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  1. How a supercomputer is helping AT&T prepare for extreme weather Prepping for climate change with help from a national lab Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images AT&T has a new climate change risk-assessment tool, developed with the help of Argonne National Laboratory’s scientists and supercomputing power, CNBC reports. The telecommunications company hopes to protect its infrastructure from the flooding and extreme weather events that are projected to increase as climate change continues. A few years ago, AT&T started thinking about the long-term risks that climate change posed to its equipment. For example, the company has cell towers and sites across the country that are vulnerable to flooding and might need to be lifted above encroaching waters. In other places, services rely on above-ground copper wires that can blow down in large storms, and which might be safer buried underground as weather patterns shift. “We just essentially did a deep dive: What was our long term planning, and how was that linked to climate change?” Shannon Carroll, director of environmental sustainability at AT&T, tells The Verge. “THE MOST INTERESTING QUESTIONS PEOPLE ARE ASKING ARE AT THOSE SCALES.” So they turned to the scientists at Argonne National Laboratory, like Rao Kotamarthi, chief climate scientist in the environmental sciences division. He and his colleagues used millions of hours of supercomputing time to analyze how wind and flood risk could change in a warmer future. But for the data to be useful, they had to use a much smaller scale than usual. “Basically, you have to model at the scale where this infrastructure exists,” Kotamarthi tells The Verge. “The most interesting questions people are asking are at those scales.” Most climate models work at the 100-kilometer (62-mile) scale, which means the data covers 100-kilometer square chunks of North America. That gives you the big picture, but not finer-grained details like what’s happening on a particular block. The Argonne team managed to get their regional climate models down to the 12-kilometer (7.5 mile) scale — and for the flooding data, down to 200 meters (656 feet). That’s key for the kind of planning AT&T wants to use that information for. “It’s all about the resolution — how close of a view can you get,” AT&T’s Carroll says. Analyzing climate data on such a small scale takes a lot of time and computing power, which makes it expensive. “The struggle is to get to those scales as much as possible but to still have some useful information,” Kotamarthi says. “How far you can go is a good question to ask.” All told, he estimates that crunching the numbers took around 80 million hours on parallel processors at Argonne National Laboratory’s supercomputer. “WE BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE LONG TERM FINANCIAL BENEFITS TO DOING THIS.” The Argonne scientists shrunk that information down and gave it to AT&T, which mixed the data with its own mapping tools that show key infrastructure like cell towers and fiber cable. “You can see the potential impacts of climate change overlaid on that visually,” Carroll says. Right now, the company is starting small and the map only covers the southeastern United States. “They’ve been hit extremely hard the last few years with severe weather events, and we have significant infrastructure there as well,” Carroll says. Ultimately, the goal is to manage the company’s risks as it looks toward the future, Carroll says. “We’re a company that’s been around for over 100 years, and we plan to be around at least another 100 years,” he says. Knowing where to place cell towers, for example, to avoid flooding or extreme winds could mean having to shell out less money for repairs in the future. “We believe that there are long term financial benefits to doing this.” Correction: Rao Kotamarthi is the chief climate scientist in the environmental sciences division, not the chief scientist of the environmental sciences division. Source
  2. Climate change: UK carbon capture project begins Image captionThe project aims to capture one tonne per day of CO2 The giant Drax power station, near Selby in North Yorkshire, has become the first in Europe to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from wood-burning. Drax burns seven million tonnes of wood chips each year to drive generators to make electricity. The firm has now begun a pilot project to capture one tonne a day of CO2 from its wood combustion. The technology effectively turns climate change into reverse on a tiny scale, but it’s controversial. How does it reverse climate change? When a forest grows, the trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to make their wood. If you burn that wood, the process doesn’t emit any extra CO2 into the atmosphere - because the trees removed it from the air in the first place. It’s called carbon neutral. If you go one step further by capturing the CO2 from wood burning, you’re actually reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere overall. In an ideal world you’d go one step further by creating useful products from the waste CO2. Power plant aims to cut biomass gases Turning carbon dioxide into rock - forever Five cheap ways to limit climate change Caution urged over 'carbon unicorns' Why is it needed? This technology is known as Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). Many scientists believe it will be needed because they don't trust politicians to curb the CO2 emissions that are over-heating the planet. They say that unless carbon emissions start falling dramatically, we will overshoot the recommended safety limit of a 1.5C rise in global temperature. Image captionDrax's is one of several different approaches to carbon capture Carbon capture sounds smart – why is it controversial? There are two main reasons for controversy. First is the impact on the plants and animals living on the huge amount of land needed to grow the trees and plants needed to generate power on a wide scale. Second is the amount of additional energy needed to capture and store the carbon. Let’s just take the example of Drax. The power station generates 6% of the UK’s electricity whilst burning seven million tonnes of wood a year – that’s more wood than is harvested in the whole of Britain. The majority of the supply comes from the US, where forests are expanding as small-scale farmers allow unprofitable land to go back to nature. Drax says most of its fuel is residue from forest industries – that’s offcuts and unsuitable trees for timber. A previous BBC investigation found that some of the wood almost certainly also comes from species-rich swamp forests in the southern US. What if the world wants to generate carbon neutral energy by burning wood? This is where the numbers get a bit mind-boggling. One estimate suggests that a staggering amount of land would be required to make BECCS feasible under the Paris climate agreement — perhaps as much as three times the area of India. Harvard University professor David Keith warned: “We must be cautious of technologies that aim to remediate the carbon problem while greatly expanding our impact on the land.” That impact will depend on many variables, such as whether the wood is so-called “waste”; whether it comes from plantation forests or natural forests; how its removal from the forest reduces the amount of material that will lock up carbon in the soil; how it’s transported – and more. How does the carbon capture work? Image copyrightPA Image captionDrax generates 