the wind patterns and ocean currents that drive the world's climate system, climate change will also cause some areas to experience decreased precipitation. In addition, higher temperatures lead to more evaporation, so increased precipitation will not necessarily increase the amount of water available for drinking, irrigation and industry."
The EPA created this map, based on 2012 data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showing that precipitation in most areas of the U.S. including the Midwest has increased over the last century:
[Environmental Protection Agency, accessed 5/1/13]
Frequency Of Large Rain Storms Has Increased In The Midwest
An analysis by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) found that the "frequencies of all large storms, especially the largest, jumped in recent years" in the Midwest:
Since 1961, the Midwest has had an increasing number of large storms. The largest of storms, those of three inches or more of precipitation in a single day, increased the most, with their annual frequency having more than doubled over the last 51 years. The frequencies of all large storms, especially the largest, jumped the most in recent years.
These are the central conclusions of a new analysis by the RMCO of precipitation in the eight midwestern states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. The data are from 218 weather stations in the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN), the nation's most reliable weather stations.
The analysis included the following chart:
[Rocky Mountain Climate Organization in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, May 2012]
Increase In Worldwide Precipitation Has Been Attributed To Human Influences
The New York Times reported in 2011:
An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere, climate scientists reported in a new study.
In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.
Scientists have long been reluctant to attribute any specific weather event to global warming, but a handful of papers that do so are beginning to appear in the scientific literature. One such installment is being published on Thursday in Nature as a companion piece to the broader paper. It finds that severe rains that flooded England and Wales in 2000, the wettest autumn since record-keeping began there in 1766, were made substantially more likely by the greenhouse gases released by human activity. [New York Times, 2/16/11]
Climate Models Indicate That Heavy Downpours Will Increase In Midwest
The 2009 National Climate Assessment stated that climate models have projected that the heaviest downpours will increase in North America, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast:
Climate models project continued increases in the heaviest downpours during this century, while the lightest precipitation is projected to decrease. Heavy downpours that are now 1-in-20-year occurrences are projected to occur about every 4 to 15 years by the end of this century, depending on location and the intensity of heavy downpours is also expected to increase. The 1-in-20-year heavy downpour is expected to be between 10 and 25 percent heavier by the end of the century than it is now.
[T]he Midwest and Northeast, where total precipitation is expected to increase the most, would also experience the largest increases in heavy precipitation events.
A more recent draft National Climate Assessment similarly found that in the Midwest "[e]xtreme rainfall events and flooding have increased during the last century and these trends are expected to continue, causing erosion, declining water quality and negative impacts on transportation, agriculture, human health and infrastructure." That report included the following map showing the heaviest precipitation (top two percent of all rainfalls) is projected to increase by 2041-2070 relative to 1971-2000:
The 2009 report also included the following chart showing that the heavy rainfall is projected to increase compared to 1990s averages, based on climate models used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 assessment report:
The University of Iowa's page on the "impacts of global climate change on the Midwest" cautions that precipitation projections are more complicated than temperature projections:
Precipitation is much more difficult for climate models to simulate [than temperature]. So we have less confidence in the predictions of changes in precipitation due to climate change (more "mediums" and fewer "highs" in the confidence levels). A complicating issue of assessing changes in precipitation in the Midwest is that we are located close to regions of high precipitation gradients. That is, annual precipitation is much less in western Iowa than eastern Iowa and less in northern Iowa than southern Iowa. In Illinois, there is less in the north than the south, but east-west differences are small. So if precipitation patterns shift eastward, for instance, in a future climate, Iowa will be more affected than Illinois, but both will be affected by a northward shift of higher rainfall. [University of Iowa, accessed 5/1/13]
However, Experts Warn It Is "Irresponsible" To Let Uncertainties Delay Adaptation
A report, Flood Management In A Changing Climate, by the World Meteorological Organization and the Global Water Partnership warned policymakers and municipal authorities against letting uncertainties delay adaptation:
[T]he scientific knowledge about the climate change and its impacts on the hydro-meteorological extremes such as floods and droughts is far from fully understood thereby making it difficult to assess future risks. Due to this uncertainty; managers can no longer have confidence in single projections of the future. It will also be difficult to detect a clear climate change effect within the next couple of decades, even with an underlying trend. Therefore, use of an adaptive management strategy is essential.
