50 Million Trees Program – Status Update

Boreal ForrestHow millions of Ontario trees escaped Doug Ford’s cuts

DEC 6, 2019 — Following news articles and receiving an update from Forests Ontario, here is the latest update about the program.

The 50 Million Tree Program is fully up-and-running. Forests Ontario is now taking applications from property owners wishing to plant trees. The criteria for the program has changed; in the past, folks needed to have at least 2.5 acres of open land for planting to be eligible, whereas now property owners can apply if they have room to plant a minimum of 500 hundred trees (which can be as little as 0.6 of an acre).

There is no need for the supporters of the petition to understand the importance of trees. The more trees on the ground, more CO2 sequestered from the atmosphere and a slew of other benefits including preventing land erosion, increasing bio diversity and many more.

The 50 Million Tree Program provides professional technical and financial assistance for mid to large-scale tree planting.

If you are interested in applying for the program, visit www.forestsontario.ca/50MTP 

Climate change and a new agricultural system

This week, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a long-awaited report on land, climate change and agriculture.* The report’s findings confirm that the agriculture and food systems on which we now depend are no longer viable. 

Individual consumer choices in the global north, about what to eat, won’t be enough to get rid of a bad system, nor will they be enough to build a just transition to a better one.

Image result for agroecological and regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture can make farmers stewards of the land again. Rock Hills Ranch in South Dakota uses managed grazing techniques to maintain healthy, diverse plant communities in its pastures. Credit: Lars PloughmannCC BY-SA

While much of the media coverage of the new IPCC report on land and agriculture focus on diet, the report needs to be understood as saying this: we (in protein-rich countries, at the very least), must replace our current large-scale industrialized systems of agriculture and food production with those based on agroecological and regenerative practices. Food security and agricultural resilience, in the face of a changing climate, depend on this.

From IATP’s perspective, replacing our current industrialized system requires dismantling the power of large-scale corporate agribusiness to manipulate markets, drive consumer demand, and influence everything from our food safety regulatory system to the rules laid down in international trade agreements.

For agroecological and regenerative systems sector-wide, we must achieve widespread public understanding of the productive, environmental, and economic legitimacy of these systems; invest heavily in them, in the farmers designing them and in the rural communities in which they prosper; and reawaken ourselves to the cultural and societal significance of our agriculture and food systems.

Globally, industrialized agriculture now emits extraordinarily high levels of GHG emissions as a sector. In our 2018 in-depth report, Emissions Impossible, IATP and GRAIN calculated total GHG emissions by a corporation, rather than by country. This gave us new insights into the astonishing lack of accountability for GHG emissions of the world’s largest 35 meat and dairy corporations. Responsible for the design, promotion, perpetuation and performance of large-scale industrialized agricultural systems of meat and dairy production, these corporations must also be accountable for their role in perpetuating, or curbing, climate change, system-wide.

It is imperative not to confuse large-scale industrialized meat and dairy corporations with agroecological and regenerative livestock producers, whose vision and practice is precisely what is needed. Fueling that confusion is the entanglement (at some point in their supply chains), of large, vertically integrated corporations with producers of all kinds and sizes. Vertical integration and corporate concentration in agribusiness is another tough problem to solve. We can start by enforcing what is left of antitrust laws and stopping more mega-mergers.

It is imperative, too, that we think far beyond single-note dietary changes. For example, consumer campaigns focused on the importance of reduced meat consumption should not rest their case with individual consumer choice, but instead, recognize the role of corporate influence in the system, as well as promoting the importance of livestock to regenerative agricultural systems. A simplistic “no meat” message can too easily and swiftly fall into a populist and misdirected movement harmful to farmers worldwide who are, right now, responsibly building our agroecological and regenerative agricultural systems.

Plant-based diets that continue to rely on agricultural inputs that are themselves high emitters of GHGs (such as fertilizer), pollutants and toxic chemicals are of no use. Nor are plant-based diets dependent on GMOs. Nor are plant-based diets that depend on the continued exploitation of farm labor, farmers forced to sell their commodities for less than the cost of production, and inequity in their ability to purchase and hold farmland. There is the possibility that the choice to eat less meat, (or none at all), could be erroneously seen by those who make it, as an act that naturally leads to agriculture that is good for the land, for farmers, for ecosystems, for consumers. Just not so.

The shift from agrarian societies to industrial, to digital, has come at a high cost when it comes to the general public’s knowledge of agriculture. The value of that loss cannot be over-estimated when it comes to consumer campaigns and the role they can and must play in promoting the system changes we need for a just transition to sustainable agriculture, sector-wide.

