CC10C. 2020-What Do You Think About Global Climate Change?

2022-08-20. Diet for a hotter climate: five plants that could help feed the world. [] By Cecilia Nowell, The Guardian. Excerpt: Over the course of human history, scientists believe that humans have cultivated more than 6,000 different plant species. But over time, farmers gravitated toward planting those with the largest yields. Today, just three crops – rice, wheat and corn – provide nearly half of the world’s calories. That reliance on a small number of crops has made agriculture vulnerable to pests, plant-borne diseases and soil erosion, which thrive on monoculture – the practice of growing only one crop at a time. It has also meant losing out on the resilience other crops show in surviving drought and other natural disasters. As the impacts of the climate crisis become starker, farmers across the world are rediscovering ancient crops and developing new hybrids that might prove more hardy in the face of drought or epidemics, while also offering important nutrients. …Here’s a look at five crops, beyond rice, wheat and corn, that farmers across the world are now growing in hopes of feeding the planet as it warms…. Amaranth: the plant that survived colonization …Fonio: the drought-resistant traditional grain …Cowpeas: the fully edible plant …Taro: adapting the tropical crop for colder climes …Kernza: the crop bred for the climate crisis.… 2020-12-16. Geoengineers inch closer to Sun-dimming balloon test. By Paul Voosen, Science Magazine Excerpt: For years, the controversial idea of solar geoengineering—lofting long-lived reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to block sunlight and diminish global warming—has been theoretical. …Today, after much technical and regulatory wrangling, Harvard University scientists are proposing a June 2021 test flight of a research balloon designed to drop small amounts of chalky dust and observe its effects. … the project, called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx), must first win the approval of an independent advisory board, a decision that could come in February 2021. The need to study the real-world effects of releasing reflective particles is pressing, says David Keith, a Harvard energy and climate scientist and one of SCoPEx’s lead scientists. Solar geoengineering is no substitute for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, he says, but it could ameliorate the worst damage of global warming, such as the extreme heat waves and storms that claim many lives today. …But research in solar geoengineering has long been taboo, says Faye McNeill, an atmospheric chemist at Columbia University who is unaffiliated with SCoPEx. “We didn’t want it to appear that we were encouraging it.” One fear is that solar geoengineering could be done unilaterally by groups or nations, with unknown effects on plant growth and rainfall patterns. Another worry is that it would encourage a sort of addiction, adding more and more particles to block warming while not addressing the root problem of mounting emissions. But now, with so much warming already locked in, “the urgency of the climate problem has escalated,” McNeill says…. [

2020-12-09. The world’s rich need to cut their carbon footprint by a factor of 30 to slow climate change, U.N. warns. By Brady DennisChris Mooney and Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post. Excerpt: The world’s wealthy will need to reduce their carbon footprints by a factor of 30 to help put the planet on a path to curb the ever-worsening impacts of climate change, according to new findings published Wednesday by the United Nations Environment Program. Currently, the emissions attributable to the richest 1 percent of the global population account for more than double those of the poorest 50 percent. Shifting that balance, researchers found, will require swift and substantial lifestyle changes, including decreases in air travel, a rapid embrace of renewable energy and electric vehicles, and better public planning to encourage walking, bicycle riding and public transit. But individual choices are hardly the only key to mitigating the intensifying consequences of climate change. Wednesday’s annual “emissions gap” report, which assesses the difference between the world’s current path and measures needed to manage climate change, details how the world remains woefully off target in its quest to slow the Earth’s warming. The drop in greenhouse gas emissions during this year’s pandemic, while notable, will have almost no impact on slowing the warming that lies ahead unless humankind drastically alters its policies and behavior, the report finds…. []

