By Joe Lo
The burning Amazon rainforests, with their jaguars, monkeys and colorful birds, have grabbed global attention in a way the destruction of the world's mossy peatlands never has.
Peatlands, also known as bogs, are created when the remains of plants are submerged in waterlogged lands, turning them over time into peat with the plants' carbon still stored inside. They cover around 3% of the world's land and are found in 175 countries, mostly in northern Europe, North America and Southeast Asia.
Scotland has a particularly high coverage, with bogs amounting to 20% of its land (roughly 1.7 million hectares) mainly in its lesser-populated north and western islands.
Decades of Degradation
However, the Scottish government estimates that roughly a third of the country's total — roughly 600,000 hectares — have been degraded. Scotland's peatlands, created mostly in areas left water-logged from the melting of Ice Age glaciers, lay untouched for thousands of years until farmers began to drain the land, building ditches so the water would run downhill into rivers.
While such ditches date back to Roman times in parts of Britain, their building intensified in Scotland in the 1950s with the advent of new machinery and government grants aimed at improving grazing.
Peatlands in Scotland cover roughly 20% of its land.
Without the bogs' acidic water there to preserve them, the dead plants in the peat start to degrade, releasing their carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The degradation is sped up by the sun and wind they are exposed to without their water coverage.
To correct past mistakes, landowners are being offered grants by the Scottish government to block the drainage ditches their predecessors were encouraged to dig. A total of €16.3 million ($18 million) has been made available this year. The hope is that 50,000 hectares will have been restored by the end of 2020, and 250,000 hectares by 2030.
The restoration happens in two ways according to Andrew McBride, who works for Scottish Natural Heritage, the government agency responsible for handing out grants. It can either involve a ditch being filled in with peat from nearby, or a wooden dam being built inside the ditch to slow down the loss of water and spread it across the bog.
When the ditches are blocked, rainwater increases the water level, erosion stops and within two years, plants such as moss return. Within five to fifteen years, the bogs are back to fully functioning, McBride said.
Speed Is Key
"We want to do things as quickly as possible," he told DW, "because obviously there's a climate emergency."
McBride says that landowners are often keen for restoration on their property as the farming benefits of drainage were not as great as previously thought. It only really improved the land right next to the bog, he says, adding that the drainage of ditches cause its own problems. On large estates, wandering sheep often fall into the ditches and can't get out.
Peatlands can store up to twice as much carbon as forests.
Scotland is also trying to restore bogs by cutting down trees. In the 1980s, the UK government introduced tax incentives encouraging landowners to drain bogs to plant trees. This was a double hit — first drainage dried the land and then the trees sucked out even more of the moisture.
Although the trees absorbed carbon as they grew, that didn't cancel out the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by the peatlands' destruction.
Protests from conservationists eventually ended the tax incentives and now even the Scottish government agency Forestry and Land Scotland is aiming to transform 2,500 hectares of forest back into peatland over five years.
Sheep and deer that eat and trample the plants are the third major threat to peat bogs. With natural predators such as wolves and lynx, long exterminated, deer have overrun much of Scotland, damaging many of its ecosystems. To try and control their numbers, deer management groups have been set up across Scotland.
The groups are set up by neighboring landowners who work to keep deer numbers down, mainly by shooting the older animals. "Increasingly, deer management groups are expected to coordinate peatland projects and woodland extension projects as a contribution to the climate change agenda," said Richard Cooke, chair of the Association of Deer Management Groups.
Firefighters dealing with peatland fire in Indonesia earlier this year.
In April 2019, Scotland declared a 'climate emergency' and its government aims to reach 'net zero' emissions by 2045. Emissions from peatlands are not currently included in the UK's official estimates but they will be in the future so unless they are restored, reducing Scotland's emissions will be much harder.
Bogs across the world, and particularly in Europe, face similar problems to Scotland. Hans Joosten, a leading researcher on peat bogs, told DW about half those in Europe have been drained, particularly in the densely populated western, central and southern regions.
Across the world, countries are trying to restore their bogs like Scotland. In South Africa, conservation has been combined with poverty relief as the government's €56.6 ($63 million) 'working for wetlands' program has created 15,000 jobs in rewetting and controlling the erosion of 20 bogs.
Restoring peatlands is key to reaching Scotland's climate targets.
While there has been no major new drainage in Europe since 1990, it continues elsewhere. Malaysia and Indonesia now account for half of the world's peatland emissions. Their tropical bogs have been drained so that products like palm oil can be grown, leading to frequent wildfires. In Uganda and Peru's Western Amazonia, peatlands are also increasingly being drained for agriculture.
Joosten dedicates his life to restoring bogs but is keen to emphasize that natural solutions will only ever be part of the solution to climate change. "Peatlands are not going to save the world," he said. "We have to reduce our emissions ourselves, that will never be compensated by peatlands or by other ecosystems."
