in many ways, none of them good from a population and climate perspective.
Let’s skip a discourse on the current quality of general human intelligence because that seems too easy and depressing, even though human stupidity and inaction in the face of overwhelming evidence has created the climate crisis.
Now there is evidence the Earth is dimming due to climate change. According to a report in EarthSky, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) last month said that Earth’s warming oceans are causing fewer bright clouds to reflect sunlight back into space. So we are not shining so brightly in the universe, and more heat is reaching the Earth’s surface. This additional heat will, presumably, lead to even warmer oceans, according to the article. “This result is contrary to what many scientists had hoped. They’d hoped a warmer Earth might lead to more bright clouds and higher albedo (greater reflectivity), and more heat reflected away.” That outcome would have helped to moderate warming and balance the climate system, but the AGU result shows the opposite is true. The new Earth-albedo study was published in the peer-reviewed AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Earthshine is what happens when sunlight bounces from Earth onto the night landscape of the moon. It’s that dim glow you sometimes see on the darkened portion of a crescent moon. The Big Bear Solar Observatory in Southern California gathered the earthshine data from 1998 to 2017. The scientists said the Earth is now reflecting about half a watt less light per square meter than it was 20 years ago. Most of the drop has occurred in the last three years of earthshine data.
Meanwhile on the “let’s do something” climate crisis front, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized its first new climate rule last month, slashing the use of powerful greenhouse gases widely used in home refrigerators and air conditioners and often found to be leaking from U.S. supermarket freezers.
The final rule establishes a comprehensive program to cap and phase down the production and consumption of climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in the United States, the EPA said on 23 September. “HFCs are potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, as well as foams and many other applications. A global phasedown of HFCs is expected to avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100. This final rule will phase down the U.S. production and consumption of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years, as mandated by the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act that was enacted in December 2020.”
Sometimes we have to take it slowly, but this is not the time. The IPCC report is not a gentle meditation.
The Sixth Assessment Report of the .Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released earlier this month underscores and update what the IPCC has stated for many year.
The 42-page “Summary for Policymakers” — the full report is more than 3400 densely-written pages — is more of the same, only more so.
Here are some of the summary’s findings:
On the “current state” of the climate: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” Each of the last four decades” has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. Global surface temperature in the first two decades of the 21st century (2001-2020) was 0.99 [0.84- 1.10] °C higher than 1850-1900.”
“The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years.”
“Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since AR5 (the fifth Assessment Report).”
“Improved knowledge of climate processes, paleoclimate evidence and the response of the climate system to increasing radiative forcing gives a best estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity of 3°C with a narrower range compared to AR5.”
On “possible climate futures”:
“Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.”
“Many changes in the climate system become larger in direct relation to increasing global warming. They include increases in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.”
“Continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle,including its variability, global monsoon precipitation and the severity of wet and dry events.”
“Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.”
“With further global warming, every region is projected to increasingly experience concurrent and multiple changes in climatic impact-drivers. Changes in several climatic impact-drivers would be more widespread at 2°C compared to 1.5°C global warming and even more widespread and/or pronounced for higher warming levels.”
Even in scenarios with lower GHG emissions, it will take 20 years or more to detect “discernible differences” in global surface temperature trends. In short, this crisis is virtually “irreversible.” Tough stuff indeed. And it seems hopeless.
We want to see with wisdom and clarity what is going on with our planet and accept the facts in front of us. The time to act is now
Congress and the Biden Administration are taking the first steps to reduce emissions of two dangerous greenhouse gases: methane, which is emitted during natural gas extraction and by leaks from oil and gas wells, and hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.
Both of these planet-warming gases are many times more potent than carbon dioxide, even though they don’t stay in the atmosphere as long. Scientists say dealing with them is critical to slowing the pace of global warming.
The Senate, using a rarely invoked law to reverse a Trump administration rollback on methane, essentially reinstated an Obama-era regulation imposing controls on leaks of methane from oil and gas wells. And the Environmental Protection Agency moved to implement new curbs on the production and importation of HFCs, which Congress approved late last year.
“By taking fast action on these short-lived climate pollutants, of which HFCs are the most potent, we can buy ourselves some time and actually help avoid climate tipping points,” said Kristen N. Taddonio, a senior climate and energy adviser for the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.