The wildly expanding market for organic food tells us that consumers can and do understand the importance of what they eat as individuals, yet it remains unclear how and if this market growth signals a much-needed change in societal values when it comes to the land and the people who farm it. We certainly are not seeing a change in values reflected in the apparent market growth for fake meat, for example. We do not need more unregulated start-up fake meat labs designed to exploit our addiction to fast food. We already know that the societal cost of fast food is much too high a price to pay for private profits gained. What we do need is a consumer u-turn of sorts, away from one-note dietary panaceas, and toward recognizing and insisting on the extraordinary and unimaginably crucial diversity of the ecological and biological systems necessary for the food that sustains life.

Consumers will not understand how agricultural systems work (and what we must do to maintain them), without being taught. Agribusiness will not cede power without the strong insistence of the public and political will. Farmers will not change their practices with no support to do so and little role in defining what a just transition to sustainable and resilient agriculture and food systems should look like.

All of these changes require the responsibility of people committed to our civic role in governance, mindful of the stakes, confident in our role’s legitimacy in a democracy, and tenacious in our determination to get it right. SOURCE

 

The World Is Getting Windier And Renewables Will Benefit

Wind Power

Renewable energy just got some major investment tailwinds–quite literally. In fact, the biggest breakthrough in wind power generation right now isn’t technological–it’s natural, and it costs nothing.

For three decades, from about 1980 until 2010, wind speeds around the world were slowing down. Now, researchers say that the world is going to keep getting windier for the next 10 years.

According to a new study by Princeton University, this reversal has come about due to changing ocean-atmosphere dynamics–or shifting ocean circulation patterns–that have seen wind energy potential increase by approximately 17% between 2010 and 2017.

In turn, the capacity of wind power in the United States has grown by around 2.5%, just on windier times alone. Furthermore, the study says, “In the longer term, the use of ocean-atmosphere oscillations to anticipate future wind speeds could allow optimization of turbines for expected speeds during their productive life spans.”

This trend, which is expected to continue for another decade, could translate into a nearly 40% increase in the amount of wind power generated between 2010 and 2024.

While about half of our increased wind energy is attributable to technological advancement, the rest is all Mother Nature.

Mapping the Wind Market

The U.S. wind market has just reached 100 GW of capacity. That puts it second only to China.

Wind will be the fastest-growing energy source in the United States in 2020, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In fact, the EIA forecasts that total power produced from wind will have grown 6% this year and another 14% next year, both onshore and offshore.

And Texas, the country’s oil and gas giant, leads the pack in wind power generation, with more than 3GW of wind power capacity added to the state’s energy resources since 2018 alone. By the end of next year, another 7 GW will have been added.

Countrywide, the EIA expects operators to bring another 8.5 GW of capacity online by the end of this year, and another 14.3 GW by the end of 2020. That means Texas is accounting for half of the country’s new capacity all by itself–another record for the Lone Star state.

Wood Mackenzie predicts that the U.S. market will see some 27 GW of capacity coming online from the fourth quarter of this year into 2020.

And when Mother Nature isn’t intervening, progress is tied closely to changes in tax incentives in the form of the production tax credit (PTC), which gives operators a tax credit per kilowatt hour of renewable electricity generated in the first 10 years of a facility’s operations.

That expired at the end of 2012, initially, but was retroactively renewed in 2013. But we’re nearing the phaseout of this tax credit. Any new facilities that begin construction after the end of 2020 cannot claim the PTC. That means that until then there could be a bit of a run on wind power facility construction to get in before the phaseout.

From an investment standpoint, one could expect a slowdown to hit the wind market in the middle of next year if lobbyists fail to get the PTC extended. But that tailwinds on that are fickle, so anything can happen between now and then.

Wood Mackenzie also forecasts some 85GW of new U.S. wind capacity by 2028. Related: Scientific Breakthrough: MIT Solves Two Huge Energy Problems

Globally, according to the bi-annual report on the future of the wind industry by Greenpeace International and the Global Wind Energy Council, wind power could supply up to 12% of global electricity by 2020, while at the same time creating 1.4 million new jobs. By 2030, wind could provide more than 20% of global electricity supply.

Offshore, is an entirely different story than onshore. The first U.S. offshore wind farm came online in 2016, but it’s a global phenomenon that’s spreading rapidly. For now, the UK is the world’s largest offshore wind market, accounting for 36% of installed capacity. Germany gets second place, followed by China, Denmark and the Netherlands.

And investor confidence is growing at a fast clip.