However, it is an irresponsible strategy to wait for less uncertain assessments before implementing adaptation measures, since climate change and its impacts are already taking place. Furthermore, waiting for less uncertain scenarios is a treacherous hope; the results will remain uncertain in future even with increased refinement of scientific methods. [World Meteorological Organization and the Global Water Partnership, August 2009]
Experts Urge Journalists To Incorporate Climate Change Into Flood Coverage
Seven Out Of Eight Scientists Agreed It Is Apt To Mention Climate Change In Flood Coverage
Of eight scientists who responded to inquiries from Media Matters, seven agreed that it is "appropriate" or "advisable" for journalists to explain how man-made climate change could worsen flood risks in the Midwestern U.S. One emphasized uncertainty about future precipitation patterns.
Scavia: Media Are "Missing" That This Is The "New Normal"
When told of the preliminary results of our analysis, Scavia, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Michigan and a lead convening author of the Midwest chapter of the draft National Climate Assessment, stated, "I think they're missing an important piece of information and if you don't make the point that these intense storms are occurring more often, each one looks like a one off event."
He said that if you mention the historical trend, "you get a better sense of whether these are just rare and unusual events or a new normal, which is what they really are." Further, he stated that in his view, "it's been actually good to see some of the reporting, such as on The Weather Channel, talk about how these storms are consistent with climate models—in the past, they never made those observations."
Scavia added that this "new normal" "should influence policies associated with building and development", such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood plain maps that affect insurance rates and building codes. [Phone conversation, 5/6/13]
Oppenheimer: It Is "Advisable" For The Press To Mention Climate Change Connection
In a phone conversation with Media Matters, Princeton University climate scientist and IPCC lead author Michael Oppenheimer stated that "if [he] were the press," he would state that rainstorms in the Midwest are increasing in frequency, the "models suggest this trend will continue," and "heavy precipitation, all other things being equal, will generally lead to more flooding." Oppenheimer concluded that it would be "not only appropriate, but advisable for the press to include such statements."
Oppenheimer cautioned that "it's almost impossible in most situations to connect climate change in a cause and effect way to a particular episode," although some heat waves and other events have been attributed to climate change through modeling. He added that human management practices such as damming have a great influence over whether heavy precipitation leads to flooding. [Phone conversation, 5/1/13]
Trenberth: "Insights As To Why The Flooding Occurs" Are "Welcome"
Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Kevin Trenberth, wrote in an email to Media Matters:
Yes I think any insights as to why the flooding occurs is always welcome. Of course it is easy to say it is "weather," but the weather occurs in a changed environment: one that has more moisture in the atmosphere overall by about four to five precent compared with 30 to 40 years ago and associated with global warming. More moisture means more rain where and when it does rain: and so greater risk of floods. This affects decisions on what to do subsequently: whether to redo whatever damage was done or redo differently to take account of changing risk? Maybe not build in the flood plain? Etc.
In a subsequent email, Trenberth wrote that there is a trend of the media ignoring climate change even when events that have been made more likely by climate change occur, which is "disappointing and even irresponsible":
What I would add is that coverage of this sort has been dwindling. Last year with all the wild fires and exceptional heat there were very few media reports that mentioned the drought and connections to climate change. The coverage was disappointing and even irresponsible. [Email exchanges, 4/30/13]
Fasullo: It's "Certainly Appropriate To Frame" Midwest Floods In The Context Of Climate Change
John Fasullo, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, wrote in an email to Media Matters:
I think it's reasonable to frame the event in the broader context of recent extremes, especially extreme drought transitioning to flooding from 2010 to 2012 across large portions of the U.S. In fact, we currently see simultaneous wide-spread flooding and drought conditions in the central of the country (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu).