The 52-42 Senate vote reinstates the Oil and Natural Gas New Source Performance Standards, a handful of Obama-era regulations on methane emissions that were rolled back by former President Donald Trump in August 2020. The measure drew support from every Senate Democrat, as well as Republican Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), who has opposed GOP efforts to deregulate methane emissions in the past; Lindsey Graham (R-SC); and Rob Portman (R-OH). The rule is expected to be taken up and passed by the House of Representatives in this month.
The standards alone won’t be sufficient to meet the president’s pledge to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2030 — a goal meant to help keep global warming this century to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but it represents an important step toward meeting that commitment, because methane is seen as a major driver of climate change.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the Senate’s move “one of the most important votes, not only that this Congress has cast but has been cast in the last decade, in terms of our fight against global warming.”
According to a recent article by two climate experts in the online publication, The Conversation, there are more reasons for optimism on climate change than we’ve seen for decades. The authors, Gabi Mocatta, Lecturer in Communication, Deakin University, and Research Fellow in Climate Change Communication, Climate Futures Program, University of Tasmania, and Rebecca Harris
Senior Lecturer in Climatology, Director, Climate Futures Program, University of Tasmania, say two big reasons help explain the optimism:
1. The science on climate change “is now more detailed than ever. Although much of it is devastating, it’s also resoundingly clear
2. “It’s now also unequivocal that people want action”
Climate change is deadly serious; but it strikes me the word change is too soft a term because the change occurring is not anything like changing your clothes or your diet or your drapes. Rather it’s a climate crisis.
Climate crisis is a better way to think about what is happening to the planet, and after four years of dreadful neglect, denial and inaction from the previous administration, the Biden administration is taking the crisis seriously. And it is taking action.
The White House last week unveiled a goal to expand the nation’s nascent offshore wind energy industry in the coming decade by opening new areas to development, accelerating permits, and boosting public financing for projects.
Then there is Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which includes $85 billion for mass-transit systems, another $80 billion for Amtrak to expand service and make needed repairs, and $100 billion to upgrade the nation’s electrical grid. The infrastructure plan also would allocate $174 billion to spur the transition to electric vehicles, $35 billion for research in emissions-reducing and climate-resilience technologies, and $10 billion to create a New Deal-style Civilian Climate Corps.
The plan will lead to “transformational progress in our effort to tackle climate change,” Biden said, speaking at a carpenters’ training facility outside Pittsburgh.
A Reuters report provided more detail on the offshore wind power plan: “The blueprint for offshore wind power generation comes after the Biden administration’s suspension of new oil and gas leasing auctions on federal lands and waters, widely seen as a first step to fulfilling the president’s campaign promise of a permanent ban on new federal drilling to counter global warming.
The United States, with just two small offshore wind facilities, has lagged European nations in developing the renewable energy technology.
“We’re ready to rock and roll,” National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said at a virtual press conference to announce the administration’s moves.
According to the report, the plan sets a target to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, which the administration said would be enough to power 10 million homes and cut 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
One of the first steps will be to open a new offshore wind energy development zone in the New York Bight, an area off the densely populated coast between Long Island, New York and New Jersey, with a lease auction there later this year.
The industry will employ 44,000 workers directly by 2030 and support 33,000 additional support jobs. Many of those jobs will be created at new factories that will produce the blades, towers and other components for massive offshore wind turbines and at shipyards where the specialized ships needed to install them will be constructed. The administration predicted the nation would see port upgrade investments related to offshore wind of more than $500 million.
The administration said it will also aim to speed up project permits, including environmental reviews, and provide $3 billion in public financing for offshore wind projects through the Department of Energy.
The United States’ two small offshore wind farms include the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island and a two-turbine pilot project off the coast of Virginia. There are more than 20 GW of proposed projects in various stages of development.
Europe, by contrast, has more than 20 GW of capacity already and plans to expand that more than ten-fold by 2050. Many of the companies developing U.S. projects are European, including Norway’s Equinor, Denmark’s Orsted, and a joint venture between Avangrid, the U.S. arm of Spain’s Iberdrola, and Denmark’s Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.