Look no further than New Jersey for the next big offshore wind investments. Last week, the governor of New Jersey signed an executive order upping the targeted capacity from 3,500 megawatts by 2030 to 7,500 megawatts by 2035, saying: “There is no other renewable energy resource that provides us with either the electric-generation or economic-growth potential of offshore wind.”

New Jersey is riding these tailwinds, but one cautionary note: We don’t know what the climate will have in store for wind power a decade from now. Zhenzhong Zeng, the lead author of the Princeton study, noted that those conveniently shifting oceanic patterns that are making the world windier might not last forever.

Question at COP25: What Role Should Carbon Markets Play in Meeting Paris Goals?

Environmental justice advocates and indigenous groups argue that emissions trading leaves the poor bearing the brunt of pollution.

Homes in El Segundo, California, sit blocks from the Chevron refinery. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
“You’re privatizing forests in our Mother Lands so you’ll be able to pollute more in our communities,” said Tere Almaguer, an environmental justice organizer whose group works with communities near California refineries that feel that they bear the brunt of poor air quality from fossil fuel emissions. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Climate justice advocates at the UN climate summit this week are focusing their frustration over global climate inaction into one highly technical debate: What role should carbon markets play in meeting the promise of the Paris climate accord?

Carbon markets started as a way to offer polluters more flexibility as they try to meet their countries’ emissions reduction targets and, in theory, lower the cost. But past international emissions trading systems have failed to reduce emissions significantly, and representatives of vulnerable and indigenous groups argue that their communities end up bearing the brunt of pollution under such systems, as industries seek to make emissions reductions where it is easiest and cheapest.

Writing the rules for future carbon market mechanisms to fulfill the Paris commitments is at the top of the agenda for the delegates of nearly 200 nations gathered in Spain through Dec. 13 at the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25). But the task has proven so difficult that it remains the last unresolved portion of the Paris treaty rulebook.

The controversy around this part of the Paris climate agreement, known as Article 6, is even more striking given the long history of international discussions over carbon markets, which nations have looked to as part of the climate solution ever since adopting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. But to opponents in the environmental justice and indigenous people’s communities, that long experience has engendered mistrust.

“Over and over again, carbon markets have proven that they are not effective in reducing emissions,” said Tere Almaguer, environmental justice organizer for PODER in San Francisco. Her group focuses on organizing Latino communities—including those who live near California refineries and feel that they bear the brunt of poor air quality from fossil fuel emissions.

She says the state’s carbon cap-and-trade system allows the oil companies to invest in far-flung carbon mitigation projects rather than cutting emissions at home, leaving the communities to continue suffering the consequences. Referring to industry investments in forest preservation projects in the developing world to earn credit for cutting emissions, Almaguer said: “You’re privatizing forests in our Mother Lands so you’ll be able to pollute more in our communities.” MORE

The Next Stage Of The Solar Boom Is Already Underway

solar boom

“Every five days, the sun provides the Earth with as much energy as all proven supplies of oil, coal, and natural gas,” reports Singularity Hub in a powerful summation of the potential power of solar energy. “If humanity could capture just one 6,000th of Earth’s available solar energy, we’d be able to meet 100 percent of our energy needs.”

The attempt to harness one of the most abundant clean energy resources–sunlight–has been a long and historied endeavor, starting all the way back in the Industrial Revolution when French scientist Alexandre Edmond Becquerellar first discovered that a solar cell had the ability to convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect in 1839. While it took a long time before we had the technology to make a commercial solar cell, in the United States, solar power has received government support for nearly 50 years. So why hasn’t solar power–clean, renewable, and overabundant–taken over our energy landscape?

For a long time, solar power was simply too expensive–it just couldn’t compete with the cheap cost and relative ease of fossil fuels, around which the entire energy industry was already built, with negligible exceptions. But now, solar power is cheaper than ever, with this year’s average price per watt of solar energy clocking in at just $3. In fact, solar (and wind power) are now cheaper than coal in most countries in the world. And the really great news is that they’re going to keep getting even cheaper.

This is in large part thanks to the fact that we are in the midst of a solar tech revolution. “Today,” reports Singularity Hub, “we are riding a tremendous wave of advancements in both solar panel efficiency and novel methods of expanding surface area coverage.”

At the forefront of this movement is a startup called Heliogen, which is backed by clean energy enthusiast, technocrat, and – as luck would have it – billionaire Bill Gates that is pushing solar power efficiency to new heights with the implementation of Artificial Intelligence. “Heliogen has created a system that will concentrate solar energy at temperatures as high as 1832 degrees Fahrenheit (1000 degrees Celsius) and replace the use of fossil fuels in industrial tasks such as producing cement and steel,” reports the International Business Times. This is achieved with the use of an AI-based computer system which is able to “align a set of large mirrors that will reflect solar energy on a single target. The accuracy of this system is what makes it possible to generate not just huge amounts of solar energy, but even control the output to make it comparable with the immediate power boost that happens with burning fossil fuels.”