2020-11-27. An unusual snack for cows, a powerful fix for climate. By Tatiana Schlossberg, The Washington Post. Excerpt: …Asparagopsis taxiformis and Asparagopsis armata — two species of a crimson submarine grass that drifts on waves and tides all around the world’s oceans… could practically neutralize one of the most stubborn sources of a powerful greenhouse gas: methane emissions from the digestive processes of some livestock, including the planet’s 1.5 billion cows, which emit methane in their burps. …In lab tests and field trials, adding a small proportion of this seaweed to a cow’s daily feed — about 0.2 of a percent of the total feed intake in a recent study — can reduce the amount of methane by 98 percent. That’s a stunning drop when most existing solutions cut methane by about 20 or 30 percent. …growing seaweed used for the feed supplement could also help sequester carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas, and reduce ocean acidification, because the plant sucks up carbon in the water as food…. []  2020-11-24. An ancient people with a modern climate plan. By Jim Morrison, The Washington Post. Excerpt: …In 2010, the Swinomish became one of the first communities to assess the problems posed by a warming planet and enact a climate action plan. An additional 50 Native American tribes have followed, creating climate strategies to protect their lands and cultures, ahead of most U.S. communities. The Swinomish see the tasks beyond addressing shoreline risk and restoring habitats. They look at climate adaptation and resilience with the eyes of countless generations. They recognize that the endangered “first foods” — clams, oysters, elk, traditional plants and salmon — are not mere resources to be consumed. They are central to their values, beliefs and practices and, therefore, to their spiritual, cultural and community well-being. …The Tulalip tribes, neighbors to the south, are relocating nuisance beavers from urban areas to streams with salmon to improve water quality and lower the temperature, reduce sediment flowing into streams and mitigate the effects of increasingly intense storms. The Karuk tribe of Northern California has a 232-page plan that calls for prescribed burning to reduce increasing wildfires and removing dams to help decreasing salmon and eel populations. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes of Montana have a resilience plan that calls for prescribed burns and restoring whitebark pine, a key part of tribal culture. They plan to identify trees resilient to blister rust — a fungus exacerbated by climate change — collect their seeds and eventually plant 100,000 seedlings on their lands. And in Alaska, a partnership of 11 tribes has formed to identify harmful algae blooms so that it’s clear when shellfish can be safely harvested. Native Americans acutely feel the effects of the changing climate because they were forced onto the most vulnerable lands, places that were of little use to others, said Nikki Cooley, co-manager of the Tribes and Climate Change Program for the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals…. The institute has consulted with more than 300 of the 574 tribes in the United States, Cooley said. It’s natural that Indigenous people who have lived with the land for generations, attuned to the cycles of nature, would be leaders in adapting to climate change and marrying that to culture and health. “We’ve always been taught and are still being told we have to preserve for the future generations,” she added…. [

2020-11-11. How One Firm Drove Influence Campaigns Nationwide for Big Oil. By Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times. Excerpt: In early 2017, the Texans for Natural Gas website went live to urge voters to “thank a roughneck” and support fracking. Around the same time, the Arctic Energy Center ramped up its advocacy for drilling in Alaskan waters and in a vast Arctic wildlife refuge. The next year, the Main Street Investors Coalition warned that climate activism doesn’t help mom-and-pop investors in the stock market. All three appeared to be separate efforts to amplify local voices or speak up for regular people. On closer look, however, the groups had something in common: They were part of a network of corporate influence campaigns designed, staffed and at times run by FTI Consulting, which had been hired by some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world to help them promote fossil fuels…. []. 

2020-11-10. Reframing the Language of Retreat. By Julie Maldonado, Elizabeth Marino, and Lesley Iaukea. Excerpt: With so many communities facing relocation from a changing climate, reframing “managed retreat” is needed to respect people’s self-determination. When faced with the looming effects of climate change along coasts—larger storms, rising seas, flooding, and eroding shorelines—arguing to promote linguistic framing of climate change–driven migration may seem like a fool’s errand. Does anyone care what it’s called if hundreds of millions of people globally—up to 13.1 million people in the United States alone [Hauer et al., 2016]—relocate from coastlines en masse before 2100? …Implicit in terms like managed retreat, forced migration, community relocation, and others are assumptions about who is deciding what is appropriate adaptation and how those decisions influence, suggest, or require compliance. How and, especially, by whom these plans are developed will have substantial impacts on affected or relocated people’s lives. …Shifting from “managed retreat” to language that is more inclusive of who and what is included in “community” and that upholds the varying voices, opinions, knowledges, and lived experiences of those physically moving is more than a semantics issue; it also involves logistic and policy elements that can incite changes in practices related to people moving from coastal regions. The term community-led relocation, for example, includes consideration of the complex tapestry of people who leave a place they have inhabited to settle in another, as well as the fact that these community tapestries are bound not by geography but by relationships and practice. “Community led” also highlights the importance of community engagement, input, and leadership in decision-making, visioning, planning, and implementation [Marino et al., 2019]…. [