Of course the question people are going to reflexively pose is "Is it caused by climate change?" But I think it is much more appropriate to ask whether climate change has influenced these types of events. Clearly the odd behavior we are witnessing, both at the moment and over the past several years, is consistent with the modulating influence of climate change. Quantifying exactly how much of an influence is a complicated task, one that is likely to have considerable uncertainty given the state of current models. I'd await some well-designed targeted studies to address that question (to date I have not seen one) but it is certainly appropriate to frame the topic in the context of climate change's broader influence. [Email exchange, 4/30/13]
Kunkel: Not Understanding How Climate Change Is Impacting Floods May Lead To A "False Sense Of Security" About Infrastructure
When asked whether the press should include statements such as "heavy rainstorms in the Midwest are increasing in frequency and climate change models suggest this trend will continue," Ken Kunkel, a scientist at NOAA's National Climatic Data center who specializes in extreme events, responded.
"A statement like the one you quote is a reasonable one and does not overstate the scientific understanding about historical trends and possible future changes." He added that we need to understand how climate change is impacting floods so that we do not have a "false sense of security about the adequacy of infrastructure currently being planned and built":
When infrastructure that needs to be resilient to runoff from heavy rain is planned, the design engineers are typically required to use design values for heavy rain, for example, the 100-year storm. Such design values have been determined by the National Weather Service and are available in a series of publications. However, these design values are based entirely on historical storms and do not incorporate possible future changes due to anthropogenic climate change. One reason this has not been done is that there is no generally-accepted methodology for inclusion of possible future anthropogenically-forced changes. In my own personal research, I am exploring this issue and I personally think we need to provide decision-makers with some guidelines. Otherwise, we may have a false sense of security about the adequacy of infrastructure currently being planned and built. But, there is much research and development that needs to be done to develop guidelines. [Email exchange, 5/3/13]
Meehl: Climate Change Has Increased The "Odds For Flooding" In Midwest
Jerry Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and a lead IPCC author, told Media Matters that "it's hard to attribute a particular event to a particular cause and the way I always try to present it is you've shifted the odds for these precipitation and flooding events." He added that it's become "difficult to have any kind of rational discussion" of climate change, which is "discouraging to me because climate change is a science issue not a political issue" and "if I would have one thing to say, it would be let's talk about this as a science issue, climate change is a science issue that affects everyone."
In an earlier email to Media Matters, he explained that "higher levels of greenhouse gases increase the odds for flooding events such as the ones we're seeing now in the upper Midwest":
Observations have shown that the northern tier of states has been getting wetter and the southern tier drier. This is consistent with climate model simulations of the effects of increasing greenhouse gases (basically the wet areas get wetter, the dry get dryer). Observations also show that precipitation intensity has been increasing and models show this as a signature of increasing temperatures (warmer air holds more moisture, so for a given precipitation event, more rain or snow falls—when it rains it pours). These atmospheric responses to higher levels of greenhouse gases increase the odds for flooding events such as the ones we're seeing now in the upper midwest. [Email exchange, 5/1/13]
Budikova: "I'm Not Sure" Why Media Are Not Tying In Climate Context Of Floods
Dagmar Budikova, a scientist at Illinois State University who has published research about climate change and Midwestern flooding, stated in a phone conversation that "you can tie it in, but you have to do it very carefully." She said that journalists "could be doing that and I'm not sure why they wouldn't be." She added they may simply be "trying to be very careful" as "reporting on climate change is not a simple task" and it is "dangerous" to "assume that anything anomalous is related to climate change." However, she stated, in the case of Midwestern flooding, "the literature is definitely converging to this idea" that flooding is increasing, and "more and more evidence is mounting to suggest that it may have to do with anthropogenic climate change." When asked whether it was important for the media to mention the climate context of the floods to make the public more aware, she said "I would think that probably the more aware people are about anything really, the better we are off" and that it is most likely that "the media would be the vehicle" to bring it to the public's attention. [E-mail, 5/1/13] [Phone conversation, 5/6/13]