This incredible concentration and efficiency falls in line with the current trend in solar energy, which is how to address one of the sector’s biggest obstacles: land area use. “Traditionally, solar energy-generating plants have been deployed on swathes of out-of-eyesight farmland, or on the roofs of self-powered homes and commercial properties. Yet critics point to land area use as the single greatest barrier to widespread solar adoption,” writes Singularity Hub. “Over the next decade, however, solar panels will be installed almost ubiquitously across urban and semi-urban areas, embedded in our infrastructure, transparent surfaces, and potentially even transit vessels.”

The Bill Gates-backed Heliogen model is still in its early stages of development and the groundbreaking AI technology still has a long way to go before it comes to market, but it is not the only revolution in solar energy currently underway. In fact, the sector is absolutely bursting with innovation as scientists and investors respond to the urgent need to cut carbon emissions and offset our dependence on fossil fuels with alternative energy like solar.

Just this month, a team of scientists at MIT unveiled that they have developed a new protective coating for advanced solar cells with huge possible implications. While a protective covering might not be the sexiest tech innovation, it is a hugely important one, making our existing solar technology more efficient and more resilient. As reported by Phys.org, “MIT researchers have improved on a transparent, conductive coating material, producing a tenfold gain in its electrical conductivity. When incorporated into a type of high-efficiency solar cell, the material increased the cell’s efficiency and stability.”

This is an especially important breakthrough due to the fact that the material currently used in the solar sector to coat the solar cells has a lot of shortcomings. “The material most widely used today for such purposes is known as ITO, for indium titanium oxide, but that material is quite brittle and can crack after a period of use.” The new and improved coating developed by MIT is a high-performing, flexible organic polymer known as PEDOT, which is “deposited in an ultrathin layer just a few nanometers thick, using a process called oxidative chemical vapor deposition (oCVD). This process results in a layer where the structure of the tiny crystals that form the polymer are all perfectly aligned horizontally, giving the material its high conductivity.”

Even with the incredible advances currently being made in the solar energy sector, there is still much more room for improvement. As Singularity Hub reports, “while the efficiency of current run-of-the-mill solar panels still hovers around 16-18 percent, traditional silicon solar panels have only reached half of their theoretical efficiency potential. And new materials science breakthroughs are now on track to double this theoretical constraint, promising cheap, efficient, and abundant solar energy.”

Every advance in the efficiency and ease of solar power production carries major real-world implications, getting us closer to being able to meet the emission cutting goals set by the Paris climate accord. In order to avoid the climate tipping point towards catastrophic climate change, most of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves will have to remain in the ground. This means that the need to develop a clean energy sector that is able to compete economically and logistically with oil and gas is imperative and urgent. However, as OilPrice reported earlier this year,  and investment is “The No.1 Bottleneck For Clean Energy Tech.” The only thing standing between us and a solar-powered world is a few more Bill Gates or a whole lot more civil, political, and private sector support. SOURCE

Whatever happened to the promise of hydrogen-powered cars?

Hydrogen-powered vehicles: An idea whose time has come?


(Tobias Schwarz/Getty Images)

Electric and hybrid vehicles are gaining traction in the car market. But what about hydrogen-powered cars? They produce zero emissions and don’t need charging — you just drive up to a station and refill your tank like you would with a gasoline-powered vehicle. They’ve been promised for years — so where are they?

Nicole Mortillaro did an email interview with Brant Peppley, a professor in the department of chemical engineering at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., as well as a former Canada Research Chair in Fuel Cells and former director of the Queen’s-RMC Fuel Cell Research Centre. Peppley shed some light on — and busted some myths about — these potential cars of the future.

How does a hydrogen fuel cell work in cars?

A fuel cell [FC] car is an electric vehicle where the electricity is generated by the conversion of hydrogen and oxygen (from air) directly to electricity with a byproduct of pure water. The difference is that instead of having to change lithium ions from one state to another in order to recharge the battery pack in a battery electrical vehicle, you simply refill the hydrogen tank with pressurized hydrogen — a process that takes about three minutes for a passenger car with a range in excess of 480 kilometres on a full tank.

Is this clean energy?

