Flood of Oil Is Coming, Complicating Efforts to Fight Global Warming

A Norwegian oil platform in the North Sea. Norway’s production has declined for two decades, but its development of the Johan Sverdrup deepwater field should reverse the trend.
Credit: Nerijus Adomaitis/Reuters

HOUSTON — A surge of oil production is coming, whether the world needs it or not.

The flood of crude will arrive even as concerns about climate change are growing and worldwide oil demand is slowing. And it is not coming from the usual producers, but from Brazil, Canada, Norway and Guyana — countries that are either not known for oil or whose production has been lackluster in recent years.

This looming new supply may be a key reason Saudi Arabia’s giant oil producer, Aramco, pushed ahead on Sunday with plans for what could be the world’s largest initial stock offering ever.

Together, the four countries stand to add nearly a million barrels a day to the market in 2020 and nearly a million more in 2021, on top of the current world crude output of 80 million barrels a day. That boost in production, along with global efforts to lower emissions, will almost certainly push oil prices down.

Lower prices could prove damaging for Aramco and many other oil companies, reducing profits and limiting new exploration and drilling, while also reshaping the politics of the nations that rely on oil income.

Canada, Norway, Brazil and Guyana are all relatively stable at a time of turbulence for traditional producers like Venezuela and Libya and tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Their oil riches should undercut efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia to support prices with cuts in production and give American and other Western policymakers an added cushion in case there are renewed attacks on oil tankers or processing facilities in the Persian Gulf.

Daniel Yergin, the energy historian who wrote “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Power and Money,” compared the impact of the new production to the advent of the shale oil boom in Texas and North Dakota a decade ago.

“Since all four of these countries are largely insulated from traditional geopolitical turmoil, they will add to global energy security,” Mr. Yergin said. But he also predicted that as with shale, the incremental supply gain, combined with a sluggish world economy, could drive prices lower. MORE

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There’s huge potential energy savings hiding in our air conditioners

Bluon, with investment from Leonardo DiCaprio, can replace the usual refrigerants in AC units with something much better.


[Source Photo: tiler84/iStock]

Leonardo DiCaprio has become known for his environmental activism in recent years, donating money to causes and investing in companies helping to fight the climate crisis. It might seem unlikely that one of those companies would be a not-at-all glamorous, obscure startup that makes a new refrigerant for air conditioners. But the company, called Bluon, has technology that provides a relatively simple way to make big cuts in energy use. “He recognized quickly how impactful it could be in the real world fight for the reduction of greenhouse gases,” says Peter Capuciati, Bluon’s founder and CEO.

Swapping out the new refrigerant—called TdX 20—in place of old refrigerants in an HVAC system in a 100,000-square-foot office building can save enough electricity to eliminate 120 metric tons of CO2 per year, as much as the energy savings from converting 40 gas-powered cars to Teslas.

In the U.S. alone, residential and commercial buildings used about 377 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to stay cool last year, or about 9% of total electricity use. Globally, by the middle of the century, energy demand from air conditioners is projected to triple as people buy the equivalent of 10 new air conditioners every second for the next 30 years. Ironically, the increase in extreme heat from climate change is leading to more sales of air conditioners and more energy use, adding to the climate pollution that leads to more extreme heat.

[Source Photo: tiler84/iStock]

Refrigerants first drew attention in the 1980s, when the growing hole in the ozone layer was linked to the chemicals, called CFCs, and governments agreed to put the Montreal Treaty in place to slowly phase them out. By 2013, new equipment no longer used this type of refrigerant. By the end of this year, no new CFC refrigerants, such as R-22 (better known as Freon), will be manufactured. But most of the refrigerants designed to replace them actually create some other problems—including the fact that they use more energy.

Capuciati, a physicist-turned-real estate entrepreneur-turned investor, saw an opportunity in 2012 to find a better solution. “All the replacements that I was aware of at the time were pretty poor replacements . . . they would decrease efficiency, meaning the equipment would burn more electricity doing the same job, they would cause the unit to run harder and longer,” he says. “Therefore, they break down more often. So you had this huge infrastructure that at the time was close to $1.5 trillion worth of equipment sitting around on rooftops across the country that was going to be in trouble when R-22 finally got phased out in 2020.”

