Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

The natural gas industry has a leak problem

John Schwartz and Brad Plumer, THE NEW YORK TIMES

The American oil and gas industry is leaking more methane than the government thinks — much more, a new study says. Since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, that is bad news for climate change.

The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, puts the rate of methane emissions from domestic oil and gas operations at 2.3 percent of total production per year, which is 60 percent higher than the current estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency. That might seem like a small fraction of the total, but it represents an estimated 13 million metric tons lost each year, or enough natural gas to fuel 10 million homes.

Thanks to a boom in hydraulic fracturing in states like Texas and Pennsylvania, natural gas has quickly replaced coal as the leading fuel used by America’s power plants. It has also helped, to some extent, in the fight against climate change: When burned for electricity, natural gas produces about half the carbon dioxide that coal does. The shift from coal to gas has helped lower CO₂ emissions from America’s power plants by 27 percent since 2005.

But methane, the main component of natural gas, can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period if it escapes into the atmosphere before being burned. A recent study found that natural gas power plants could actually be worse for climate change than coal plants if their leakage rate rose above 4 percent.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/21/climate/methane-leaks.html

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, ForestsTags , , , , , ,

Gov. Brown’s wildfire plan will only make things worse

Chad Hanson and Char Miller, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Responding to the tragic losses of homes and lives in wildland fires in California over the past year, Gov. Jerry Brown announced a “major offensive” against fire, in the form of a “Forest Carbon Plan.” The governor proposes to use $254 million of taxpayer money to double logging levels in California’s forests — to “at least” 500,000 acres a year — and to achieve it, he wants to reduce environmental protections.

Although the governor’s May 10 proposal is ostensibly designed to protect human communities from forest fires and to mitigate climate change, it ignores and misrepresents current science. The Forest Carbon Plan will exacerbate climate change while doing little to protect communities from fire.

Most of the devastating impacts to communities from recent California wildland fires have occurred in grasslands, chaparral and oak woodlands — not in forests. This includes the October 2017 fires in northern California, and the December 2017 Thomas fire and Creek fire in southern California. Claiming to protect towns from fire by increasing logging in remote forests is a bit like proposing the construction of a sea wall in the Mojave Desert to protect coastal populations from rising oceans.

Moreover, reducing environmental protections in forests, and increasing logging, as Brown proposes, does not tend to curb fire behavior — in fact, it typically does the opposite. This is because logging reduces the cooling shade of the forest canopy, creating hotter and drier conditions, and removes tree trunks, which don’t burn readily, while leaving behind “slash debris” — kindling-like branches and treetops

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Forests, WildlifeTags , , ,

Climate change ruining California’s environment, report warns

Peter Fimrite, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

Bigger, more intense forest fires, longer droughts, warmer ocean temperatures and an ever shrinking snowpack in the Sierra Nevada are “unequivocal” evidence of the ruinous domino-effects that climate change is having on California, a new California Environmental Protection Agency report states.

The 350-page report released Wednesday tracks 36 indicators of climate change, including a comprehensive list of human impacts and the effects on wildlife, the ocean, lakes, rivers and the mountains.

The study pulled together research from scientists, academia and research institutions and found that despite a marked downward trend in greenhouse-gas emissions in California, including a 90 percent drop in black carbon from tailpipe emissions over the past 50 years, CO2 levels in the atmosphere and in seawater are increasing at a steady rate.

Read more at https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Climate-change-ruining-California-s-12899272.php

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , , ,

Tourism responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, study finds

Daisy Dunne, ECOWATCH-CARBON BRIEF

Worldwide tourism accounted for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from 2009 to 2013, new research finds, making the sector a bigger polluter than the construction industry.

The study, which looks at the spending habits of travelers in 160 countries, shows that the impact of tourism on global emissions could be four times larger than previously thought.

The findings suggest that tourism could threaten the achievement of the goals of the Paris agreement, a study author told Carbon Brief.

However, the results may still be underestimating the total carbon footprint of tourism, another scientist told Carbon Brief, because they do not consider the impact of non-CO2 emissions from the aviation industry.

Tourism’s Footprint

The global tourism industry is rapidly expanding. Fueled by falling air travel prices and a growing global middle class, the number of international holiday-makers is currently growing at a rate of 3-5 percent per year.