Hirsch: It's A "Reasonable Hypothesis" But "Evidence Is Unclear" On Whether Precipitation Will Continue To Increase
Robert Hirsch, a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, wrote in an email to Media Matters that while it's a "reasonable hypothesis that anthropogenic climate change could change flooding risks," the increase in precipitation may not continue. In a phone conversation, Hirsch added that while climate models have projected further precipitation of the region, "there's been very little testing," which is done through hindcasting, of whether these models are skillful. From his email:
I think it is a reasonable hypothesis that anthropogenic climate change could change flooding risks. However, the evidence to date is very unclear about this, and we know that the climate models, while they may be able to project changes in temperature fairly well do not do well at all when it comes to the kind of heavy precipitation events that produce floods. What we know when we look at the last 140 years or so in the midwest, that there have been some pretty large swings in the size of floods, and much of that is probably not related to anthropogenic climate change. There were very large floods in the last half of the 19th century, much smaller floods generally in the first half of the 20th century, and now we seem to be in another period of larger floods. We don't think this can be explained by greenhouse forcing, but may be a normal periodic oscillation in the climate.
I would say that human activities on the landscape may be as big a factor or bigger than climate change when it comes to changing the size of floods in this region. Urbanization and land drainage can be significant contributors to increased flooding. [Email exchange, 4/30/13] [Phone conversation, 5/1/13]
We searched Nexis and Factiva databases for articles and segments on "flood!" between April 1 and May 3, 2013. Our results include four major television outlets (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN), seven national print outlets (Associated Press, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal) and eight local newspapers (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kansas City Star, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Des Moines Register, Detroit Free Press, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Indianapolis Star).
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
Thousands of Superfund sites exist around the U.S., with toxic substances left open, mismanaged and dumped. Despite the high levels of toxicity at these sites, nearly 21 million people live within a mile of one of them, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Currently, more than 1,300 Superfund sites pose a serious health risk to nearby communities. Based on a new study, residents living close to these sites could also have a shorter life expectancy.
Published in Nature Communications, the study, led by Hanadi S. Rifai, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Houston, and a team of researchers, found that living in nearby zip codes to Superfund sites resulted in a decreased life expectancy of more than two months, the University of Houston reported.
"We have ample evidence that contaminant releases from anthropogenic sources (e.g., petrochemicals or hazardous waste sites) could increase the mortality rate in fence-line communities," Rifai told the University of Houston. "Results showed a significant difference in life expectancy among census tracts with at least one Superfund site and their neighboring tracts with no sites."
The study pulled data from 65,000 census tracts – defined geographical regions – within the contiguous U.S., The Guardian reported. With this data, researchers found that for communities that are socioeconomically challenged, this life expectancy could decrease by up to a year.
"It was a bit surprising and concerning," Rifai told The Guardian. "We weren't sure [when we started] if the fact that you are socioeconomically challenged would make [the Superfund's effects] worse."
The research team, for example, found that the presence of a Superfund site in a census tract with a median income of less than $52,580 could reduce life expectancy by seven months, the University of Houston reported.
Many of these toxic sites were once used as manufacturing sites during the Second World War. Common toxic substances that are released from the sites into the air and surface water include lead, trichlorethylene, chromium, benzene and arsenic – all of which can lead to health impacts, such as neurological damage among children, The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a blog.
"The EPA has claimed substantial recent progress in Superfund site cleanups, but, contrary to EPA leadership's grandiose declarations, the backlog of unfunded Superfund cleanups is the largest it has been in the last 15 years," the Union wrote.
