Wednesday, March 27, 2013

HSBC: World is hurtling towards Peak Planet

Global investment bank HSBC says the world is hurtling towards a “Peak Planet” scenario where the global carbon budget from 2000 to 2050 is consumed well before 2030.

To address this, a peak in greenhouse emissions will need to be achieved as a matter or urgency, and by 2020 at the latest. “This is a tough task – but not impossible in our view,” it writes. “There is a growing recognition of the severity of the situation … and we believe that ambition is about to pick up again.”

In an analysis on climate change politics and the business case for action, HSBC economists say the focus is now on five key economies to break that nexus between economic growth and emissions – in fact to double the rate of decoupling.

This so-called Carbon 5 comprises China, Russia, India, the EU and the US, and HSBC says these countries need to cut the carbon emitted per unit of GDP by between 3 and 5 per cent per annum by 2020, beyond existing efforts.

It points to five reasons why this might be achievable, despite the apparent stalemate in international talks.

First, it notes that awareness of the severity of climate impacts is rising, and public opinion is shifting, particularly in the US. It says improving economic confidence and falling clean tech costs will assist the process, and it expects an increase in policy activism in the next three years after the recent plateau.

“Ultimately, climate change is like a chronic disease, where the problem accumulates over time. If we are to avoid unmanageable disruptions to the global economy, governments have agreed that we need to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2°C,” HSBC says.

“What they haven’t agreed, however, is the likelihood of hitting this target. This will be a core part of the negotiations that are now underway for an international climate agreement by the end of 2015.”

HSBC says there are different views of carbon budgets for the global economy, depending on differing views of risk, and where investors can generate returns.

The most commonly cited assessment is Malte Meinshausen’s 2009 evaluation that to have an 80 per cent chance staying below 2°C, the global carbon budget is around 886 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent from 2000-2050. A riskier 50:50 scenario increases the budget substantially to 1440Gt (see chart above). But by the end of 2011, 420Gt had already been consumed.

HSBC says that with annual emissions from energy alone running at over 31Gt, the budget for the 80% scenario would de depleted by 2026, and by 2039 for the 50/50 chance.

This means that without large-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage, between two-thirds and four-fifths of current reserves cannot be commercialised in a 2°C world, and global emissions need to peak before 2020. The International Energy Agency, it notes, says global CO2 emissions from energy need to peak by 2017. “The contradiction between global carbon budgets and fossil fuel reserves is gaining increasing attention,” it says.

Is this target impossible? Nearly, but not quite, says HSBC. It says major European economies – France, Germany and the UK – peaked their emissions of greenhouse gases in the 1970s, and have each cut their emissions by more than 30 per cent as a result of oil price shocks and a structural shift away from coal for economic and environmental reasons. (see chart below) More


Thursday, March 21, 2013

The 2013 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo

About the Summit

The 2013 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo will be held jointly with the 2013 Islands & Isolated Communities Congress at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, September 9 - 11.

The event is the preeminent meeting place for international leaders and energy experts at the forefront of the clean energy movement. Securing energy independence and developing a clean energy industry that promotes the vitality of our planet are two reasons why it is critical to reaffirm already established partnerships and build new ones throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the world. The Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo and the Islands & Isolated Communities Congress provide a forum for the high-level global networking necessary to advance this emerging clean energy culture. Read our 2012 attendee testimonials at right. More


Friday, March 15, 2013

New flood map displays areas impacted by sea level rise

A new online tool created by University researchers will help inform the public about critical sea level increases and flooding hazards in New Jersey.

Following years of study accompanied by surveys and testing which began in 2009, University researchers released the user-friendly website, said Lisa Auermuller, watershed and outreach coordinator for the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The creators of the website concentrated on applying digital map-making to site-specific information about landscapes to help town and county decision-makers, said Richard Lathrop Jr., director of Grant F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis.

Lathrop, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, said the interactive website’s visualization tools illustrate the impact of sea level rises from 1 to 6 feet on user-selected areas in the state.

The site also demonstrates the confidence level, or amount of certainty, in the mapping itself for a particular area in relation to expected flooding, he said.

Populations most vulnerable to flooding were also of great importance to the study, Lathrop said. The creators examined factors including the socioeconomic status and mobility of age groups.

He said they incorporated the locations of facilities such as schools, fire stations and hospitals in their maps.

Street-level views of selected locations are also available on the website, he said. These photos simulate what different sea level would look like on the ground.

Lathrop said the locations selected were based on landmarks that had meaning to the surrounding community and provided valuable perspectives.

“Although the public is not our target audience, [I believe] there is real value in the public understanding the risk and vulnerability [associated with sea level rise and flooding hazards],” Auermuller said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology and Sustainable Jersey funded the project, among others, Lathrop said.

Together with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Service Center, Lathrop and his partners designed the site with their target audiences in mind, Auermuller said.

His foundation, Grant F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis, focuses on geographic information systems.