2020-11-05. Food and farming could stymie climate efforts, researchers say. By Erik Stokstad, Science Magazine. Excerpt: …Even if energy, transportation, and manufacturing go entirely green, emissions of greenhouse gases from the food system would put the world on track to warm by more than 1.5°C, a target set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. For the world to have a chance of preventing significant harm from climate change, the study authors say, all parts of food production need rapid and significant reform—everything from reducing deforestation for new fields to eating less meat. …Carbon dioxide comes from many sources, such as cutting down tropical forests to make way for fields and pastures, running farm machinery, and manufacture of agrochemicals. Fertilizer also emits nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas. And cows release methane, a powerful warming gas, in their burps and manure. …The team assumed no radical changes in how food is produced, but continuing increases in efficiency. …As incomes rise, people tend to eat more overall and consume more meat, dairy, and eggs—and animal products have a larger climate footprint than plant-based foods. The researchers then performed a thought experiment in which all other sources of greenhouse gases were immediately halted. Think: a complete transition to electric vehicles, geothermally heated buildings, renewable power, and so on. Given that climate utopia, but no change in how food is produced, the situation is still “very frightening,” Clark says. The simulation suggests the food system alone would contribute enough climate-harming gases that the planet (the hypothetical one with no other emissions, that is) would probably warm above the 1.5°C target sometime between 2051 and 2063, the researchers report today in Science…. []. See also New York Times article []

2020-10-28. How investors are coming up with the green to save the ocean blue. By Saqib Rahim, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Rob Weary …as a dealmaker trying to convince small countries to protect their seas in a novel way — in partnership with big banks and international financial institutions. Four years ago, he struck a pioneering deal with the Seychelles, a splash of islands off the East African coast. …the country was deep in debt…. Its economy depended on tourism and fishing, two industries facing decimation from climate change. As part of an investment team at the Nature Conservancy, the U.S.-based environmental group, Weary threw the Seychelles a lifeline: a chance to refinance more than $21 million of its debt. There were just two conditions. The government had to spend the savings on ocean conservation work such as coral restoration and trash cleanup, and it had to designate 30 percent of its waters as special zones where activities such as fishing and drilling are highly regulated or off limits. The nation’s leaders delivered. The Seychelles hasn’t missed a payment, and this spring its president announced it had met that target, protecting an area larger than Germany. Now some of the giants of the financial world are realizing there could be profits in ocean conservation. “Basically what we’re doing is financial engineering,” Weary said recently. “That’s typically used by hedge funds and private equity funds, with their goal of course to make returns for their investors.” It’s just that the investment objective here is different. “We’re doing all these to help Mother Nature.”…. [
2020-10-09. What’s Green, Soggy and Fights Climate Change? By Henry Fountain, The New York Times. Excerpt: Protecting intact peatlands and restoring degraded ones are crucial steps if the world is to counter climate change, European researchers said Friday. … without protection and restoration efforts [for peat bogs], some targets for greenhouse gas emissions “would be very difficult or nearly impossible to achieve,” said Alexander Popp, an author of the study, which was published in Environmental Research Letters. …Peatlands …make up only about 3 percent of global land area, but their deep layers of peat are practically treasure chests of carbon, overall containing roughly twice as much as the world’s forests. In pristine bogs, that carbon remains soggy and intact. But when a bog is dried out, for agriculture or other reasons, the carbon starts to oxidize and is released to the atmosphere as planet-warming carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. …Current estimates are that drained peatlands worldwide emit as much carbon dioxide annually as global air travel. But dry peat is also a fire risk, and peat fires have the potential to release a lot of carbon very quickly. In September and October 2015, peat fires in Indonesia, where bogs have long been drained for palm oil plantations and other purposes, released more carbon dioxide per day than all the fossil fuels burned in the European Union. Dried peatlands could be restored by allowing them to become wet again, which would saturate the decaying vegetation and prevent further release of carbon dioxide, and also eliminate the fire hazard…. [