Delayed cleanup could become increasingly dangerous as climate change welcomes more natural hazards, like wildfires and flooding. According to a Government Accountability Office report, for example, climate change could threaten at least 60 percent of Superfund sites in the U.S., AP News reported.
During the summer of 2018, a major wildfire took over the Iron Mountain Superfund site near Redding, CA, ruining wastewater treatment infrastructure that is responsible for capturing 168 million gallons of acid mine drainage every month, NBC News reported.
"There was this feeling of 'My God. We ought to have better tracking of wildfires at Superfund locations,'" Stephen Hoffman, a former senior environmental scientist at the EPA, told NBC News. "Before that, there wasn't a lot of thought about climate change and fire. That has changed."
In the study, researchers also looked at the impacts of floodings on Superfund sites, which could send toxins flowing into communities and waterways.
"When you add in flooding, there will be ancillary or secondary impacts that can potentially be exacerbated by a changing future climate," Rifai told the University of Houston. "The long-term effect of the flooding and repetitive exposure has an effect that can transcend generations."
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A weather research station on a bluff overlooking the sea is closing down because of the climate crisis.
The National Weather Service (NWS) station in Chatham, Massachusetts was evacuated March 31 over concerns the entire operation would topple into the ocean.
"We had to say goodbye to the site because of where we are located at the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, we're adjacent to a bluff that overlooks the ocean," Boston NWS meteorologist Andy Nash told WHDH at the time. "We had to close and cease operations there because that bluff has significantly eroded."
Chatham is located on the elbow of Cape Cod, a land mass extending out into the Atlantic Ocean that has been reshaped and eroded by waves and tides over tens of thousands of years, The Guardian explained. However, sea level rise and extreme weather caused by the climate crisis have sped that change along.
"It's an extremely dynamic environment, which is obviously a problem if you are building permanent infrastructure here," Andrew Ashton, an associate scientist at Cape-Cod based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told The Guardian. "We are putting our foot on the accelerator to make the environment even more dynamic."
This was the case with the Chatham weather station. It used to be protected from the drop into the ocean by about 100 feet of land. However, storm action in 2020 alone washed away as much as six feet of land a day.
"We'd know[n] for a long time there was erosion but the pace of it caught everyone by surprise," Nash told The Guardian. "We felt we had maybe another 10 years but then we started losing a foot of a bluff a week and realized we didn't have years, we had just a few months. We were a couple of storms from a very big problem."
The Chatham station was part of a network of 92 NWS stations that monitor temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction and other data in the upper atmosphere, The Cape Cod Chronicle explained. The stations send up radiosondes attached to weather balloons twice a day to help with weather research and prediction. The Chatham station, which had been observing this ritual for the past half a century, sent up its last balloon the morning of March 31.
"We're going to miss the observations," Nash told The Cape Cod Chronicle. "It gives us a snapshot, a profile of the atmosphere when the balloons go up."
The station was officially decommissioned April 1, and the two buildings on the site will be demolished sometime this month. The NWS is looking for a new location in southeastern New England. In the meantime, forecasters will rely on data from stations in New York and Maine.
Nash said the leavetaking was bittersweet, but inevitable.
"[M]other nature is evicting us," he told The Cape Cod Chronicle.
By Douglas Broom
- If online deliveries continue with fossil-fuel trucks, emissions will increase by a third.
- So cities in the Netherlands will allow only emission-free delivery vehicles after 2025.
- The government is giving delivery firms cash help to buy or lease electric vehicles.
- The bans will save 1 megaton of CO2 every year by 2030.
Cities in the Netherlands want to make their air cleaner by banning fossil fuel delivery vehicles from urban areas from 2025.
"Now that we are spending more time at home, we are noticing the large number of delivery vans and lorries driving through cities," said Netherlands environment minister Stientje van Veldhoven, announcing plans to ban all but zero-emission deliveries in 14 cities.
