IPCC

In Starkest Warning Yet, IPCC Calls on Politicians To Rapidly Transition to Renewables to Avoid Climate Disaster

In its starkest warning yet about the challenges facing humanity, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Sunday humans are responsible for all of the planet’s warming since 1951.

The Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change includes a strict carbon budget for governments for the first time. More than two-thirds of that carbon budget has already been used up and at current rates the world would burn through the rest in less than 30 years, the panel warned.

With this latest report, science has spoken yet again and with much more clarity. Time is not on our side,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Leaders must act.”

For the best chance of avoiding severe levels of warming, governments will need to peak emissions, rapidly phase fossil fuels down to zero and transition to 100 per cent renewable energy, the report said.

This transition is not only possible, but economically viable, according to the IPCC. Since 2007, clean energy costs have dropped dramatically and continuing down a path of investing in renewable energy will be cheaper than paying a growing bill for “severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts.”

The report sets governments a clear choice: “Either put policies in place to achieve this essential shift, or they can spend the rest of their careers dealing with climate disaster after climate disaster.”

How Industry First Went to War With Climate Science

Scientists had well understood for many decades that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere could raise global temperatures and cause climate change. But when politicians finally took notice, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was formed, industry began a war with science itself. 

Bert Bolin, the founder of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was the first scientist to detect signals from the coal and oil industry that there would be serious resistance to climate science and its policy implications. 

As soon as governments began taking the issue seriously, the energy industry mobilised its greatest assets in order to combat organised opposition to its climate-damaging activities.

The Global Climate Coalition (GCCwas formed as soon as the IPCC came into being and, as the name suggests, this was an industry-funded powerhouse designed to undermine any global coalition to prevent climate change.

Bolin notes: “The strategy pursued was primarily to minimise the significance of the possible impacts of climate change and to address procedural and legal issues.”

The majors would engage with the issue more quickly than some of the environmental campaign groups.

Arthur Middleton Hughes

Arthur Middleton Hughes

 Credentials

Judith Curry is Back Advocating Climate Inaction in the Wall Street Journal

This is a guest post by Climate Nexus.

Judith Curry’s latest op-ed in the Wall Street Journal touts her new study co-authored with Nic Lewis. The takeaway of the piece - that the need for emissions reductions is “less urgent” than policymakers assume – is not even supported by her own study, much less the scientific mainstream. 

Curry provides a highly biased and skewed overview of climate sensitivity studies, which makes sense for publication in the Wall Street Journal. In reality, the IPCC sensitivity estimate remains the most reliable and comprehensive expression of the state of knowledge on the topic, and scientists agree that this sensitivity range implies an urgent need for climate action.

  • Curry’s study doesn’t reveal new information that would affect IPCC estimates.
  • She examines only a small group of studies that agree with her conclusion, while the IPCC took many additional methods and factors into account.
  • Even low climate sensitivities still carry an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
  • Curry has growing ties to denier groups and her consulting business serves fossil fuel companies.

A Shift from Fossil Fuels Could Provide $1.8 Trillion in Savings, Two New Reports Conclude

A worldwide transition to low carbon fuels could save the global economy as much as $1.8 trillion over the next two decades, according to two reports published Thursday by the Climate Policy Initiative.

By switching to renewable energy sources, the high costs associated with extracting and transporting coal and gas could be avoided, the reports, titled Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Financial Impact of the Low-Carbon Transition, and Moving to a Low Carbon Economy: The Impact of Different Policy Pathways on Fossil Fuel Asset Values, conclude.

This would free up funds to bolster financial support for wind, solar and other renewables – with enormous sums left over, the reports conclude. Following an approach aimed at capping climate change at 2 degrees Celsius will require walking away from massive reserves of fossil fuels, stranding the assets of major corporations, many researchers have warned. The new reports give this issue a closer look, demonstrating that more than half of the assets at risk are actually owned by governments not corporations.

This finding could be double-edged, since that means taxpayer money in many countries is at stake and those governments have the power to establish policies that could promote or repudiate the fossil fuels they control. But the reports' conclusion that trillions could be freed up if governments and private companies abandon those assets could make it easier for governments to leave those fossil fuels in the ground.

Legal Case: White House Argues Against Considering Climate Change on Energy Projects

Just over a month before the United Nations convenes on September 23 in New York City to discuss climate change and activists gather for a week of action, the Obama White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) argued it does not have to offer guidance to federal agencies it coordinates with to consider climate change impacts for energy decisions.

It came just a few weeks before a leaked draft copy of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest assessment said climate disruption could cause “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

Initially filed as a February 2008 petition to CEQ by the International Center for Technology Assessment, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) when George W. Bush still served as President, it had been stalled for years. 

Six and a half years later and another term into the Obama Administration, however, things have finally moved forward. Or backwards, depending on who you ask. 