His team studied the other products on the market and realized that the software that had been used to predict how they would work was flawed. After a couple of years, they were able to develop a more efficient product, and a couple of years later, they had EPA approval to sell it. Then, realizing that all new refrigerants require retraining the technicians who install them, they developed a training program and app for technicians to use. (Traditionally, the common method for determining if enough refrigerant has been added to an HVAC system involves touching the equipment to see if it has reached a temperature of “beer can cold,” but with any of the new refrigerants, not using a more precise method can blow up a very expensive piece of equipment.)

Now, as the supply of R-22 dwindles, the company is hoping that building owners who need replacement refrigerant in old systems will turn to its product and save energy in the process. The company also wants to address the problem of refrigerants leaking from systems; if the chemicals escape, they impact climate change far more than CO2. R-22 has a “global warming potential” of 1,810, meaning that it’s nearly 2,000 times as potent at CO2 as a climate pollutant. Most of the chemicals designed as replacements are even worse. Bluon’s new product still has issues if it leaks, with a global warming potential of 1,564. But the company says that its retrofit process focuses on eliminating leaks. It also argues that the total impact of its energy savings is much larger than what could come from leaks. Its goal is to recruit and train as many HVAC technicians as possible. “You’ve got several hundred thousand technicians, that, if you think about it, are the biggest army of energy consumption on the planet,” says Capuciati. SOURCE

 

 

Climate change has turned permafrost into a carbon emitter

Tundra plants can’t absorb enough carbon in summer to make up for carbon released in winter


People ride all-terrain vehicles on the tundra as the sun sets near the Arctic community of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, on Aug. 20, 2013. Scientists have measured carbon dioxide emissions of 1.7 billion tonnes a year from Arctic permafrost, about twice as high as previous estimates. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Research has found Arctic soil has warmed to the point where it releases more carbon in winter than northern plants can absorb during the summer.

The finding means the extensive belt of tundra around the globe — a vast reserve of carbon that dwarfs what’s held in the atmosphere — is becoming a source of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

“There’s a net loss,” said Dalhousie University’s Jocelyn Egan, one of 75 co-authors of a paper published in Nature Climate Change.

“In a given year, more carbon is being lost than what is being taken in. It is happening already.”

The research by scientists in 12 countries and from dozens of institutions is the latest warning that northern natural systems that once reliably kept carbon out of the atmosphere are starting to release it.


Wild blueberries and lichen grow on the tundra in the Northwest Territories. Arctic plants are thought to take in just over one billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year during growing season. That means Arctic permafrost has a net emission of 700 million tonnes a year. (Susan Taylor/Reuters)

Until now, little was known about winter emissions from permafrost and the soil above it. Even scientists assumed the microbial processes that release the gases came to a halt in the cold.

“Most people think in the winter, there’s no respiration, that the microbes eating the carbon that produce these emissions aren’t active, which isn’t actually the case,” Egan said.

The scientists placed carbon dioxide monitors along the ground at more than 100 sites around the circumpolar Arctic to see what was actually happening and took more than 1,000 measurements.

They found much more carbon was being released than previously thought. The results found carbon dioxide emissions of 1.7 billion tonnes a year are about twice as high as previous estimates.

Arctic plants are thought to take in just over one billion tonnes of the gas from the atmosphere every year during growing season. The net result is that Arctic soil around the globe is probably already releasing more than 600 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Scientists previously thought carbon absorbed by tundra plants during the summer more or less made up for what was emitted in the winter as well as for what was released from melting permafrost during warm months.

That’s not what’s happening, said Egan.

“We’re seeing that the value emitted in the winter is larger than the net uptake for the growing season.”

Emissions speeding up

What’s more, the pace of the emissions is likely to increase.

Under a business-as-usual scenario, emissions from northern soil would be likely to release 41 per cent more carbon by the end of the century.