“When it comes to GIS … [Lathrop] is a valuable [specialist],” said Martha Maxwell-Doyle, project coordinator at the Barnegat Bay Partnership.

The project was a long-term planning effort and a starting point for the application of this particular technology, Lathrop said. His initial expectations for this project have been met, and what remains to be seen is how the website is used. More


Monday, March 11, 2013

Climate Change Is the Biggest Threat in the Pacific, Says Top U.S. Admiral [And Caribbean]

North Korea just annulled the 1953 armistice ending its war with South Korea. China and Japan are locked in a dispute over an island chain. But the greatest long-term threat to the peace of East Asia and Pacific Ocean — the part of the world at the heart of the Obama administration’s aspirational defense strategy — is climate change, according to the admiral in charge of U.S. military operations there.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III is no smelly hippie. He became chief of U.S. Pacific Command last year after running the maritime portion of NATO’s 2011 war against Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi. To Locklear, the consequences of a warming planet are likely to “cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.”

“You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level,” Locklear told Danger Room pal Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe over the weekend. “Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.”

So the greatest threat in the Pacific region isn’t a military one, despite the fresh provocations fromnuclear North Korea; the Chinese missile buildup; and the hardening responses by the nations that feel threatened by both regional military powers. All this has right-leaning naval analyst Bryan McGrath shaking his head that Locklear’s jumped the shark.

And yet Locklear’s forces frequently have to respond to the destructive weather events that are growing more frequent as the Earth’s climate shifts. Whether it’s a typhoon in the Philippines, a hurricane in Burma or an earthquake in Indonesia, climate change is putting a greater operational strain on U.S. forces in the Pacific than most other threats facing a region experiencing what Locklear recently described as “relative peace.” These are just the immediate-term consequences of climate change, not the ones that will manifest over the coming decades in a region where half the world’s trade occurs.

“I’m into the consequence management side of it,” Locklear told Bender. “I’m not a scientist, but the island of Tarawa in Kiribati, they’re contemplating moving their entire population to another country because [it] is not going to exist anymore.” More


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Small Island States (SIDS) in 2014

Antigua St. John’s - In keeping with the request of Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer; the United Nations has officially dedicated 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States.

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer

Prime Minister Spencer tabled the request at the UN General Assembly in September 2012, where he also pointed to Antigua and Barbuda’s role on behalf of the region, in sending a strong message of awareness to the international community on the need for bold action and support for sustainable development, and the pervasive issue of climate change.

“We cannot wait for our lands to disappear before we act. We must act now to respond to the climate crisis, and ensure that not a single country is sacrificed, no matter how small.

“The threat is real, our sea-levels are rising, there is coral bleaching beyond the depths of our shores, and hurricanes are becoming more recurrent and severe,” the Prime Minister told the United nations General Assembly.

National Information Officer with the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) for the Caribbean Area, Amanda Laurence, currently in Antigua, confirmed to local journalists on Tuesday that the year has indeed been delegated as the International Year of Small Island Developing States, and has been added to the UN Calendar for 2014.

She noted that the UN seriously considered Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister Spencers’ proposal, and agreed that “the focus would be on them (the Caribbean) as requested.”

“I don’t have information on all the activities that will be rolled out for it next year but as those events are identified, the information would sent out,” Laurence said.

Antigua and Barbuda joined with the Small Island Developing States(SIDS) to point out to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the need for concrete steps in order to protect these, and other exposed countries from the threat of climate change.

“The responsibility to mitigate climate change should be a collective consciousness for both developing and developed countries; however, developed countries should accept their responsibilities as the leading contributor in emitting extremely high levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which are now threatening the welfare of the present and future generations,” Antigua’s Prime Minister said. More


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Study: Sea level rise could severely affect Caribbean coastal wetlands

The World Bank analysis considered a variety of types of coastal wetlands at risk in 76 countries and territories, using a number of databases and satellite maps.

According to the data, about 99 per cent of the coastal wetlands, at elevations of one metre or less in the Middle East and North Africa, could disappear, as well as 77 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, 66 per cent in East Asia, and 39 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The World Bank said, in recent years, coastal wetlands have been disappearing more quickly than other ecosystems, mainly because of land development

The Washington-based financial institution said sea level rise from climate change will exacerbate these losses, adding that the rise in sea levels will lead to wetlands being submerged, pushed inland, or blanketed with salt.

"How those wetlands fare will vary, depending on the slopes and water flows in the surrounding area," the bank said.

Susmita Dasgupta, a lead environment economist at the bank's Development Research Group, said the findings are "alarming, because wetlands don't exist just for the birds and plants. People rely on them for water, food, transportation, and other essential goods and services".

Dasgupta, who co-authored the study with colleague Brian Blankespoor and consultant Benoit Laplante, said "we hope our research can motivate steps to protect wetlands, especially since global warming will for sure accelerate the rise of sea levels".

She said the resulting economic losses from coastal wetland destruction will be in addition to other coastal impacts, such as the forced relocation of people and infrastructure.