Reposted with permission from our media associate DW.
By Tim Radford
For the entire 2.5 million years of the Ice Age epoch called the Pleistocene, it was a low-carbon world. Atmospheric carbon dioxide hovered around 230 parts per million. Not only did Homo sapiens evolve on a low-carbon planet, so did Homo erectus and most other human species now known only from fossil evidence in Europe and Asia.
And this long history of a planet kept cool and stable by low levels of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere continued long after the discovery of fire, the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the fall and rise of empires and the Industrial Revolution.
Only in 1965 did carbon dioxide levels pass 320 ppm, after a century of exploitation of fossil fuels that released ancient carbon back into atmospheric circulation.
By 2019, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere had tipped 410 ppm and is still rising. In less than a century, human action had raised planetary average temperatures by around 1°C. At present rates, this average could reach 3°C by the end of this century.
Researchers have known for a century that humans emerged in a cooler world, but much of the story of the distant past was based on the evidence of fossils and sedimentary rocks. The latest research pushes the detailed atmospheric carbon dioxide accounting back to at least 2.5 million years.
Researchers report in the journal Nature Communications that they studied the pattern of carbon isotope readings preserved in the deep yellow soils of China's Loess Plateau. What they found confirmed 800,000 years of annual evidence from the ice cores of Antarctica and Greenland – and far beyond that limit.
The wind-blown Loess of China dates back to at least 22 million years and each successive layer carries isotope evidence that can be read as testimony to the atmospheric conditions in which the soils were laid down.
The latest find confirms that the normal state of the planet during human evolution was cool, with low levels of atmospheric carbon. Homo erectus was the first known human predecessor to exploit fire, systematically fashion stone hand axes, and to leave Africa for Asia and Europe.
"According to this research, from the first Homo erectus, which is currently dated to 2.1 to 1.8 million years ago, we have lived in a low-carbon environment – concentrations were less than 320 parts per million," said Yige Zhang, a geoscientist at Texas A&M University in the U.S., who worked with colleagues in Nanjing, China and the California Institute of Technology.
"So this current high carbon dioxide experiment is not only an experiment for the climate and the environment – it's an experiment for us, for ourselves."
"This is definitely further evidence that fossil fuels and anthropogenic activity actually has fundamentally changed the climate." In my 1st @EcoWatch post today, studies show the speed and scope of the #ClimateCrisis is unique in the last 2,000 years: https://t.co/SdL04YZStu— Olivia Rosane (@orosane) July 25, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By Daniel Ross
Ten years ago, two climate scientists, Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi, published a groundbreaking article in Scientific American outlining a road map for becoming 100 percent reliant on energy generated by water, wind and sun by 2030. This was something that needed to be done "if the world has any hope of slowing climate change," the researchers warned at the time.
The article proved incendiary. "First of all, nobody believed it when we put out that paper in 2009," Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, told Truthout. "It was a very pie-in-the-sky thought. There was a lot of criticism of it, and the negativity around the response was enough to make anybody depressed."
Jacobson is less depressed than he was a decade ago, despite the precarious position that climate change puts us in. Yes, Jacobson's timeframe has been modified. "We're shooting for this goal of 80 percent [renewables] by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050, or ideally before 2050." That said, "I'm actually more optimistic now that it can be done because a lot of things have come together, such as lower costs of renewables like wind and solar," as well as batteries and electric cars, he added.
Nevertheless, Jacobson's glass-half-full predictions still face enormous political, social, financial and regulatory obstacles that make the rapid adoption of renewables daunting, to say the least. Indeed, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported in May that investment in energy efficiency and renewables had stalled in 2018, while capital spending on oil, gas and coal supply rebounded.
"We need a serious conversation about these issues to get there," said Sam Thernstrom, founder and CEO of the Energy Innovation Reform Project, a nonprofit advanced energy technology advocacy group based in Arlington, Virginia, about the push for 100 percent renewables. "That conversation, it's starting to happen, but it is painfully slow and difficult."
Where Are We Now?
Last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report spelled out the dire environmental and humanitarian consequences should the Earth warm more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (1,5°C) over pre-industrial levels. To prevent this from happening, carbon emissions must be slashed to net zero by around 2050. The IPCC report lays out a series of scenarios in which the world is kept from warming over the 1.5°C threshold. In many of the scenarios where there is little to no overshoot, renewables must make up 70 to 85 percent of electricity by 2050.
According to the IEA, however, renewables generated only 24 percent of the electricity consumed in 2017, and by 2023, they're forecasted to meet only 30 percent of electrical demand.
What's more, according to the IEA, electricity accounts for only a fifth of global energy consumption. The share of renewables in the transportation and heating sectors, therefore, will have to similarly expand in the next few years and decades if the worst impacts from climate change are to be avoided — a challenge complicated by anticipated global population growth. The IEA's calculations show that even if the share of renewables in global energy demand grows as expected by one-fifth over the next five years, it still will come out at barely more than 12 percent by 2023.