NEPA and CEQ

The initial February 2008 legal petition issued by the plaintiffs was rather simple: the White House's Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) should provide guidance to federal agencies it coordinates with to weigh climate change impacts when utilizing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on energy policy decisions. 

A legal process completely skirted in recent prominent tar sands pipeline cases by both TransCanada and Enbridge, NEPA is referred to by legal scholars as the “Magna Carta” of environmental law.

Magna Carta; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

CEQ oversees major tenets of environmental, energy and climate policy. It often serves as the final arbiter on many major legislative pushes proposed by Congress and federal agencies much in the same way the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) does for regulatory policy. 

Global Warming Already Dangerous, May Be Irreversible: Draft IPCC Report

Problems caused by climate change are likely already dangerous and global warming may be irreversible, according to a draft science report by a United Nations committee.

The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report, leaked earlier this week to a number of major media organizations, said continued greenhouse gas emissions caused primarily by burning oil, coal and natural gas will probably increase the likelihood of  “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

The New York Times said Tuesday the IPCC report found that continued warming is likely to “slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing poverty traps and create new ones, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger.”

The NYT story said runaway growth in greenhouse gas emissions is already swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem.

“Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human-produced emissions, the draft report said, and those problems are likely to intensify unless the gases are brought under control.”

The Associated Press said the 127-page draft report, which used the word “risk” 351 times, paints a harsh warning of what’s causing global warming and what it will do to humans and the environment.

The report said that without changes in greenhouse gas emissions, “climate change risks are likely to be high or very high by the end of the 21st century,” the AP noted.

Lord Stern: We’ve Underestimated Economic Costs of Global Warming

Nicholas Stern

Nicholas Stern, one of the world’s most influential economists, has come out with a new report showing that the future costs of climate change have been incredibly underestimated.

The report, Endogenous growth, convexity of damages and climate risk, indicates it is even more important than previously thought that politicians quickly and aggressively stop unchecked climate change caused by man-made carbon dioxide emissions.

Stern, a professor at the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics, and his co-author Simon Dietz found that the current economic models used to calculate the cost of climate change are vastly inadequate and need to be updated so that proper decisions can be made about risks associated with global warming.

They said that even the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has cited the existing economic models and, as a result, has arrived at severely limited assumptions about the costs of global warming.

It is extremely important to understand the severe limitations of standard economic models, such as those cited in the IPCC report, which have made assumptions that simply do not reflect current knowledge about climate change and its potential impacts on the economy,” Stern, a former chief economist with the World Bank, said in a media release.

“All of the Above” or “Action now?”: Obama’s Natural Gas Contradiction

At a talk in Vermont last week, the nation's top energy official offered up his thoughts on a problem the White House has said calls for “urgent action”: climate change.

“We need to mitigate the effects of climate change and need to adapt at the same time,” said Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy, as he described the findings of a White House report issued earlier this month outlining the dangers of global warming and the impacts already felt nationwide.

But Moniz's talk also highlighted a fundamental flaw in the approach that President Obama has taken to energy and the environment.

The president has begun sounding alarm bells about the hazards and costs of worsening climate disruption. At the same time, he has aggressively promoted the nation's ongoing shale gas rush. And yet, experts warn this drilling frenzy may have wiped out most of the gains made by slashing carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal.

It's a paradox that the Washington Post labeled “a jarring juxtapostion” and “the contradiction at the heart of President Obama's climate change policy.” 

American Sands Energy Corp. To Become Third Company to Mine Tar Sands in Utah

Utah tar sands
 
Yet another company is poised to start grinding up and spitting out eastern Utah's wilderness for its tar sands.  
 
Until now, the biggest threat to eastern Utah's wilderness has been the Canadian company U.S. Oil Sands, which amid protests in 2013 succeeded in starting a strip mining operation for tar sands at PR Spring, in eastern Utah's Bookcliffs range, about 35 miles west of the Colorado border. 
 
In what's shaping up to be a new rush to riches by producing dirty oil from unconventional sources in the western U.S., now another company, American Sands Energy Corporation (ASEC), has obtained the rights to mine tar sands and bitumen (asphalt) on 1,800 acres of private property in an area called Sunnyside, about 150 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
 
The company calls the project the “Sunnyside Project” or the “Gibbs Project,” after the Gibbs family, which owned the property 30 years ago. William Gibbs is the chairman of the board and CEO of American Sands Energy Corporation.
 
ASEC couldn't possibly have found a friendlier place in the U.S. for its fossil fuel extraction project.
 
Sunnyside, population 274 in 2012, is a former coal town in Carbon County, and is so friendly to energy interests that up until 1994, it never had an elected mayor. Before that time, the town's mayor was the superintendent of mines for the Utah Fuel Coal Company. After Kaiser Steel took over the local mines in 1950, Sunnyside's mayor was the head of Kaiser Steel. 

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