But the Arctic is already warming at three times the pace of the rest of the globe. Even if significant mitigation efforts are made, those emissions will increase by 17 per cent, said the report. MORE

Nunavut warmed, Siberia burned and Greenland melted — the Arctic summer that was like no other

A forest fire burns outside of Delta Junction, Alaska on June 29, 2019. In June, fires in Alaska, Siberia, Canada and Greenland released 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide — equivalent to Sweden’s total annual fossil fuel emissions, according to a scientist with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

It has not been a good summer for the Arctic.

Perhaps more than anywhere on Earth, the Arctic has felt most acutely the effects of climate change — evidence of which is unfolding in real time as residents and wildlife contend with a mess not of their own making.

While Europeans baked under a few sweltering days in June and July, Arctic residents faced an altogether different paradigm.

A changing Arctic brings problems foreign to those in the south: The inability to travel, the struggle to secure nutritious food, the arrival of new species, the loss of others, and perhaps most damaging, the potential disappearance of one’s culture.

“The people in the North are the most affected from the impact of climate change,” said Mishak Allurut, a community leader in Arctic Bay, Nunavut. “Their whole livelihood revolves around the environment.

Here is a look at how the Arctic and some of its people fared over the past three months while being subjected to some of the hottest weather on record.

Mercury Rising

"The people in the North are the most affected from the impact of climate change," says Mishak Allurut, a community leader in Arctic Bay, Nunavut. "Their whole livelihood revolves around the environment."

Parts of the Arctic felt more like Ontario cottage country this summer as the world experienced its hottest June followed by scorching temperatures in July, making it the hottest month since record keeping began in 1880.

Multiple records were smashed in Alert, Nunavut, the northernmost permanent community on Earth. Temperatures hit a record 21 degrees on July 14, breaking the previous record of 20 degrees set in 1956.

“This is an example of what we’re seeing across the entire planet, which are a lot of records being broken, particularly in the maximum temperatures,” said Armel Castellan, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The heat refused to let up in Alert as the temperature hit 20.3 degrees on July 15, breaking the previous record of 15.7 degrees for that day set in 1971. The next day, July 16, reached 17.8 degrees to tie the record for that day set back in 2015.

August turned out to be the warmest August on record in Alert by more than one degree, with an average temperature of 4.3 degrees, according to weather watcher Patrick Duplessis, an atmospheric science PhD student at Dalhousie University.

“Beating a monthly average temperature record by a whole degree is quite impressive, especially in summer months, where variability is small,” Duplessis said.

To the south, in Nunavut’s capital Iqaluit, the temperature hit 22.7 degrees on June 28, setting a record for that month, while July 9 – Nunavut Day – was a balmy 23.4 degrees, breaking the previous record of 22.2 degrees set in 1969.

The story was much the same internationally. On July 26, Sweden recorded 34.8 degrees in the village of Markusvinsa, setting that country’s record for the highest temperature inside the Arctic Circle. The next day, the municipality of Saltdal, Norway, saw the mercury hit 34.6 degrees, also the highest temperature ever recorded inside the Arctic Circle in that country.

Alaska recorded its hottest month on record in July, with an average temperature of 14.5 degrees, beating the previous warmest month of July 2004.

Rick Thoman, a climate scientist at the Alaska Centre for Climate Assessment and Policy, said what’s happening in the Arctic “is a preview of things to come for those south of the Arctic. Temperature is on an escalator “going up,” he said. “With the combination of very warm oceans, low sea ice, we loaded the dice and then the atmosphere co-operated by giving us the third piece of the puzzle to push it up yet again.”  SOURCE

Let’s Make Friday the Biggest Day of Climate Action in Global History

Teens paint a huge banner in preparation for a climate action
Pupils of the “Fridays for Future” movement paint banners and signs for their worldwide day of action on September 20 at the town hall market in Hamburg, Germany. MARKUS SCHOLZ / PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES

What do Ben and Jerry’s, an 800,000-member South African trade union, countless college professors, a big chunk of Amazon’s Seattle workforce, and more high school students than you can imagine have in common? They’re all joining in a massive climate strike this coming Friday, September 20 — a strike that will likely register as the biggest day of climate action in the planet’s history.