2020-10-07. Converging on Solutions to Plan Sustainable Cities. By Donald Wuebbles, Ashish Sharma, Amy Ando, Lei Zhao, and Carolee Rigsbee, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Climate change will exacerbate the food, energy, water, health, and equity challenges that urban communities face, but cities also have opportunities to improve sustainability and outcomes. …a recent influx of “smart city” approaches views cities as mechanistic systems composed of discrete components to be optimized individually. However, cities cannot achieve sustainability without a holistic view of the interdependencies among essential human needs (food, energy, and water); constructed urban infrastructure; associated natural systems (air, water, land, ecosystems); and social, political, and legal decisions spanning all relevant scales (individuals, neighborhoods, municipalities, regions, nations). For example, national policy can limit or enhance what is doable within a city. At the local scale, residents of a single neighborhood can delay projects by tying them up in litigation. Inadequate consideration of these interdependencies can thus result in unintended social stresses, especially for the poor…. [
2020-10-07. ‘We’re part of the problem.’ Astronomers confront their role in—and vulnerability to—climate change. By Daniel Clery, Science Magazine. Excerpt: …concerns were cast in sharp relief by six papers published last month in Nature Astronomy. One, on the carbon costs of meetings, emerged directly from the 2019 European Astronomical Society (EAS) meeting in France, which took place during a record-breaking heatwave when temperatures exceeded 45°C. “We were sitting with no air conditioning, sweating through all these interesting talks,” Burtscher says. Discussions turned to climate change and the carbon emitted getting everyone to the meeting, and they inspired Burtscher and his colleagues to size up the meeting’s travel emissions. They added up to nearly 1900 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent or about 1.5 tons per delegate—roughly the same as emitted by an average resident of India in a whole year. …Another of the six studies found that Australian astronomers each produced 37 tons of CO2 equivalent per year, of which 60% came from supercomputer usage. …“There’s a lot of excitement about the potential” of virtual meetings, says Travis Rector of the University of Alaska, Anchorage, who heads the sustainability committee of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). When this year’s EAS meeting went virtual because of COVID-19, the team that calculated the carbon costs of the 2019 meeting did a new analysis. Based on a survey of computer and internet usage by delegates and organizers, they calculated emissions of 582 kilograms for the entire meeting, less than one–three-thousandth of the 2019 meeting total…. [

2020-10-04. ‘David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet’ Review: Ruin and Regrowth. By Natalia Winkelman, The New York Times. Excerpt: The majestic documentary “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet” opens with its title subject standing in a deserted location. It’s the territory around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, a once buzzing area that was evacuated after human error rendered it uninhabitable. …Calling the film (streaming on Netflix) his “witness statement” for the environment, David Attenborough goes on to trace his more than 60-year career as a naturalist, mapping how steeply the planet’s biodiversity has degenerated before him. Global air travel was new when he began his work, and footage of him as a young producer encountering exotic flora and fauna lends a moving, even haunting, note to his plea to restore ecological balance. …upsetting is the loss of rain forests, showcased through the stark cutoff between flourishing vegetation and uniform rows of oil palms planted for profit. Such cinematic juxtapositions are persuasive: A dying planet is an ugly one, while healthy ecosystems please the eye and the earth. …The most devastating sequence finds Attenborough charting the disasters we face in future decades — global crises that he, as a man now in his 90s, will not experience. Yet he finds hope by extrapolating small successes. Sustainable farming in the Netherlands has made the country one of the worldwide leaders in food exports. …The film’s grand achievement is that it positions its subject as a mediator between humans and the natural world. Life cycles on, and if we make the right choices, ruin can become regrowth…. []  
2020-09-22. Climate Disruption Is Now Locked In. The Next Moves Will Be Crucial. By John Branch and Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: America is now under siege by climate change in ways that scientists have warned about for years. But there is a second part to their admonition: Decades of growing crisis are already locked into the global ecosystem and cannot be reversed. This means the kinds of cascading disasters occurring today — drought in the West fueling historic wildfires that send smoke all the way to the East Coast, or parades of tropical storms lining up across the Atlantic to march destructively toward North America — are no longer features of some dystopian future. They are the here and now, worsening for the next generation and perhaps longer, depending on humanity’s willingness to take action…. []  