An earlier study co-authored by Dasgupta predicted that 60 million people in the Caribbean and developing countries would be forced out of their homes if sea levels rise by one metre. More


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Atmospheric Warming Altering Ocean Salinity And The Water Cycle

A clear change in salinity has been detected in the world’s oceans, signaling shifts and acceleration in the global rainfall and evaporation cycle tied directly to climate change.

In a paper published … in the journal Science, Australian scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reported changing patterns of salinity in the global ocean during the past 50 years, marking a clear symptom of climate change.

Lead author Paul Durack said that by looking at observed ocean salinity changes and the relationship between salinity, rainfall and evaporation in climate models, they determined the water cycle has become 4 percent stronger from 1950-2000. This is twice the response projected by current generation global climate models.

“These changes suggest that arid regions have become drier and high rainfall regions have become wetter in response to observed global warming,” said Durack, a post-doctoral fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Scientists monitor salinity changes in the world’s oceans to determine where rainfall has increased or decreased. “It provides us with a gauge — a method of monitoring how large-scale patterns of rainfall and evaporation (the climate variables we care most about) are changing,” Durack said.

With a projected temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the researchers estimate a 24 percent acceleration of the water cycle is possible.

[JR: Actually the projected warming by century's end is closer to 5°C -- see review of literature here -- which would yield a stunning 40% acceleration of the water cycle.]

Scientists have struggled to determine coherent estimates of water cycle changes from land-based data because surface observations of rainfall and evaporation are sparse. According to the team, global oceans provide a much clearer picture.

“The ocean matters to climate — it stores 97 percent of the world’s water; receives 80 percent of all surface rainfall, and it has absorbed 90 percent of the Earth’s energy increase associated with past atmospheric warming,” said co-author, Richard Matear of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship.

“Warming of the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere is expected to strengthen the water cycle largely driven by the ability of warmer air to hold and redistribute more moisture.”

He said the intensification is an enhancement in the patterns of exchange between evaporation and rainfall, and with oceans accounting for 71 percent of the global surface area, the change is clearly represented in ocean surface salinity patterns.

In the study, the scientists combined 50-year observed global surface salinity changes with changes from global climate models and found “robust evidence of an intensified global water cycle at a rate of about 8 percent per degree of surface warming,” Durack said.

Durack said the patterns are not uniform, with regional variations agreeing with the ‘rich get richer’ mechanism, where wet regions get wetter and dry regions drier.

He said a change in freshwater availability in response to climate change poses a more significant risk to human societies and ecosystems than warming alone.

“Changes to the global water cycle and the corresponding redistribution of rainfall will affect food availability, stability, access and utilization,” Durack said.

Susan Wijffels, co-chair of the global Argo project and a co-author on the study, said maintenance of the present fleet of around 3,500 profilers is critical to observing continuing changes to salinity in the upper oceans. More

This piece of research was originally published at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Pacific Island Warriors Day Of Action

Malo ni!

My name is Mikaele Maiava. I'm writing from the Pacific Island archipelago of Tokelau to ask you to join with us in action as we take on the fossil fuel industry.

Last October, Tokelau turned off the last of its diesel generators. In their place, we switched on our solar plants, making Tokelau the first country in the world to become 100% renewably-powered.

I woke up before sunrise that day, excited about the history Tokelau was making. My whole village made its way to the site of over 100 solar panels -- we could see the many hours of hard labor that had gone into this project. As we counted down to the switch, I could feel future generations smiling at us and thanking us. Our children's future suddenly looked brighter because we had the vision (and perseverance) necessary to get off fossil fuels and switch to 100% renewable energy.

You might wonder why we bothered. Aren't we doomed to lose our islands from sea-level rise? I don't blame you for thinking that if you did. So often the global media victimises the Pacific Islands and portrays us as helplessly succumbing to climate change and rising seas. But the global media know nothing of who we really are, or how it feels to live on these paradise islands we call home. They don't know that as Pacific Islanders, we are warriors, and that the land we live on is part of us.

We know that the longer the fossil fuel industry gets its way, the worse climate change will be, and the more sea-level rise will threaten our islands. But giving up on our home is not an option. We are not drowning.
We are fighting.

That's why on March 2nd, Pacific Islanders across 15 diverse nations will be mobilising at prominent locations to perform our unique war challenges, songs, and dances. We'll be laying down a challenge to the fossil fuel industry. It is their coal and oil and gas vs. our future. They cannot both coexist. And it is our future that has to win.

In this moment, and in the years to come, we need you to walk beside us. Because we live far away from the mines and power plants that threaten our future, we need the world's solidarity. Click here to stand with us during this weekend of Pacific Warrior climate action!

We want to show the world that people from countries and cultures everywhere are standing with us -- the Pacific Warriors -- in the fight against climate change.

Fakafetai lahi,
Thank you,
Mikaele Maiava is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Connect with us on Facebookand Twitter, and sign up for email alerts. You can help power our work by getting involved locally, sharing your story, and donating here.