More than this, what they have in common is something they share with much of the rest of humanity: a rapidly growing fear that global warming is out of control and that we must act with remarkable speed if we have any hope of getting our civilizations safely through the century. This growing realization is clear in many places: in the UK, for instance, where Extinction Rebellion began its massive civil disobedience, a campaign now spreading around the world. And in Washington, D.C., where the Sunrise Movement and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been building powerful support for a Green New Deal.

But the climate strikes, of course, had their genesis in high schools — or, more exactly, outside of high schools, which is where 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg found herself last autumn. Why, she asked the Swedish authorities, should I spend all day in school preparing myself for the future when you aren’t preparing the country or the world for the future? That is a good question — so good that it quickly spread around the planet.

I’ve known school strikers on every continent with schools, and they should give everyone heart: Youth activists are awake and aware and working hard. As usual, those in the most vulnerable communities are leading the way. This is a movement in which Indigenous youth, kids from communities of color, and those who live on sinking islands are on the front line.

But these young activists are also asking for help. On May 23, at the end of the last massive school strike, Thunberg and 46 other youth activists released an open letter to The Guardian urging adults to join in next time. Because, as they pointed out, there are limits to what young people can do on their own. If you can’t vote, and if you don’t own stocks, then your ability to pull the main levers of power is limited. They wrote: “Sorry if this is inconvenient for you. But this is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job.”

People around the world are responding to the call. The biggest demonstrations will probably be in New York City, because of the excitement surrounding Thunberg’s arrival by sailboat to address the UN General Assembly. But there will be rallies in all 50 states (a full list is at globalclimatestrike.net). Often, they’ll be led by students at local high schools and colleges, but in many cases, the emphasis is on adult participation — shop owners are closing their doors for the afternoon, and chefs shutting down restaurants to feed demonstrators….

Even if we leave climate denial behind us, will we really start to move with the speed we must? The answer to that will lie in how many people truly demand action. We’ll start to find out what the numbers look like on September 20.  MORE

 

Bernie Sanders’s ‘Green New Deal’: A $16 Trillion Climate Plan

Senator Bernie Sanders’s “Green New Deal” climate policy plan calls for the United States to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050.
CreditChristopher Lee for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday released a $16.3 trillion blueprint to fight climate change, the latest and most expensive proposal from the field of Democratic presidential candidates aimed at reining in planet-warming greenhouse gases.

Mr. Sanders unveiled his proposal one day after Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who made climate change the central focus of his campaign, announced he was dropping out of the 2020 race. Mr. Inslee’s absence could create an opening for another presidential aspirant to seize the mantle of “climate candidate.”

Mr. Sanders was an early supporter of the Green New Deal, an ambitious but nonbinding congressional plan for tackling global warming and economic inequality. He is bestowing that same name upon his new plan, which calls for the United States to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2050.

It declares climate change a national emergency; envisions building new solar, wind and geothermal power sources across the country; and commits $200 billion to help poor nations cope with climate change.

Mr. Sanders said in an interview that his proposal would “pay for itself” over 15 years and create 20 million jobs in the process.
“President Trump thinks that climate change is a hoax,” Mr. Sanders said in the interview, laying out the case for his climate plan. “President Trump is dangerously, dangerously wrong. Climate change is an existential threat to the entire country and the entire world and we must be extraordinarily aggressive.”
“I have seven grandchildren, and I’m going to be damned if I’m going to leave them a planet that is unhealthy and uninhabitable,” he added. MORE

Shale’s Dark Side: Methane Emissions Are Soaring

rig

A new study finds that shale oil and gas is behind the global rise in methane pollution over the past decade, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The study, published in Biogeosciences, was able to separate methane emissions from conventional versus unconventional drilling, as well as methane from other “biogenic” sources, such as agriculture or wetlands. “This recent increase in methane is massive,” Robert W. Howarth of Cornell University, the author of the study, said in a statement. “It’s globally significant. It’s contributed to some of the increase in global warming we’ve seen and shale gas is a major player.”

Methane emissions rose in the late 20th century, and then leveled off in the early 2000s. “Since 2008, however, methane concentrations have again been rising rapidly,” Howarth wrote.