2020-09-03. Industrial waste can turn planet-warming carbon dioxide into stone. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. Excerpt: In July 2019, Gregory Dipple, a geologist at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, hopped on a 119-seat charter flight in Yellowknife, Canada, and flew 280 kilometers northeast to the Gahcho Kué diamond mine, just south of the Arctic Circle. Gahcho Kué… is an expansive open pit mine…. …Dipple and two students…were looking to use the mine’s crushed rock waste as a vault to lock up carbon dioxide (CO2) for eternity. At Gahcho Kué, Dipple’s team bubbled a mix of CO2 and nitrogen gas simulating diesel exhaust through a grayish green slurry of crushed mine waste in water. Over 2 days, the slurry acquired a slight rusty hue—evidence that its iron was oxidizing while its magnesium and calcium were sucking up CO2 and turning it into to carbon-based minerals. … a wide array of rock and mudlike wastes from mining, cement and aluminum production, coal burning, and other large-scale industrial processes share a similar affinity for the greenhouse gas. Known as alkaline solid wastes, these materials have a high pH, which causes them to react with CO2  a mild acid. And unlike other schemes for drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere, these reactive rocks can both capture the gas and store it, locked away permanently in a solid mineral. …But there are major hurdles. Governments will need to offer incentives for mineralization on the massive scale needed to make a dent in atmospheric carbon. And engineers will need to figure out how to harness the wastes while preventing the release of heavy metals and radioactivity locked in the material…. []  
2020-08-07. This Is Inequity at the Boiling Point. By Somini Sengupta, The New York Times. Excerpt: It was a record 125 degrees Fahrenheit in Baghdad in July, and 100 degrees above the Arctic Circle this June. Australia shattered its summer heat records as wildfires, fueled by prolonged drought, turned the sky fever red. For 150 years of industrialization, the combustion of coal, oil and gas has steadily released heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, driving up average global temperatures and setting heat records. Nearly everywhere around the world, heat waves are more frequent and longer lasting than they were 70 years ago. But a hotter planet does not hurt equally. If you’re poor and marginalized, you’re likely to be much more vulnerable to extreme heat. You might be unable to afford an air-conditioner, and you might not even have electricity when you need it. You may have no choice but to work outdoors under a sun so blistering that first your knees feel weak and then delirium sets in. Or the heat might bring a drought so punishing that, no matter how hard you work under the sun, your corn withers and your children turn to you in hunger. …Extreme heat is not a future risk. It’s now. It endangers human health, food production and the fate of entire economies. And it’s worst for those at the bottom of the economic ladder in their societies…. []

2020-08-05. Illegal deforestation in Brazil soars amid climate of impunity. By Herton Escobar, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has risen sharply in the past year—again. Estimates set to be released this week by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) will show clearings have increased by at least 28% during the current monitoring year, which runs from August through July, compared with the previous year. It is the second steep hike under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has made good on his campaign promise to loosen environmental law enforcement and step up development in the Amazon…. [

2020-07-08. How America’s hottest city will survive climate change. By Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post. Excerpt: …summer in Phoenix, where a cocktail of climate change and rapid development has pushed temperatures into the danger zone. The threats are greatest in black, Latino and low-income communities, which are significantly hotter than wealthier, leafier parts of the city. …Yet the city is working to fight the literal heat. The goal is for Phoenix to become the country’s first heat-ready city — equipped to survive a rapidly warming world. Each year, more Americans die from extreme heat than are killed by storms, floods and wildfires combined. In few places is the problem more pronounced than in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and its suburbs. In 2019, the region saw 103 days of triple-digit temperatures and 197 fatalities from heat-related causes. It was the highest number of heat-associated deaths on record for the county, and the fourth year in a row of record-setting heat deaths there. Those numbers are only expected to increase as the climate changes. …Phoenix’s rapid development in recent decades has made it a victim of what researchers call the “heat island effect.” All the trademarks of the urban environment — towering glass buildings, bustling industry, vast expanses of concrete and asphalt — absorb and amplify the heat of the sun. … Natural environments, he explained, are incredibly effective at getting rid of heat. That’s because of the way trees and other vegetation release water into the surrounding air, a process called evapotranspiration. …Edison-Eastlake’s plan calls for repaving the sidewalks with materials that stay cool by reflecting the sun, installing shade structures at bus stops and creating tree-covered “talking spaces” in a planned park…. []

2020-07-08. How America’s hottest city will survive climate change. By Sarah Kaplan, photos by Cassidy Araiza, The Washington Post. Excerpt: …The goal is for Phoenix to become the country’s first heat-ready city — equipped to survive a rapidly warming world. Each year, more Americans die from extreme heat than are killed by storms, floods and wildfires combined. In few places is the problem more pronounced than in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and its suburbs. In 2019, the region saw 103 days of triple-digit temperaturesand 197 fatalities from heat-related causes. It was the highest number of heat-associated deaths on record for the county, and the fourth year in a row of record-setting heat deaths there. Those numbers are only expected to increase as the climate changes. …Urban conservation program manager Maggie Messerschmidt had envisioned a project called “Nature’s Cooling Systems,” which would harness the power of natural processes like evapotranspiration to cool the neighborhoods most in need. …In 2019, residents of each neighborhood developed a 20-page “heat action plan” for their community. Edison-Eastlake’s plan calls for repaving the sidewalks with materials that stay cool by reflecting the sun, installing shade structures at bus stops and creating tree-covered “talking spaces” in a planned park.… []