Depends on the source of the hydrogen. Most hydrogen used in the chemical industry today is produced by reacting natural gas with steam. This hydrogen results in CO2 emissions. The other way of making hydrogen is by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using an electricity-powered electrolyzer. When that electricity is produced from excess renewable energy such as wind, solar or hydroelectric or from excess nuclear energy (that is often available in Ontario), FC cars are zero-carbon. By the way, when battery-powered vehicles are charged using coal power, they are not zero-carbon.

If this is so clean, why hasn’t it caught on yet?

There are approximately 10,000 FC passenger vehicles being driven by regular consumers in the world today.

The reason they are not more commonly seen in Canada (other than Vancouver) is the lack of hydrogen refuelling stations. (Editor’s note: There are also some in Quebec.) The only place you can buy or lease a fuel cell vehicle is where the refuelling infrastructure is available. California has a network of refuelling stations, as do Japan, Norway, Germany and the other countries in specific regions. The Hydrogen Council, a global consortium of 60 member companies including many of the major car manufacturers, has made a substantial financial commitment to have hydrogen refuelling infrastructure available worldwide by 2030.

Are hydrogen-powered cars any more dangerous than gasoline-fuelled cars?

No! In fact, there are many reasons to consider hydrogen-powered cars less dangerous than gasoline-fuelled vehicles, and battery-powered vehicles for that matter. Hydrogen dissipates extremely quickly…. If an FC vehicle is in a collision, the hydrogen is quickly vented and dissipates into thin air, so to speak, leaving a completely inert vehicle. On the other hand, when a gasoline-fuelled vehicle is in a collision, the gas tank filled with liquid fuel is extremely dangerous, and if it ignites can be extremely lethal.

Likewise, when a battery-powered vehicle is in a collision, the lithium batteries that are on board still contain the equivalent of several sticks of dynamite worth of energy that can result in electrocution or explosions. It can be extremely dangerous for first responders to use the “jaws of life” on electrical vehicles due to the hazard of accidentally cutting a 300-volt cable. SOURCE

COP25 to Be the Launchpad for Significantly more Climate Ambition

Bonn/ Madrid, 29 November 2019 – As the global climate emergency intensifies and greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, governments will gather in Madrid for the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 (2 to 13 December 2019) to take the next crucial steps in the UN climate change process.

The conference will take place under the Presidency of the Government of Chile and will be held with logistical support from the Government of Spain.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change said: “This year, we have seen accelerating climate change impacts, including increased droughts, storms and heat waves, with dire consequences for poverty eradication, human health, migration and inequality.

“The world’s small window of opportunity to address climate change is closing rapidly. We must urgently deploy all the tools of multilateral cooperation to make COP25 the launchpad for more climate ambition to put the world on a transformational path towards low carbon and resilience,” she said.

A key objective of COP25 is to raise overall ambition also by completing several key aspects with respect to the full operationalization of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Last year at COP24 in Poland, the bulk of the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement were agreed, with the exception of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Article 6 is to provide guidelines for how international climate markets will work, as a key component of the world’s economic toolbox for addressing climate change.

Other focus areas at COP25 will include adaptation, loss and damage, transparency, finance, capacity-building, Indigenous issues, oceans, forestry, gender and more.

Notably, the provision of finance and technology is crucial for developing countries to green their economies and build resilience.

“While we have seen some progress with respect to climate-related financing for developing countries, we will continue to urge developed nations to fulfil their pledge of mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020,” Ms. Espinosa said. “We also must see overall global finance flows reflect the deep transformation throughout society that we need: away from carbon-heavy investment and towards more sustainable and resilient growth. Drops in the bucket are not enough: we need a sea change.”

COP25 to  Set the Stage for Enhanced NDCs

In 2020, nations are to submit new or updated national climate action plans, referred to as Nationally-Determined Contributions, or “NDCs”.

According to the UN Environment Programme’s 2019 Emission Gap Report published this week, unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will miss the opportunity to get on track towards the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

This means collective ambition would need to increase more than fivefold over current levels to deliver the cuts needed over the next decade for the 1.5°C goal.

“Current NDCs remain inadequate,” said Executive Secretary Espinosa. “If we stay on our current trajectory, it’s estimated that  global temperatures could more than double by the end of this century. This will have enormous negative consequences for humanity and threaten our existence on this planet. We need an immediate and urgent change in trajectory.

It’s achievable, but to stabilize global temperature rise by 1.5 Celsius by the end of this century, we need to reduce emissions 45 per cent by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. It’s an extremely difficult challenge, but meeting it is absolutely necessary to the health, safety and security of everyone on this planet—both in the short- and long-term.”

With regard to raising ambition, COP25 will be informed by the outcomes of the Climate Summit in New York in September and Climate Weeks in Africa, Asia and Latin America co-organized by UN Climate Change this year.