"The agreements we are setting down will ensure that it will be a matter of course that within a few years, supermarket shelves will be stocked, waste will be collected, and packages will arrive on time, yet without any exhaust fumes and CO2 emissions," she added.
She expects 30 cities to announce zero emission urban logistics by this summer. City councils must give four years' notice before imposing bans as part of government plans for emission-free road traffic by 2050. The city bans aim to save 1 megaton of CO2 each year by 2030.
Help to Change
To encourage transport organizations to go carbon-free, the government is offering grants of more than US$5,900 to help businesses buy or lease electric vehicles. There will be additional measures to help small businesses make the change.
The Netherlands claims it is the first country in the world to give its cities the freedom to implement zero-emission zones. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht already have "milieuzones" where some types of vehicles are banned.
Tilburg, one of the first wave of cities imposing the Dutch ban, will not allow fossil-fuelled vehicles on streets within its outer ring road and plans to roll out a network of city-wide electric vehicle charging stations before the ban comes into effect in 2025.
"Such initiatives are imperative to improve air quality. The transport of the future must be emission-free, sustainable, and clean," said Tilburg city alderman Oscar Dusschooten.
Europe Takes Action
Research by Renault shows that many other European cities are heading in the same direction as the Netherlands, starting with Low Emission Zones of which Germany's "Umweltzone" were pioneers. More than 100 communes in Italy have introduced "Zonas a traffico limitato."
Madrid's "zona de baja emisión" bans diesel vehicles built before 2006 and petrol vehicles from before 2000 from central areas of the city. Barcelona has similar restrictions and the law will require all towns of more than 50,000 inhabitants to follow suit.
Perhaps the most stringent restrictions apply in London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which charges trucks and large vehicles up to US$137 a day to enter the central area if they do not comply with Euro 6 emissions standards. From October, the ULEZ is being expanded.
Cities are responsible for around 75% of CO2 emissions from global final energy use, according to the green thinktank REN21 - and much of these come from transport. Globally, transport accounts for 24% of world CO2 emissions.
The Rise of Online Shopping
Part of the reason for traffic in urban areas is the increase in delivery vehicles, as online shopping continues to grow. Retailer ecommerce sales are expected to pass $5billion in 2022, according to eMarketer.
The World Economic Forum's report The Future of the Last-Mile Ecosystem, published in January 2020, estimates that e-commerce will increase the number of delivery vehicles on the roads of the world's 100 largest cities by 36% by 2030.
If all those vehicles burn fossil fuels, the report says emissions will increase by 32%. But switching to all-electric delivery vehicles would cut emissions by 30% from current levels as well as reducing costs by 25%, the report says.
Other solutions explored in the report include introducing goods trams to handle deliveries alongside their passenger-carrying counterparts and increased use of parcel lockers to reduce the number of doorstep deliveries.
Reposted with permission from the World Economic Forum.
The bill, SB467, would have prohibited fracking and other controversial forms of oil extraction. It would also have banned oil and gas production within 2,500 feet of a home, school, hospital or other residential facility. The bill originally set the fracking ban for 2027, but amended it to 2035, The AP reported.
"Obviously I'm very disappointed," State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), one of the bill's two introducers, told the Los Angeles Times. "California really has not done what it needs to do in terms of addressing the oil problem. We have communities that are suffering right now, and the Legislature has repeatedly failed to act."
The bill was introduced after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would sign a fracking ban if it passed the legislature, though his administration has continued to issue permits in the meantime, Forbes reported. Newsom has also spoken in favor of a buffer zone between oil and gas extraction and places where people live and learn, according to the Los Angeles Times. The latter is a major environmental justice issue, as fossil fuel production is more likely to be located near Black and Latinx communities.
Urban lawmakers who want California to lead on the climate crisis supported the bill, while inland lawmakers in oil-rich areas concerned about jobs opposed it. The oil and gas industry and trade unions also opposed the bill.