"I think this transition [to renewables] will happen," said Chris Smith, a research fellow in physical climate change at the University of Leeds, England. "The question is, will it happen fast enough? Personally, I think not. I don't think we're headed for 4 degrees [Celsius] of warming, but I'd be very surprised if we managed to limit it to one and a half."
When it comes to slashing carbon emissions to zero by mid-century, there are essentially two very broadly drawn camps. On one side are those who believe that renewables can be scaled up in time to meet the world's energy demands across the three main sectors (electricity, heating and transportation).
On the other are those who believe that renewables alone won't cut it if the world is to achieve zero net emissions by the middle of this century. They argue that, as we're weaned from fossil fuels, we'll still have to rely on things like nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) to help buttress the power grid.
Looking at both sides is Mark Delucchi, co-author of the seminal Scientific American article 10 years ago, who is now a research scientist at the University of California at Berkeley. "If you're doing a cost-benefit analysis, which is a tool that I use to evaluate these things, you want to start with as broad a collection of options as possible," he said. "You don't decide a priori that every conceivable option will end up in the final highest net benefit solution."
Delucchi's recent cost analysis of clean energy systems didn't include options like nuclear and CCS, as it was designed to look at the cost and technical feasibility of only those options that provide the highest environmental benefits and lowest risks; i.e., those with zero emissions and no catastrophic safety concerns, like wind and solar.
"This does not mean that they are the most socially beneficial, as we haven't done that broad analysis," he said. "I am proposing to do that broad analysis now."
So, where does the current scientific literature stand? Thernstrom co-authored a review of 30 studies and other review articles published since 2014, which found that "there is strong agreement in the recent literature" that reaching zero or near-zero carbon emissions is best achieved by harnessing a "diverse portfolio of low-carbon resources" such as nuclear, biomass, hydropower or CCS. In another literature review, none of the 24 studies purporting to model 100 percent renewable energy systems passed this feasibility test.
"We should be looking for renewables to add value to a decarbonized grid," said Thernstrom. "That should be the goal." One way that value could be harnessed is through improvements in energy storage — an issue that came into stark relief during the polar vortex that held the East Coast of the U.S. in its grip earlier this year. If, during that weather event, grid regions spanning New England to parts of the South had been 100 percent reliant on renewables, energy storage would have needed to increase from 11 gigawatts (as it is today) to 277.9 gigawatts for the lights to remain on, according to a report by Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Globally, at the moment, 94 percent of energy storage capacity is in pumped-storage hydropower. Though more reliable than some other renewable sources, pumped hydropower faces significant market, regulatory and environmental challenges. Nevertheless, Jacobson is encouraged by what he sees as advances that have already occurred, or are occurring, in other energy storage technologies. "This is a solvable problem," he said, highlighting how prognosticators are often unable to factor in unanticipated changes in energy markets.
According to the IEA, renewables in transportation — mainly in the form of electric cars, two- and three-wheelers, and buses — have the lowest contribution of all three major sectors, with their share expected to grow from 3.4 percent in 2017 to a forecasted 3.8 percent in 2023. But there's cause for optimism when it comes to long-distance transportation, like air travel and ships, thanks to the recent investment in hydrogen fuel cells, for example.
Forecasts look better for renewable heat consumption, which is expected to increase 20 percent over the next four years, reaching 12 percent of the heating sector demand by 2023, according to the IEA. That estimate, said Jacobson, need not be so conservative. "You don't need batteries for heating," he explained. Indeed, energy-efficient heat pump systems, for example, move heat rather than generate it, helping to keep houses warm in winter and cool in the summer.
Small-scale programs offer an intriguing glimpse into the possible future. The Drake Landing community in Canada heats its homes by storing solar energy underground during the summer months and tapping into this energy reserve in winter months. During the 2015-2016 heating season, the system was 100 percent self-reliant.
"We can transform buildings, we can transform most industry," said Jacobson. "There's a long way in actual transition. But we have so much that we can transition right now, that's not what's slowing us down." Rather, what's slowing us down are regulatory, cultural and political obstacles.
One remedy, for example, to the problems posed by seasonal variability would involve the expansion over a vast geographic area of new interstate transmission lines, connecting grid regions with high seasonal variability to those with less interrupted sun and wind. However, "the hard part about interstate transmission is that there is no federal body that oversees that," explained Joshua Rhodes, a research analyst at the Webber Energy Group and the University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute. "You have a multi-body problem, and it's hard to get everybody at the table to agree to the same thing."