6% of the UK's electricity Drax is trialling a new system devised at Leeds university. Most existing carbon capture technologies use a chemical, amine. It is drizzled down through a flue gas chimney, where it absorbs the CO2. A further process separates the CO2 from the amine, which can be re-used. The Drax experiment is working with a tech spin-off called C-Capture. It uses an organic solvent which it says is less toxic than amine and uses less energy. It’s one of several products on the market as chemists strive to find new ways of taking CO2 out of the air. What do people say about the Drax experiment? Andy Koss, CEO of Drax Power, admits that its carbon capture pilot is tiny – but says it's an important step towards getting the whole plant capturing its CO2 - and finding a market to use it. “This is a really important technology,” he told us. “We are definitely going to need it if we want to keep within the 1.5C temperature limit proposed by scientists. " Almuth Ernsting from the pressure group Biofuelwatch takes the opposite view. “Burning biomass is absolutely the wrong option for so many reasons,” she said. "Forests are vital for the health of the climate so we need to keep them not burn them. "The Drax experiment is so ridiculously tiny it’s hard to believe it’s not 'greenwash'." Source
  3. Climate change: World heading for warmest decade, says Met Office A Nasa graphic showing the global temperature anomalies between 2014 and 2018 - higher than the long term trend is shown in red The world is in the middle of what is likely to be the warmest 10 years since records began in 1850, says the Met Office. It's forecasting that temperatures for each of the next five years are likely to be at or above 1C compared to pre-industrial levels. There's also a small chance that one of the next five years will see global temperatures temporarily go above 1.5C. That's seen as a critical threshold for climate change. If the data matches the forecast, then the decade from 2014-2023 will be the warmest in more than 150 years of record keeping. Will the forecast temperature rises bust the Paris climate agreement? The Met Office says that 2015 was the first year in which the global annual average surface temperature reached 1C above the pre-industrial level, which is generally taken to mean the temperatures between 1850 and 1900. Each year since then, the global average has hovered close to or above the 1C mark. Now, the Met Office says that trend is likely to continue or increase over the next five years. "We've just made this year's forecasts and they go out to 2023 and what they suggest is rapid warming globally," Prof Adam Scaife, head of long term forecasting at the Met Office, told BBC News. "By looking at individual years in that forecast we can now see for the first time, there is a risk of a temporary, and I repeat temporary, exceedance of the all-important 1.5C threshold level set out in the Paris climate agreement." Last October, UN scientists published a special report on the long-term impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C. They concluded that it would take a massive carbon cutting effort to keep the world from tipping over the limit by 2030. The Met Office analysis now says there's a 10% chance of this happening within the next five years. "It's the first time the forecasts have shown a significant risk of exceedance - it is only temporary. We are talking about individual years fluctuating above the 1.5 degree level," said Prof Scaife. "But the fact that that can happen now due to a combination of general warming and the fluctuations due to things like El Niño events in the next few years does mean we are getting close to that threshold." Image copyrightMET OFFICE Image captionTemperature data for the five major global climate databases How confident is the Met Office of its prediction? The Met Office says it has a 90% confidence limit in the forecasts for the years ahead. It says that from 2019 to 2023, we will see temperatures ranging from 1.03C to 1,57C above the 1850-1900 level, with enhanced warming over much of the globe, especially over areas like the Arctic. The research team says it is pretty certain in its predictions because of its past experience. The team's previous forecast, made in 2013, predicted the rapid rate of warming that's been observed over the past five years. It even predicted some of the lesser known details such as the patch of cooling seen in the North Atlantic and the cooler spots in the Southern Ocean. If the observations over the next five years match the forecasts, then the decade between 2014 and 2023 will be the warmest in more than 150 years of records. What about other climate agencies? The Met Office forecast comes as a number of agencies publish their full analysis of temperature data from 2018, showing it to be the fourth warmest since records began in 1850. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has published an analysis of five major international datasets showing that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22. "Temperatures are only part of the story. Extreme and high impact weather affected many countries and millions of people, with devastating repercussions for economies and ecosystems in 2018," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. "Many of the extreme weather events are consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. This is a reality we need to face up to. Greenhouse gas emission reduction and climate adaptation measures should be a top global priority," he said. Other researchers in the field said the new forecast for the next five years was in line with expectations, given the record level of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere in 2018. "The forecast from the Met Office is, unfortunately, no surprise," said Dr Anna Jones, an atmospheric chemist at the British Antarctic Survey. "Temperatures averaged across the globe are at a record all-time high, and have been for a number of years. They are driven predominantly by rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that result from our continued use of fossil fuels. "Until we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we can expect to see upward trends in global averaged temperatures." Source
  4. The healthcare cost for animal-related injuries in the United States exceeds $1 billion per year, according to the findings of a new study published in the BMJ journal Trauma Surgery and Acute Care Open on Tuesday. This cost does not include doctors' fees, lost productivity, costs of rehabilitation, and outpatient clinic charges, which means the total costs are higher. Animal Bites Researchers found that dog bites, bites from venomous snakes and lizards, and bites from non-venomous insects and spiders accounted for 60 percent of the total costs. People who are most likely to be injured by bites from venomous snakes, insects, and spiders belong to the lowest 25 percent of household income for their ZIP code. Animal bites also tend to be more common in people who live in rural and resource-poor settings. The researchers also found that the adult victims are usually the wage earners or the care providers of the family. The findings were based on data submitted to the National Emergency Department Sample or NEDS)between the years 2010 and 2014. Role Of Climate Change And Land Development Study researcher Joseph Forrester, from the Department of Surgery at Stanford University, and colleagues also warned that the number of animal-related injuries is likely to increase amid increasing global temperatures and development pressure. Warmer temperatures already expose people to more ticks and mosquitoes. Bites from these insects place people at risk of diseases such as malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Researchers said that global warming is exacerbated by developmental sprawls that reduce the number of lands that animals exclusively use. The researchers said that human development and recreational activities can increase encounters with animals that in turn, raises odds for animal-related injuries. "As available habitat for these animals increasingly overlaps with human development and recreational activities, it is expected encounters with these animals may increase and could result in increased animal-related injuries," the researchers wrote in their study. Source