Disruptions in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors will increase as supply and consumption are affected by lockdown, according to the report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Fish supply, consumption and trade revenues for 2020 will all likely decline due to containment restrictions, the report noted, while global aquaculture production is expected to fall by about 1.3 percent, the first fall recorded by the sector in several years.
“The pandemic has caused widespread upheaval in fisheries and aquaculture as production has been disrupted, supply chains have been interrupted and consumer spending restricted by various lockdowns,” said FAO Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo. “Containment measures have provoked far-reaching changes, many of which are likely to persist in the long term.”
The FAO report indicated that in aquaculture there is growing evidence that unsold production will result in increasing levels of live fish stocks, creating higher costs for feeding as well as a greater number of fish mortalities. Sectors with longer production cycles, such as salmon, cannot adjust rapidly to the demand shifts.
Global catches from wild fisheries are also expected to have declined slightly in 2020, as, overall, there has been a reduced fishing effort due to COVID‑19-related restrictions on fishing vessel crews and poor market conditions.
As a result of Covid-19, consumer preferences have shifted. While demand for fresh fish has waned, consumer demand for packaged and frozen products has grown as households look to stock up on non-perishable food.
Aggregate prices for 2020, as measured by the Fish Price Index are down year-on-year for most traded species. Restaurant and hotel closures in many countries have also led to a fall in demand for fresh fish products.
The climate crisis is also impacting the food, fish, forest and water sectors
– In other news from FAO, two projects, one focusing on agroforestry in sub-Saharan Africa and the other on water management in the Near East, have received $80 million, paving the way to improve the livelihoods of more than 250 000 smallholders.
The Board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved the funds for initiatives in the Republic of Congo and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Both are the first GCF-funded projects in those countries, underscoring FAO’s focus on expanding the use of global tools to advance climate action in food and agriculture. FAO’s GCF portfolio has now risen to $878 million, supporting 15 projects.
– Opening the high-level ceremony to mark the International Day of Forests, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, described forest restoration as a path to global recovery and well-being.
“Healthy forests mean healthy people. Forests provide us with fresh air, nutritious foods, clean water and space for recreation, and also for civilization to continue,” the Director-General said.
More than 1 billion people depend on forest foods and 2.4 billion people use fuelwood or charcoal to cook their daily meals, noted the Director General. “Forests are also green pharmacies. In developing countries, up to 80 percent of all medicinal drugs are plant-based.”
Yet, despite their importance, the area of forests continues to shrink. FAO’s most recent Global Forest Resources Assessment says that each year, the world loses more than 10 million hectares of forest – an area about twice the size of Costa Rica. “We can change this. We have the knowledge and the tools,” said the Director-General.
With four billion people projected to be living in drylands by 2050,the publication outlines the transformational change required to ensure the sustainability of food production systems under climate change and after COVID-19, which includes giving a greater voice to marginalized dryland populations.
– Acute hunger is set to soar in over 20 countries in the coming months without urgent and scaled-up assistance, warn the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) in a new report issued on 23 March.
Yemen, South Sudan and northern Nigeria top the list and face catastrophic levels of acute hunger, with families in pockets of South Sudan and Yemen already in the grip of or at risk of starvation and death according to the Hunger Hotspots report.
Although the majority of the affected countries are in Africa, acute hunger is due to rise steeply in most world regions – from Afghanistan in Asia, Syria and Lebanon in the Middle East, to Haiti in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Already, over 34 million people are grappling with emergency levels of acute hunger (IPC4) – meaning they are one step away from starvation – across the world.
“The magnitude of suffering is alarming. It is incumbent upon all of us to act now and to act fast to save lives, safeguard livelihoods and prevent the worst situation,” said Qu.
“In many regions, the planting season has just started or is about to start. We must run against the clock and not let this opportunity to protect, stabilize and even possibly increase local food production slip away,” urged Qu.