Until politicians and regulators get to that table, many experts are looking at more local solutions. Interestingly, oil-rich Texas is a case study for renewable energy success. About 15 years ago, Texas introduced a renewable energy integration program that has led to wind and solar making up 20 percent of the state's electricity supply, comparable to California. Other regions are playing catch-up. According to the Sierra Club, at least 131 cities and nine states, districts or territories across the U.S. have committed to 100 percent renewable energy goals within a certain timeframe. Six cities have already reached those goals.
But as the latest IEA report proves, pickup overall is too slow. Climate change forecasts widely demand the adoption of renewables on a much larger and more urgent scale, which is why many experts call for broadly encompassing ideas that recognize the scale of the problem.
Declining costs for renewable energy like wind and solar give some climate scientists optimism that society can mov… https://t.co/b50UWwMR10— Truthout (@Truthout)1566678600.0
Daniel Ross is a journalist whose work has appeared in Truthout, the Guardian, FairWarning, Newsweek, YES! Magazine, Salon, AlterNet, Vice and a number of other publications. He is based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @1danross.
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'The Window of Opportunity for Action Is Almost Closed': UN Report Shows Record Levels of Climate-Changing Gases
The atmospheric concentrations of the three gases most responsible for climate change reached record highs in 2017, the most recent annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released Thursday from the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found.
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now at 405.5 parts per million (ppm), or 146 percent of pre-1750 levels. The concentration of methane is now at around 1,859 parts per billion (ppb), around 257 percent of pre-industrial levels, and the concentration of nitrous oxide reached about 329.9 ppb, or 122 percent of pre-industrial levels.
WMO annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that concentrations of CO2 and other heat-trapping gases reach new record,… https://t.co/vwAAU1RO4A— WMO | OMM (@WMO | OMM)1542969403.0
"The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago, when the temperature was two to three degrees Celsius warmer and sea level was 10-20 meters (approximately 32.8 to 65.6 feet) higher than now," WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas said, as The Guardian reported. "The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed."
The new findings add to the growing number of reports supporting urgent action to curb climate change. A little over a month ago, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that policy makers must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent of 2010 levels within 12 years to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
"The new IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 [degrees Celsius] shows that deep and rapid reductions of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will be needed in all sectors of society and the economy," IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee told BBC News. "The WMO greenhouse gas bulletin, showing a continuing rising trend in concentrations of greenhouse gases, underlines just how urgent these emissions reductions are."
This month's Greenhouse Gas Bulletin did find that carbon dioxide and methane levels had increased less between 2016 and 2017 than between 2015 and 2016, but were roughly equal to the average increase over the past decade. Further, the reduction in the increase of carbon dioxide last year wasn't because of any change in energy policy. Instead, it was because the El Niño event that peaked in 2015 and 2016 caused drought in some regions, which meant vegetation in those areas absorbed less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, BBC News explained. That effect was reduced during the 2016 to 2017 period.
"I am very concerned that the three greenhouse gases most responsible for climate change (CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide) are all rising upwards unabated," professor Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia told BBC News. "CO2 concentrations are now well above 400ppm—levels were 321ppm when I was born, that is a big rise in a human lifetime!"
When it comes to nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that also weakens the ozone layer, its levels actually increased from 2016 to 2017 compared with 2015 to 2016. About 40 percent of it enters the atmosphere through human activities like fertilizer use, soil degradation and industry. The report also marked the surprise decline in the decrease of CFC-11, a greenhouse gas that also weakens the ozone layer. It was supposed to be banned by the 1987 Montreal Protocol, but reports have sourced new emissions of the gas to some factories in China.
World leaders will have a chance to act on the findings of this bulletin, as well as the most recent IPCC report, when they meet in a little over a week to discuss ramping up their commitments under the Paris agreement at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.
UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) head Patricia Espinosa explained to The Guardian that the world was at a crossroads:
"On one hand, greenhouse gas emissions have yet to peak and countries struggle to maintain the concentrated attention and effort needed for a successful response to climate change. On the other hand, climate action is occurring, it is increasing and there is a will to do more. I highlight this because falling into despair and hopelessness is a danger equal to complacency, none of which we can afford."
A UNFCCC report published Wednesday looked at climate action pledges by the numbers in 2018 and found that commitments had been made by:
- 9,000 cities in 128 countries;
- 240 regions or states in 40 countries; and
- More than 6,000 businesses in 120 countries.
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Today is election day in the U.S., which means that if you are a U.S. voter whose state doesn't have early voting, today is the day to head to the polls and make your voice heard.
A lot of the races in this year's midterm election have big consequences for the environment. The Sierra Club has even assembled a list of 10 "Fossil Fools" to boot from office because they consistently prioritize fossil fuel interests over the environment and public health.
But environmental voting isn't just about picking certain candidates over others. A number of states are also considering important ballot measures that give voters a direct say on environmental issues, from protecting endangered species to promoting renewable energy. Here are five to keep track of as you watch the results come in tonight.