The new study, published in Nature Climate Change, explores how the recent growth of global tourism has impacted greenhouse gas emissions.

Tourists contribute to climate change in a number of ways—through travel by air, rail and road, for example, and by consuming goods and services, such as food, accommodation and souvenirs.

For the new analysis, the researchers considered all of these factors together in order to calculate tourism’s “global carbon footprint,” explained study author Dr. Arunima Malik, a lecturer in sustainability from the University of Sydney. She told Carbon Brief:

“Our analysis is comprehensive and, hence, takes into account all the upstream supply chains to quantify the impacts of tourist spending on food, clothing, transport and hospitality.”

The research finds that, between 2009 and 2013, tourism’s annual global carbon footprint increased from 3.9 to 4.5bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

This figure is four times higher than previous estimates and accounts for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the research finds. The rise is largely driven by an increased demand for goods and services—rather than air travel, the research finds.

Read more at https://www.ecowatch.com/tourism-global-greenhouse-gas-2566752788.html

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Global greenhouse gas emissions rise for the first time in 3 years

Emily Holbrook, ENERGY MANAGER TODAY

The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced today that greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.4% in 2017, marking the first rise in three years.

As the IEA points out, emissions have reached a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes (Gt), a resumption of growth after three years of global emissions remaining flat. The increase in CO2emissions, however, was not universal. While most major economies saw a rise, some others experienced declines, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan. The biggest decline came from the United States, mainly because of higher deployment of renewables.

The report states, improvements in global energy efficiency slowed down in 2017. The rate of decline in global energy intensity, defined as the energy consumed per unit of economic output, slowed to only 1.6% in 2017, much lower than the 2.0% improvement seen in 2016.

The growth in global energy demand was concentrated in Asia, with China and India together representing more than 40% of the increase. Energy demand in all advanced economies contributed more than 20% of global energy demand growth, although their share in total energy use continued to fall. Notable growth was also registered in Southeast Asia (which accounted for 8% of global energy demand growth) and Africa (6%), although per capita energy use in these regions still remains well below the global average.

Read more at https://www.energymanagertoday.com/greenhouse-gas-emissions-rise-for-the-first-time-in-3-years-0175767/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , , , ,

A bold, divisive plan to wean Californians from cars

Conor Dougherty and Brad Plumer, THE NEW YORK TIMES

It’s an audacious proposal to get Californians out of their cars: a bill in the State Legislature that would allow eight-story buildings near major transit stops, even if local communities object.

The idea is to foster taller, more compact residential neighborhoods that wean people from long, gas-guzzling commutes, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

So it was surprising to see the Sierra Club among the bill’s opponents, since its policy proposals call for communities to be “revitalized or retrofitted” to achieve precisely those environmental goals. The California chapter described the bill as “heavy-handed,” saying it could cause a backlash against public transit and lead to the displacement of low-income residents from existing housing.

State Senator Scott Wiener, the bill’s sponsor, responded by accusing the group of “advocating for low-density sprawl.”

In a state where debates often involve shades of blue, it’s not uncommon for the like-minded to find themselves at odds. But the tensions over Mr. Wiener’s proposal point to a wider divide in the fight against climate change, specifically how far the law should go to reshape urban lifestyles.

Although many cities and states are embracing cleaner sources of electricity and encouraging people to buy electric vehicles, they are having a harder time getting Americans to drive less, something that may be just as important.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/business/energy-environment/climate-density.html

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , , ,

New greenhouse gas report highlights successes, challenges, and opportunities for Sonoma County and California

Ann Hancock, CENTER FOR CLIMATE PROTECTION

The Center for Climate Protection just released the new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions report for Sonoma County for 2016. The good news is that emissions from electricity have gone down since the inception of Sonoma Clean Power, the region’s Community Choice Energy program. The reduction of emissions in electricity was so significant that Sonoma County’s overall GHG emissions were lower in 2016 than they were in 1990 even though the County’s population increased during this same period.

Emissions shown in millions of tons of equivalent carbon dioxide (eC02). (www.climateprotection.org)

As other communities throughout California consider Community Choice Energy, Sonoma County’s GHG report offers them powerful proof that Community Choice Energy works to lower GHG emissions.