2021-07-02. What Technology Could Reduce Heat Deaths? Trees. By Catrin Einhorn, The New York Times. Excerpt: At a time when climate change is making heat waves more frequent and more severe, trees are stationary superheroes: They can lower urban temperatures 10 lifesaving degrees, scientists say. …Research shows that heat already kills more people in the United States than hurricanes, tornadoes and other weather-events, perhaps contributing to 12,000 deaths per year. Extreme heat this week in the Pacific Northwest and Canada has killed hundreds. Trees …also reduce electricity demand for air conditioning, not only sparing money and emissions, but helping avoid potentially catastrophic power failures during heat waves.… []

2020-06-02. ‘Going in the Wrong Direction’: More Tropical Forest Loss in 2019. By Henry Fountain. Excerpt: Brazil was responsible for more than a third of the total global loss in 2019. [Images: Deforestation between 2001–2019 in Alto Paraiso, Brazil. (Source: World Resources Institute)] Destruction of tropical forests worldwide increased last year, led again by Brazil, which was responsible for more than a third of the total, and where deforestation of the Amazon through clear-cutting appears to be on the rise under the pro-development policies of the country’s president. The worldwide total loss of old-growth, or primary, tropical forest — 9.3 million acres, an area nearly the size of Switzerland — was about 3 percent higher than 2018 and the third largest since 2002. Only 2016 and 2017 were worse, when heat and drought led to record fires and deforestation, especially in Brazil…. [

2020-05-08. Artificial chloroplasts turn sunlight and carbon dioxide into organic compounds. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Just like mechanics cobble together old engine parts to build a new roadster, synthetic biologists have remade chloroplasts, the engine at the heart of photosynthesis. By combining the light-harvesting machinery of spinach plants with enzymes from nine different organisms, scientists report making an artificial chloroplast that operates outside of cells to harvest sunlight and use the resulting energy to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into energy-rich molecules. The researchers hope their souped-up photosynthesis system might eventually convert CO2 directly into useful chemicals—or help genetically engineered plants absorb up to 10 times the atmospheric CO2 of regular ones…. [

2020-05-13. In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S. By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: The United States is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, new government projections show, a transformation partly driven by the coronavirus pandemic, with profound implications in the fight against climate change. It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity. …powerful economic forces that have led electric utilities to retire hundreds of aging coal plants since 2010 and run their remaining plants less frequently. The cost of building large wind farms has declined more than 40 percent in that time, while solar costs have dropped more than 80 percent. …As factories, retailers, restaurants and office buildings have shut down nationwide to slow the spread of the coronavirus, demand for electricity has fallen sharply. And, because coal plants often cost more to operate than gas plants or renewables, many utilities are cutting back on coal power first in response. …The decline of coal has major consequences for climate change. Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and its decline has already helped drive down United States carbon dioxide emissions 15 percent since 2005. This year, the agency expects America’s emissions to fall by another 11 percent, the largest drop in at least 70 years. While the pandemic has made these projections uncertain, the decline is expected to come partly because Americans aren’t driving as much, but mainly because coal plants are running less often…. [

2020-03-30. Vodka From Thin Air: An Unusual Climate Prize Hits a Coronavirus Snag. By Christopher Flavelle, The New York Times. Excerpt: …The five-year competition, the Carbon XPrize, was designed to create a financial incentive to capture carbon dioxide and use it profitably, instead of releasing it. …as the Brooklyn vodka makers — along with the nine other finalists from as far afield as Nova Scotia (stronger concrete), India (an ingredient in pharmaceuticals) and China (a plastics replacement) — were approaching the finish line, the competition has been delayed by the coronavirus crisis. …Mr. Niven wrote his thesis on how to turn carbon dioxide into concrete…. Dimensional Energy, with Mr. Salfi as chief executive. The technology uses concentrated sunlight to turn carbon dioxide into industrial energy sources like syngas, which is used to produce jet fuel, diesel and other liquid fuels. …Air Co. entered its vodka in a blind taste test at last year’s Luxury Masters competition and won a gold medal…. [

2020-05-24. Eight Lessons from COVID-19 to Guide Our Climate Response. By Kimberly M. S. Cartier, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The global response to the ongoing pandemic can teach us how we should, and shouldn’t, respond to the climate crisis. And most important, it shows that we can do something…. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 4. 