  5. F rance’s military has teamed up with an environmental non-profit for the first time to study the threat of climate change where the country is at war, a representative of the green group said on Saturday. So far, WWF France and the Ecole de Guerre, the top French military academy, have been jointly promoting their view that climate change is a national security threat. The Ecole de Guerre trains officers to become the next generation of the armed forces’ top brass. The partnership marks the first time the French military has worked with a non-profit on adapting to climate change, said Nathaniel Powell, an expert on the French army in Africa at the Lausanne-based Pierre du Bois Foundation for Current History. The venture seeks to study the ability of conflict areas to withstand the pressures of a changing climate as the planet warms, said Marine Braud, head of green diplomacy for WWF France, at a conference held alongside U.N. climate talks. “We work together on the links between environment and security,” she told a panel discussion. The partnership, which kicked off in September, involves about 40 officers at the Ecole de Guerre, representing about a fifth of the school’s students. It will focus at first on West Africa’s Sahel region, said Braud, where the alliance hopes to carry out its first “stress test” exercise next year. The results will be released in a report, she said. France has maintained a large military presence in the Sahel, one of the poorest parts of the world with a rapidly growing population that has been hit hard by climate change. The French armed forces drove out a mix of Tuareg separatists and Islamist rebels from northern Mali in 2013, and now deploy 4,500 troops in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, according to the defence ministry. WWF France’s head, Pascal Canfin, referred to climate change as a “threat multiplier” while speaking to lawmakers at the French National Assembly last month about the group’s partnership with the military. “The French armed forces today are touching the reality of climate change where they operate,” he said. “They are increasingly anxious to integrate this dimension (of climate change) in their analysis,” he said. The initiative was part of a broader trend by military forces to adapt to climate change, said historian Powell. The U.S. Department of Defense, which has the world’s most powerful military, found in a study published earlier this year that nearly half of U.S. military sites globally are threatened by wild weather linked to climate change. Given WWF’s high profile, the move could potentially undermine the perceived neutrality of environmental organisations working in the conflict-torn Sahel, warned Powell. Source
  6. Green campaigners have lined up to attack chancellor Philip Hammond for announcing a multi-billion-pound boost for building and upgrading roads – days after world scientists urgently warned that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut. In Monday’s budget, Mr Hammond is due to champion £30bn of funding for new roads and road repairs, hailing it “the biggest-ever cash injection for England’s largest roads”. Yet the chancellor is recycling an old Conservative party announcement, The Independent can reveal – and environmental experts including Greenpeace’s chief scientist said he should have done a U-turn on the party's earlier pledge. It comes after the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warned the world has 12 years in which to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. And earlier this month the government cut grants for electric cars and scrapped those for hybrids. Mr Hammond will say in his budget speech that a £28.8bn fund will be dedicated to strategically important roads such as motorways and major local routes, for improvements, upgrades and easing congestion under the plan, which covers 2020-25. Major new roads could be built too. He will also set aside extra cash to fix potholes, repair damaged roads, and trial new methods of transport such as electric bikes. But in the 2015 budget, then-chancellor George Osborne announced that for cars registered after April 2017, all vehicle excise duty would go to a new roads fund from 2020. Car tax raises about £6bn a year, and calculated across the five years of Mr Hammond’s plan for 2020-25, amounts to £30bn – the sum he will be trumpeting in the budget. Publicising the move in advance, the Treasury said: “This will be the first time ever that ‘road tax’ will only be spent on roads. Roads are a crucial part of transport infrastructure and it’s right that from 2020 motorists see their road tax directly paying for improvements to their roads.” But both Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace’s chief scientist Doug Parr said Mr Hammond should have reconsidered Mr Osborne’s plan. “It’s less than three weeks since we had a very severe warning from scientists on the effects of climate change. When we need to start cutting emissions, how compatible is this roads programme he’s talking about?” said Mr Parr. “He should have considered the state of nature, of public transport, of pollution and of climate change and done a U-turn.” Friends of the Earth’s campaigns director Liz Hutchins said: “Doesn’t Philip Hammond read the news? Earlier this month UN scientists warned that we only have a dozen years to prevent catastrophic climate change. “Yet rather than investing in a low-carbon economy, the chancellor is gearing up to create more pollution that wrecks our climate and damages our health. “We could be a world leader in building a cleaner, safer future, but government climate policy seems to be stuck in reverse.” Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green party, said: “’It’s very disappointing to see this government announce over and over again a ‘new’ roads programme that will just make traffic problems worse. “Building new roads just creates new traffic. Real, green investment in our future would boost walking and cycling, green energy and local public transport.” Simon Alcock, of environmental charity ClientEarth, said: “Emergency measures to protect our children from traffic pollution would cost £153m, which is a drop in the ocean compared with the numbers the government is allocating to roads. “Ministers seem unwilling to find money to protect children from traffic pollution around schools but are happy to spend billions on roads.” The Treasury said the roads fund would help “make journeys quicker and easier for millions of commuters across the country, while boosting productivity and road safety. Congestion costs UK households over £30 billion every year and the equivalent of more than 100 million working days could be lost, between now and 2040, unless action is taken. Councils will receive £420m for potholes and repairs and to keep bridges open. A further £150m will help improve local junctions. The government’s Transforming Cities Fund will be extended by £680m to support local transport projects such as cycling networks, new buses and trams. The chancellor is also expected to announce an extra £90m to trial “next-generation” methods of transport, potentially including self-driving shuttle services and electric bikes. RAC spokesman Simon Williams told The Independent: “It’s great news for motorists. We know from research that there has been a big increase in dependency on the car so roads are important for the country. “We found 59 per cent of drivers said they would be very keen to take public transport if it was better, but it’s not as affordable, comfortable or frequent as it should be, and many people in rural areas have not choice of how to get to work.” He said motorists were suffering too much damage to their vehicles from potholes, which also posed a safety risk to others when drivers swerved to avoid the holes. A Treasury spokesman said the government was not boosting roads in isolation but was also improving air quality. He said: “We need to repair our roads and ensure the right roads are in the right places, and it’s part of our mix of strategies.” Source
  7. Flooding reduces seawater salt content, induces stress in bivalve animals American Physiological Society New Orleans (October 27, 2018)--Climate change-associated severe weather events may cause flooding that threatens the survival of the Olympia oyster, new research suggests. The findings will be presented today at the American Physiological Society's (APS) Comparative Physiology: Complexity and Integration conference in New Orleans. Oceans around the world typically have a salt content (salinity) of around 3.5 percent, but the percentage varies more in shallow coastal waters affected by rainfall. Researchers studied three groups of Olympia oyster from different areas of the California coast where the influence of rainfall on seawater salinity varies. One group was native to a large estuary--a body of seawater near the mouth of a river--that was routinely exposed to freshwater flooding from extreme precipitation, which decreased the salinity of the oysters' surroundings. A second group lived in a small estuary that received much less freshwater exposure, and a third group lived far away from the large estuary where salinity was also higher and more stable. All organisms, including oysters, show higher expressions of genes that are involved with DNA damage and protein unfolding in response to extreme stress. Protein unfolding is a process in which proteins lose their structure and become unstable, which, if not repaired, will eventually lead to the animal's death. Researchers study the Olympia oyster because they are a "foundation species," meaning the presence of oysters provides habitat for a large number of other smaller species and creates a much healthier ecosystem. If the oysters die out, all of the associated species will too. Because of the vital role oysters play in coastal ecosystems, researchers want to know if oysters living in certain areas are more tolerant of low salinity and therefore better equipped to survive climate change. The research team exposed all three groups of oysters and their offspring to low-salinity seawater (around 0.5 percent salt) and measured their gene expression patterns. They found that the oysters living closest to the large estuary were more tolerant of a five-day exposure to low-salinity seawater. "More frequent exposure to freshwater in this region likely forced oysters to evolve new ways of surviving in low salinity," explained Tyler Evans, PhD, from California State University East Bay, and first author of the study. This group expressed considerably higher levels of mRNA--genetic material that tells cells what new proteins to make--than the less-tolerant oysters that were accustomed to higher salinities. Proteins encoded by the mRNA control the activity of the oyster's cilia (hair-like structures on the gills that move back and forth to circulate fluid inside the oyster shell). The researchers predict this added cilia movement increases survival by allowing oysters to keep their shells closed (and the low-salinity seawater out) for longer amounts of time. However, climate change is a concern for the survival of even the most tolerant group of Olympia oysters due to the expected increase in the severity of extreme-precipitation events that would expose the oysters to even longer periods of low salinity. "Even oysters having garnered greater low-salinity tolerance via natural selection will be vulnerable to future freshwater flooding events," the research team wrote. Source
  8. The climate apocalypse wants to strip us of everything sacred in this world. There are concerns about chocolate (though it isn’t going extinct), the future of wine, and even the potential loss of our prized Tabasco sauce! A study published in Nature Plants Monday is throwing more depressing news our way: Beer is next. Yes, beer. Your Friday night best friend. Your motivation for that vacation brewery stop. Your favorite reason for October. The study expects future yields of barley, beer’s key ingredient, to drop from 3 to 17 percent worldwide due to extreme heat and drought events by 2099. Depending on where you live, beer prices could spike in those years as a result, from 52 percent to more than 600 percent. That means a $4 beer today may cost something like $6 or, in a real dystopian world, $24. The study’s authors, who hail from China, Mexico, the U.K., and California, didn’t consider the effects of the gradual rise in temperatures caused by climate change, instead assuming “perhaps heroically,” as co-author Steven Davis put it, that barley farmers could keep up. Instead, the team used historical data from the years 1981-2010 to focus on global extreme heatwaves and droughts between 2010 and 2099—those that are worse than so-called 100-year events. “The more climate warming we get, the more often these extreme years occur,” Davis, an associate professor at the University of California at Irvine, told Earther. He and the rest of his team concluded this after looking at four different climate models, including one where humanity avoids 2 degrees of warming and a worst-case business-as-usual scenario, where we blow past it, and our future is dominated by extreme heat. Barley suffered in all these models across the 34 world regions that produce the crop, including Ireland, Brazil, and Russia. The situation just worsens as the models see more warming. Every country is set to feel these impacts differently. Countries like Belgium and Japan—which produce a lot of beer—will have a harder time importing barley. And beer will become a luxury not everyone can afford. Argentina, for example, may see consumption drop by 32 percent in the more dramatic scenarios. Now, let’s not get too worked up just yet. Remember: This is beer we’re talking about, a luxury product. No one will starve or die of thirst without a beer. The study even notes that consuming less beer might have health benefits. At the same time, people love beer, and it plays an important role in social gatherings. That’s why Davis and his colleagues pursued this research endeavor in the first place. It’s also worth pointing out that this study looked at the regions where barley currently grows. This is important because climate change may move where crops grow best. While parts of the U.S. Midwest start producing less barley, perhaps there’s hope for their northern neighbors. And in some regions, certain areas do show higher future barley yields in the authors’ models. “Even in extreme years, some parts of the world will have normal or above-average barley production, so it’s not everywhere or all the time,” Davis said. Source