“We are seeing a catastrophe unfold before our very eyes. Famine – driven by conflict, and fuelled by climate shocks and the COVID-19 hunger pandemic – is knocking on the door for millions of families,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
“We urgently need three things to stop millions from dying of starvation: the fighting has to stop, we must be allowed access to vulnerable communities to provide life-saving help, and above all we need donors to step up with the US$ 5.5 billion we are asking for this year,” he added.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was created in the spring of 1933 by a new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, as a way to put millions back to work. It gave jobs to an eventual three million young men. This was during the Great Depression and prior to the Second World War, which was an employment program of a quite different sort. The CCC left a legacy of trees, trails, shelters, footbridges, picnic areas, and campgrounds in local, state, and national parks across the country.
“Sec. 215. Civilian Climate Corps. In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 214 of this order, the Secretary of the Interior, in collaboration with the Secretary of Agriculture and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a strategy to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order for creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, within existing appropriations, to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs. The initiative shall aim to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate.”
Under Biden’s executive order, the heads of the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture and other departments have 90 days to present their plan to “mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers,” a step toward fulfilling Biden’s promise to get the US on track to conserve 30% of lands and oceans by 2030.
Through its nine-year existence, Roosevelt’s CCC put three million jobless Americans to work. CCC enrollees planted more than three billion trees, paved 125,000 miles of roadways, erected 3,000 fire lookouts, and spent six million workdays fighting forest fires.
“We are conserving not only our natural resources but also our human resources,” Roosevelt said back then.
The CCC was a great idea then, its time has come around again.
Getting to a global net-zero emission supply chain sounds like an impossible and expensive task, but it may be cheaper than one might think.
This is according to an article published in the recent State of Green Business report by Michael Holder, “The Price is Right.”
Holder, a BusinessGreen reporter, writes that “setting ambitious net-zero targets for a company’s core business is one thing, but achieving deep decarbonization across the entire supply chain is quite another.”
Many, if not most, supply chains are highly complex and reach across the globe, so measuring and mandating emissions is daunting. “Yet without action to get to net-zero emissions across every corner of the global economy, the planet’s climate will continue to warm.”
He referred to a recent report, “Net-Zero Challenge: The “Supply Chain Challenge,” from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) noting that, as well as being a “game changer” in the fight against climate change, decarbonizing supply chains is possible with readily available technologies and at surprisingly low cost. Some of the majore findings from the report include:
Many companies can multiply their climate impact by decarbonizing supply chains
Eight supply chains account for more than 50% of global emissions
Net-zero supply chains would hardly increase end-consumer costs. (Around 40% of all emissions in these supply chains could be abated with readily available and affordable levers)
Decarbonizing supply chains will be difficult; the report outlines nine major initiatives every company can take:
“Through interviews with several dozen global companies that lead the way in reducing supply chain emissions, we have identified nine key actions: (1) build a comprehensive emissions baseline, gradually filled with actual supplier data; (2) set ambitious and holistic reduction targets, reducing emissions by (3) revisiting product design choices and (4) reconsidering (geographic) sourcing strategy; (5) set ambitious procurement standards and (6) work jointly with suppliers to co-fund abatement levers; (7) work together with peers to align sector targets that maximize impact and level the playing field; (8) use scale by driving up demand to lower the cost of green solutions; and – finally – (9) develop internal governance mechanisms that introduce emissions as a steering mechanism and align the incentives of decision-makers with emission targets.”
Business, green business, sustainability, health and economic security have always been connected, but no more so than now after four years of neglect and ignorance by the Trump Administration. Mix in a raging pandemic, a new administration committed to tackling climate change, and it might just be that the path forward is in sight.
“There never has been a moment as opportune as this one to be talking about the intersection of business and sustainability,” writes Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group, in the latest edition of the State of Green Business. The report is now in its 14th year.
“Justice,” he continues, is the new mantra governing a host of issues–social, racial, climate, economic, environmental and others. “During 2020, amid the economic, social, political and public health crises we encountered; corporate sustainability continued to move forward.” Because of Covid-19 and “the other challenges we’ve encountered, the idea of rapid, large-scale global action now seems more than a mere pipe dream,” says Makower.