2020-03-20. Basalts Turn Carbon into Stone for Permanent Storage. By Kimberly M. S. Cartier. Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Scientists have shown that mineral carbonation can permanently capture and store carbon quickly enough and safely enough to rise to the challenge of climate change. In carbon storage experiments tied to geothermal power plants in Iceland, 90% of injected carbon dioxide (CO2) transformed into minerals in just 2 years. Standard carbon storage methods can take thousands of years to do the same. “We are basing our methods on this natural process which is part of the big carbon cycle where all carbon on Earth derives from and ends up in rocks,” said one of the lead researchers, Sandra Snæbjörnsdóttir. She is the head of CO2 mineral storage at CarbFix []…. [

2020-02-12. Global Financial Giants Swear Off Funding an Especially Dirty Fuel. By Christopher Flavelle, The New York Times. Excerpt: Some of the world’s largest financial institutions have stopped putting their money behind oil production in the Canadian province of Alberta, home to one of the world’s most extensive, and also dirtiest, oil reserves. In December, the insurance giant The Hartford said it would stop insuring or investing in oil production in the province, just weeks after Sweden’s central bank said it would stop holding Alberta’s bonds. And on Wednesday BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, said that one of its fast-growing green-oriented funds would stop investing in companies that get revenue from the Alberta oil sands. They are among the latest banks, pension funds and global investment houses  to start pulling away from fossil-fuel investments amid growing pressure to show they are doing something to fight climate change…. [

2020-01-30. ‘Every Day Matters’: Guardian Stops Accepting Fossil Fuel Ads. By Amie Tsang and Stanley Reed, The New York Times. Excerpt: It said the decision was based on the efforts by the industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments…. [

2020-01-27. Wooden Buildings Could House the Carbon of the 21st Century. By Jonathan Wosen, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: To keep carbon out of the atmosphere, researchers argue that we need to return to one of the world’s oldest building materials: wood. …Steel and concrete remain go-to materials for constructing new homes and commercial buildings. But although these materials are sturdy and durable, their manufacture and transport spew carbon into the atmosphere. ….microbes mastered carbon capture—photosynthesis—more than 3 billion years ago, with the first woody plants developing more than 300 million years ago. Churkina worked with a team of architects and scientists to calculate the benefits of using wood to build urban mid-rise buildings from 2020 to 2050. The team forecast four different scenarios. In the first, dubbed “business as usual,” 99.5% of new buildings would be built with steel and concrete. In the other three scenarios, 10%, 50%, or 90% of new buildings would be made from wood. The researchers estimate that the 90% scenario would keep up to 20 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere over the next 30 years…. [] For GSS Energy Use chapter 8 and Climate Change Chapter 10. 

2020-01-21. Greta Thunberg’s Remarks at the Davos Economic Forum. The New York Times. [] For GSS Climate Change chapter 10. Excerpt: …full transcript of her remarks…  

2020-01-08. Taking a cue from plants, new chemical approach converts carbon dioxide to valuable fuel. By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. [] Excerpt: Researchers have long sought to imitate photosynthesis, harnessing the energy of the Sun to generate chemical fuels. Now, a team has come closer to this goal than ever before. The researchers developed a new copper- and iron-based catalyst that uses light to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) to methane, the primary component of natural gas. If the new catalyst can be improved further, it could help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. …Now, Mi and his colleagues have come up with a recipe…. They started with the same GaN nanowires grown on top of a commercially available silicon wafer. They then used a standard technique called electrodeposition to add tiny 5- to 10-nanometer-wide particles consisting of a mix of copper and iron. Under light and in the presence of CO2 and water, the setup converts 51% of the energy in light into methane, and works at a fast clip. …In contrast to many other fuel-generating light absorbers and catalysts, all the components of the current approach are cheap, abundant, and already used in industry. Sargent notes that the next steps will likely be to improve both the efficiency and rate of methane production, both of which would be needed to make the current system practical. If that happens, the new approach could offer society a way to use sunlight to make a fuel that can be used long after the Sun goes down….