1. Initiative 1631, Washington State
If Washington voters approve I-1631 today, they would make their state the first in the nation to impose a fee on carbon emissions, as EcoWatch has pointed out previously. The initiative would charge $15 per metric ton of carbon emissions beginning in 2020 and raise the fee by $2 every year until the state meets its 2035 emissions goals. The funds would be directed towards clean energy and transit, and cleaning up polluted communities.
The fossil fuel industry has outspent the "Yes" campaign two-to-one, but initiative has some very prominent supporters.
Climate change may be the toughest problem humanity has ever faced — but it's solvable. Washington has a unique opp… https://t.co/20OkwrU9dL— Bill Gates (@Bill Gates)1541255580.0
2. Proposition 112, Colorado
In an attempt to limit risks from fracking, Proposition 112 would ban oil and gas development within 2,500 feet of homes, buildings, water sources or other sensitive areas. If it succeeds, it could actually be a major blow to Colorado's growing shale industry, as CNN explained:
If approved, the ballot question would eliminate future drilling locations in a chunk of the surging Denver-Julesburg, or DJ, basin in Colorado, one of the nation's largest oil-producing states. Much of the Colorado land held by oil companies like Anadarko Petroleum (APC) and Noble Energy (NBL) would suddenly be off limits to new drilling.
Not surprisingly, the oil and gas industry is also spending hard to stop this measure, to the tune of more than $30 million. But supporters remain defiant.
If Prop. 112 passes in #Colorado, it will show that PEOPLE CAN stand up to #oilandgas companies and win. That sta… https://t.co/8mQdz1RZ3u— WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program (@WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program)1541457270.0
3. Proposition 127, Arizona
Proposition 127 would require Arizona utilities to get 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. Currently, as Ars Technica pointed out, the state plans to get 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025, so the proposition would majorly scale up the state's renewable energy commitment.
Both opponents and supporters of the measure have spent a lot to win the day, making it the most expensive ballot measure in Arizona history.
The Union of Concerned Scientists came out strongly in support of the measure, arguing that it would save utility customers money, improve public health by reducing air pollution, create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, among other benefits.
The Good Place's Ted Danson also lent his support.
[email protected] knows it’s forking important to vote #YESon127 to clean up our energy and our politics! https://t.co/fWaKHqDE3M— Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona (@Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona)1541293384.0
4. Amendment 9, Florida
This odd combination occurred because Florida's Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years to suggest amendments to the state's constitution, has the right to bundle changes on the ballot. They argued that combining the two made sense because they were both environmental issues and because it would save space on the ballot, Vox explained.
But it might backfire. Several local newspapers expressed concerns about forcing voters to say yes or no to two different things at once in their endorsements. Others see it as a win-win.
"The issues together send a message of clean air, clean water," Constitution Revision Commission member Lisa Carlton, who wrote the pre-bundled vaping measure, told Grist. "I cannot think of anything more important than protecting our near shores in Florida."
5. Ballot Measure 1, Alaska
Ballot Measure 1 would impose new requirements and a new permitting process for any developments that would impact bodies of water that salmon and other fish call home. It's a response to the controversial Pebble Gold Mine, a project that was so threatening to the local watershed that even Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put its efforts to approve it on hold.
Oil and gas interests, as well as 12 of Alaska's Native Regional Corporations, say that existing protections for salmon are sufficient and the measure would hurt the economy, Ars Technica reported. Wildlife groups like the Alaska Conservation Foundation are supporting it.
We are voting Yes on 1 because we can't bear to think about an Alaska without wild salmon! Get the Facts on Ballot… https://t.co/206ezzlNLl— Alaska Conservation Foundation (@Alaska Conservation Foundation)1541464980.0
When new technologies like electricity or the dishwasher took off in the 20th century, most of the people racing to adapt them had no idea what trading candles for light bulbs would do to the Earth's climate.
Researchers at the University of Hawaii have set out to make sure that doesn't happen again when it comes to a 21st century technology that has some people very excited: Bitcoin.
In a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change, they calculated that if Bitcoin were adapted at the rate of other modern technologies, it would generate enough carbon dioxide emissions to push global temperatures two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in less than 30 years.
"If this takes off it will be something that we will not be able to control," study lead author and University of Hawaii Associate Prof. Camilo Mora told Bloomberg.
This is because Bitcoin requires a massive amount of energy. Bitcoin is a digital currency that is only exchanged computer-to-computer. New Bitcoin enters the system through an energy-intensive process called mining that requires computers to solve difficult mathematical problems. Last year, the use of Bitcoin generated 69 million tons of carbon dioxide, equal to the emissions of Austria, USA Today reported.
The researchers found that if Bitcoin is incorporated into widespread use at the slowest rate of other new technologies, the planet would warm two degrees Celsius in 22 years; if it is incorporated at an average rate, we would pass that marker in 16 years.