  9. Two men died from heatstroke in Spain as Europe sweltered in a record heatwave Friday, with temperatures hitting a scorching 45 degrees Celsius in some areas and meteorologists saying only scant relief is in sight in the coming days. The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was 48 degrees in Athens in 1977, closely followed by 47.3 in Amareleja, Portugal in 2003 and in Montoro, Spain last year. Here is a roundup: Spain: two dead Two men—a roadworker in his 40s and a 78-year-old pensioner—died from heatstroke this week, as Spain is set to experience one of its hottest days this summer on Friday, with temperatures expected to top 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in Badajos on the border with Portugal, 42 degrees in Seville and 40 in Madrid. Portugal: record 45 degrees In Portugal, where temperatures topped a record 45 degrees in Alvega, 150 kilometres (93 miles) north of Lisbon, on Thursday, the heatwave is expected to reach its peak on Saturday, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA). While no "substantial" wildfires have been reported so far, the emergency services say they remain on maximum alert and Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita declared a policy of "zero tolerance" towards risky activity, such as barbecues. Germany: tourists head north Tourism operators, such as Thomas Cook and Alltours, were quoted by German news agency DPA as saying that last-minute bookings for the Mediterranean are down, as holidaymakers seek out cooler temperatures on the North Sea and Baltic coastlines. Netherlands: water shortages In the Netherlands, where the current heatwave is the longest-ever recorded—with temperatures set to reach 35 degrees on Friday—people are beginning to experience water shortages, even if drinking supplies remain unaffected for now. Sweden: hottest July in 250 years With almost no rainfall since May, Sweden experienced its hottest July in more than 250 years, with the drought and high temperatures sparking wildfires across the country, even as far north as the Arctic Circle. The fires have largely abated. A glacier on Sweden's Kebnekaise mountain has melted so much that it is no longer the country's highest point, raising concerns about the rapid pace of climate change. But relief may be on the way: meteorologists are forecasting cooler temperatures and thundershowers across the country on Saturday. France: health alert Wide swathes of France have been placed on heatwave alert as millions hit the roads for August vacations, with sweltering conditions forecast to persist into next week. The health ministry has rolled out a TV and radio campaign alerting people to the dangers of what is expected to be the most intense heatwave since 2006. Britain: retail sales down In Britain, the heatwave has hit retail sales, which were down 1.1 percent in July, according to accountancy firm BDO. "While the sunshine and buzz around England's World Cup run was a boost for pubs and supermarkets, the scorching conditions did not encourage physical shopping and only hindered footfall in shops," said BDO's Sophie Michael. "While temperatures may have been rising, retailers are being frozen out. Summer is proving to be something of a disaster for shops." Belgium: more road accidents The Belgian road safety authority VIAS reported an increase in the number of road accidents as a result of the heatwave. "The daily average number of accidents is 15 percent higher during a heatwave. And the accidents are more serious," VIAS spokesman, Stef Willems, was quoted by Belgian media as saying. Italy: free bottles of water In the Italian capital, already well-equipped with free drinking water fountains, the authorities are handing out bottles of water to tourists. The national farmers' union, Coldiretti, said that milk production was down 15 percent as cows suffered from the heat. At the same time, ice cream consumption was up 30 percent over the past week, the union said. < Here >
  10. Coastal communities struggling to adapt to climate change are beginning to do what was once unthinkable: retreat MONIQUE COLEMAN’S BASEMENT was still wet with saltwater when the rallying began. Just days after Superstorm Sandy churned into the mid-Atlantic region, pushing a record-breaking surge into the country’s most densely populated corridor, the governor of New Jersey promised to put the sand back on the beaches. The “build it back stronger” sentiment never resonated with Coleman, who lived not on the state’s iconic barrier islands but in a suburban tidal floodplain bisected by 12 lanes of interstate highway. Sandy was being billed as an unusual “Frankenstorm,” a one-in-500-year hurricane that also dropped feet of snow. But for Coleman and many residents of the Watson-Crampton neighborhood in Woodbridge Township, the disaster marked the third time their houses had been inundated by floodwaters in just three years. Taxed by the repetitive assault of hydrodynamic pressure, some foundations had collapsed. As evacuees returned home for another round of sump pumps and mold, Coleman considered her options. Woodbridge sits in the pinched waist of New Jersey, where a network of rivers and creeks drain to the Raritan Bay and then to the Atlantic Ocean. She heard that the Army Corps of Engineers wouldn’t be coming to build a berm or tide gate; the area had recently been evaluated, and such costly protections seemed unlikely. Spurred by previous storms, Coleman had already learned a bit about the ecological history of her nearly 350-year-old township. She discovered that parts of her neighborhood, like many chunks of this region, were developed atop low-lying wetlands, which had been elevated with poorly draining “fill” back around the early 20th century. As Coleman researched more deeply, a bigger picture emerged. “I started to realize that, in a sense, we were victims of a system because we were living in a neighborhood that should have never been built,” she says. Although she had flood insurance—her mortgage required it—Coleman knew that her premiums would soon go up, and she worried that her property value would go down. She and her husband liked their house, a prewar colonial. Best of all, it was affordable, a rare find in a town so close to New York City. Coleman had only discovered she would be living in a “special flood hazard area” once she was reading the closing paperwork in 2006. That made her nervous. She recalls her attorney waving it off by saying that at the rate we’re going, everyone in New Jersey will live in a floodplain. That might be true in spirit, as a future-looking thought experiment, but it was severely misleading given the circumstances. Desperate to move her family away from a block in Newark with increasing drug activity, Coleman signed away one type of risk for another. For four uneventful years, the marsh near the bottom of her street was an attractive amenity, a place where her three young sons could play freely. Then the drainages that wrapped around her neighborhood like a wishbone were overwhelmed by a nor’easter in 2010. And by Hurricane Irene in 2011. And again, by Sandy, in 2012.[...] If interested, please read the entire (long) article < here >.
