Rise of renewables may see off oil firms decades earlier than they think

Pace of progress raises hope that fossil fuel companies could lose their domination

The Green Rigg windfarm in Northumberland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian

The world’s rising reliance on fossil fuels may come to an end decades earlier than the most polluting companies predict, offering early signs of hope in the global battle to tackle the climate crisis.

The climate green shoots have emerged amid a renewable energy revolution that promises an end to the rising demand for oil and coal in the 2020s, before the fossil fuels face a terminal decline.

The looming fossil fuel peak is expected to emerge decades ahead of forecasts from oil and mining companies, which are betting that demand for polluting energy will rise until the 2040s.

But energy experts are adjusting their forecasts as clean energy technologies, including wind and solar power, emerge faster than predicted and at costs that pose a direct threat to coal-fired electricity and combustion-engine vehicles.

In the UK, renewable energy projects generated more electricity over the last quarter than fossil fuels for the first time since the country’s first public power plant fired up in 1882. It is a marked change from only 10 years ago, when gas and coal generated more than 70% of the UK’s electricity.

The pace of progress has raised hope that the global groundswell of climate protest could spark fresh political will to accelerate the energy transition in time to keep global temperatures from rising to levels that could trigger a climate catastrophe.

The UK Labour party has promised a Green Industrial Revolution to create almost 70,000 new jobs while working to create a carbon-neutral economy by 2030. In the US, the Green New Deal, spearheaded by the congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, aims to virtually eliminate the US’s greenhouse gas emissions within the next decade.

Within the energy industry, experts believe the rapid rise of renewable energy in recent years may soon seem glacial compared with the changes to come.

Michael Liebreich, the founder of the research group Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), says the substitution of old technology with new is always “like waiting for a sneeze”.

“The first 1% takes forever, 1% to 5% is like waiting for a sneeze – you know it’s inevitable but it takes longer than you think – then 5% to 50% happens incredibly fast,” he says. MORE



30 of world’s largest cities have hit peak greenhouse gas emissions milestone, C40 analysis shows

The international community has collaboratively crusaded to quickly reach peak global greenhouse gas emissions. By doing so, they hope to alleviate worldwide temperature rise and related climate disasters. A recent report confirms that 30 of the world’s largest cities — all members of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group — have completed their peak greenhouse gas emission milestones.

What does it mean when a country or city “peaks” its greenhouse gas emissions? As part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement, first enacted in 2016, countries across the globe — and their respective cities, some of which are members of the C40 — have agreed to decrease global warming by keeping the collective planet-wide temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. To ensure this, the countries that have signed the Paris Agreement have set goals to drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. When a country’s emissions levels have reversed substantially, they are described as having “peaked” at last, so they are now capable of industrially operating at emissions levels far below their “peak” point.

Related: Cities around the world lay the groundwork for a zero-waste future

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), “peaking” really began even before the Paris Agreement was established. For instance, by 1990, 19 countries were documented to have peaked their greenhouse gas emission levels. By 2000, an additional 14 countries reached their critical milestones. A decade later, in 2010, 16 more countries joined the list of countries that have peaked, including the United States and Canada, which both peaked in 2007.

Meanwhile, in 2005, the multinational organization now known as C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, or C40 for short, was founded when representatives from 18 mega-cities cooperatively forged an agreement to address widespread pollution and climate change. The group began with 18 cities and has grown significantly since then. Interestingly, the C40, on its 10th anniversary back in 2015, was instrumental in shaping the Paris Agreement prior to its 2016 ratification.

Now, ahead of the C40 World Mayors Summit, a new analysis just revealed that 30 of the world’s largest and most influential cities — all members of C40 — have each achieved their respective peak greenhouse gas emissions goals. The 30 cities include Athens, Austin, Barcelona, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Montreal, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rome, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Venice, Warsaw and Washington, D.C.

The C40 analysis further disclosed that these 30 influential cities have helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 22 percent, which is encouraging.

“The C40 cities that have reached peak emissions are raising the bar for climate ambition, and, at the same time, exemplifying how climate action creates healthier, more equitable and resilient communities,” said Mark Watts, executive director of C40 Cities.

To further its endeavors, C40 has launched the C40 Knowledge Hub. It is an online platform dedicated to informing and inspiring policies to ramp up global climate initiatives that can encourage even more sustainable changes to protect the planet.  SOURCE

David Suzuki’s message to you for Election Day 2019

David Suzuki asks you to vote for climate action on October 21. This video is in partnership with Artists for Real Climate Action a non-partisan group of actors, filmmakers, writers, musicians, directors and others who are encouraging voters to talk to politicians, friends and family about the issue of climate change. For more information about Artists for Real Climate Action visit: https://www.thisisnotadrill.ca

Saving Earth From Disaster: Scientists Have Come With A Crucial Plan

Disastrous climate change, the burning of Amazon forest, the land clearing, air pollution, food resources getting low, and others – all are driving to a very gloomy scenario for our planet. And the saddest part is that most if not all of these aspects exist due to human intervention and selfishness.