"Currently, the emissions from transportation, housing and food are considered as the main contributions to ongoing climate change," paper co-author and University of Hawaii student Katie Taladay told USA Today. "In our paper, we show that bitcoin should now be put in the list of additional concerns."
Bloomberg, however, reasoned that Bitcoin is unlikely to catch on in the same way as the consumer technologies used as comparisons by the researchers.
It would be unfair to compare potential bitcoin adoption with previous consumer-technology according to Michael Wilshire, head of strategy at Bloomberg NEF. Consumer products tend to take off when there's high unmet demand for a product or service, prices are low enough for widespread affordability and growing adoption makes the product more useful. Given the circumstances, Bitcoin is "a long way from being a universally accepted currency," Wilshire said.
In the U.S., 60 percent of transactions under $10 still use cash, and there are many other cryptocurrencies vying to replace it, including options like Ethereum that are looking to forgo the energy-wasting mining process.
But the study is an important model for how we must consider new technologies in the age of climate change.
"This type of analysis should be performed when any new technology is under development," study author and University of Hawaii PhD student Randi Rollins told Bloomberg. "Being aware of the consequences of future technology development could go a long way in reducing emissions and preventing further damage to the environment."
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Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the EPA, touted that the report shows that regulations are unnecessary to slash carbon emissions.
"Thanks to President Trump's regulatory reform agenda, the economy is booming, energy production is surging, and we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions from major industrial sources," Wheeler said in a press release. "These achievements flow largely from technological breakthroughs in the private sector, not the heavy hand of government. The Trump Administration has proven that federal regulations are not necessary to drive CO2 reductions."
But as Axios' Amy Harder reported:
"This drop, between 2016 and 2017, is due largely to market forces and moves by President Obama and Congress, and occurred before President Trump officially took office. EPA's announcement contrasts with Trump, who in recent days has dismissed climate change as an issue."
America's coal plants are closing despite the Trump administration's efforts to bolster the struggling industry. The coal industry has also been unable to compete with the rise of the renewable energy sector as well as cheap natural gas, which emits less carbon dioxide than coal, Gardner said.
"In 2017 utilities shut or converted from coal-to-gas nearly 9,000 megawatts (MW) of coal plants," he noted. "The trend of U.S. coal plant shutdowns is expected to pick up this year, with power companies expecting to shut 14,000 MW of coal plants in calendar year 2018."
Walke tweeted Wednesday that the Trump EPA "deserves zero credit" for falling greenhouse gas emissions and that the president's pro-fossil fuel agenda will actually "increase" emissions.
EPA disinformation campaign continues: 1. None of the GHG drop is due to Trump EPA. 2. Relevant comparison is to be… https://t.co/orSj7cqF5s— John Walke (@John Walke)1539795794.0
Greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. have been falling steadily since 2007 but environmentalists warn that the trend could reverse. The president intends to kill the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which caps coal plant emissions; he is letting fracking companies emit more methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2; and he has blocked new fuel economy standards.
Last month, the Trump administration quietly released a study admitting that carbon pollution from cars and other sources will trigger a 7-degree rise in average worldwide temperatures by 2100.
President Trump also announced he's pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement after his advisors reportedly warned to him that the U.S. could not lower its emissions reductions commitments while remaining in the international climate accord.
Trump Admin Says 7 Degrees Fahrenheit of Warming Inevitable by 2100 So let's burn more fossil fuels? 😣 https://t.co/KjJwGqypWV— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1538442141.0
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics to a duo for their work on how the world can achieve sustainable growth.
The prize was divided equally to William D. Nordhaus of Yale University and to Paul M. Romer of New York University's Stern School of Business, both Americans, who have "designed methods for addressing some of our time's most basic and pressing questions about how we create long-term sustained and sustainable economic growth," the academy said Monday in a press release.
He has worked on this topic since the 1970s, when scientists became increasingly worried about fossil fuels contributing to a warming world, the academy said.
Laureate William Nordhaus’ research shows that the most efficient remedy for problems caused by greenhouse gas emis… https://t.co/OgA8fVjS9i— The Nobel Prize (@The Nobel Prize)1538992476.0
Coincidentally, the academy's announcement was issued the same day that a United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report about the catastrophic effects of unmitigated climate change and advised rapid government action. The report builds on and cites Nordhaus' work, The New York Times reported.
When it comes to averting climate change, "the policies are lagging very, very far—miles, miles, miles—behind the science and what needs to be done," Nordhaus said in an interview after his win.
He added that the United States has fallen behind in mitigating global warming due to the "disastrous policies" of the Trump administration. President Trump has pushed for fossil fuel usage and infamously pulled the U.S. out of global Paris agreement to limit warming.
Romer, whose work focuses on how economic forces govern the willingness of firms to produce new ideas and innovations, laid the foundation of what is now called "endogenous growth theory," the academy said. The theory explains how ideas require specific conditions to thrive in a market.