  11. Pope Francis next week will meet with global oil executives to talk about global warming. VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis will meet with some of the world's oil executives next week, likely to give them another moral nudge to clean up their act on global warming. Climate change policy and science experts are cautiously hopeful but aren't expecting any miracles or even noticeable changes. The conference will be a follow-up to the pope's encyclical three years ago calling on people to save the planet from climate change and other environmental ills, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke confirmed Friday. Cardinal Peter Turkson, who spearheaded the encyclical, set up the June 8-9 conference with the executives. The pope himself will speak to the leaders on the second day of the summit, organized with the University of Notre Dame, Burke said. Officials at the Vatican and Notre Dame would not disclose who is coming. BP, however, confirmed that its CEO Robert Dudley plans to attend, and Exxon Mobil said CEO Darren Woods would be there. Woods said this week that his company is trying to balance the risks of climate change with growing demand for energy to raise living standards in the developing world. Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, said he doubts anything "measurable" will come out of the conference but he was nevertheless hopeful. Oil companies have talked about fighting climate change, but they haven't done much beyond talk, said MIT management professor John Sterman. The pope offers "moral persuasion," but if it is just a photo opportunity for oil executives to show off "it doesn't mean anything and in fact it's just PR to help oil companies burnish up their image while they continue to delay actions," Sterman said. Jerry Taylor, president of the Washington libertarian-oriented think-tank Niskanen Center, said he figures the oil executives will tell the pope they're willing to accept action, such as a tax on heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions. "But what is needed is for these oil majors to tell Republican lawmakers of their concern and support for action, not the pope. And this they have not done in any focused, sustained, or meaningful way," Taylor said in an email. That's where, he said, the pontiff needs to push them farther on the morality of what they're doing, he said. Dana Fisher, a sociologist who studies environmentalism at the University of Maryland, said the pope is cementing his leadership on climate. "He certainly is trying to lead for the planet and lord knows we need it," she said. Gary Yohe, an economics and environment professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, said the executives might feel compelled to listen to the spiritual leader of nearly 1.3 billion Catholics. "This is not somebody you can ignore," Yohe said. "It might be a come to Jesus moment for them." < Here >
  12. It's almost impossible to calculate how many trillions of dollars it could cost. Leading global forecasts widely underestimate the future costs of climate change, a new paper warns. The findings, to be released Monday in the Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, say projections used by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change rely on outdated models and fail to account for “tipping points” ― key moments when global warming rapidly speeds up and becomes irreversible. The IPCC, established in 1988, is the leading international body for assessing climate change, and took on an expanded role after every country on Earth signed the Paris Agreement, the first global pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions. By relying on inaccurate economic models, the organization is misleading policymakers around the world about the risks of climate change, according to the researchers at the Environmental Defense Fund, Harvard University and the London School of Economics who co-authored the paper. Current estimates for how much climate change will cost take different forms. One recent study looked at projected damage by U.S. county, finding that some counties in low-lying Florida, for example, would see costs of up to 30 percent of their gross domestic product. Other projections are more broad, putting the worldwide figure at $535 trillion by the end of this century. “It’s difficult to quantify that,” said study co-author Thomas Stoerk, an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, when asked to give his own estimate. “That’s part of the point of the paper. It could be a lot more than the consensus.” The paper breaks down into three main points: • Current projections virtually ignore a very real possibility: that events such as the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet or the faster-than-expected thawing of Arctic permafrost will act like kerosene on a bonfire. These could increase the rate of climate change astronomically. • These forecasts are based on an average of all possible climate change scenarios, even though newer models account for the increased likelihood of more warming. • The newer models are still largely abstract, but they also factor in how human uncertainty over climate change can potentially cause even more damage in the future. “We have models that allow us to rank the probabilities,” Stoerk said. “There are some models out there that quantify how much the uncertainty itself ― not knowing what’s going to happen ― drives economic estimates.” Models that rely on averages of warming possibilities fail to factor in new data that show the continued rise in emissions makes the lower-end projections impossible, he said. Newer models, however, account for that reality. “All the tools that we argue for already exist,” he added. “The IPCC could really just go out and use them.” The findings come as policy attempts to rein in the world’s greenhouse gas output fall flat. Fossil fuel emissions hit an all-time high last year, causing global carbon dioxide pollution to surge for the first time in three years ― dashing hopes that the production of planet-warming pollution peaked. In fact, 2017 was the world’s second-hottest year on record and the third-warmest in U.S. history. Climate-fueled natural disasters caused $330 billion in losses from uninsured damages just last year, according to a report from the world’s biggest reinsurer. In the United States alone, extreme weather events caused $306.2 billion in damages and killed at least 362 people outright during the worst wildfire and hurricane seasons in modern history, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found in January. In perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of domestic policymakers’ failure to account for climate change-fueled devastation, Harvard researchers found that 4,645 people died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year ― mostly as a result of the failure to provide medication, treatment and electricity ― more than 70 times the official death toll. < Here >