Howarth said that “chemical fingerprints” in the atmosphere point to shale oil and gas, as the methane from unconventional drilling has less carbon-13 relative to carbon-12, which distinguishes it from methane coming from conventional sources, including from gas and coal. Because two-thirds of all new natural gas production over the last decade has come from shale, and because the chemical composition of methane in the atmosphere has changed, Howarth concluded that shale gas is a key driver in the increase of methane.

Prior research did not explicitly focus on the fossil fuel industry, and instead put blame on other sources of methane emissions, such as agriculture and wetlands.

“Previous studies erroneously concluded that biological sources are the cause of the rising methane,” Howarth said. He was able to separate out the source of the increase. The conclusion was clear: “The commercialization of shale gas and oil in the 21st century has dramatically increased global methane emissions.”

Methane is a dramatically more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, although it is much more short-lived. That makes it a dangerous greenhouse gas pollutant – but also low-hanging fruit for climate action. “If we can stop pouring methane into the atmosphere, it will dissipate,” he said. “It goes away pretty quickly, compared to carbon dioxide. It’s the low-hanging fruit to slow global warming.” MORE

Climate deadline more like 18 months instead of 12 years, some experts say

WATCH: How record-breaking heat is affecting the world.

We may think we have 12 years to curb climate change, but some Canadian climate experts say we likely have close to 18 months instead.

Climate scientist Ian Mauro from the University of Winnipeg says 2020 is the climate change deadline we should be eyeing.

“We need to bring down our emissions and peak [in] 2020,” he said.

The 2015 Paris agreement committed to limiting the global average temperature to two degrees Celsius, with an “aspirational goal” of 1.5 degrees, Mauro said.

But one of the lesser known parts of the report is that we should be peaking emissions by 2020, he said.

“Best modelling suggests we need to peak at and decline rapidly from there,” he said. “That’s where this timeline shortened quite quickly.”

WATCH: How will climate change affect Canada?

Canada has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent by 2030.  But political science professor Angela Carter from the University of Waterloo says we’re nowhere near meeting that target.

“If we continue to reduce emissions as we have done over the last 12 or so years,” she said, “we are going to blow past 2030 target days.”

The next 18 months will include a federal election in Canada, as well as international summits and meetings on climate change.

“I think, in some ways, this federal election will be won and lost on the issue of climate change,” said Mauro.

WATCH: Here’s where the federal parties stand on the carbon tax

But does the prospect of a climate change deadline help or hinder efforts to change human behaviour?  Mauro sees changing our behaviour and reducing emissions as a bus we can’t miss.

“Targets and deadlines can be motivational,” he said.

“Either we’re going to see global governments balk at this, miss the bus and put our fate as a species literally in jeopardy,” he added, “or we’re going to see a globally-coordinated response.”

Citing the growing prominence of climate activism, Carter says that she is seeing a shift in how people react to the climate issue. The conversation has “really changed in the last six months or so” with the rise of what she terms the Greta effect, after teen climate activist Greta ThunbergMORE

This map shows how hot you’re going to get without climate action

If we continue business as usual, by the middle of the century the average number of days that feel hotter than 100 degrees will more than double.


[Photo: Mike C. Valdivia/Unsplash]

If you grew up in New York City in the 1990s, you might have experienced a couple of days each year when the heat index—the combination of heat and humidity that explains how a temperature feels—climbed above 100 degrees. By the end of the century, it could feel that way as many as 42 days a year. In Atlanta, the number of days with a 100-degree-plus heat index could jump from 6 to 82; in Miami, it could go from 16 to 153.

new report and a peer-reviewed study mapped out how extreme heat could increase across the country if global emissions continue on their current trajectory. “We know that extreme heat events are becoming more extreme and more frequent,” says Erika Spanger-Siegfried, lead climate analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, the nonprofit that worked on the study. “We wanted people to be able to see . . . what’s next, and to be able to take action to steer us in a different direction.”