"My work teaches us that what happens with technology is under our control." This year's Economic Sciences laureat… https://t.co/mDly9RAMM0— The Nobel Prize (@The Nobel Prize)1539000756.0
Romer is less pessimistic about the future of the planet in light of the IPCC's dire report, but said work needs to be done to slash carbon emissions.
"It is entirely possible for humans to produce less carbon," he said at the press conference announcing his prize. "Once we start to try to reduce carbon emissions, we'll be surprised that it wasn't as hard as we anticipated."
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Nobel prize in economics.
"The contributions of Paul Romer and William Nordhaus are methodological, providing us with fundamental insights into the causes and consequences of technological innovation and climate change," the academy said. "This year's Laureates do not deliver conclusive answers, but their findings have brought us considerably closer to answering the question of how we can achieve sustained and sustainable global economic growth."
Nobel Prize Winners Name Trump and His 'Ignorance' as Top Threats to World Population https://t.co/PqsTwXDBJ7 @Greenpeace @World_Wildlife— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1504386909.0
Planting a garden has the power to change the world. Regenerative gardens can help reverse global warming by restoring soil health. We're bringing victory gardens back. This time, it's for the climate.
Our friends Ron Finley and Rosario Dawson explain how you can make your home garden regenerative in this new video premiere from Kiss The Ground and Green America.
What is a Climate Victory Garden and Why Is It Important?
"Climate Victory Gardens" were inspired by the "Victory Gardens" planted during the first and second World Wars. By 1944, nearly 20 million victory gardens produced eight million tons of food, equaling over 40 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. at the time. These victory gardens fed Americans at home, to make more farm-raised food available for the troops abroad.
We are once again in the position where we, as everyday citizens, have the opportunity to use our gardens as a force for change. Instead of gardening in support of war efforts, we are gardening to fight global warming.
Even your small home garden can utilize regenerative farming practices like keeping the soil covered, not tilling, encouraging biodiversity, using compost, avoiding the use of chemicals and creating fertility onsite.
"We have communities nationwide that are food prisons that could be producing their own organic food while addressing climate change. By educating the public about regeneratively homegrown food, Climate Victory Gardens are raising awareness about one of the biggest global challenges of our time and showing Americans how they can make a difference for themselves, their households, and their communities. Soil Equals Life."
— Ron Finley of The Ron Finley Project
A very special thanks to Green America, Rosario Dawson, Ron Finley and the Ron Finley Project, our amazing film crew and to Kellogg Garden Products for their support in bringing this video to life—and thank YOU in advance for helping us share this video and supporting the regeneration of our planet, one garden at a time.
Update, September 10: The campaign for this project has switched from Indiegogo to Kickstarter and went live on September 6.
Two San Francisco fashionistas are working on an innovative shoe that is good for both your feet and your carbon footprint. The Bendy is a sneaker flat for women made ethically in the U.S. using less than one-sixth the carbon that it takes to produce the average sneaker, according to the product's media kit.
Mary Sue Papale and Yvette Turner spent their careers in the fashion industry before kicking off on their own in 2011 to start Ashbury Skies, a curated website for indie shoe designers. They are therefore well aware of the ecological and labor-rights violations rampant in what they call "fast fashion." The outsourcing of clothes manufacturing overseas in search of cheap labor has led to overproduction, unjust working conditions and enormous greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2017 report found that the fashion industry emits more greenhouse gases each year than shipping and international flights combined, The Guardian reported. With the Bendy, Papale and Turner are doing their part to nudge fashion down the footpath towards sustainability.
"It was clear to us that the planet did not need just another shoe. But what it did need was a shoe with a conscience. We will not BS you and tell you that these shoes have zero environmental impact—going barefoot is zero impact. Instead, we have a simple construction of great materials made by some very kind and talented folks in downtown LA. That allows for less transportation (low CO2) and fair wages paid to California workers, keeping it right in our backyard," Turner said.
While the average sneaker production emits 30 pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of leaving a 100-watt light bulb switched on for a full week, the Bendy only emits 4.5 pounds. Turner and Papale broke it down further. While the average sneaker emits 15 pounds of carbon dioxide in manufacturing, nine pounds in material processing and six pounds in transport, the Bendy emits only 2.2 pounds in manufacturing, 1.45 pounds in materials processing and 0.9 pounds in transport.
It is also designed to hit the comfort and style sweet spot. It has a flexible bottom, a cushioned, sneaker-like footbed and a soft leather body. The shoes only use four materials: leather, thread, bottom and the footbed. They are hand-stitched to avoid the use of toxic glue and the leather is sourced from a responsible tanner in Italy.
The shoes are not yet available, but anyone who signs up for information via their Indiegogo campaign will be notified when the shoes are ready and will be eligible for early supporter discounts.