Scientific studies themselves are warning humanity that we need to take better care of our planet. No wonder Elon Musk and scientists are thinking seriously about the possibility of colonizing Mars.

We need to change our economic systems

A background document for the United Nations’ (UN) draft Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 claims that we need drastic changes to our economic systems.

“The economic models which inform political decision-making in rich countries almost completely disregard the energetic and material dimensions of the economy,” the researchers wrote.

“Economies have used up the capacity of planetary ecosystems to handle the waste generated by energy and material use.”

This background document for the chapter of the report called Transformation: The Economy has been written by some guys who know what they’re talking about. Among them are scientists from environmental fields, such as Jussi Eronen from the University of Helsinki, who is specialized in ecosystem problems. There are also economic, business, and philosophy researchers, like the economist Paavo Järvensivu from Finland’s independent BIOS research unit.

The document warns humanity that the current economic systems are causing critically widening gaps between the rich and the poor, which leads to unemployment and debts.

Support nature, not wealth

Journalist Naomi Klein is the author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs the Climate, and she stated “we humans are capable of organising ourselves into all kinds of different social orders, including societies with much longer time horizons and far more respect for natural life-support systems.”

“Indeed,” she continues, “humans have lived that way for the vast majority of our history and many Indigenous cultures keep Earth-centred cosmologies alive to this day. Capitalism is a tiny blip in the collective story of our species.”

The goal seems to be learning from previous times when records of longevity have been proven to emerge. This doesn’t imply to abolish technological advancements, although some of them are making us dangerously comfortable.

The ball is on our side of the terrain: we can choose either to seek wealthness and not care about the environment or the future of our offspring, or we can make drastic changes to our lifestyle without thinking about wealth. After all, maybe it’s true what they say that money can’t buy happiness. SOURCE

This Is What Adapting to Climate Change Looks Like

Mike Eliason/AP

PG&E’s blackouts in California are a bleak preview of the disruptions that will become routine in a warmer world.

California has always promised Americans a glimpse of the future. But this week, the Golden State is forecasting a future that nobody wants to live in.

Millions of people across California lost their power this week, after the local utility Pacific Gas and Electric intentionally shut off electrical lines to avoid starting wildfires in dangerously dry and windy conditions. The outage—termed a “public-safety power shutoff”—stretched hundreds of miles across the state’s northern half, dousing the lights in affluent Bay Area suburbs, on Sacramento Valley ranches, and in large coastal cities such as Eureka.

But in the warming climate, California’s wildfires are getting worse. Half of its 10 largest wildfires ever, and seven of its 10 most destructive, have happened in the past decade. Since 1972, the state’s annual burned area has increased fivefold, a trend attributable to a 2.5-degree-Fahrenheit rise in summer temperatures, according to a recent peer-reviewed study.

By yesterday afternoon, more than 600,000 customers faced a blackout, including hundreds of hospitals, the utility said. But that number belies the scale of the shutoff: An entire apartment building can count as a single “customer,” according to The New York Times.
In one sense, the blackout was caused by an overlapping set of crises—legal, financial, and ecological—that now confronts the state. But in a larger sense, it looked like a preview of mid-21st-century governance. When political leaders envision the century of climate change to come, they often speak of massive floods and dangerous droughts. But the experience of Californians this week—frustrated, needlessly inconvenienced, and saddled with aging infrastructure built for the wrong century—will define the mass experience of climate change as much as any deluge or inferno.

That is in part because blackouts—while not as deadly or terrifying as wildfires—are nonetheless expensive in their own right. Outages this week could cost the American economy as much as $2.5 billion, says Michael Wara, a lawyer and energy-policy scholar at Stanford University. His estimate, calculated using a tool from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, assumes that the blackout will eventually reach its planned length (48 hours) and planned size (800,000 customers).

Most of that $2.5 billion will be silently incurred by businesses, since many offices must restrict their hours or close altogether in a blackout. But costs will propagate through the economy. Tens of thousands of families must now sort through spoiled food and restock their freezers. Others will spend money they would have spent elsewhere coping with the blackout. And people who depend on medical equipment to survive must decide whether to temporarily leave town, invest in a generator, or risk going without until the power returns.

Of course, autumn is always an inconvenient time in California, as it is the heart of wildfire season. With winter rains not yet arrived and any springtime moisture long since sapped by the summer heat, October and November are when the state’s forest and chaparral are at their most parched. This week, the state faces another major cause of fires: hot, arid gusts that can knock over power lines while further drying out the soil. MORE

Can Mayors Save the World From Climate Change?

Australia’s northern coast is a case study on the impacts of a warming planet. Small-town leaders there are struggling with constituents who doubt reality.