“At these key events, we saw an enormous groundswell of action, with many contributions from governments and  non-Party stakeholders, including regions, cities, businesses and investors. Their contributions are crucial to drive the transformation we need, said Executive Secretary Espinosa.

At the New York Climate Summit, Chile launched a Climate Ambition Alliance that brings together nations upscaling action by 2020, as well as those working towards achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

MORE

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Oil, Gas and The Climate: An Analysis of Oil and Gas Industry Plans for Expansion and Compatibility with Global Emission Limits

Oil, Gas and The Climate: An Analysis of Oil and Gas Industry Plans for Expansion and Compatibility with Global Emission Limits

Oil, Gas and The Climate: An Analysis of Oil and Gas Industry Plans for Expansion and Compatibility with Global Emission Limits

Madrid, Spain – Over the coming five years, the oil and gas sector intends to invest USD 1.4 trillion developing new oil and gas extraction. New expansion approved over this same period risks locking in enough carbon emissions to push warming beyond 2°C, let alone 1.5°C, according to a new report by the Global Gas and Oil Network, supported by Oil Change International; 350.org; Center for Biological Diversity; Center for International Environmental Law; CAN-Rac Canada; Earthworks; Environmental Defence Canada; Fundacin Ambiente y Recursos Naturales:FARN; Global Witness; Greenpeace; Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie); Naturvernforbundet; Observatorio Petrolero Sur; Overseas Development Institute; Platform; Sierra Club; Stand.Earth.

“If your house is on fire you don’t add more fuel.  Expanding production of oil and gas at this moment in history is like the fire department showing up with gas rather than water to save a planet on fire.  No one is saying turn off the taps overnight.  We still use oil and gas today, but we must act now to stop the planned expansion by the oil and gas industry that could lock us into an unsafe climate.” — Tzeporah Berman, International Campaign Director at Stand.Earth.

The report, Oil, Gas and The Climate: An Analysis of Oil and Gas Industry Plans for Expansion and Compatibility with Global Emission Limits, finds that:

  • Carbon emissions from oil and gas in existing fields and mines take the world beyond 1.5°C of warming and nearly exhaust a 2°C carbon budget.
    • Between 2020 and 2024, the oil and gas industry plans to sink USD 1.4 trillion into new extraction projects.
    • 85 percent of the expanded production is slated to come from the United States and Canada over that period. The other countries where the largest expansion is planned are Argentina, China, Norway, Australia, Mexico, UK, Brazil, Nigeria.
    • New financial investment decisions over this five-year period have the potential to unlock more than 148 gigatonnes of carbon emissions (GtCO2) from currently undeveloped reserves before 2050, equivalent to building over 1200 new average U.S. coal-fired power plants.
    • This new production could result in warming beyond 2°C unless the industry rapidly shuts down considerable levels of existing production.
    • Twenty-five companies are responsible for nearly 50 percent of the production to 2050 resulting from new expansion of oil and gas in the next five years. These include supposedly progressive European oil majors such as Shell, BP, Total, Equinor.

“The oil and gas industry is betting big on fracking the Permian and building the infrastructure to export what it extracts. Unfortunately, that expansion is a carbon bomb waiting to explode with those living nearest at the most immediate risk. That’s why communities across the region are uniting to oppose this expansion, and even an oil and gas state like New Mexico is acting to rein in oil & gas methane pollution.”  –  Nathalie Eddy, Earthworks’ CO/NM Field Advocate

The report is the latest in a growing body of work highlighting the critical importance of addressing fossil fuel production in order to limit warming to 1.5°C and meet the full ambition of the Paris Agreement. Most recently, the Production Gap report published by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), and other leading research organizations found that national governments plan to extract 120 percent more oil, gas and coal in 2030 than is aligned with 1.5°C.

“Oil and gas companies have spent the last five decades lying to the public about the threat of climate change. Now they’re trying to sell themselves as part of the solution. The public isn’t falling for it. We know the only solution in line with the latest science is to stop all new fossil fuel projects and phase-out existing production as soon as possible.” — Jamie Henn, Strategic Communications Director, 350.org and 350 Action

The world can’t afford and doesn’t need more oil and gas development. In addition to locking in  catastrophic climate change — expansion puts countries, communities, workers and investors currently dependent on oil and gas financially at risk.

