We knew vacationing had a big carbon footprint, but we didn’t know it was this big

We knew vacationing had a big carbon footprint, but we didn’t know it was this big

SOURCE: Mashable and Nature Climate Change DATE: May 7, 2018 SNIP: A new study published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that vacationing actually releases far more climate change-inducing greenhouse gases into Earth’s atmosphere than previously expected. When taking into account not only the direct emissions from jet and automobile engines, but also the millions of supply chains needed to feed and support vacationers, researchers found that global tourism today generates 8 percent of the carbon we send into Earth’s atmosphere each year. Previous studies put estimates at around 3 percent, Arunima Malik, lead author of the study, said in an interview. These emissions are expected to balloon as travel surges globally. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. topped the list of the globe’s carbon tourism producers. Germany joins America in the top four, along with China and India, two nations with burgeoning middle classes, whose ability to afford travel is anticipated to...
UN forest accounting loophole allows CO2 underreporting by EU, UK, US

UN forest accounting loophole allows CO2 underreporting by EU, UK, US

SOURCE: Mongabay and Environmental Research Letters DATE: May 2, 2018 SNIP: [Dr. Mary] Booth’s research — Not carbon neutral: Assessing the net emissions impact of residues burned for bioenergy, published this February in the journal Environmental Research Letters — helps answer some thorny questions critical to our energy and carbon future. Her study examines the net CO2 emissions of biomass burned to replace coal at the UK’s massive Drax power stations and other EU power plants. Combined, those energy facilities consume tons of wood each year. One major finding, right out of the gate: Booth reports that — contrary to a largely accepted view — wood pellets aren’t sourced mainly from fallen limbs and lumber waste called residue, but rather from whole trees. However, she based her study on residue-derived wood pellets anyway because the biomass industry “so often claims residues are a main pellet source.” Even based on the false assumption that only wood waste, not whole trees, are being burnt, Booth found that “up to 95 percent of cumulative CO2 emitted [by the biomass burning power plants] represent a net addition to the atmosphere over decades.” In other words, biomass is not carbon neutral. More disturbing: Booth’s research opens up the IPCC to charges that its policymaking decisions regarding emissions accounting have been politicized — crafted by negotiators to include built-in loopholes that allow nations to underreport certain emissions while appearing to achieve their carbon-reduction targets. In particular, both the UK and EU appear to have slipped through a large loophole in order to “disappear” real emissions from their carbon accounting, as one source told me, thus...
Last year dashed hopes for a climate change turnaround

Last year dashed hopes for a climate change turnaround

SOURCE: Washington Post and IEA Global Energy & CO2 Status Report 2017 (PDF) DATE: March 21, 2017 SNIP: After three flat years that had hinted at a possible environmental breakthrough, carbon dioxide emissions from the use of energy rose again by 1.4 percent in 2017, according to new data released by the International Energy Agency on Wednesday. The increase in emissions of the all-important greenhouse gas came as global energy demand itself increased thanks to strong economic growth — and that demand was sated by all types of energy, including renewables but also oil, coal and natural gas. “The growth in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 is a strong warning for global efforts to combat climate change, and demonstrates that current efforts are insufficient to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement,” the IEA said. From the IEA Report: Energy: Global energy demand increased by 2.1% in 2017, compared with 0.9% the previous year and 0.9% on average over the previous five years. More than 40% of the growth in 2017 was driven by China and India; 72% of the rise was met by fossil fuels, a quarter by renewables and the remainder by nuclear. Carbon dioxide (CO2): Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 1.4% in 2017, reaching a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes (Gt), a resumption of growth after three years of global emissions remaining flat. The increase in CO2 emissions, however, was not universal. While most major economies saw a rise, some others experienced declines, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan. The biggest decline drop came from the United States, mainly because of...
Leaked U.N. climate report sees ‘very high risk’ the planet will warm beyond key limit

Leaked U.N. climate report sees ‘very high risk’ the planet will warm beyond key limit

SOURCE: Washington Post DATE: February 14, 2018 SNIP: A draft United Nations climate science report contains dire news about the warming of the planet, suggesting it will likely cross the key marker of 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, of temperature rise in the 2040s, and that this will be exceedingly difficult to avoid. The draft document states that there is a “very high risk” of the planet warming more than 1.5 degrees above the temperature seen in the mid-to-late-19th century. Maintaining the planet’s temperature entirely below that level throughout the present century, without even briefly exceeding it, is likely to be “already out of reach,” it finds. The document finds that a warming of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) would pose substantially larger risks in many respects than 1.5 degrees C — but it also finds that some severe risks will be present at 1.5 degrees, too. What’s most striking is the radical nature and rapidity of the changes that would be required to somehow preserve a world below 1.5 degrees. The document finds that the world has only 12 to 16 years worth of greenhouse gas emissions left, from the start of 2016, if it wants a better-than-even chance of holding warming below 1.5 degrees. Two of those years have already elapsed, as of this writing. A third will have nearly elapsed by the time the draft report is finalized and released in October. And once this “carbon budget” for 1.5 degrees Celsius is used up, emissions would have to plunge to zero to preserve the 1.5 degree goal — something that would almost certainly...
Reports of coal’s terminal decline are premature

Reports of coal’s terminal decline are premature

SOURCE: Environmental Research Letters DATE: February 7, 2018 SNIP: [T]he continued reliance on coal-fired power plants in a number of major emerging economies could still turn out to be a massive stumbling block for climate change mitigation. Coal-fired power plants currently announced, planned, or under construction will, over the course of their expected life-time, generate a substantial amount of emissions in addition to those that are already ‘locked in’ (i.e. which will likely be generated in the future by already existing infrastructure). Unless these power plants are retired well before their expected life-time, which would increase mitigation costs and constitute a formidable political challenge, their associated emissions jeopardize the achievement of the (Intended) Nationally Determined Contributions ((I)NDC) targets as well as effective long-term climate change mitigation. From Envisionation: In 2016, China and India have each canceled more than 50 percent of their plans to build new coal-fired power plants, according to the study. However, globally coal investments are further increasing. Turkey, Indonesia, and Vietnam, for example, plan to increase their capacity altogether by about 160 gigawatts. This is about as much as the output of all existing coal-fired plants in the 28 EU countries. In addition, other countries’ planned future investments in coal have been massively extended in 2016. Investment plans in Egypt, for example, have increased almost eightfold, while they have nearly doubled in Pakistan. These developments jeopardize countries’ ability to meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as CO2emissions from coal-fired power plants would increase almost tenfold from 2012 to 2030 in Vietnam, for example, and almost quadruple in Turkey....