[Image: Union of Concerned Scientists]

By the middle of the century, under a business-as-usual scenario, the average number of days that feel hotter than 100 degrees would more than double. The average number of days that feel hotter than 105 would more than quadruple by midcentury, and by the end of the century, there would be eight times more than there have been historically. An interactive map shows the impacts in detail across the country, and a search tool shows the details for specific cities.

Extreme heat will hit the South hardest, where some areas could experience the equivalent of three months a year that feel hotter than 105 degrees. But the heat will impact almost everyone. By the middle of the century, if greenhouse gas emissions continue, around 400 cities will feel hotter than 90 degrees more than 30 days a year. Two hundred and fifty of those cities will feel hotter than 100 degrees for the equivalent of a month or more. Many areas will experience days so hot they’re “off the charts,” or hotter than the National Weather Service’s heat index, which currently tops out around 127 (depending on the combination of temperature and humidity).

“The kind of heat we’re talking about is not just an inconvenience, it’s dangerous,” says Spanger-Siegfried. Extreme heat kills more people in the United States than any other type of weather disaster. Even in areas where people are accustomed to heat, people may not be able to work outside. Children may not be able to play outside. In areas that have historically been cooler, air-conditioning may not be common.

MORE

Vast subsidies keeping the fossil fuel industry afloat should be put to better use

img

(MENAFN – The Conversation) Capitalism has often been identified as the underlying cause of theclimate crisis . A leading voice on the subject is Naomi Klein, one of the climate movements most influential thinkers, whose seminal book onclimate changewas subtitled Capitalism vs. the Climate. She is one of many voices identifying capitalism as the cause of climate change.

Often central within the capitalism versus the climate framing is the idea that the heart of capitalist ideology – free market fundamentalism – has fuelled the climate crisis. But this line of argument often glosses over the fact that energy markets are not free from government intervention. In fact, the fossil fuel industry is deeply and increasingly reliant on government support to survive.

Ina forthcoming book chapter , I detail case studies from the world’s worst climate polluting countries. I show that the fossil fuel industry depends on an egregious amount of government support, which makes the public foot the bill for a harmful – and increasingly uncompetitive – industry.

Polluters market

In my chapter, I show that governments the world over favour fossil fuel interests throughpublic financing ,financial subsidies , andbailouts . In addition, the fossil fuel industry is helped bycorrupt governance systems . Together this forms what I call a system of fossil fuel welfare and protectionism.

To hide this reality, the fossil fuel industry has invested ina massive public relationsscheme (read: propaganda campaign) to paint itself as the defender of the free market. In the US, the fossil fuel industry has even,quite successfully , duped Evangelicals into associating the fossil fuel industry with free markets, and free markets with God’s will. Thus, attacks on the fossil fuel industry become attacks on God’s will. But if God’s will was really aligned with the free market, then the fossil fuel industry would be doing the devil’s work.

Take South Africa, for example, the biggest carbon polluter on the African continent. It used to be home to the world’sfastest growing renewable energy sector , but government intervention to protect polluting coal interests set back these advances. Under President Cyril Ramaphosa the government is now taking steps to allowsmall amountsof new renewable energy into the market. But government actions continue to slowthe immense potentialSouth Africa has for a low-cost, renewable energy revolution.

Arecent studyreported that South Africa subsidises coal by R56,6 billion per year – propping up a polluting industry with taxpayer money. South Africa continues to subsidise coal despite studies showing that renewable energy was helpingto prevent energy blackouts , wassaving South Africa billions on energyand that a renewable energy future is the country’slowest costenergy pathway.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) study showed that the US, the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas emitter, givesten times more to fossil fuel subsidies than it does to education . Without such subsidies half of future oil production in the USwould be unprofitable .

As for coal, even the Wall Street Journal admits that US coalsimply can’t compete on a level playing field , and is losing out despite its major subsidies.Studies revealthat without regulation to shield them from market forces, about half of the coal plants in the US would be going bankrupt.

The fossil fuel industry is increasingly relying on the heavy hand of the government to protect fossil fuels from competition. Subsidies and protective policies shield fossil fuels from the reality that renewable energy has become the cheapest energy sourceworldwide.

MORE