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Why Transportation Is Now the Top Source of U.S. Pollution

With the holidays coming around, it may be a good time to note that the countless miles that Americans will drive, train or fly has a big planetary impact.

In fact, the transportation sector is now the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., unseating electricity production for the first time in four decades.

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In China, about 70 percent of the rivers and lakes are contaminated by the 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater produced by the textile industry. RiverBlue

Fashion Industry Report: One Truckload of Clothing Is Wasted Per Second

When we think of environmental foes, the fossil fuel industry is often pegged as one of the biggest villains. But the shirts off our backs also leave a devastating planetary impact.

According to a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the fashion industry's current "take-make-dispose" system creates greenhouse gas emissions of 1.2 billion tonnes a year—that's "more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined."

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'Up Our Ambition, or Suffer the Consequences': UN Report Urges Immediate Climate Action

The United Nations (UN) Environment program has released its eighth annual Emissions Gap Report, which ominously found that greenhouse gas emissions are set to overshoot the Paris climate deal by about 30 percent.

The goal of the Paris agreement is to keep global temperature rise this century to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with each nation making individual efforts to mitigate global warming. But according to the new review, released ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, national pledges made so far cover only a third of the cuts needed by 2030 to avoid worst impacts of climate change.

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climate.nasa.gov

Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Hit Record High


Concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) increased at "record-breaking" speed last year, according to the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released Monday.

According to the report, concentrations of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400.00 parts per million the year prior. This acceleration was due to a strong El Niño event—which triggered droughts and reduced the capacity of forests, vegetation and the oceans to absorb CO2—as well as human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels.

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31 Science Groups to Congress: Greenhouse Gases Emitted by Human Activities Is Primary Driver of Climate Change

A group of 31 of the country's top science organizations sent a letter to Congress this week highlighting the dangers of climate change and urging immediate action. The letter, representing millions of scientists, mentions several impacts of climate change, including extreme weather, sea level rise and wildfires.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

"The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades," the letter goes on to say.

The effort was spearheaded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, whose leader, Rush Holt, is a former member of Congress. The signers of the letter range from the American Public Health Organization to the American Meteorological Society.

For a deeper dive: AP, Washington Post, Independent, Huffington Post, InsideClimate News

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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Industrial Fossil Fuel Use Drives Climate Chaos

Earth Policy Institute

By Emily E. Adams

Increasing global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), a heat-trapping gas, are pushing the world into dangerous territory, closing the window of time to avert the worst consequences of higher temperatures, such as melting ice and rising seas.

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels have grown exponentially. Despite wide agreement by governments on the need to limit emissions, the rate of increase ratcheted up from less than one percent each year in the 1990s to almost three percent annually in the first decade of this century. After a short dip in 2009 due to the global financial crisis, emissions from fossil fuels rebounded in 2010 and have since grown 2.6 percent each year, hitting an all-time high of 9.7 billion tons of carbon in 2012.

Carbon emissions would have risen even faster were it not for the seven percent drop among industrial countries since 2007—a group that includes the U.S., Canada, Europe, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The U.S., long the world’s largest emitter until it was eclipsed by China in 2006, cut carbon emissions by 11 percent over the past five years to 1.4 billion tons. The biggest drop was in emissions from coal—which is primarily used to generate electricity—as power plants switched to cheaper natural gas and as the use of carbon-free wind energy more than quadrupled. U.S. emissions from oil, mostly used for transportation, also dipped.

Carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning in Europe—as a whole the third largest emitter—fell nine percent from 2007 to 2012. Emissions in Italy and Spain shrank by 17 and 18 percent, respectively. The United Kingdom’s emissions dropped by 11 percent to 126 million tons. Germany’s emissions fell by four percent to 200 million tons. These countries have been leaders in either wind or solar energy or both.

Russia and Japan are two industrial countries that did not see an overall decline in carbon emissions over the past five years. Russia had an uptick in oil use, increasing its emissions by two percent to 449 million tons. And in Japan, the quick suspension of nuclear power generation after the Fukushima disaster led to more natural gas and oil use, pushing emissions up one percent to 336 million tons in 2012. 

CO2 emissions in developing countries surpassed those from industrial countries in 2005 and have since continued to soar. China’s carbon emissions grew by 44 percent since 2007 to 2.4 billion tons in 2012. Together the U.S. and China account for more than 40 percent of worldwide emissions. Emissions in India, home to more than a billion people, overtook those in Russia for the first time in 2008. From 2007 to 2012, India’s emissions grew 43 percent to reach 596 million tons of carbon. Carbon emissions in Indonesia, another fast-growing economy, have exploded, growing 52 percent to hit 146 million tons in 2012. 

Although emissions from developing countries now dominate, the industrial countries set the world on its global warming path with over a century’s worth of CO2 emissions that have accumulated in the atmosphere. Furthermore, emissions estimates discussed here include only those from fossil fuels burned within a country’s borders, meaning that the tallies do not account for international trade.

