Electrifying Amazon's Fleet

February 21, 2020

Amazon will be fielding 100,000 Electric delivery trucks in the next few years.

Methane Explained

February 21, 2020

I suspect most readers here will have seen reports on new research showing that atmospheric methane concentrations are increasing, and that oil and gas extraction, not burps from the arctic, are a much larger driver than previously thought.

New York Times:

Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency to efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”

Atmospheric concentrations of methane have more than doubled from preindustrial times. A New York Times investigation into “super emitter” sites last year revealed vast quantities of methane being released from oil wells and other energy facilities instead of being captured.

Zeke Hausfather Twitter Thread:

When we emit a ton of methane (CH4), about 80% is removed from the atmosphere via chemical reactions with hydroxyl (OH) radicals within 20 years. (above) CO2, on the other hand, is not removed by chemical reactions; it has to be absorbed by land and ocean sinks.

Forty years after its been emitted nearly all methane is gone, while nearly 50% of the CO2 remains in the atmosphere (assuming current carbon sink behavior; a warming world will likely reduce the efficacy of the carbon sink resulting in more CO2 remaining in the atmosphere). 

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Good news.
It’s mostly us that is killing ourselves.

And we can stop that.
Can’t we?

(also backs up my recent videos on the “methane bomb” scare)

Scripps Institute – UC San Diego:

A long-feared scenario in which global warming causes Arctic permafrost to melt and release enough greenhouse gas to accelerate warming and cause catastrophe probably won’t happen.

That is the conclusion of a study, appearing Feb. 21 in the journal Science, that began more than 20 years ago as a query posed by Jeff Severinghaus, a geoscientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. A research team led by the University of Rochester that includes Severinghaus analyzed samples of gases trapped in ice during a period of deglaciation between 18,000 and 8,000 years ago. That period is considered an analogue for the current era of global warming. 

The researchers conclude that even if methane is released from permafrost and other stores known as methane hydrates, very little actually reaches the atmosphere.

“It is a rare piece of good news about climate change,” said Severinghaus, who began pursuing the question in the 1990s, “so I’m happy to come to the public and say this burp is something we don’t have to worry about.”

Severinghaus said the study is bolstered by its reliance on a definitive source of data. Measurements of the carbon-14 isotope are considered a reliable and unambiguous indicator of permafrost and hydrate methane. Because carbon-14 breaks down in 5,000 years on average, the much older carbon from permafrost and hydrate deposits contains virtually no carbon-14. 

University of Rochester graduate student Michael Dyonisius led the study with his advisor Vasilii Petrenko, a professor of earth and environmental sciences and former student of Severinghaus at Scripps Oceanography. Scripps Oceanography researchers Sarah Shackleton, Daniel Baggenstos, Ross Beaudette, Christina Harth, and Ray Weiss are among co-authors of the National Science Foundation and David and Lucille Packard Foundation-supported paper. 

When plants die, they decompose into carbon-based organic matter in the soil. In extremely cold conditions, the carbon in the organic matter freezes and becomes trapped instead of being emitted into the atmosphere. This forms permafrost, soil that has been continuously frozen—even during the summer—for more than one year. Permafrost is mostly found on land, mainly in Siberia, Alaska, and Northern Canada.

Along with organic carbon, there is also an abundance of ice in permafrost. When the permafrost thaws with rising temperatures, the ice melts and the underlying soil becomes waterlogged, helping to create low-oxygen conditions. That creates an ideal environment for microbes in the soil to consume the carbon and produce methane.

Severinghaus had first considered using carbon-14 to determine how much methane from ancient carbon deposits might be released to the atmosphere in warming conditions in the 1990s. He and his student Petrenko began pursuing the idea in 2001 and began collecting air samples in Greenland, but the task was not easy. Only about one part of methane exists in 1 million parts of air and only one out of every trillion parts of carbon is in the form of carbon-14.

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ThinkProgress:


A new scientific report finds human behaviors are driving the extinction of non-human species at a rate so severe that the subsequent disappearance of life will soon be a threat to human health and prosperity. Habitat destruction on land, over-fishing in the seas and overconsumption across much of the globe, among other things, now threaten to extinguish up to a million species in the near future.

The hundreds of scientists who produced the landmark United Nations assessment say myriad solutions are needed to address and, hopefully reverse, this trend. Underpinning much of the loss is the growing global impact of climate change. One of the major tactics at humanity’s disposal is effectively managing and restoring the world’s forests — preservation and conservation efforts that could, quite literally, change the world.

To see what can be preserved — or lost  —  look at a Google Earth image of the Rio Coco river, which forms much of the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. Toward the east, the river cuts through the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, also known as La Mosquitia — one of the largest contiguous forest systems north of the Amazon. Dubbed the “Amazon of Central America,” it is home to several indigenous groups, is a hotspot of biodiversity and contains a trove of archeological wonders —  like a massive undiscovered pre-Columbian city. The difference between intact forests on the Nicaraguan side and degraded hills on the Honduran side is quite apparent.

Data from Global Forest Watch shows that the planet lost an area of primary rainforest the size of Belgium last year, the fourth-highest year since record-keeping began. This puts humanity further out of reach of limiting average global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, a temperature increase above which most experts agree that the survival of civilization as we know it will be jeopardized.

new book published by Springer Nature presents a pathway to meet the internationally recognized goal of limiting planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As part of the study, scientists studied scenarios that avoided deforestation and the role that restoration of intact ecosystems would need to play.