  13. BEIJING - As many as 21 provinces and regions in China are baking under a scorching heatwave even as the south reels from devastating floods which killed at least 50 people and forced 1.6 million to flee their homes. A heat wave will expand from northern China to the central and eastern regions in the coming three days, reported state media. As much as one-third of China's land mass will be affected. Maximum temperatures in 31 counties and cities in Xinjiang, Ningxia, Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan have hit record highs. The Chinese city of Xi'an in Shaanxi saw ground temperatures hitting as high as 50 deg C on Monday (July 10), according to a report on news portal Sina. Temperatures at Xinjiang's Turpan Flaming Mountain, or Huo Yan Shan as it is famously known in the Chinese classic Journey to the West, have been above 40 deg C for the past 13 days, reported state media. The city of Turpan saw temperatures hitting a historic high of 49 deg C on July 10 while the township of Erbaoxiang saw the mercury rising above the 50 deg C mark. Apart from the Xinjiang region, Shaanxi, Gansu and Hebei provinces have experienced many days of extreme heat, with temperatures hovering between 35 and 41 deg C. The southern parts of the country, which were battered by summer floods recently, will also be experiencing very hot weather that could last from four to nine days, said Mr Sun Jun, chief weather forecaster of the National Meteorological Center. Some places like Beijing may get some relief this weekend, with temperatures forecast to drop below 35 C. While the heatwave is making people feel uncomfortable, it is not particularly severe compared to other years, like in 2013, Mr Sun added. Mr Gu Chengdong, deputy director of the emergency department at China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, warns the young and old to avoid or cut down outdoor activities. He suggests reducing time outdoors, especially during the hottest time of the day from 10am to 3pm. Heatstrokes can happen when the body temperature hits 40 deg C and may lead to organ failure, he added. Map issued by China's National Meteorological Centre on the highest temperature forecast between 8am, July 11 to 8am, July 12. < Here >
  14. Biofuel Made From Human Excrement Has Become Easier To Produce Wastewater treatment plants rejoice—you may have a hot commodity on your hands. From the toilet to the tank–biofuels from sewage. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL) have developed a new method for treating human sewage to create a biocrude oil product that can be refined into a fuel akin to gasoline, diesel, or jet fuels. The process is called hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), and it has been described as a sped-up version of the way the Earth naturally creates crude oil. Researchers apply a considerable amount of heat and pressure to wastewater, breaking down its chemical components into biocrude and an aqueous liquid in minutes. PNNL says that wastewater treatment plants handle approximately 34 billion gallons of sewage every day. In a Reddit AMA held last week, Justin Billing, one of the scientists on the project, noted that sewage traditionally has three destinations—being turned into fertilizer or soil additive, going in a landfill, or being incinerated. Some wastewater treatment plants (though not all) will also use anaerobic digestion, which “reduce the volume of solids and mitigates the toxic load while also producing methane that can be used for heat and power at the plant," Billings says. But anaerobic digestion alone can’t solve the whole equation. “From a capital intensity perspective it is reasonable to consider a hydrothermal process like HTL when designing, upgrading, or expanding existing facilities,” he suggested. Although sewage sludge has been converted to biocrude before, previous methods were considered uneconomical because the sludge had to be dried out before conversion. HTL, on the other hand, pressurizes the sludge to 3,000 pounds per square inch and then heats it up to 660 degrees Fahrenheit (349 degrees Celsius), a process that's amenable to some liquid being present in the feedstock. Enlarge / Sludge from Metro Vancouver’s wastewater treatment plant has been dewatered prior to conversion to biocrude oil at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Corinne Drennan, a bioenergy technologies researcher at PNNL, said in a statement, “There is plenty of carbon in municipal wastewater sludge and interestingly, there are also fats. The fats or lipids appear to facilitate the conversion of other materials in the wastewater such as toilet paper, keep the sludge moving through the reactor, and produce a very high quality biocrude that, when refined, yields fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels." Using HTL, PNNL estimates that those 34 billion gallons of sewage a day could be theoretically turned into 30 million gallons of refined oil per year. Each American, on average, could generate two to three gallons of the unrefined biocrude per year. (In the future, grandmothers around the country could have another reason to push you to eat more: “You look too skinny! Do you eat? Think about American oil independence!” as another spoonful of casserole gets unloaded on your plate.) The new method could be a big help to municipalities that have pledged to reduce their waste to meet sustainability goals. PNNL scientists have licensed their process to a Salt Lake City-based company called Genifuel, which is working with the Metro Vancouver group to build a demonstration plant in the Canadian city. Darrell Mussatto, chair of Metro Vancouver's Utilities Committee, said that the group will fund about half of the $8 million to $9 million CAD ($6 million to $6.8 million USD) that the demonstration plant is estimated to cost. Metro Vancouver will seek external funding for the other half of the money needed to fund the plant. If all goes to plan, the demonstration plant would come online in 2018. Like everything, although the method shows promise, Billings cautioned in his AMA that there are still barriers to making the process commercially viable, namely scaling up the process in a cost-effective way and proving to refiners that the biofuel is useful and marketable. Enlarge / Biocrude oil, produced from wastewater treatment plant sludge, looks and performs virtually like fossil petroleum. The researchers are still working on the best ways to remove certain elements and compounds found in raw sewage from the processed sludge. On Reddit, Billings explained that the HTL process does create a solid waste product that contains phosphorous and heavy metals, which can be mined for other uses. “We use dilute sulfuric and have had success in recovering bio-available phosphorous as phosphate,” Billings wrote. PNNL notes that this could be put toward fertilizer production. As far as life-cycle CO2 reduction, Billings says the biocrude represents a 50-75 percent reduction compared to petroleum. Although the burned biofuel still creates CO2 like burning petroleum does, breaking down sludge that will either be decomposed in fertilizer production or a landfill or combusted in an incinerator offers some clear advantages to drilling for additional oil. Source