“Leadership in the face of a climate emergency means no fossil fuel exploration, new expansion, or financing paired with an ambitious and just transition away from oil and gas production. The cost of inaction is immeasurable not only in dollars, but in lives and livelihoods. Failure is not an option.” — Hannah McKinnon, Director, Energy Transitions and Futures Program, Oil Change International

A growing number of nations are restricting extraction, major economic institutions are moving out of fossil fuels, and demand is projected to decline faster than anticipated due to the cost competitiveness and reliability of renewable energy. Meanwhile, jurisdictions leading on climate action are saving money, reducing health and environmental risks, and creating new economic opportunities. For example, in California, there are five times as many jobs in clean energy than in fossil fuels.

The report points to the critical need for governments and institutions to recognize that a climate emergency demands a new standard of climate leadership. This includes implementing bans on licenses, contracts and permits; removing finance and subsidies; and creating and implementing transition plans that consider the needs of workers and communities impacted by fossil fuel development with high-income countries leading the way. Countries like Costa Rica and France have led in banning new licenses, New Zealand has taken partial steps in this direction, and just last month the European Investment Bank committed to phase out all fossil fuel finance.

This echoes the demands of the Lofoten Declaration, signed by over 700 civil society organizations from more than 80 countries affirming that, “it is the urgent responsibility and moral obligation of wealthy fossil fuel producers to lead in putting an end to fossil fuel development and to manage the decline of existing production.”

“For six decades, oil and gas companies misled consumers, investors and the world about the risks of climate change.  As those risks have turned to grim and growing realities, these companies are pushing a new myth: that the massive expansion of oil and gas production can be reconciled with MEANINGFUL climate action. It cannot. Countries, fossil fuel companies and investors need to take steps now to exit from fossil fuels. It’s time to invest in low-carbon solutions rather than subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and further accelerating the climate crisis.”— Carroll Muffett, President and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law.

SOURCE

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The necessity of pulling carbon dioxide out of the air

But it is difficult to do at the scale you need

Of the wisdom taught in kindergartens, few commandments combine moral balance and practical propriety better than the instruction to clear up your own mess. As with messy toddlers, so with planet-spanning civilisations. The industrial nations which are adding alarming amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere—43.1bn tonnes this year, according to a report released this week—will at some point need to go beyond today’s insufficient efforts to stop. They will need to put the world machine into reverse, and start taking carbon dioxide out. They are nowhere near ready to meet this challenge.

Once such efforts might have been unnecessary. In 1992, at the Rio Earth summit, countries committed themselves to avoiding harmful climate change by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, with rich countries helping poorer ones develop without exacerbating the problem. Yet almost every year since Rio has seen higher carbon-dioxide emissions than the year before. A staggering 50% of all the carbon dioxide humankind has put into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution was added after 1990. And it is this total stock of carbon that matters. The more there is in the atmosphere, the more the climate will shift—though climate lags behind the carbon-dioxide level, just as water in a pan takes time to warm up when you put it on a fire.

The Paris agreement of 2015 commits its signatories to limiting the rise to 2°C. But as António Guterres, the un secretary-general, told the nearly 200 countries that attended a meeting in Madrid to hammer out further details of the Paris agreement this week, “our efforts to reach these targets have been utterly inadequate.”

The world is now 1°C (1.8°F) hotter than it was before the Industrial Revolution. Heatwaves once considered freakish are becoming commonplace. Arctic weather has gone haywire. Sea levels are rising as glaciers melt and ice-sheets thin. Coastlines are subjected to more violent storms and to higher storm surges. The chemistry of the oceans is changing. Barring radical attempts to reduce the amount of incoming sunshine through solar geoengineering, a very vexed subject, the world will not begin to cool off until carbon-dioxide levels start to fall.
Considering that the world has yet to get a handle on cutting emissions, focusing on moving to negative emissions—the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—might seem premature. But it is already included in many national plans. Some countries, including Britain, have made commitments to move to “net zero” emissions by 2050; this does not mean stopping all emissions for all activities, such as flying and making cement, but taking out as much greenhouse gas as you let loose.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that meeting the 1.5°C goal will mean capturing and storing hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2100, with a median estimate of 730bn tonnes—roughly 17 times this year’s carbon-dioxide emissions. In terms of designing, planning and building really large amounts of infrastructure, 2050 is not that far away. That is why methods of providing negative emissions need to be developed right now.
That raises two problems, one technological, the other psychological. The technological one is that sucking tens of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year is an enormous undertaking for which the world is not prepared. In principle it is simple to remove carbon dioxide by incorporating it in trees and plants or by capturing it from the flue gas of industrial plants and sequestering it underground. Ingenious new techniques may also be waiting to be discovered. But planting trees on a scale even remotely adequate to the task requires something close to a small continent. And developing the engineering systems to capture large amounts of carbon has been a hard slog, not so much because of scientific difficulties as the lack of incentives (see Briefing).
The psychological problem is that, even while the capacity to ensure negative emissions languishes underdeveloped, the mere idea that they will one day be possible eats away at the perceived urgency of cutting emissions today. When the 2°C limit was first proposed in the 1990s, it was plausible to imagine that it might be met by emissions cuts alone. The fact that it can still be talked about today is almost entirely thanks to how the models with which climate prognosticators work have been revised to add in the gains from negative emissions. It is a trick that comes perilously close to magical thinking.
This puts policymakers in a bind. It would be reckless not to try to develop the technology for negative emissions. But strict limits need to be kept on the tendency to demand more and more of that technology in future scenarios. As at kindergarten, some discipline is necessary.
The first discipline is to keep in mind whose mess this is. One of the easiest routes to negative emissions is to grow plants. And the world’s cheap land tends to be in poor places. Some of these places would welcome investment in reforestation and afforestation, but they would also need to be able to integrate such endeavours into development plans which reflect their people’s needs.
The second discipline is for those who talk blithely of “net zero”. When they do so, they should be bound to say what level of emissions they envisage, and thus how much negative emitting their pledge commits them to. The stricter they are about its use, the less they are in reality accommodating today’s polluters.