“What we have done is the first global study quantifying the restoration of degraded forests to intact ecosystems,” says Kate Dooley, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, who co-authored the chapter on land-use emissions. “One of the big things about the research is seeing if we could achieve [an upper limit of] 1.5 degree warming through technologies that exist today. This book shows that through these natural climate solutions we would be able to reach them.”

New York Times:

NASHVILLE — After what seemed like 100 years of impeachments hearings, anything uttered on Capitol Hill now sounds to my ear like the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher. Nevertheless, a few words from President Trump’s State of the Union address managed to break through the wah-wahs last week: “To protect the environment, days ago, I announced the United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, an ambitious effort to bring together government and the private sector to plant new trees in America and around the world,” he said.

Could it really be true?

You will forgive me for thinking there’s no way it could be true. The whole point of the World Economic Forum’s One Trillion Treesinitiative is to reduce carbon in the environment and slow the rate of climate change by growing and preserving a trillion trees, worldwide, by 2050. But instead of addressing climate change, the Trump administration has rolled back or weakened 95 environmental protections already on the books.

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As planet warms, polluters feel the market’s heat.

BP:

Our ambition is to be a net zero company by 2050 or sooner. And to help the world get to net zero. This will mean tackling around 415 million tonnes of emissions– 55 million from our operations and 360 million tonnes from the carbon content of our upstream oil and gas production. Importantly these are absolute reductions, to net zero, which is what the world needs most of all. We are also aiming to cut the carbon intensity of the products we sell by 50% by 2050 or sooner.

Five aims to become a net zero company:

  • Getting to net zero across our entire operations on an absolute basis by 2050 or sooner
  • Getting to net zero on an absolute basis from our Upstream production by 2050 or sooner
  • 50% reduction in carbon intensity of the products we sell by 2050 or sooner
  • Measurement at all our major oil and gas processing sites by 2023, transparent reporting and 50% reduction in our operated methane intensity
  • Increase proportion of investment into non-oil & gas

GreenBiz:

Delta Air Lines has become the latest aviation company setting its sights on becoming “carbon neutral,” with an ambition to reach that target by 2030 and pledge to invest $1 billion in achieving the goal over the next 10 years.

The investment will focus on driving innovation, advancing clean air travel technologies, accelerating reductions in waste and emissions, and establishing new offsetting and natural carbon sequestration projects, the company said.

“As we connect customers around the globe, it is our responsibility to deliver on our promise to bring people together and ensure the utmost care for our environment,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO. “The time is now to accelerate our investments and establish an ambitious commitment that the entire Delta team will deliver.”

The commitment follows those of British Airways owner IAGQantas and Etihad, which have all separately pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 — two decades later than Delta — through a combination of new technologies, fuel efficiency and offsets. Last month the U.K. aviation sector published its own roadmap to achieving net zero by 2050, although the plan incurred criticism from green groups as a “flight of fancy.”

In the United States, a unique commitment came from JetBlue in mid-January, which will start offsetting all of its domestic U.S. flights in July.

The aviation industry accounts for roughly 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. A recent study from the International Council on Clean Transportation found that the industry’s emissions are rising 70 percent more rapidly than predicted by the United Nations and are set to triple by 2050 unless action is taken.

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Antarctica by Whale Cam

February 19, 2020

American Geophysical Union:

SAN DIEGO—Cameras attached to a rare species of Antarctic whale are giving scientists an unprecedented view of how the whales survive in their sea ice habitat, according to new research presented here at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020.

In a recent study, scientists attached tags to 30 Antarctic minke whales, a small and little-known species of baleen whale, to better understand the animals’ sea ice environment. The tags, clinging to the animals’ backs with suction cups, recorded video and motion data for 24 to 48 hours.

Each time the whales surfaced, the researchers could calculate from the video how much sea ice was present, providing clues as to how the amount and type of sea ice influenced the whales’ behavior.

Previous research had relied on satellite images to study the whales’ habitat, but scientists needed to get closer to truly understand how these creatures were moving through their sea ice environment.

“It’s unique in that we’ve never been able to measure this kind of an environmental feature from the animal’s perspective,” said Ari Friedlaender, an ecologist at the University of California Santa Cruz who led the project. “These tags have the capacity to continuously show us the environment the animal is experiencing, which is absolutely novel for us.”

While the research is still ongoing, preliminary data from the whale cams are already revealing surprising results, according to the researchers. From the six tags analyzed so far, the researchers saw whales were spending 52 percent of their time in open water compared to just 15 percent in water with high concentrations of sea ice.

As Antarctic sea ice continues to shrink under climate change, understanding its importance for the whales will be crucial for protecting them, according to the researchers.

“A lot of [previous work] with these cameras has been focused on animal behavior, which was originally one of the intentions that we had for our cameras,” said Jacob Linsky, a research technician at the University of California Santa Cruz who helped develop the new technique and will present the results this Friday. “But we happen to have stumbled upon a great way to monitor the environment with this mobile platform, which is something that hasn’t been done in the marine environment before.”

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