For example, emissions generated from producing goods in China destined for use in the U.S. are added to China’s books. When emissions are counted in terms of the final destination of the product, the industrial countries’ carbon bill increases.

On a per person basis, the U.S. emits 4.4 tons of carbon pollution—twice as much as in China. The highest per capita carbon emissions are in several small oil and gas producing countries. In 2012, Qatar spewed out 11 tons of carbon per person. Trinidad and Tobago is next with nine tons of carbon per person, and Kuwait follows at 7.5 tons.

Fossil fuels are not the only source of CO2 emissions. Changing the landscape, for example by burning forests, releases roughly 1 billion tons of carbon globally each year. Brazil and Indonesia have high levels of deforestation and are responsible for much of the current carbon emissions from the land.

About half of the CO2 that is released through fossil fuel burning or land use changes stays in the atmosphere. The other half is taken up by the oceans or by plants. As more CO2 is absorbed by the world’s oceans, the water becomes more acidic. This change in ocean chemistry can strip away the building blocks of coral reefs, weakening an important link in the oceanic food chain. Scientists warn that the oceans could eventually become saturated with CO2, compromising their capacity to absorb our carbon emissions, with serious consequences for the global thermostat.

For some 800,000 years, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere did not go above 300 parts per million (ppm). But in the 250 years following the start of the Industrial Revolution, enough CO2 built up to bring the average concentration to nearly 394 ppm in 2012. Throughout each year, the concentration of the gas fluctuates, reaching its annual peak in the spring. In May 2013, the CO2 concentration briefly hit 400 ppm, a grim new milestone on the path of climate disruption. Never in human history has the atmosphere been so full of this odorless and colorless yet powerfully disruptive gas.

CO2 acts like the glass of a greenhouse, trapping heat. Since humans began burning fossil fuels on a large scale, the global average temperature has risen 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius), with most of the increase occurring since 1970. The effects of higher temperatures include rising sea levels, disappearing Arctic sea ice, more heat waves and declining yields of food crops.

More warming is in the pipeline as the climate system slowly responds to the higher CO2 concentrations. Reports from international institutions, such as the International Energy Agency, based on work by thousands of scientists emphasize that little time remains to cut emissions and avoid a climate catastrophe. The World Bank notes that absent any policy changes, the global average temperature could be 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by the end of this century, well above what human civilization has ever witnessed.

But a different future—one based on a clean energy economy—is within our reach. Germany, not a particularly sunny country, has harnessed enough of the sun’s rays to power some 8 million homes, for example. The U.S. has enough wind turbines installed to power more than 15 million homes. Kenya generates roughly a quarter of its electricity from geothermal energy. This is but a glimpse of the enormous potential of renewable energy. The question is not whether we can build a carbon-free economy, but whether we can do it before climate change spirals out of control.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

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Climate

Legislators Call on Secretary of State John Kerry to Reject Keystone XL

All Risk, No Reward

Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Waxman (D-CA) yesterday joined Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, in calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

During a call with press, they highlighted how the dangerous project does not meet the climate standard set by President Obama in his sweeping climate change speech last month and should be rejected by the administration.

“The approval of the Keystone XL pipeline could undo much of the good work President Obama is doing to reduce carbon pollution and address climate change,” said Sen. Whitehouse. “With the effects of climate change already harming communities across our country, I hope the administration will ultimately reject the development of this toxic pipeline.”

“I am opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline," Rep. Waxman said. "In the face of climate change, the last thing we should be doing is giving a green light to tripling production of tar sands, which are substantially more carbon polluting than conventional oil.  I believe a rigorous analysis will show that the Keystone XL pipeline fails the test the President has set forth and must be denied.”

“The President has set a justifiably high bar for the Keystone XL pipeline, and it’s a climate standard that the oil industry can’t meet. President Obama’s climate plan is the most ambitious we’ve seen from any President, and he should continue that strong leadership by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Karpinski.

In his speech, President Obama said, “Our national interest will be served only if this project [Keystone XL] does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

On the call, they praised President Obama’s leadership on climate change and strongly agreed with the test he set on approving the Keystone XL pipeline. The development of tar sands by Keystone XL would have a grave impact on our climate. Approval of the pipeline is also incompatible with the U.S.’s push to be an international role model on tackling climate change. The State Department has clear marching orders based on the bar set by President Obama in his speech and Secretary Kerry should reject the pipeline once and for all.

Whitehouse, Waxman and Karpinski made the case that the dramatic increase in carbon pollution caused by Keystone XL would fail to meet the President’s own standard for approval. This builds on the recent letter from Rep. Waxman and Sen. Whitehouse to the State Department in which they detailed all the ways Keystone XL would significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.

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New Yorkers Call for Renewables at Anti-Fracking Rally During Cuomo Fundraiser

Frack Action

Residents gathered today to rally against fracking and for renewable energy outside of Gov. Cuomo’s (D-NY) fundraiser in Syracuse, NY. The concerned residents urged the Governor not to put New York’s clean water, air, environment and economy at risk by allow fracking. Further, they urged the Governor to aggressively invest in renewable energy, which would bring sustainable, good jobs and economic development to New York State without jeopardizing people's health and existing jobs.