This opposition meant the bill failed to get the five votes it needed to move beyond the Senate's Natural Resources and Water Committee. Only four senators approved it, while Democrat Sen. Susan Eggman of Stockton joined two Republicans to oppose it, and two other Democrats abstained.
Eggman argued that the bill would have forced California to rely on oil extracted in other states.
"We're still going to use it, but we're going to use it from places that produce it less safely," Eggman told The AP. She also said that she supported the transition away from fossil fuels, but thought the bill jumped the gun. "I don't think we're quite there yet, and this bill assumes that we are," she added.
Historically, California has been a major U.S. oil producer. Its output peaked in 1986 at 1.1 million barrels a day, just below Texas and Alaska, according to Forbes. However, production has declined since then making it the seventh-most oil-producing state.
Still, California's fossil fuel industry is at odds with state attempts to position itself as a climate leader.
"There is a large stain on California's climate record, and that is oil," Wiener said Tuesday, according to The AP.
Wiener and Democrat co-introducer Sen. Monique Limón from Santa Barbara vowed to keep fighting.
"While we saw this effort defeated today, this issue isn't going away," they wrote in a joint statement. "We'll continue to fight for aggressive climate action, against harmful drilling, and for the health of our communities."
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By Brett Wilkins
As world leaders prepare for this November's United Nations Climate Conference in Scotland, a new report from the Cambridge Sustainability Commission reveals that the world's wealthiest 5% were responsible for well over a third of all global emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.
The report, Changing Our Ways: Behavior Change and the Climate Crisis, found that nearly half the growth in absolute global emissions was caused by the world's richest 10%, with the most affluent 5% alone contributing 37%.
"In the year when the UK hosts COP26, and while the government continues to reward some of Britain's biggest polluters through tax credits, the commission report shows why this is precisely the wrong way to meet the UK's climate targets," the report's introduction states.
The authors of the report urge United Kingdom policymakers to focus on this so-called "polluter elite" in an effort to persuade wealthy people to adopt more sustainable behavior, while providing "affordable, available low-carbon alternatives to poorer households."
The report found that the "polluter elite" must make "dramatic" lifestyle changes in order to meet the UK's goal — based on the Paris climate agreement's preferential objective — of limiting global heating to 1.5°C, compared with pre-industrial levels.
In addition to highlighting previous recommendations — including reducing meat consumption, reducing food waste, and switching to electric vehicles and solar power — the report recommends that policymakers take the following steps:
- Implement frequent flyer levies;
- Enact bans on selling and promoting SUVs and other high polluting vehicles;
- Reverse the UK's recent move to cut green grants for homes and electric cars; and
- Build just transitions by supporting electric public transport and community energy schemes.
"We have got to cut over-consumption and the best place to start is over-consumption among the polluting elites who contribute by far more than their share of carbon emissions," Peter Newell, a Sussex University professor and lead author of the report, told the BBC.
"These are people who fly most, drive the biggest cars most, and live in the biggest homes which they can easily afford to heat, so they tend not to worry if they're well insulated or not," said Newell. "They're also the sort of people who could really afford good insulation and solar panels if they wanted to."
Newell said that wealthy people "simply must fly less and drive less. Even if they own an electric SUV, that's still a drain on the energy system and all the emissions created making the vehicle in the first place."
"Rich people who fly a lot may think they can offset their emissions by tree-planting schemes or projects to capture carbon from the air," Newell added. "But these schemes are highly contentious and they're not proven over time."
The report concludes that "we are all on a journey and the final destination is as yet unclear. There are many contradictory road maps about where we might want to get to and how, based on different theories of value and premised on diverse values."
"Promisingly, we have brought about positive change before, and there are at least some positive signs that there is an appetite to do what is necessary to live differently but well on the planet we call home," it states.
The new report follows a September 2020 Oxfam International study that revealed the wealthiest 1% of the world's population is responsible for emitting more than twice as much carbon dioxide as the poorest 50% of humanity combined.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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