The report also reveals that Sonoma County, similar to other communities, is challenged to reduce emissions produced by transportation. This sector now accounts for about 70% of Sonoma County’s emissions.

Read more at https://climateprotection.org/updated-greenhouse-gas-inventory-highlights-successes-challenges-and-opportunities-for-california/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , ,

Online shopping is terrible for the environment. It doesn’t have to be. 

Miguel Jaller, VOX

…online shopping would be greener than driving to local stores if we did three simple things: 1) Planned ahead and consolidated our orders so we get everything we need in fewer shipments; 2) Avoided expedited shipping (even if it’s free); 3) Bought less stuff.

Given the date, it’s a near-certainty that a package marking one holiday or another has already landed on your doorstep, and that others are making their way there now. It’s also very likely that you didn’t stop to think much about the environmental implications of how the package got there. Most of us don’t, but there are very good reasons to start.

We’re shopping online more than ever throughout the year, but December represents an astonishing climax of consumer activity. The US Postal Service anticipates making 850 million deliveries between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day — shipping around 15 percent of the entire year’s packages in a little over a month. That’s 10 percent more holiday shipments than just last year, and the environmental impact is growing along with it.

In 2016, transportation overtook power plants as the top producer of carbon dioxide emissions in the US for the first time since 1979. Nearly a quarter of the transportation footprint comes from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. And increasingly the impact is coming in what people in the world of supply-chain logistics call “the last mile,” meaning the final stretch from a distribution center to a package’s destination. (The “last mile” can in truth be a dozen miles or more.)

Before the online revolution, the majority of last-mile deliveries were to stores, which tended to cluster in areas that can be more easily served by large trucks. Today, most packages are now going directly to residential addresses. We’ve traded trips to the mall, in relatively fuel-efficient cars, for deliveries to residential neighborhoods by trucks and other vehicles. The last mile today ends on our doorsteps.

Read more at: Online shopping is terrible for the environment. It doesn’t have to be. – Vox

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

New science suggests the ocean could rise more — and faster — than we thought

Chris Mooney, THE WASHINGTON POST

The final study, released Thursday morning in Environmental Research Letters, takes a different approach but provides perhaps the most sweeping verdict.

Climate change could lead to sea level rises that are larger, and happen more rapidly, than previously thought, according to a trio of new studies that reflect mounting concerns about the stability of polar ice.

In one case, the research suggests that previous high end projections for sea level rise by the year 2100 — a little over three feet — could be too low, substituting numbers as high as six feet at the extreme if the world continues to burn large volumes of fossil fuels throughout the century.

“We have the potential to have much more sea level rise under high emissions scenarios,” said Alexander Nauels, a researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia who led one of the three studies. His work, co-authored with researchers at institutions in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany, was published Thursday in Environmental Research Letters.

Read more at: New science suggests the ocean could rise more — and faster — than we thought – The Washington Post

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , , , ,

California lawmaker wants to ban gas car sales after 2040

Alexei Koseff, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

France and the United Kingdom are doing it. So is India. And now one lawmaker would like California to follow their lead in phasing out gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles.

When the Legislature returns in January, Assemblyman Phil Ting plans to introduce a bill that would ban the sale of new cars powered by internal-combustion engines after 2040. The San Francisco Democrat said it’s essential to get California drivers into an electric fleet if the state is going to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, since the transportation sector accounts for more than a third of all emissions.

“The market is moving this way. The entire world is moving this way,” Ting said. “At some point you need to set a goal and put a line in the sand.”

California already committed five years ago to putting 1.5 million “zero-emission vehicles,” such as electric cars and plug-in hybrids, on the road by 2025. By that time, the state wants these cleaner models to account for 15 percent of all new car sales.

But progress has been modest so far, as consumers wait for prices to drop and battery ranges to improve, or opt for large trucks and SUVs that are not available among electric offerings. Slightly more than 300,000 zero-emission vehicles have now been sold in California, and they accounted for just under 5 percent of new car sales in the state in the first half of the year.

Read more at: Ban on gas car sales proposed by California lawmaker | The Sacramento Bee