Factoids from the report:
According to the U.S. SIF Foundation’s 2020 biennial “Report on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends,” sustainable investing assets now total $17.1 trillion, or 33 percent of the $51.4 trillion in total U.S. assets under professional money management — a 42 percent jump from 2018
As of October 2020, more than 1,500 organizations had expressed their support for the Taskforce on Climate related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), an increase of over 85 percent since June 2020
Given the above, it was not surprising to see an uptick in corporate ambition on sustainability issues. “Net zero” became a key commitment during 2020 — goals that aim to eliminate, at least on paper, a company’s greenhouse gas emissions, water extractions, fossil fuel use or deforestation activities by a given date
What will it take for companies to dramatically step up their ambition and actions? That is a defining question of the decade. No doubt the answer lies in a combination of investor pressure, technological innovation, consumption shifts, governmental pressure, new circular business models that reward resource efficiency — and more than a little grit and determination
Corporate sustainability efforts are continuing apace, even amid economic uncertainty and a global pandemic that, as of this writing, is far from contained. It wasn’t very many years ago that the future of corporate sustainability was uncertain even during good times
10 Subject-matter trends discussed in the 135-page report:
Ocean-Based Sequestration Heats Up
The ‘S’ in ESG Gains Currency
Community Investments Pay Dividends
Aquaculture Becomes a Net-Positive
Industrial Decarbonization Picks Up Steam
Nature Takes Root on the Balance Sheet
Sustainable Mobility Drives the Newest Perk
Aviation Plots a Sustainable Course
The Circular Economy Shows its Human Side
Corporate Advocacy Gets Louder
The “State of Green Business” is always a valuable resource, now more than ever.
“A New Day for the Climate,” New Yorker, by Elizabeth Kolbert January 31, 2021
It remains to be seen whether Joe Biden’s sweeping climate directives can make a meaningful difference, but a critical threshold has been crossed.
ExxonMobil now is fighting fraud lawsuits on two fronts — one in New York and the other in Massachusetts — alleging that the oil giant defrauded investors by misleading consumers about the central role fossil fuels have played in causing climate change and misleading investors about the climate-driving risks to its business.
The latest lawsuit came last week in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston in a complaint alleging Exxon repeatedly violated the state’s consumer and investor protection law and related regulations.
The lawsuit accuses Exxon of misconduct that includes using deceptive advertising and intentionally misleading Massachusetts investors.
The trial in the New York case began on 22 October. The New York attorney general brought the suit alleging the company used figures internally that were different from what they disclosed publicly when calculating the impact of laws, taxes and other economic aspects of climate change over the coming decades.
The fraud cost investors as much $1.6 billion, according to the the attorney general’s office.Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016, during the years in question, and will testify in the trial, according to a company attorney.
When Tillerson became ExxonMobil CEO in 2006, he identified that climate change regulation would have a major impact on the company’s business and created the process of assessing a dollar amount for it..
“I had taken the view and we had taken the view as a corporation that the risk of climate change was serious and that … appropriate action was to be needed,” Tillerson said, according to the transcript of his deposition.
The New York suit argues that Exxon used two different ways to calculate carbon costs and wasn’t clear when it was using one or the other.
“We think it highlights the deception that Exxon has put forth over the last 50-plus years. You know, my entire life Exxon has been sowing doubt and disinformation about the climate crisis,” Lindsay Meiman, a spokeswoman with the group 350.org, told CNN.
“We’re escalating the demand that is rising around the world for fossil fuel companies to pay for their destruction and what they knew and lied about climate change,” she said.
“Exxon provided false and misleading assurances that it is effectively managing the economic risks posed to its business by the increasingly stringent policies and regulations that it expects governments to adopt to address climate change,” the state wrote in a complaint last year.
The case In New York goes back to 2015, when stories by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times found that while Exxon’s scientists were internally researching climate change to plan its operations; they knew they global climate was being severly affect while the company was casting doubt on global warming.
The lawsuit claims ExxonMobil’s actions had the effect of making its assets appear more secure than they really were, which in turn affected its share price and defrauded investors.
Exxon contends the lawsuit is politically motivated and driven by anti-fossil fuel activists. The company says it was honest with shareholders about how it calculated carbon costs. Exxon Mobil and other oil companies face a growing number of lawsuits that seek financial help in coping with climate-driven floods, drought and heat.
Big Oil has a lot to answer for its role in causing change; perhaps these lawsuits will speed that reckoning.