"Governor Cuomo must listen to the science and ban fracking, which contaminates water, poisons air and puts our health at risk," said Renee Vogelsang of Frack Action, and a Syracuse resident.

"An overwhelming number of New Yorkers are standing up against fracking because they know it would only bring pollution and ruin to communities across New York State. Governor Cuomo should pioneer a renewable energy economy that will create long-term, safe jobs for New Yorkers,” said Vogelsang.

"If Governor Cuomo cares about the future of our state, then he will reject hydrofracking," said Ursula Rozum, a Syracuse resident with the Syracuse Peace Council. "Science overwhelmingly shows that hydrofracking cannot be done safely, that it would only lead to polluted water and poisoned communities, like it has in Pennsylvania and many other states. Fracked methane gas is not a bridge fuel—it's a dirty fossil fuel and a source of climate disrupting greenhouse gasses. Governor Cuomo needs to decide, is he with the people or with the gas industry?"

Gov. Cuomo was in Syracuse for a fundraiser at the Genesee Grand Hotel. The rally began outside of the event at 11:30.

"Fracking poses a serious threat to the health of both our natural and social environments," said Emily Coralyne, a Syracuse resident. "Historically in New York, we have made agreements to maintain stewardship of this land with our native neighbors. If New York State were to allow hydrofracking, they are yet again, breaking promises made to the original people of this land to care for what has been shared with us."

Independent observers have noted that the gas industry cannot be trusted when it describes fracking as safe. A recent investigation by the Times Tribune in Pennsylvania revealed many cases of water contamination from fracking.  And a recent study showed that fracking emits significant amounts of methane—a major contributor to climate change. A recent peer-reviewed study by Duke University in the renowned Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences linked fracking with water contamination in Pennsylvania.

The latest Siena Poll showed that upstate New Yorkers oppose fracking 52-38 percent. On June 17, 3,000 New Yorkers rallied in Albany to demand that Gov. Cuomo reject fracking and instead aggressively pioneer a renewable energy economy.

A recent peer-reviewed study detailed a plan for New York State to get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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Energy

11,000+ Massachusetts Residents Call for a Fracking Ban

Environment Massachusetts

Graphic courtesy of Corporate Europe Observatory

This morning, more than 11,000 residents called on Beacon Hill to ban the dirty drilling process of fracking, in petitions presented by Environment Massachusetts and its allies at a statehouse news conference. The petitions show wide support for H.788, a bill introduced by Rep. Kocot (D-MA) and Rep. Provost (D-MA) to ban fracking and the processing of its toxic wastewater in the commonwealth.

“In states like Pennsylvania, we have already seen fracking contaminate drinking water and make nearby residents sick,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment Massachusetts. "Residents looking at this track record have one message for their legislators today: keep this dirty drilling out of Massachusetts."

Local concern about fracking has grown since the U.S. Geological Survey identified shale gas deposits in the Pioneer Valley last December. Moreover, as New York mulls large-scale fracking next door, drilling operators could soon view Western Massachusetts as a convenient dumping ground for toxic fracking wastewater.

"In light of the threats to our environment and to our health, we cannot allow fracking—or its toxic waste—to come to Massachusetts," said Rep. Provost, sponsor of H.788.

Bill H.788 would protect the commonwealth from both of these threats by both banning fracking and its wastewater. Last year, Vermont already enacted a similar law, and New Jersey legislators voted overwhelmingly for a ban on fracking waste (and citizens there are calling for an override of Gov. Chris Christie’s veto).

Laced with cancer-causing and even radioactive materials, fracking wastewater has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. For Western Massachusetts, such threats are heightened by the fact that many communities in the Pioneer Valley rely on groundwater as their sole source of drinking water.

"The quantity and quality of our existing water supply is invaluable and irreplaceable," declared Mayor Michael Tautznik of Easthampton. "Gambling our water against the known dangers of this dirty drilling is a loser's proposition."

Today in Greenfield, in solidarity with the petitions gathered by Environment Massachusetts and CREDO, local residents showed their opposition to fracking through community art. Alongside the Climate Summer team, a group of youth traveling exclusively by bicycle throughout the state focused on climate action, local Greenfield community members demonstrated their concern for fracking coming to their community through visual art on the town common.

In addition to impacts on the local environment, fracking and the processing of gas releases methane—a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

"It turns out that fracking contributes to global warming in a major way,” observed Dorian Sosnick Williams, an organizer with A Better Future Project. “If Massachusetts is serious about combating climate change, we cannot allow fracking here."

Rumpler ended the petition delivery with praise for all 14 co-sponsors of H.788: “By sponsoring a ban on fracking, these legislators are standing tall against the oil and gas industry. And today, thousands of their constituents are standing with them.”

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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Sign the petition today, telling President Obama to enact an immediate fracking moratorium:

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