  15. Deep in the solidified lava beneath Iceland, scientists have managed an unprecedented feat: They've taken carbon dioxide released by a power plant and turned it into rock, and at a rate much faster than laboratory tests predicted. The findings, described in the journal Science, demonstrate a powerful method of carbon storage that could reduce some of the human-caused greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. "These are really exciting results," said Roger Aines, a geochemist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who was not involved in the study. "Nobody had ever actually done a large-scale experiment like they've done, under the conditions that they did it." The pilot programme, performed at Reykjavik Energy's geothermal power plant under a European-US programme called CarbFix, was able to turn more than 95 per cent of carbon dioxide injected into the earth into chalky rock within just two years. "We were surprised," said study co-author Martin Stute, a hydrologist at Columbia University in New York. "We didn't expect this. We thought this would be a project that would go on for decades. Maybe 20 years from now, we'd have an answer to the question. But that it happened so fast, and in such a brief period of time, that just blew us away." When fossil fuels like coal or gas are burned, the carbon stored within them is released into the air in the form of carbon dioxide. This greenhouse gas traps heat in the atmosphere, triggering an increase in global temperatures that threatens polar ice reserves and contributes to rising sea levels. It also increases the acidity of the ocean, hastening the decline of corals and other marine life. Researchers have tried for years to figure out how to get that carbon back into the ground. Carbon dioxide can be pulled out of emissions and injected underground into briny waters or emptied oil and gas reservoirs, but there's a risk that the gas eventually would seep back into the air or that the injection process itself might crack open a reservoir and allow its contents to escape. Researchers have been looking to get that carbon back into the ground in solid form -- something that nature's been doing for a while, although on a far longer timescale. For humans trying to quickly undo the damage of greenhouse gas emissions, that's easier said than done. Sandstone does not react much with carbon dioxide. Some lab tests showed that basaltic rock, laid down by volcanic activity, might be more effective but on a scale of centuries, if not longer. An opportunity for a field test arose when the president of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, met researchers at Columbia and expressed his interest in cutting back the country's carbon dioxide emissions. "This is really the start of this, at the highest level, which is sort of unusual for research projects," Stute said. Together with Reykjavik Energy, the research team designed an experiment around the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant. In March 2012, they injected 175 tonnes of pure carbon dioxide into an injection well. A few months later, they followed with 73 tonnes of a mix of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. (The team wanted to see whether the process worked even if there were other gases present; if it did, it would save the time and money of having to separate the carbon dioxide out.) The researchers separate the carbon dioxide from the steam produced by the plant and send it to an injection well. The carbon dioxide gets pumped down a pipe that's actually inside another pipe filled with water from a nearby lake. Hundreds of metres below the ground, the carbon dioxide is released into the water, where the pressure is so high that it quickly dissolves, instead of bubbling up and out. That mix of water and dissolved carbon dioxide, which becomes very acidic, gets sent deeper into a layer of basaltic rock, where it starts leaching out minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron. The components in the mixture eventually recombine and begin to mineralize into carbonate rocks. The basaltic rock is key, the scientists said: Sandstone would not react with carbon dioxide this way. So is the presence of water; if the mix had been pure gas instead of gas dissolved in water, it's unlikely the basalt would have helped form carbonate rocks -- at least, not with such speed. The scientists also injected chemical tracers into the mix, including a type of carbon dioxide made with the heavier, rarer isotope known as carbon-14. They also injected other trace gases such as sulfur hexafluoride, which is inert and does not react much with its surroundings. When the researchers checked the water at monitoring wells later in the experiment, they found that the trace gases were still there (a sign that the water had gotten through) but that the proportion of carbon-14 molecules had significantly declined. As the water had continued to flow through the basaltic layers, the carbon dioxide had been left behind in the rock. While much of this happened underground, the researchers also saw fine crystals of carbonate sticking to the surface of the pump and pipes at the monitoring well. "They look like salt from a salt shaker … on the surface of this gray or black basaltic rock," Stute said. Based on other laboratory results, the scientists had expected the process to take centuries, if not longer. But the field test showed that this process, under the right conditions, happens at remarkable speed. ARTICLE SOURCE
  16. A United Nations panel today said that the effects of climate change are already being felt across the globe, warning in a major report that they will likely be "severe, pervasive, and irreversible" in the years to come. The report, released by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concludes that rising global temperatures are already having clear impacts on agriculture, human health, and water supplies across all continents, oceans, and ecosystems. These effects will become more severe over time, the panel added, putting food supplies, infrastructure, and economies at serious risk. The IPCC noted that poor countries would be especially hard hit, due to lower crop yields and tighter water supplies, though it cautioned that all will feel the effects of climate change going forward. "Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change," IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri told reporters today. The report released in Japan today was based on more than 1,200 peer-reviewed studies, and is the second in a series of three that the IPCC will release this year. In a similarly comprehensive report released last year, the IPCC determined that humans are almost certainly to blame for rising global temperatures, calling for policymakers to take greater steps to contain greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC's findings will likely play a major role in international discussions on combatting climate change next year. "Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement following the report's release. "Denial of the science is malpractice," he added. On Monday, the panel said that changing precipitation patterns and melting ice are already shifting water systems, and that many fish species are moving to new waters or going extinct. Rising ocean levels are threatening coastal communities, while melting permafrost in the Arctic is releasing centuries-old organic matter that will decay and release even more greenhouse gases, the report notes. According to the IPCC, the amount of scientific evidence of the effects of climate change have nearly doubled since 2007. These effects are likely to be more acute in the future, and could lead to widespread health problems and violent conflicts over land and resources. The IPCC notes that many countries have already begun adapting to climate change, though it called upon governments and businesses to invest more to mitigate the serious risks it foresees. "Governments, firms, and communities around the world are building experience with adaptation," Chris Field, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group II, said in a statement. "This experience forms a starting point for bolder, more ambitious adaptations that will be important as climate and society continue to change." Source
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