Government capture

The third discipline is that governments need to take steps to make negative emissions practicable at scale. In particular, research and incentives are needed to develop and deploy carbon-capture systems for industries, such as cement, that cannot help but produce carbon dioxide. A price on carbon is an essential step if such systems are to be efficient. The trouble is that a price high enough to make capture profitable at this stage in its development would be unfeasibly high.

For the time being, therefore, other sticks and carrots will be needed. Governments tend to plead that radical action today is just too hard. And yet those very same governments enthusiastically turn to negative emissions as an easy way to make their climate pledges add up.  SOURCE 

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SUVs are way worse for the planet than anyone previously thought

Sales of hefty and heavily-polluting SUVs have doubled in the last decade – outweighing the progress made from electric vehicles. Can cleaner SUVs offer a way out?

The phenomenal rise of the SUV all started with a squabble over chicken. It was 1963 – the height of the Cold War – and US president Lyndon Johnson was fuming over a tax that France and West Germany had imposed on cheap, intensively-farmed US chicken flooding European supermarkets.

In December 1963, after months of failed negotiations, Johnson retaliated. He slapped a 25 per cent tax on imported potato starch, brandy, dextrin and, crucially, light trucks. The effect was immediate. Volkswagen stopped shipping pickups to America and Japanese firms pulled their models from the country, while American manufacturers renewed their focus on much larger vehicles. While the other taxes were later repealed, the levy on trucks was permanent.

In that single executive order, Johnson cleared the path for the SUV to dominate the roads of the United States and then the world. Buoyed by lenient fuel emissions standards and forgiving regulations, oversized cars became the new normal. Between 2010 and 2018 the number of SUVs in the world increased from 35 million to 200m. Now 40 per cent of annual car sales are SUVs – double what it was a decade ago.

First sold in 1983, the Jeep Cherokee is generally seen as the first car to kickstart the trend for modern SUVs. Its successors are still among the best-selling SUVs in the US Heritage Images / Contributor / Getty

…Despite being heavy and gas-guzzling – the average modern petrol SUV emits over ten per cent more CO2 per kilometre than the average petrol car – SUVs have long been marketed as a way of getting people back to nature. SUV adverts are replete with images of cars off-roading over rugged and unexplored natural terrain, Aronczyk says. In reality, SUV ownership tends to cluster in urban areas and only one to 13 per cent of drivers ever use their vehicles for off-road driving, according to Keith Bradsher’s 2004 book High and Mighty: SUVs – The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way.

…With their hulking weight and high driving position, SUVs exude a feeling of safety for those behind the wheel, but it can sometimes be an illusion. In 2003, traffic data from the US government found that people driving or riding in an SUV were 11 per cent more likely to die in an accident than people in cars – thanks to their high centre of gravity and tendency to roll over in crashes. They’re even worse news for pedestrians: SUVs are around twice as likely as cars to kill pedestrians they hit. With their high bumpers, SUVs tend to hit pedestrians in the chest and knock them to the ground, rather than flipping them onto the relatively soft bonnet, as is the case in passenger cars.

Despite being less fuel efficient, more polluting and sometimes more dangerous than passenger cars, the SUV isn’t going anywhere. Growing sales in Africa and the rest of the developing world suggest that when car drivers become more affluent, they start thinking about upgrading to larger vehicles. But if we can’t kick our attachment to SUVs, how else can we get out of the environmental cul-de-sac we’re driving down? MORE