New Report Promotes Need for Fashion Industry Action https://t.co/fQ5iflNes4 #Fashion #FastFashion @NRDC @Greenpeace @friends_earth— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1519832294.0
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Spencer Dale, the BP's chief economist, told the Guardian that the globe's emissions rise was "slightly worrying" and a "pretty big backward step."
"It suggests to me we are not on a path to the Paris climate goals," he added.
The report, called the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, also pointed out that the world's fuel mix has "strikingly" not changed in the last 20 years.
"I am more worried by the lack of progress in the power sector over the past 20 years, than by the pickup in carbon emissions last year," Dale noted to the Guardian.
The report revealed that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions was driven by a 2.2 percent increase in global energy demand last year, as well as increased coal consumption for the first time in four years, led by growing demand in India and China.
"Together, China and India accounted for nearly half of the increase in global carbon emissions," a press release for the study stated. "EU emissions were also up (1.5 percent) with just Spain accounting for 44 percent of the increase in EU emissions."
In contrast, emissions declines were led by the U.S. (-0.5 percent)—the third year in a row that the nation's emissions declined, although the fall was the smallest over those three years. The UK and Denmark reported the lowest carbon emissions in their history.
While renewable power generation grew by 17 percent, with wind and solar driving much of that growth, the success of clean energy was clouded by the world's increased appetite for fossil fuels. Oil demand grew by 1.8 percent and natural gas consumption up 3 percent and production up 4 percent, BP found.
"2017 was a year where structural forces in the energy market continued to push forward the transition to a lower carbon economy, but where cyclical factors have reversed or slowed some of the gains from prior years," said Bob Dudley, BP group chief executive, in a statement. "These factors, combined with rising demand for energy, has resulted in a material increase in carbon emissions following three years of little or no growth."
"As we have said in our Energy Outlook, our Technology Outlook and now our Statistical Review, the power system must decarbonize," he said. "We continue to believe that gains in the power sector are the most efficient way to drive down carbon emissions in coming decades."
2017 was a record-breaking year for #renewables, but more needs to be done to meet #ParisAgreement goals… https://t.co/TitHKDKkX8— Earth Alliance (@Earth Alliance)1528133445.0
When the World Cup kicks off in Russia Thursday, it will be the first World Cup whose stadiums were required by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to incorporate sustainability into their construction and renovation, according to the FIFA report More Sustainable Stadiums.
"Stadiums are key in our efforts to stage a successful and more sustainable FIFA World Cup, which is why FIFA has made green certification mandatory for all arenas used for the event," FIFA head of sustainability and diversity Federico Addiechi said in February, when FIFA announced that three Russian stadiums had already passed certification.
But local Russian activists say some of the green stadiums were nevertheless built on vulnerable ecosystems, ABC News reported Tuesday.
The Kaliningrad Stadium, for example, where England and Spain will play, was built with environmentally friendly materials and energy efficient heating, ventilation and electricity systems, according to a FIFA report.
It was also constructed on top of October Island, a haven for birds and one of Kaliningrad's last wetlands.
"It was a typical delta island, with peat and a wetland reed-bed. It was a little corner of heaven in the city, where birds lived," local ecologist Alexandra Korolyova, who campaigned against the stadium's construction, told ABC News. "Really, if Russia paid more attention to protecting the environment, it could potentially have become a reservation or national park within the city."
Instead, in 2014, part of the wetlands were covered with more than a million tons of sand to prepare the area for construction.
The Kazan Arena, which earned a "silver" according to the "RUSO. THE FOOTBALL STADIUMS" certification developed for the World Cup, was also the site of protests in 2016 due to plans to expand a nearby parking lot over a meadow that protesters said sheltered rare species, ABC News reported.
The stadium in Saransk was also built on a mix of old housing and marshland, but the local minister Alexei Merkushkin told the AP that the area was "the most horrible place in the city," ABC News reported.
"I think the World Cup gave a huge boost to improving the environment in our city even though it was already very good," he said.
Stadiums aren't the only point of contention when it comes to FIFA's efforts to go green.
FIFA was the first international sports organization to sign up to the UN Climate Change's Climate Neutral Now, pledging to offset the emissions of travel to the 2018 World Cup and to go carbon neutral by 2050. But environmental activists say this commitment is undercut by FIFA's sponsorship deal with Russian-owned natural gas company Gazprom, as well as deals with airlines and car companies, Desmog UK reported Monday.
"You cannot encourage climate action while taking money from industries driving the crisis. It's akin to making commitments to public health while taking money from Big Tobacco—it just doesn't pass the smell test," corporate accountability spokesperson Jesse Bragg told Desmog UK.
International Olympic Committee Makes 'Biggest Commitment Ever' to Fight Plastic Pollution https://t.co/AVgXQ8LjDw… https://t.co/hi1TqyJwRI— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1528227650.0