Bucasia Beach in Mackay, Australia, is a mining and agricultural hub. The coastal town offers a view of the rapid effects of climate change.CreditMatthew Abbott for The New York Times

BUCASIA BEACH, Australia — Mayor Greg Williamson crunched through the dead branches and kicked the sand. His government had planted trees near the shore to protect this northern Australian beach community from the effects of climate change, but someone had cut them down, apparently for a better view.

“It looks to me like they started at the beach and worked their way back,” he said, pointing to the 18 felled trees. “Bloody fools — look, you can still see the saw marks.”

“What they don’t realize,” he added, “is that if these dunes aren’t here, they’re not going to have a house or a view.”

When international leaders met last month at the United Nations to discuss climate change, and when millions of young protesters took to the streets, the focus was on sweeping global action. But for much of the world, the response to climate change looks more like the parochial struggles of Mayor Williamson: small-town leaders laboring to persuade a skeptical public about complex science and expensive decisions.

In few places is the challenge of adapting to climate change more immediate than in Australia, where 80 percent of the population lives within a few dozen miles of a coastline susceptible to rising seas and more punishing storms, and where the arid interior bakes under record temperatures.

CreditMatthew Abbott for The New York Times

A decade ago, the country was at the forefront of adaptation expertise, creating a national research center to collect and share knowledge among academics and officials. But over time, the federal government lost interest, and in 2018 the facility’s funding fell to zero.

The conservative government has mostly dismissed calls for action on climate change, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently arguing that young activists like Greta Thunberg are causing “needless anxiety.” It’s a reversal that resembles what is happening in the United States, where the Trump White House has rejected established climate science, and cities like Miami have paid for their own coastal protection.

But the absence of national leadership does not change reality. It just puts more pressure on mayors and councils, including those in less populated areas, forcing them to become the climate infantry — the grunts who push through solutions on their own.

In Australia, they are the ones grappling with roads falling into the sea, with disputes over home insurance as costs rise, and with who will pay for preventive measures like taller barriers at marinas. They are also managing little-noticed budget ramifications, like the hiring of flooding consultants and the quicker depreciation in value of fleets of cars battered by increased salt and sand.

And that is just along the coast. Farther inland, local governments are trying to become experts in drought-monitoring technology, while areas that had never thought much about fire — even in rain forests — are suddenly examining worst-case scenarios.

Houses along Eimeo Beach in Mackay.
CreditMatthew Abbott for The New York Times

Among mayors, there is anger about the burden, said Dorean Erhart, who runs a state-level adaptation program. The group is helping Mackay, the sprawling area of 180,000 people and 32 beaches that Mayor Williamson leads, and other regional councils in the state of Queensland.

“They understand this is something they are going to have to deal with,” Ms. Erhart said. “It’s not going away, and it involves a thousand small decisions.”

For the regional council in Mackay, the challenge is especially palpable because the causes and effects of a warming planet stand side by side. MORE

After the Bloc’s gains in Quebec, Liberals now have another worry: a climbing NDP

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has boosted his party’s fortunes following last week’s English-language debate

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has boosted his party’s support, according to multiple polls. (Nathan Denette / Canadian Press)

New Democrats looking at the polls are probably feeling pretty thankful today.

That’s because the NDP is having a bit of a moment. Both the Liberals and Conservatives appear to be losing steam, while the New Democrats have momentum heading into the election campaign’s crucial final week.

The debates have shaken up what was a very placid campaign in the polls. After good performances in the two French-language contests, Yves-François Blanchet is on a roll of his own in Quebec, where the Bloc Québécois has eaten into the Liberals’ lead in the polls and their advantage in the seat count.

But now it seems that Singh’s performance is starting to pay off. The leader who has probably done the most to improve his own personal image in the eyes of voters is now seeing it translate into new support for his party.

The CBC’s Poll Tracker, an aggregation of all publicly available polling data, puts both the Conservatives and the Liberals under 33 per cent support countrywide and locked in the same close race that has prevailed throughout the campaign.

It is looking increasingly unlikely that either party will be able to win enough seats to form a majority government.

The New Democrats have jumped to 16.5 per cent support as of the Oct. 13 update of the Poll Tracker, representing a gain of two percentage points since Oct. 7 and the English-language debate (which, according to several polls, Singh won).

Over the same time span, the Liberals have slipped nearly three points and the Conservatives more than one. Neither the Greens nor the People’s Party have seen the same kind of post-debate bump that the NDP has.

That surge has been particularly obvious in the last few days. Since Oct. 9, the NDP has averaged a gain of 0.7 percentage points per day in the Poll Tracker — a significant increase in an aggregation of multiple polls that is designed to smooth out the swings from individual surveys.

Those polls are unanimous that the NDP has made gains. Ten different pollsters in the field both before and after the English-language debate have recorded a gain of at least one point for the New Democrats, though where the NDP sits in the polls does vary widely. Two pollsters pegged the NDP’s support to still be as low as 13 per cent while two others have put it as high as 20 per cent. MORE